The Northern Way



Long ago, in the very dawn of time, in the days that followed the Flood, a small boat was cast ashore on the coasts of the island known as Scania. The natives of that land found within the boat a young child who lay with his head upon a sheaf of corn, and was surrounded by weapons. Though they could not know who the child was or from where he had come, they took him in and accepted him as one of their own, named him Sceaf and nurtured him in his youth. Later they chose him to rule over them as king.
After a reign of many years, in which he was in all things a just and wise ruler, Sceaf died. His sorrowing subjects placed him in a ship and entrusted it to the open seas, returning him to the waters from which he had so mysteriously come. He left a son named Bedwig, who succeeded him.

Bedwig begat Hwala, the old genealogies tell us, and Hwala begat Hathra; Hathra had a son named Itermon, Itermon begat Heremod, Heremod begat Sceldwa, who begat Beow, whose son was named Tætwa. Tætwa's son was Geat, whose son was Godwulf. Godwulf begat Finn, Finn begat Frithuwulf, Frithuwulf begat Frealaf. Of all these generations little is recorded. But Frealaf's son was Woden, of which many things are written.

Woden is held to be one of the gods. He is famous for his wisdom and his accomplishments, and he is said to rule over Esageard in the land of the gods. During his life in this middle-earth he fathered many royal lines among the men of the north, including those of the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes.



Dwelling in Esageard with Woden are twelve other gods, who like him are known as the Ese, and men worship them throughout the Northlands. Woden is said to be a great warrior, who has conquered many kingdoms, gaining victory in every battle. When he sent his men into battle, or on any kind of expedition, he would lay his hand upon their brows, and call down a benediction upon them; this meant that their undertaking was always successful. Whenever his worshippers fall into danger by land or sea, they call his name, from which they always gain comfort and aid, for wherever Woden is, help is close. He often sets out on journeys that may last many seasons.

He has two brothers, Weoh and Willa, and they rule over Esageard when he is elsewhere. It is said by some that once, when Woden was away so long that the gods thought he would never return, these two divided his possession between them, although they took his wife, the goddess Frige, to themselves. But it was not long before Woden returned, and took his wife back. His first wife was Eorthe, daughter of Erce; when Woden saw how beautiful her daughter Frige was, he deserted Eorthe for her, but before this they had a son together, the god Thunær. Thunær was sent to be fostered by the giant Wingner in Thrythhame. But when he was ten winters old, Thunær took his father's weapons. When he was twelve, he came into his full strength. It was then that he lifted ten bearskins from the ground at once. Then he slew his foster father Winger, and his wife Hlore, and took Thrythhame as his own. After this, he journeyed through many lands, fighting and conquering all the giants single-handedly, and defeated a great serpent and many monsters. In the far north he found the goddess Sibbe, and he married her. No one knows the ancestry of Sibbe; she is the fairest of all women, her hair is like gold. Then Thunær came to Esageard, where his father welcomed him.
It was not long after this that the Ese went to war with the Wena, another race of gods from the land Wanahame, but they were well prepared, and defend their land. The war raged back and forth, and each tribe did much harm to the other. But when they grew tired with this, both sides met to establish peace, calling a truce, and exchanging hostages.

The Wena sent their best men, Neortha the Rich, and his son Frea. The Ese sent a god named Hona, who they thought was ideally suited to become a chieftain, since he was a stout and handsome god, and with him they sent the wise giant Mima. When Hona came to Wanahame they instantly made him a chief, and Mima counselled him well whenever he was close.

But if Mima was not near, when Hona was at council and the Wenas asked him for his thoughts, he would always say 'Let others give advice.' As a result, the Wena came to think that the Ese had not given them a fair exchange, and so they cut off Mima's head, and sent it to the Ese. But Woden too the head, preserving it with herbs so that it would not decay, and cast spells over it, giving it the power to speak. From Mima's head he learnt many secrets.

Meanwhile, Woden had placed Neortha and Frea among the Ese. Neortha's daughter was Freo, and she taught the Ese the arts of witchcraft, which the Wena were greatly accustomed to. When he was still with the Wena, Neortha had married his own sister, a thing that was not forbidden by their law. Their children were Frea and Freo. But it was not customary among the Ese to marry such close relatives. Some time after, Neortha married a giantess from Eotenhame, land of the giants, who was named Sceadu, but she would not live with him, and later she married Woden, and they had many sons.
Woden knew the art of prophecy, and with it he learnt that these sons would settle and rule over the Northlands. He put his brothers Weoh and Willa in charge of Esageard, and rode north with the gods. Wherever they journeyed, men would say great things about them. They did not pause in their travels before they came to the land that is now called Saxony. Here Woden remained for a long time, and he ruled the country far and wide.

He set seven of his sons to defend the land. One of them was Wadolgeat, and he ruled over the Angles. His son was Wihtlæg, who had two sons; one was Wehta, who begat Witta, who begat Wihtgils, who begat the brothers Hengest and Horsa. From Hengest descend the kings of Kent and Saxony. The other son was Wærmund, whose son was Offa from whom the kings of Mercia descend.

