Friday, December 30, 2016

Superstitions Regarding Crime, by Cora Linn Daniels 1908

Superstitions Regarding Crime, by Cora Linn Daniels 1908

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If you look hard at a murderer, he will turn his eyes away and get pale.

If a person has been murdered, the funeral torches will blow toward the murderer.

If the murderer buries the implements with which he did the deed, he will not be caught.

Nothing will grow on the place where a murder was committed.

To witness a murder is to see unexpectedly an old friend.

If a murderer takes off the shoes of his victim, it is a sign that the murderer will soon be captured.

If a man has been murdered, bury him face down, and the murderer cannot leave the place.

The shoes of a man who has been hanged are very lucky.

Insects creeping from a murdered man's funeral indicate the direction in which will the murderer be found.

If the rope breaks when a person is being hanged, it is a sign that the person is innocent.

The superstitious say that dogs and some kinds of cats can detect a murderer years after the crime was committed, by the odor of the blood-stains on their hands.

If you bury a murdered person across the world, the murderer will linger around until he is caught.

Detectives believe that the guilty person will always return to the scene of the murder within forty-eight hours.

If one passes a murdered body, even without knowing it or seeing it, one will be stricken with fear.

In Ireland, they bury the murdered man's boots, so that he will haunt the locality.

The Welsh believe if a criminal is hanged, his spirit, let loose, will trouble them.

When a hanged man is cut down, his spirit will come back, unless you give him a box on the ear.

If a criminal is hung, it is considered unlucky, for his soul is let loose to annoy the living.

To laugh in a prison, brings ill luck.

A person released from prison before his term expires, is said to be pretty sure to come back to it sooner or later.

It is good luck to be accused of any crime or error of which you are wholly innocent.

It is considered an unlucky omen in China to take a corpse out of a prison through the door, and it is therefore taken out through an aperture made in the wall at the back of the building.

Tremot, a hero of German myths, protected all robbers and wicked men. He wore a mask, but was also invisible.

The "water of jealousy" was a beverage which the Jews used to assert no adulteress could drink without bursting.

It is unlucky to report a theft or give any information concerning it. (Scotch.)

In Iceland, it is believed that when an innocent person is put to death, ash trees immediately spring up on their graves.

When the Osage Indians are going to steal horses from an enemy, they paint their faces with charcoal, so as not to be caught.

Whoever commits a crime that is not found out in his lifetime, walks after death with his head under his arm.

To discover a thief, balance an axe on an upright stick. The sharp edge will turn toward the guilty one.

Chastise neither man nor beast with a peeled stick, for whatever is beaten with it will dry up.

The rogue who wears a snake's head sewed in his hat will never suffer long imprisonment.

Pliny says that those who are made to die of hunger in prison never survive the seventh day.

If anyone steals an egg, he will keep on stealing until he dies. (Jamaica.)

Give one suspected of being a thief some consecrated cheese; if he is guilty, he cannot swallow it.

If you hang a Bible on a key and it turns toward any person, it is a sign that he is a thief. (Japan.)

To trace a thief, pray over bread and make each one of the company eat a little bit. The thief cannot swallow it.

To kill an ironworker in Germany, whether accidentally or purposely, brings much more bad luck than the penalty.

The Persians believe that if they are robbed in the daytime, evil spirits did it, and will not look for the thief.

In Biblical times, it was unlucky to kill a burglar, even if you caught him in the act, if it was before daylight or sunrise, but lucky after sunrise.

Executioners say they can always tell when a criminal is about to be delivered to them, as the sword will move on the wall of its own accord.

A man stole a Bible from the church at Anglesea and placed it on his shoulder; to punish his audacity he was turned into stone, and there he stands and must remain until the last trump sounds.

Among the Cossacks of Ukraine in Russia, there once lived a gigantic robber called "The Nightingale," who whistled so charmingly that, as he sat under an oak tree, travelers swooned as they passed by, so that he easily robbed them.

In Kamchatka, when something was stolen and the thief could not be found, nerves and sinews were thrown into the fire that, as they shrank and wriggled with the heat, the like should happen to the body of the thief.

In Eastern countries, the greatest degradation that could be put upon an erring man or woman would be to have a betel nut placed in his or her mouth which was taken from the mouth of some low caste person.

If a murderer whistles on a willow whistle, it will tell the story by screeching. (Bohemia.)

If a murderess begins to spin, her wheel creaks. (Bohemia.)

At the Council of Tours, which took place in 813, it was generally believed that a person who drank the chrism, or the holy water, could never be convicted of crime.

If malefactors on the rack pin a paper on their backs with Psalms 10th and 15th written on it, they can stand the torture, and will not be forced to confess.

A fish with a ring in it will allow itself to be caught, as it has sympathy for the human being accused of stealing the ring, and is willing thus to prove his innocence.

When the Ethiopians wanted to pronounce a death sentence upon a person, they carried him to a table on which was painted an owl, and then expected him to commit suicide.

If a man will walk seven times around the grave of the man he has murdered, all his sins will be forgiven him. But it is a very dangerous thing to do, and he seldom gets around more than six times before he drops dead.

In Mexico, it is believed that the murderer who has slain his victim with sword or dagger, will escape, if the body falls on its side or back; but if the body falls face downward, then the murderer surely will be captured.

King James, in his "Demonology," says: "In a secret murder, if the dead carcass be at any time thereafter handled by the murderer, it will gush out of blood as if the blood were crying to heaven for revenge on the assassin."

At Hertford (England) assizes, the deposition was taken as to a certain suspected murderess being required to touch the corpse, when the murdered woman thrust out her ring-finger three times and dropped blood on the grass, thus fastening the proof of guilt upon the suspected woman.

