Origin of the Icelanders part 2

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Funeral customs

From the Landnámabók it can be said that most of
the settlers came from the western counties of Norway. For support of
this philologists have sought to point to the comparison of the
development of Icelandic language and norwegian dialects in the western
fjords of Norway. With this Barði thought that the scholars thought
Icelanders to be of western-norwegian origin. This theory he dismissed
and to his support he pointed to the research of archeologists on
ancient funeral customs. A great deal of dead mens graves in various
counties in Norway have been examined and it has been safely concluded,
that cremation was common there in the Viking era. Cremation burials are
thought to be in a greater majority. Barði then pointed out that in
Iceland have also been found graves which have been researched in
various parts of the country. Among these graves are no cremation
burials. In Icelandic literature there is nowhere mentioned, that
cremation rituals ever took place. Specialists say it is fully proven,
that cremations did not occur among the settlers of Iceland nor their
descendants. Bardi asks, how it is possible to approximate, that most
Icelanders came from Norway, but yet their funeral customs were
radically different from the native funeral customs. He thinks no
satisfactory explanation has been given and wont be found while people
still hold fast around the theory of a norwegian origin of the Icelandic
people. In the eyes of Barði the answer is simple, that when the theory
of western norwegian origin is thrown away, the explanation comes. The
radically different funeral customs have their roots first and foremost
in the migration of foreign men to Norway, men, which came from a land
which had rejected the ancient cremation rites. Cremation was common
among, those who were before in the land, but the newcomers kept hard to
the culture of their forefathers and buried their dead in the manner of
their old fatherland. Thus it is clear, why there was such a
difference in funeral customs among pre-Christian norwegians and
icelanders. The majority of those men, who moved to Iceland from Norway
were of the familes of the newcomers there.

Nobles and commoners

In
his book " Graves and Buried treasure" dr Kristján Eldjárn explains
this phenomenon. He says, that in all major respects that all of
Scandinavia was one cultural area from ancient times and important
elements in the culture of Scandinavia are shared. It causes wondering
however, that in Iceland some of those things are not found, which
strongly would have been suspected. That thing, which raises the most
attention is exactly this difference in funeral customs. Dr. Eldjárn
says that except the Faroe isles and Greenland, Iceland is the only
country in the whole viking area, where no cremation burials have been
found. Then he says that cremations were rare in Denmark in the viking
era, thought not unknown.
The majority of burials in Sweden are
cremative and the same thing comes up in the boat in Norway that Barði
builds a part of his theory on: "The portion between cremative burials
in overwhelming majority. West of the mountains more burials with
skeletons are found." Dr. Eldjárn doesnt try to solve this riddle
thoroughly, but on the other hand he points to a thing, which may put
pillars under Barðis theory. Dr. Eldjárn discusses the preparation of
burials and says, that the most flamboyant ones were where kings and
nobles ruled.
" Readily it can be said, that here there were no
burials of this glamourous sort, as here were no kings. The icelandic
graves must be compared to the graves of the commoners. This statement
doesnt come badly with, as is mentioned above that in Iceland there were
no earls or kings as were ruling in Norway, but here all freemen were
equal before the laws and enjoyed one and the same right.

Struggle against Odin


One
of the reasons for the migration of the forefathers of the Icelanders
from norway was of a religious nature. Harald fairhair appears to have
fought against the worship of Odin, or atleast a certain part of
it,seiður (sorcery). Among the Icelanders Odin was a god of poetry, but
nowhere else. Seiður was an important part of the Odin worship of the
Icelanders, and seiður was one of the things Odin commited and taught
others and in icelandic records seiður and poetry are found in certain
families. It appears, that berserk behaviour, Odin worship and poetry
held hands, cf. Egill Skallagrímsson and other men of Borg. Sorcery was
not liked by king Harald and he among other things sent Eirík bloodaxe
to Uppland where he burnt inside his brother Rögnvald with 80 sorcerers.

In the days of conquest a new people of temple priests comes to
Denmark and moves from there to Sweden. "Odin established laws in his
land, those, who had been before with the Aesir." He taught most things
to his sacrificial priests. They were closest to him in all lore and
sorcery. "he taught with the runes and poems, which are called
witchcraft. For that reason the Aesir are called Magic craftsmen." Odin
and the temple priests are also called "poetical craftsmen", for poetry
was introduced to them in Scandinavia". It is therefore Snorri
Sturlusons intention, that the nordic poetry and runes are an
inheritance. In the reign of Harald such Odin worship was eliminated
fully. It can be hardly expected that those who believed seiður and
poetry fit together, were content to live in Norway. Sorcerers and
Skalds(poets) moved to Iceland in the settlement period. With them court
poetry completely disappears from Norway, though a couple of poets
dwelt in Harald fairhairs court, who appears to have favoured having
skalds at his side.

Sacrificial priests and magic craftsmen

Barði
Guðmundsson cites Snorri Sturluson where he says, that the Aesir came
to Scandinavia from the Black sea area under the leadership of tvelve
temple priests, which ruled "over worship and judgments between men."
Odin is the supreme of the newcomers in Norway. Barði thinks remarkable,
that Snorri assumes a special nordic culture, which has roots in the
distant Black sea areas at the estuary of the river Don and especially,
that it is known that there once lived a nordic tribe, the Heruli, which
are mentioned in the writings from the great migration period. Thus it
is appropiate to explain well the Heruli and the main sources fro them
come from Procopius and Tacitus.

The Heruli

The Heruli
are noted living in the Black sea region in the year 267. And in 268 at
the lower part of the Rhine. The western Heruli are thought to have left
a rather poor trail seen from a historical perspective. They are
mentioned as Roman mercenaries in the 4th and 5th centuries, but at the
beginnin of the 7th century they disappear entirely from history.
It
is therefore the eastern Heruli, which Barði focuses on and in them he
believes lies the roots of the Icelanders. He states, that the roots of
the Icelandic stock did not seek their nutrients from Norwegian soil.
Furthermore he says, that the solution to the riddle about the origin of
the Icelanders is a heavier puzzle to solve. "Yet a solution shall be
sought, and i even now see glitter a light, which may help us walk on.
It shall be traced as far as possible is into the dusk of the heathen
past." This light Barði traced east to the Black sea, or more precisely
the sea of Azov, where it is thought, that the Heruli ruled the entire
area from Rosov to Odessa.

Invasions and defeats

The
Heruli caused great havoc in the Roman empire in the third century A.D
and harried with the Goths. In 267, when they are first mentioned, was a
remarkable year in the history of the Heruli, atleast from a military
point of view, for that year they captured Byzantium, sailed down the
Aegean, and caused great havoc among the Greeks, sacked Athens,Sparta
and Argos. They made a great campaign against the Romans in 269, but
unsuccesfully, for emperor Claudius II crushed them at the battle of
Naissus (modern Nis in Yughoslavia) and it is believed that a great part
of the Heruli was slain there by the Romans. Around the 4th century the
Heruli came under the control of Ermaneric king of the Ostrogoths, but
when the Huns invaded the Black sea region, the Ostrogoths were
conquered and the same was the fate of the Heruli.
When the Hunnic
empire came to an end, the Heruli established a mighty kingdom in the
latter part of the 5th century in Hungary. The Lombards vanquished the
kingdom of the Heruli shortly after the middle of the 6th century and
killed their king Hrolf. After that the Heruli disperse. Many of them go
into the service of the eastern roman emperor, but others go
northwards.
It can be certainly said, that they mainly made their way
to Denmark, for it is the oppinion of men that in the beginning the
Heruli were driven south by the Danes.

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