Another son was Casere, and his son was Tætman, from whom later descended the royal line of East Anglia. Woden's third son was Bældæg, who ruled over what is now Westphalia. His sons were Forseta, who ruled over the Frisians, and Brand, whose son was Gewis, from whom descended both the royal line of Wessex and the kings of Bernicia.

The fourth son was Wægdæg, who ruled eastern Saxony. His son was Sigegar, from whom descend the kings of Deira. Fifth was Garwendel, who ruled over the Jutes, until they came under the sway of the Angles. From all of these come many and great races.
Woden rode further northward, and came at last to the land named Hrethgothland, where he conquered all who resisted him. In Hrethgothland he set his sixth son, who was named Scyld. His son was Frealaf, whose descendants were the Scyldings, who were the Dane-kings, and the land that was then called Hrethgothland is now Denmark.

Woden took up his abode in Odense, in the island of Fyn. He sent one of his number, the goddess Gyfun, north across the sound to explore the countries beyond, and she discovered the land we now call Sweden. Here she met Gylfa, the giant who ruled these lands, and he gave her a ploughgate of land in return for a night's entertainment. Then she travelled further into the north, coming to Eotenhame, the land of the giants, where she bore four sons to a giant. With her magic, she transformed these sons into oxen, yoked them to a plough, and ploughed out the land into the sea opposite Odense. The name given to this land is Zealand, and afterwards this was where she settled. Woden's son Scyld married her, and they dwelt at Lejre. Where the land was ploughed out in Sweden there is now a lake called Laage, and it cane be seen that this was where Zealand came from, since the inlets of the lake correspond with the peninsulas of the island.

From Gyfun Woden had learnt that the land in the east was prosperous, and he went there, and Gylfa made peace with him, thinking that he could not resist the gods. But Woden and Gylfa often tricked each other and cast spells and enchantments against each other, but the gods won.

Woden dwelt beside Lake Mælare, in the town now called Old Sigtuna, where he erected a large temple where sacrifices were made by the laws of the Ese. He ruled over the whole of the surrounding district, and it was called Sigtuna. He also gave domains to all his fellow gods.

Finally, he rode northwards to the shores of the ocean, where he set his seventh son in the land now known as Norway. The son's name was Sæming, and the kings of Norway are descended from him.
When Woden and the gods came to the Northlands, they introduced and taught to others all the arts that people have practised ever since. Woden was the wisest and most cunning of all, and it was from him that other learnt all arts and accomplishments; and he knew them first, and knew far more than other people.

When he was with his friends, his face was so beautiful and dignified that all felt exhilarated in his presence; but when he went to war, he appeared dreadful to his enemies. This was because he could change his skin and his shape in any way he wished.

Woden was so eloquent and clever in his speech that everyone who heard his words believed them. He always spoke in verse, and he and the gods were called song-smiths, and they introduced the art of song into the north.

He had the power to make his battle enemies blind, or deaf, or to strike them with terror, and render their iron blade blunt so they could cut now more than a willow wand. But his warriors rushed into battle without wearing armour, and were as wild as dogs or wolves; they bit their shields, and had the strength of bears or wild bulls. They slew their enemies at a blow, but neither fire nor iron could harm them. Their name was the Berserkers.

Woden could change his shape. His body would lie as if dead, but he would take the form of a fish, or a snake, or a bird or a beast, and be off in an instant to far-off lands on his business, or that of others. With words alone he could quench fires, still the stormy ocean, and turn the wind to any quarter he wished.

He and his fellow gods owned a ship that could sail over wide seas, but could also be rolled up as if it were a cloak. At all times, he carried Mima's head with him, and it told him news of other lands.

At times he would call the dead out of the earth and question them, or sit upon burial mounds to gain knowledge from ghosts. He had two ravens that spoke to him, and they flew through all lands and brought him news. In all things he was superlatively wise. He taught all these arts in runes and spells, and another name for the gods is spell-smiths.

Woden was a master of magic, by which he could know the fate of men, and could bring on death, misfortune or poor health for his foes, or take the strength and intelligence of one and give it to another. But from this witchcraft came such weakness that it was thought shameful for men to practise it. Woden also knew where all missing possessions were concealed, and knew the spells to open up the earth, the hills, the stones, and burial mounds. He could bind those who dwelt within them by his word, and take all he pleased. From these accomplishments he became renowned.

His enemies feared him, his friends trusted him, and relied upon his power. He taught many of his arts to his priests, and they came closest to him in wisdom. But many others learnt witchcraft, and it spread far and wide.
Woden established the same law on earth that had existed in Esageard. This said that all dead men should be burned, their belongings laid with them upon the pyre, the ashes cast into the sea or buried. As a result of this, he told them, people would came to Walhall, the Hall of the Slain in Esageard, with all the riches cast on the pyre. Also they would enjoy all that they had buried in the ground.

For great men a mound should be raised to their memory, and all warriors who had distinguished themselves a standing stone should be raised. In autumn there should be a sacrifice for a good year, and another at Yule for a good crop; a third sacrifice should be in the spring, and this should be for victory.

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