Touch a brandice-iron baking-pan with the third finger, saying: "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—speak!" A cock will crow when the guilty person touches it.

To recover stolen property, you have only to go to one of the Obimen or -women (a kind of negro sorcerers), and for a consideration they will, at 12 o'clock midnight, strip themselves naked, dance backwards on cross-roads, and then reveal the name of the thief.

In Nevis, the murderer is safe from being haunted by the ghost of his victim if he will go to his grave, dig down to his body, and drive a stake through it, thus adding insult to injury.

If someone steals from you in rainy weather, or comes in the mud so that you can get his footprint, cut out his footprint in the clay and hang it in the chimney corner, and the thief will waste away with the footprint.

Whenever a wilful murder has been committed, a cross is immediately planted on the very spot, to keep off the devil, who delights in dwelling near such places.

Some African natives use the following charm to detect a thief: The suspected person is made to fast twelve hours, then to swallow a gallon of an infusion made of sassafras bark. If it produces nausea, and he ejects any food that was in the stomach, he is innocent; but if, instead, it acts as a purgative, he is guilty.

Some of the old monks taught that the punishment in the future world for the murder of a king was to be crowned with a red hot iron crown, that "should burn mightily forever." This teaching may have suggested the actual doing, for the Earl of Athol, who was executed for the murder of James I. of Scotland, was, before his death, crowned with hot iron.

If a man commits murder in Tunguragua, none of the natives will defile their hands by killing him. He is supposed to be haunted by the spirit of his victim until he goes mad and kills himself; but as a matter of fact, the priests catch and strangle him unknown to the community.

The story of the Robber's Grave in Montgomery churchyard is familiar: how a certain man was executed for robbery, and, protesting his innocence, declared that the grass would never grow on his grave, a prediction which, from some inexplicable cause, appears to have been verified. There, to this day, is the strip of sterile ground amid the grass. But there is a superstition attaching to the spot which may not be so well known. It is believed in the neighborhood of Montgomery that anyone who attempts to obliterate this "sign of innocence" will pay the penalty with his life; and strange to say, only a short time ago one of those curious coincidences occurred which lend strength to the superstition. A traveler for artificial manures, visiting the spot, with a supply of seed and the aid of his own manure endeavored to make the grass grow. A few weeks afterwards he met with his death on the railway, in one of the counties on the border!

In the parish of Llanasa, Wales, are a couple of cottages, thatched and aged, called Yr-ardd-ddu. They are on the way leading to Pen-y-Glasdir and Pen-y-ffordd, and tradition has transmitted to our days the story of a foul murder of two children, who were, for the purpose of hiding their bodies, buried in the garden and covered over with thyme, and although the shocking event is said to have occurred many years ago, and at present, and for many years long gone by, there is and has been no thyme in the cottage gardens there, still occasionally persons passing there smell thyme very strongly. If a person goes there simply for the purpose of smelling the thyme, he is disappointed, but others, casually passing the spot, are almost sure to smell this herb. It need hardly be added that ever after the murder a Bwgan (spirit) frequented the spot.

The body of a person who has been murdered cannot be buried in daylight, say the old Manxmen. In old times, a murdered body was always buried at the stroke of twelve, midnight, by torchlight, and without religious ceremonies.

To see if a person was guilty or innocent of a crime, the "ordeal by fire" was sanctioned by centuries of observance. The accused carried a red hot iron nine yards from the heating furnace. His hands were then bound with linen cloths, sealed with the signet of the church. On the third day the cloths were removed, and if there was no trace of the burn, he was declared innocent; but if the faintest sear could be seen, he was declared guilty and punished.

Longfellow told this story to Charles Dickens. He dined with Professor John White Webster within a year after the murder of Dr. George Parkman, one of a party of ten or more. As they sat at their wine, Webster suddenly ordered the lights turned out and a bowl of some burning material to be placed on the table, that the guests might see how ghostly it made them look. As each man stared at the rest in the weird light, all were horror-stricken to see Webster, with a rope around his neck, holding it up over the bowl, with his head jerked to one side and his tongue lolling out, representing a man being hanged. Prof. Webster was shortly afterwards convicted of the murder of Dr. Parkman, and hanged on the 30th of August, 1850.

In Madagascar exist several curious ordeals for the detection of crime. The chief of these is the celebrated tangena poison ordeal, in which they have an implicit belief as a test of guilt or innocence, and by which thousands of innocent persons have perished.

Quite recently, it is said, a young lady was traveling in an omnibus. In her purse she had all her portable wealth, three-pence in coppers. Near her sat an ill-looking man, dirty, wearing a large, shiny ring, which she supposed to be paste.
When she alighted from the omnibus her purse was gone, her pocket was picked; and she, with confusion of face, had to go on credit for her journey. Arrived at home, she searched her pocket afresh, and therein was the seedy man's shiny ring.
It proved to be an excellent large diamond, but advertisement did not discover the owner. He had stolen three-pence and a purse, and had lost a small fortune, probably dishonestly acquired, in the process.

If a Swede is robbed, he goes to a so-called "trollman" or "cunning man," who engages to strike out the eye of the thief. The trollman cuts a human figure on a young tree, and then drives some sharp instrument into the eye of the figure. It was also a practice to shoot at the suspected person's picture or at that of an enemy, with an arrow or bullet, by which pain or sores are, it is believed, inflicted on the corresponding member of the person represented.

