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The seventh and last ring has two rows of representations. The one nearest to the mouth of the horn refers to Loke's abduction of Idun and the apple; it depicts Thiasse as an eagle pecking at the salmon (Loke) to force Loke to the theft, Loke's terror, the excitement of the gods at the disappearance of Idun, the discovery made by the Anses of the apple in Loke's possession, and Loke when in Falkeham he was compelled to restore Idun with the apple to Valhalla. The second row shows Loke's punishment for Balder's death. It represents his flight and capture in a fisher's weel by one of the Anses, who wears a neck-ring. Thor with an oar is wading out into the river after Loke, who has transformed himself into a salmon. Lastly we see the capture of Loke; whereupon he is bound with his son's guts, and then set on his knees with outstretched arms under a venomous snake. Thus the representations on both horns of Loke's three misdeeds end naturally with his severe punishment.27
As to the main point, according to such an interpretation of the pictures there can scarcely be a doubt that these gold horns, unique both in size and embellishment, originally formed a pair; and that, like other heathen representations in metal stone bone or wood, they were a sort of sacred picture-book kept in a temple and intended to preserve the kernel of the old theology for the people. They yield contemporaneous evidence that the pagan worship was conducted with great and costly magnificence, and, what is far more important, that this theology in its most essential features lasted
27 Volospa, i. 106-7. Cf. Loka Senna, 49, 1. 200. (C. P. B., vol. i. p. 108.)
unchanged in the North during the whole time when heathenism flourished at its height, reckoning at least from the time of the national migrations. The addition of new peoples and the higher tendency of culture at this time are clearly shown by the numerous uniform bog-finds the introduction of rune-writing the fine picture-writing and symbolism and the development of the Romano-barbaric style of art. Out of these a fuller religious life grew up. It is not improbable that in the succeeding centuries also the blending of peoples old and new the rise of Northern independence and the growth of active communications with other lands. favoured the gradual adoption of somewhat peculiar forms assumed by the figures of the gods and many of the ancient myths. These became confused with later myths, connected possibly with the gradual adoption of many gods and goddesses.
A highly remarkable hint of some such change is possibly given by the peculiar position of Thor in reference to Odin, subordinate and yet prominent, both on the Golden Horns and on the golden bracteates. Odin is, it is true, Father of All, supreme in Valhalla, where he receives jarls and other mighty men, who fall in battle. Notwithstanding, Thor is evidently the chief god in the trinity.28 To him powerful families consecrate all the largest bracteates and other trinkets, most of the temples, in Norway at least and afterwards in Iceland, many rune-stones &c.; and to him as to the
28 In the remarkable poem Harbards Liod there is a distinct antagonism between these two gods-Thor the old and Odin the new. Thor is there an outlaw, the god of thralls (the conquered natives ?); Odin owns all the gentle-folk (jarls-the aristocracy by right of conquest?). Harb. 76–7.
Lord of the Under-world come all the thralls. This class, which existed in the North in unusually large numbers at the introduction of Christianity, was not merely composed of prisoners of war, but was in fact the remains of the older population, gradually forced by intestine feuds and the pressure of superior immigrants to sink from free men into serfs. Hence there is double reason for believing that Thor was from the first the chief god in the North, and that Odin, as the patron god of battle, did not really take his place by the side of Thor as his equal or superior till the time of the national migrations, though he was certainly worshipped in the North as early as the Bronze-Age. Only among a strong martial aristocratic race could the lore of Valhalla, in general so highly developed in its way, and the blissful life of battle there continued, to win full acceptance, and that too mostly among the chiefs who alone might look forward to being taken up among the Einherier who dwelt with Odin.
Much might be said about the ancient sagas of the wandering of Odin and the Anses male and female-and even of several Odins-into the North, and their probable connexion with the shiftings of population northwards during the time of the national migrations from southern regions, which were then undoubtedly overspread by the Anse-lore, especially on the Rhine and Baltic. If this be true, it is highly probable that the worship of Thor hitherto prevalent in the North may at that time have been added to, especially in certain districts, by powerful princely houses, who introduced a more. extensive cult of Odin and also of many of the gods and goddesses (Aser and Asynier) who were his companions
or followers, according to the belief of heathenism in its last days. This also helps us to understand how Odin, as the god of battles, necessarily, though not apart from Thor and Frey, assumed supreme position and importance in the great temple which was doubtless then built or enlarged by the powerful and warlike Upsveas at Upsala. Possibly about the same time great sanctuaries were erected in Odin's honour or enlarged at other places, e.g. in Denmark at Odinse (Odin's Vé) in Fÿen, where magnificent bog-finds and unusually rich hoards of gold are memorials of the violent commotions during the Middle Iron-Age, which may have accompanied the invasion of warlike ruling races. Fairly trustworthy accounts of the temple at Leire and of the sacrifices there offered have come down to us. The remarkable traces of Christian influence, which we clearly see in the later Northern theology, and even in the architecture of some of the heathen temples described in the Sagas, should also possibly be referred to the Middle Age of Iron and to the halfheathen half-Christian current of culture then prevalent. Thus the new and more highly developed doctrine of Odin became the foundation to bridge the way, as it were, for Christianity into the heathen North.
The pre-historical conditions in the north and northeast of Europe were, as a whole, drawing to a close. While the Middle Iron-Age of the North was still entirely pre-historic, the northern and western lands of Europe were being gradually drawn within the pale of Christianity and history. With the end of the Middle Iron-Age (about 700 A.D.) in consequence of the Viking expeditions and Christianity the faint but
growing light of history began to pierce and at last lift the mist, through which as yet monuments and antiquities alone have been our fixed and guiding stars. With written history therefore the monumental records and ancient relics henceforth dwindle in importance till they become mere illustrations of the internal and external contemporary conditions of civilisation, the main features of which are already known in history..