Murderers and thieves used formerly a very old enchantment. They ransacked a grave and secured the hand of an unborn child. This was hung on the door of the house which they desired to rob, and instantly all the inmates would be thrown into a profound slumber from which nothing could wake them. The thieves could therefore pursue their wicked business undisturbed. On leaving the place, they would take the hand away, when the enchantment would be broken.

Ibycus, a Greek lyric poet, who lived about 540 B.C, was murdered by robbers on his way to the Corinthian games. In his dying moments, he observed cranes flying over his head, whom he implored to be his avengers. Soon afterwards, when the people of Corinth were assembled in the theater, some cranes flew past in the air, when one of the murderers, who happened to be present, exclaimed involuntarily: "Behold the witnesses of the death of Ibycus!" They were overheard, arrested, tried, convicted and executed.

The "hand of glory" is a foreign piece of superstition common in France, Germany, and Spain, and is used by burglars and assassins. It is the hand of a hanged man, holding a candle made of the fat of a hanged man, virgin wax, and sesame of Lapland. It stupifies those to whom it is presented, and renders them motionless, so that they cannot stir any more than as if they were dead.

The following is found in an old volume called "Wits, Fits, and Fancies." A gentlewoman from jealousy murdered her lover most secretly, and was attending a masque most carefully disguised, when her lover met her (or his ghost) and spoke to her. "Sir," she said, "you mistake me; how know you me?" "All too well," replied the gentleman, "for the moment I saw you my wounds began to bleed afresh. Of hereof you only are guilty!" Astounded and conscience stricken, she gave herself up to justice.

In Scotland, it is believed that by certain ceremonies a murdered corpse can be made to "reverse the death-thraw" and denounce the murderer, and an old song goes:
"Twas in the middle of the night,
 The cock began to crow,
And in the middle of the night
The corpse began to thraw."

In the old churchyard of the monastery at Saints Island, in Ireland, there is an ancient black flagstone which is called "The revealer of Truth." Anyone suspected of sin or crime is brought there from the country around; if the accused swears falsely, the stone has the power to set a mark upon him and his race for seven generations; but if no mark appears, he is innocent.

To ascertain whether a person is guilty of a crime in Brahmanic India, the accused is made to drink three handfuls of water in which a sacred image has been dipped; if he is innocent, nothing happens; but if he is guilty, sickness and misfortune will happen to him within three weeks.

A sign of the guilt of an accused person in Borneo is found in this manner: The two parties are represented by two shellfish on a plate, which are irritated by pouring on some lime juice. These fish have been named for the guilty parties, and the one that moves first is the one who has committed the crime. Also, a suspended hatchet would turn to the guilty.

In Russia, to recover stolen goods, the person from whom anything has been stolen goes to the church, takes a nail, hammers it into the wall, and prays to God that the thief be made to call out the owner's name until he had restored the stolen goods, offering an atonement to God for his crime. If he does cry out the owner's name and promises to pay or restore the goods, and offer a sacrifice to God as an atonement, the owner then goes with him to the church, pulls the nail out of the wall, tells the thief that he is free from the curse of the nail, takes him by his shirt-collar-button, unbuttons it, and sets him free.

It is a general custom in India that a person suspected of a crime is made to chew dry rice in the presence of the officials of the law. It may seem strange, but such is the fear that it influences the saliva and there is no secretion of spittle in the mouth wherewith to eat the rice. The culprit often confessed without trying. If the person is innocent, he is believed to have the proper amount of saliva to be able to chew the rice.

Ate was the Greek goddess of infatuation and reckless crime. She entrapped Zeus into a rash oath at the birth of Heracles and was hurled from Olympus, the home of the gods, to earth, where she continues to work mischief, walking over our heads without ever touching the ground.

In ancient times, guilt or innocence was ascertained by the accused holding a red hot iron in his hand. If it burned him, he was guilty. If God prevented it from doing him serious harm, he was innocent.

Sometimes the accused was made to thrust the arm into boiling water. If in three days no mark was visible, he was acquitted.

Another favorite method was to have the accused and the accuser fight it out. God was supposed to aid the right. The modern duel is a relic of this form of trial.

The poets tells us that when Hercules descended into hell, Charon, the ferryman who rowed the dead across the river Styx, was terrified at his appearance, and immediately took him into his boat, for which Pluto bound him in chains for a whole year.

Burglars of Izamo (Japan) have a simple method of obtaining their desires. He hunts about for a tarai, a sort of tub, and performing a nameless operation in the corner of the garden, he covers the spot with the tub. This throws all the inmates of the house into profound slumber, so that he may do as he pleases, and carry away what he likes.

In Abyssinia, when a theft has been committed, the report is made to the "thief-catcher," who sends to his servant, who is kept for the purpose, a certain dose of black meal compounded with milk. After this he has to smoke a certain amount of tobacco. The servant is by this thrown into a state of frenzy, in which, crawling on his hands and knees, followed by his master, he goes from house to house, smelling out the thief. At last, he enters a house and goes to sleep on the master's bed. This shows that the owner is the thief. He is arrested and has to pay for the property stolen.

The American Indians have what they call taboos, prohibitory or punishing charms and practices. These are also to be found in Australia, and the following remarkable ones are described by George
Turner. If a man wished that a sea pike might run into the body of the person who attempted to steal, say, his bread-fruits, he would plait some cocoanut leaflets in the form of a sea pike and suspend it from one or more of the trees that he wished to protect. The white shark taboo was another object of terror to a thief. This was done by painting a cocoanut leaf in the form of a shark, adding the fins, etc., and this they suspended from a tree. It was tantamount to an expressed imprecation that the thief might be devoured by the white shark the next time he went to fish. The death taboo was made by pouring a little oil into a small calabash and burying it under a tree. The spot was marked by a hill of sand. Others of like significance were current.

Spilling the blood of a lamb on the back steps will keep all burglars away.

On the Pacific coast, charms are hung up to keep thieves out of plantations. Such a charm are a few cocoanut leaves plaited into the form of a shark; if a thief should disregard it, he will be eaten by a real shark.

If a heliotrope is wrapped in a bay leaf with a wolf's tooth, and placed under a man's pillow, it will show him where stolen goods are hidden.

If butter is stolen and you live in a thatched house, cut away some of the thatch from over the door, cast it into the fire, and the butter will be restored.

When you have been robbed, drive an accidentally found horseshoe nail into the place where the fire always is, and you will have your own again.

In Transylvania, if a man who has been robbed will select a black hen and feed himself and the hen on mouldy bread for nine consecutive days, he will get back his goods.

From an old book in German, used in his conjuring and curing by an old man named Zittle, once famous throughout the country for his successes, we give the following:
How one may compel a thief or thieves to restore stolen property:
"O thief or thieves, lay down what thou hast stolen and go away, in Satan's name, in whose name thou hast stolen my property."
How to proceed when thieves have stolen a horse:
Take the pitchfork and stick it where the horse stood. Call the horse by name and say: "I trample thee, I stick thee, I bite thee. Thou shalt come back and thou shalt turn the thief's hand quickly, even as the wind, or the fish that swim in the water, or the birds that fly in the woods, or else thou shalt lie low under the sod. Come quick and be swift."

To detect a thief, spin a cocoanut like a teetotum in presence of those suspected; the one at whom the monkey-face looks when it falls, is the culprit. (Polynesian.)

A sure way of finding out a thief is to stick a sharp pair of scissors into the side of a wooden sifter. Let two persons place the tips of the forefingers of the right hand under the rounds of the scissors and balance the sifter in the air. Then repeat solemnly:
"Here's to Peter and here's to Paul,
Bless the Lord he knows us all,
If any body in this house stole, (here
mention the article) Turn about, sifter and show us all!"
Repeat the invocation, naming each one separately, and when the right one is reached the sifter will wheel around. This was once considered an infallible test.

To discover a thief, a sieve was suspended by the Greeks on a pair of shears, and after certain mystic words the sieve would move, when the correct name was pronounced.

A woman came to a judge of Nova Scotia and complained that someone had stolen her blankets, which she had put out to dry. She wished him to turn the key on the Bible to discover the thief. He refused, assuring her that he had no such power, but as she continued to urge him, he asked if she had a good crowing cock. She said "No, but my neighbor has." "Get an iron pot, and place the crower under it," he answered. She then caused all the men in the neighborhood to assemble at her house in the evening. The understanding was that each should touch the pot, and when the guilty one touched it, the cock would crow. One man protested that this was a silly and useless proceeding. The others boldly touched the pot, but when this man approached he managed not to touch it. Then the judge commanded the men to hold up their hands, and all had crock marks on them but this man, who thus gave himself away. He at first denied his guilt, but on being threatened to be sent to jail, he gave up the plunder.

Timeless Advice from Rudyard Kipling

Timeless Advice from Rudyard Kipling

In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, two towns 100 miles apart boast different names but nonetheless were named for the same person—though he never set foot in either one. The towns are Kipling and Rudyard, and the honored individual was Rudyard Kipling. A re-reading of a poem he first published 106 years ago is a good way to end one year while planning for the next. I’ll share it with you in a moment, but first a few words about the man.

He was born a British subject in Bombay, India, on this date (December 30) in 1865, and is remembered mainly for his significant contributions to English literature. His novels, short stories, and poetry earned him an immense following the world over, rekindled recently with the release of the Kipling-inspired 2016 film, “The Jungle Book.” In 1907, at the age of 42, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature, the first English-language recipient to ever win the award. And 71 years after his death, he remains the youngest Nobel laureate in Literature ever. 

He was also an unofficial Poet Laureate of Great Britain—unofficial only because he could have had the title but declined it. He wasn’t much for awards and fancy appellations; he even turned down a knighthood.

It was early in the 1890s when his fame prompted one Frederick D. Underwood to name two stations on a railroad route through Michigan's Upper Peninsula after his favorite author. As general manager of the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (known as the “Soo Line”), Underwood certainly had that right, but local townspeople enthusiastically approved. The tiny settlement at the head of Green Bay on the northern end of Lake Michigan became the town of Kipling. About 30 miles south of America’s third-oldest city, Sault Ste. Marie, the hamlet of Pine River saw its name changed to Rudyard.

When the young, esteemed author learned of the honor, he immediately wrote to Underwood to thank him, saying “. . . I write to beg you to send me a photograph if possible, of either Rudyard or Kipling or preferentially both. I shall take a deep interest in their little welfares." 

Rejection of Socialism
When his cousin Stanley Baldwin became a Conservative prime minister of Great Britain in 1923, Kipling publicly chastised him as “a socialist at heart.”He may have appreciated the irony of the town of Kipling being situated next to the larger city of Gladstone, named for the famous classical liberal British prime minister of the late 19th century. Kipling the author didn’t much care for Gladstone the politician. The former was an unabashed advocate of British imperialism while the latter worked to scale back the costly reaches of the British Empire.

Rudyard Kipling’s outspoken views on the foreign and domestic policies of his day guaranteed him some powerful enemies and sometimes rattled his friends. He coined the phrase, “white man's burden,” when he urged the United States to take a more active role in civilizing “backward” regions of the world. He so vehemently criticized America's “belated” entry into World War I, a conflict that would take the life of his beloved son John, that the governments of Britain and France publicly disavowed his remarks.

While his foreign policy views were too interventionist and militaristic for my tastes, on issues at home he was much more to my liking. Indeed, he was outspoken in favor of liberty in general and classical liberalism in particular. Along with two other prominent Brits in 1920, he co-founded the Liberty League with the express purpose of advancing classical liberal ideas. When his cousin Stanley Baldwin became a Conservative prime minister of Great Britain in 1923, Kipling publicly chastised him as “a socialist at heart.”

Sound of Weeping 
Moscow banned his writings for decades long after his death in 1936.Kipling detested communism, especially the Soviet variety from its inception under Lenin in 1917. With the Bolshevik rise to power, one sixth of the world, he wrote, had “passed bodily out of civilization.” In a 1918 poem, Kipling depicted the USSR as a sanctum of evil that replaced what good there once was in Russia with "the sound of weeping and the sight of burning fire, and the shadow of a people trampled into the mire.” Moscow banned his writings for decades long after his death in 1936.

In 1895, when he was 30 years of age, Kipling penned a poem with the single-word title of “If.” He set it aside for 15 years before authorizing its publication in 1910. Seen by literary critics as an example of “Victorian-era stoicism,” it remains well-known and popular across Britain today.
It was adapted into song by Roger Whittaker in 1972 under the title “A Song for Erik” and by Joni Mitchell in 2007 on her album “Shine.”

As a New Year beckons, I commend “If” to you here. It offers timeless advice from an accomplished poet. We would all do well to adapt its spirit to our lives in 2017.
By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
  Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
  And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
  And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
  And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
  And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
  To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
  Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
  Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
  If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
  With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
  And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.
Lawrence W. Reed
Lawrence W. Reed
Lawrence W. Reed is President of the Foundation for Economic Education and the author of the forthcoming book, Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.
This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Isaac Newton's Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture by Henry Green 1856

Isaac Newton's Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture by Henry Green 1856

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It is to writings not published in their life-time that we must have recourse for the clearest evidence of Locke's and Newton's views of Trinitarian Doctrine. In his History of the Royal Society, p. 284, Dr. Thomson had declared;—- “Newton's religious opinions were not orthodox; for example, he did not believe in the Trinity. This gives us the reason why Horsley, the champion of the Trinity, found them unfit for publication;" yet Brewster, writing in 1880, considered the assertion of Sir Isaac Newton's being an Anti-Trinitarian as “not warranted by any thing which he has published.” The Question really at issue is the fact itself,-and this fact must be substantiated, not simply by what they printed, but by what they wrote. The Manuscripts which they left must decide the controversy.

Sir Isaac Newton's Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, I. John v. 7, [For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one] and I. Tim. iii. 16, [And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory] published in his collected works by Horsley, might have been the production of any honest-minded man who desired the pure text of the Sacred Writings; though it is very unlikely that a believer in the Trinity would have written as he has done: “it is,” he says to disarm hostility, “no article of faith, no point of discipline, nothing but a criticism concerning a text of Scripture, which I am going to write about.” Some expressions, however, reveal the animus with which he entered upon the criticism. A believer in the Trinity would have inserted some saving clause to vindicate the soundness of his faith in that particular dogma, and to show, though he was assailing one of its strongholds, that he still regarded it as a doctrine resting on a rock: he would scarcely have said of the baptismal formula, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Matt. xxviii., 19, “the place from which they tried at first to derive the Trinity.” Neither is it likely that a Trinitarian would have written;—-“Will you now say that the testimony of the “three in heaven' was razed out of their books by the prevailing Arians? Yes, truly, those Arians were crafty knaves, that would conspire so cunningly and sly, all the world over at once (as at the word of a Mithridates,) in the latter end of the reign of the Emperor Constantius, to get all men's books into their hands, and correct them without being perceived, ay, and conjurors too, to do it without leaving any blot or chasm in their books, whereby the knavery might be suspected and discovered.”—Horsley's Newton, vol. V., 496, 498, 508.

The comment on I. Tim. iii., 16, the other corruption which Newton exposed, savours too of Anti-Trinitarianism. “And besides, to read QEOS/theos, makes the sense obscure and difficult. For how can it possibly be said 'that God was justified in the Spirit!' But to read O', and interpret it of Christ, as the ancient Christians did, without restraining it to his divinity, makes the sense very easy. For the promised and long expected Messias, the hope of Israel, is to us ‘The great mystery of godliness.' And this mystery was at length manifested to the Jews, from the time of his baptism, and justified to be the person whom they expected.”——Horsley's Newton, v., 548

Locke's acquaintance with Newton began between the years 1688 and 1690, and it was then that Newton first communicated to Mr. Locke, in strictest confidence, the valuable papers on the Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture. “The author, with his characteristic timidity, shrunk from the responsibility of sending them forth to the public with the sanction of his name, and thus expose himself to the scoffs or the censures of the theological bigots of the age, who were either incompetent or indisposed to appreciate the value of his labours. Mr. Locke was at this time meditating a voyage to Holland; and Sir Isaac's first purpose was, that he should take these papers with him, and, through the medium of some literary acquaintance, procure the translation and publication of them there in the French language. He wished in this manner, without bringing himself personally before the public, to ascertain the feeling and judgment of Biblical critics, as to the subjects of his work. Then ‘After it had gone abroad long enough in French,' he 'might', he states, 'perhaps put it forth in English.’” ——King's Life of Locke, p. 229-230; or vol. i., 427-428.

The nature of this “Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture” it is interesting to re-consider, and we give it in Brewster's words:--

“This celebrated treatise relates to two texts in the Epistles of St. John and St. Paul, the first of these is I. John, v., 7 (I John 5:7), ‘For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.' This text he considers as a gross corruption of Scripture, which had its origin among the Latins, who interpreted the Spirit, Water, and Blood, to be the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in order to prove them one. With the same view Jerome inserted the Trinity in express words, in his version. The Latins marked his variations in the margins of their books; and in the twelfth and following centuries, when the disputations of the schoolmen were at their height, the variations began to creep into the text in transcribing. After the invention of printing, it crept out of the Latin into the printed Greek, contrary to the authority of all the Greek manuscripts and ancient versions, and from the Venetian press it went soon after into Greece. After proving these positions, Sir Isaac gives the following paraphrase of this remarkable passage, which is printed in Italics,--

“Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God, that Son spoken of in the Psalms, where he saith, ‘Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.' This is he that, after the Jews had long expected him, came, first in a mortal body, by baptism of water, and then in an immortal one, by shedding his blood upon the cross, and rising again from the dead; not by water only, but by water and blood; being the Son of God, as well by his resurrection from the dead,(Acts, xiii., 32-33,) as by his supernatural birth of the virgin, (Luke, i., 35.) And it is the Spirit also, that together with the water and the blood, beareth witness of the truth of his coming; because the Spirit is truth; and so a fit and unexceptionable witness. For there are three that bear record of his coming; the Spirit which he promised to send, and which was since shed forth upon us in the form of cloven tongues, and in various gifts; the baptism of water, wherein God testified ‘this is my beloved Son;' and the shedding of his blood, accompanied with his resurrection, whereby he became the most faithful martyr, or witness of this truth. And these three, the spirit, the baptism and passion of Christ, agree in witnessing one and the same thing, (namely, that the Son of God is come;) and, therefore, their evidence is strong; for the law requires but two consenting witnesses, and here we have three: and if we receive the witness of men, the threefold witness of God, which he bare of his Son, by declaring at his baptism, ‘this is my beloved Son,' by raising him from the dead, and by pouring out his spirit on us, is greater; and therefore ought to be more readily received.”—Brewster, vol. ii., 331-333.

The text of the heavenly witnesses is now indeed given up, by the most eminent biblical scholars, as a notorious corruption. Porson, in his letters to Archdeacon Travis, triumphantly proved that it ought not to form a part of the Sacred Text; and it demands the efforts of all who venerate the writings of the apostles to endeavour to purify the New Testament from an almost universally acknowledged forgery. Surely those who occupy the high places in the Christian church, should be able to say, “we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.”—II. Cor., ii., 17.

In referring to these able letters, Sir Charles Lyell, as quoted by Brewster, remarks, “that by them the question was for ever set at rest.” “Had it been a question in science, it might have been expected that presumptuous error, when once sternly refuted, would not dare to re-appear; but theological questions are never set at rest, and the very corruption of the Sacred Text, which Sir Charles characterizes as having been ‘given up by every one who has the least pretension to scholarship and candour, has been defended in our own day by Dr. Burgess, Bishop of St. David's, and afterwards of Salisbury, with a boldness of presumption and a severity of intolerance, unworthy of a Christian divine."—Brewster's Memoirs, ii., 334, 335.

“The other notable corruption of Scripture discussed by Sir Isaac, is that which he charges the Greeks with having perpetrated in the text of St. Paul, Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh. According to him, this reading was effected by changing O into OS, the abbreviation for QEOS,--whereas all the churches, for the first five hundred years, and the authors of all the ancient versions, Jerome as well as the rest, read ‘Great is the mystery of godliness which was manifested in the flesh.' For this is the common reading of the Ethiopic, Syriac, and Latin versions to this day, Jerome's manuscripts having given him no occasion to correct the old vulgar Latin in this place."—Brewster, vol. ii., 335.

The opinions of critics, since the time of Newton, have been much divided in reference to this passage, I. Tim., iii., 16; a summary of those opinions we add from the Principles of Textual Criticism, by J. Scott Porter, p. 482.

“The first word of the second clause in this verse is variously read.

1. QEOS EFANERWQH—-‘God was manifested.' This is the reading of the Received Text, approved by Mill, Bengel, Berriman, Woide, Henderson, Scholz, Davidson, and many other eminent critics.

2. OS EFANERWQH—-‘Who was manifested.' This reading Griesbach has taken into the text of the New Testament, and it is supported by Carpenter and Belsham; and also Dr. J. Pye Smith, though with some hesitation.

3. O EFANERWQH—'Which was manifested,'—referring to the mystery mentioned immediately before. Grotius, Sir Isaac Newton, Wetstein, Wakefield, Norton, and several other writers, prefer this reading.”

The arguments for each of these readings are then stated and examined, and for several reasons which he adduces, Scott Porter concludes; “in my judgment the true reading is "o which.”—p. 493.

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Greek and Norse Mythology - A Comparison by H.A. Guerber 1909

Greek and Norse Mythology - A Comparison by H.A. Guerber 1909

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Comparative Mythology

During the past fifty years learned men of many nations have investigated philology and comparative mythology so thoroughly that they have ascertained beyond the possibility of doubt “that English, together with all the Teutonic dialects of the Continent, belongs to that large family of speech which comprises, besides the Teutonic, Latin, Greek, Slavonic, and Celtic, the Oriental languages of India and Persia.” “It has also been proved that the various tribes who started from the central home to discover Europe in the north, and India in the south, carried away with them, not only a common language, but a common faith and a common mythology. These are facts which may be ignored but cannot be disputed, and the two sciences of comparative grammar and comparative mythology, though but of recent origin, rest on a foundation as sound and safe as that of any of the inductive sciences.” “For more than a thousand years the Scandinavian inhabitants of Norway have been separated in language from their Teutonic brethren on the Continent, and yet both have not only preserved the same stock of popular stories, but they tell them, in several instances, in almost the same words.”

This resemblance, so strong in the early literature of nations inhabiting countries which present much the same physical aspect and have nearly the same climate, is not so marked when we compare the Northern myths with those of the genial South. Still, notwithstanding the contrast between Northern and Southern Europe, where these myths gradually ripened and attained their full growth, there is an analogy between the two mythologies which shows that the seeds from whence both sprang were originally the same.

In the foregoing chapters the Northern system of mythology has been outlined as clearly as possible, and the physical significance of the myths has been explained. Now we shall endeavour to set forth the resemblance of Northern mythology to that of the other Aryan nations, by comparing it with the Greek, which, however, it does not resemble as closely as it does the Oriental.

It is, of course, impossible in a work of this character to do more than mention the main points of resemblance in the stories forming the basis of these religions; but that will be sufficient to demonstrate, even to the most sceptical, that they must have been identical at a period too remote to indicate now with any certainty.

The Beginning of Things

The Northern nations, like the Greeks, imagined that the world rose out of chaos; and while the latter described it as a vapoury, formless mass, the former, influenced by their immediate surroundings, depicted it as a chaos of fire and ice—-a combination which is only too comprehensible to any one who has visited Iceland and seen the wild, peculiar contrast between its volcanic soil, spouting geysers, and the great icebergs which hedge it round during the long, dark winter season.

From these opposing elements, fire and ice, were born the first divinities, who, like the first gods of the Greeks, were gigantic in stature and uncouth in appearance. Ymir, the huge ice giant, and his descendants, are comparable to the Titans, who were also elemental forces of Nature, personifications of subterranean fire; and both, having held full sway for a time, were obliged to yield to greater perfection. After a fierce struggle for supremacy, they all found themselves defeated and banished to the respective remote regions of Tartarus and Jötun-heim.

The triad, Odin, Vili, and Ve, of the Northern myth is the exact counterpart of Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, who, superior to the Titan forces, rule supreme over the world in their turn. In the Greek mythology, the gods, who are also all related to one another, betake themselves to Olympus, where they build golden palaces for their use; and in the Northern mythology the divine conquerors repair to Asgard, and there construct similar dwellings.


Northern cosmogony was not unlike the Greek, for the people imagined that the earth, Mana-heim, was entirely surrounded by the sea, at the bottom of which lay coiled the huge Midgard snake, biting its own tail; and it was perfectly natural that, viewing the storm-lashed waves which beat against their shores, they should imagine these to be caused by his convulsive writhing. The Greeks, who also fancied the earth was round and compassed by a mighty river called Oceanus, described it as flowing with “a steady, equable current,” for they generally gazed out upon calm and sunlit seas. Nifl-heim, the Northern region of perpetual cold and mist, had its exact counterpart in the land north of the Hyperboreans, where feathers (snow) continually hovered in the air, and where Hercules drove the Ceryneian stag into a snowdrift ere he could seize and bind it fast.

The Phenomena of the Sky

Like the Greeks, the Northern races believed that the earth was created first, and that the vaulted heavens were made afterwards to overshadow it entirely. They also imagined that the sun and moon were daily driven across the sky in chariots drawn by fiery steeds. Sol, the sun maiden, therefore corresponded to Helios, Hyperion, Phœbus, or Apollo, while Mani, the Moon (owing to a peculiarity of Northern grammar, which makes the sun feminine and the moon masculine), was the exact counterpart of Phœbe, Diana, or Cynthia.

The Northern scalds, who thought that they descried the prancing forms of white-maned steeds in the flying clouds, and the glitter of spears in the flashing light of the aurora borealis, said that the Valkyrs, or battle maidens, galloped across the sky, while the Greeks saw in the same natural phenomena the white flocks of Apollo guarded by Phaetusa and Lampetia.

As the dew fell from the clouds, the Northern poets declared that it dropped from the manes of the Valkyrs’ steeds, while the Greeks, who observed that it generally sparkled longest in the thickets, identified it with Daphne and Procris, whose names are derived from the Sanskrit word which means “to sprinkle,” and who are slain by their lovers, Apollo and Cephalus, personifications of the sun.

The earth was considered in the North as well as in the South as a female divinity, the fostering mother of all things; and it was owing to climatic difference only that the mythology of the North, where people were daily obliged to conquer the right to live by a hand-to-hand struggle with Nature, should represent her as hard and frozen like Rinda, while the Greeks embodied her in the genial goddess Ceres. The Greeks believed that the cold winter winds swept down from the North, and the Northern races, in addition, added that they were produced by the winnowing of the wings of the great eagle Hræ-svelgr.

The dwarfs, or dark elves, bred in Ymir’s flesh, were like Pluto’s servants in that they never left their underground realm, where they, too, sought the precious metals, which they moulded into delicate ornaments such as Vulcan bestowed upon the gods, and into weapons which no one could either dint or mar. As for the light elves, who lived above ground and cared for plants, trees, and streams, they were evidently the Northern equivalents to the nymphs, dryads, oreades, and hamadryads, which peopled the woods, valleys, and fountains of ancient Greece.

Jupiter and Odin

Jupiter, like Odin, was the father of the gods, the god of victory, and a personification of the universe. Hlidskialf, Allfather’s lofty throne, was no less exalted than Olympus or Ida, whence the Thunderer could observe all that was taking place; and Odin’s invincible spear Gungnir was as terror-inspiring as the thunderbolts brandished by his Greek prototype. The Northern deities feasted continually upon mead and boar’s flesh, the drink and meat most suitable to the inhabitants of a Northern climate, while the gods of Olympus preferred the nectar and ambrosia which formed their only sustenance.

Twelve Æsir sat in Odin’s council hall to deliberate over the wisest measures for the government of the world and men, and an equal number of gods assembled on the cloudy peak of Mount Olympus for a similar purpose. The Golden Age in Greece was a period of idyllic happiness, amid ever-flowering groves and under balmy skies, while the Northern age of bliss was also a time when peace and innocence flourished on the earth, and when evil was as yet entirely unknown.

The Creation of Man

Using the materials near at hand, the Greeks modelled their first images out of clay; hence they naturally imagined that Prometheus had made man out of that substance when called upon to fashion a creature inferior to the gods only. As the Northern statues were hewn out of wood, the Northern races inferred, as a matter of course, that Odin, Vili, and Ve (who here correspond to Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Minerva, the three Greek creators of man) made the first human couple, Ask and Embla, out of blocks of wood.

The goat Heidrun, which supplied the heavenly mead, is like Amalthea, Jupiter’s first nurse, and the busy, tell-tale Ratatosk is equivalent to the snow-white crow in the story of Coronis, which was turned black in punishment for its tattling. Jupiter’s eagle has its counterpart in the ravens Hugin and Munin, or in the wolves Geri and Freki, which are ever crouching at Odin’s feet.

Norns and Fates

The close resemblance between the Northern Orlog and the Greek Destiny, goddesses whose decrees the gods themselves were obliged to respect, and the equally powerful Norns and Mœræ, is too obvious to need pointing out, while the Vanas are counterparts of Neptune and the other ocean divinities. The great quarrel between the Vanas and the Æsir is merely another version of the dispute between Jupiter and Neptune for the supremacy of the world. Just as Jupiter forces his brother to yield to his authority, so the Æsir remain masters of all, but do not refuse to continue to share their power with their conquered foes, who thus become their allies and friends.

Like Jupiter, Odin is always described as majestic and middle-aged, and both gods are regarded as the divine progenitors of royal races, for while the Heraclidæ claimed Jupiter as their father, the Inglings, Skioldings, etc., held that Odin was the founder of their families. The most solemn oaths were sworn by Odin’s spear as well as by Jupiter’s footstool, and both gods rejoice in a multitude of names, all descriptive of the various phases of their nature and worship.

Odin, like Jupiter, frequently visited the earth in disguise, to judge of the hospitable intentions of mankind, as in the story of Geirrod and Agnar, which resembles that of Philemon and Baucis. The aim was to encourage hospitality; therefore, in both stories, those who showed themselves humanely inclined are richly rewarded, and in the Northern myth the lesson is enforced by the punishment inflicted upon Geirrod, as the scalds believed in poetic justice and saw that it was carefully meted out.

The contest of wit between Odin and Vafthrudnir has its parallel in the musical rivalry of Apollo and Marsyas, or in the test of skill between Minerva and Arachne. Odin further resembled Apollo in that he, too, was god of eloquence and poetry, and could win all hearts by means of his divine voice; he was like Mercury in that he taught mortals the use of runes, while the Greek god introduced the alphabet.

Myths of the Seasons

The disappearance of Odin, the sun or summer, and the consequent desolation of Frigga, the earth, is merely a different version of the myths of Proserpine and Adonis. When Proserpine and Adonis have gone, the earth (Ceres or Venus) bitterly mourns their absence, and refuses all consolation. It is only when they return from their exile that she casts off her mourning garments and gloom, and again decks herself in all her jewels. So Frigga and Freya bewail the absence of their husbands Odin and Odur, and remain hard and cold until their return. Odin’s wife, Saga, the goddess of history, who lingered by Sokvabek, “the stream of time and events,” taking note of all she saw, is like Clio, the muse of history, whom Apollo sought by the inspiring fount of Helicon.

Just as, according to Euhemerus, there was an historical Zeus, buried in Crete, where his grave can still be seen, so there was an historical Odin, whose mound rises near Upsala, where the greatest Northern temple once stood, and where there was a mighty oak which rivalled the famous tree of Dodona.

Frigga and Juno

Frigga, like Juno, was a personification of the atmosphere, the patroness of marriage, of connubial and motherly love, and the goddess of childbirth. She, too, is represented as a beautiful, stately woman, rejoicing in her adornments; and her special attendant, Gna, rivals Iris in the rapidity with which she executes her mistress’s behests. Juno has full control over the clouds, which she can brush away with a motion of her hand, and Frigga is supposed to weave them out of the thread she has spun on her jewelled spinning wheel.

In Greek mythology we find many examples of the way in which Juno seeks to outwit Jupiter. Similar tales are not lacking in the Northern myths. Juno obtains possession of Io, in spite of her husband’s reluctance to part with her, and Frigga artfully secures the victory for the Winilers in the Langobarden Saga. Odin’s wrath at Frigga’s theft of the gold from his statue is equivalent to Jupiter’s marital displeasure at Juno’s jealousy and interference during the war of Troy. In the story of Gefjon, and the clever way in which she procured land from Gylfi to form her kingdom of Seeland, we have a reproduction of the story of Dido, who obtained by stratagem the land upon which she founded her city of Carthage. In both accounts oxen come into play, for while in the Northern myth these sturdy beasts draw the piece of land far out to sea, in the other an ox hide, cut into strips, serves to enclose the queen’s grant.

Musical Myths

The Pied Piper of Hamelin, who could attract all living creatures by his music, is like Orpheus or Amphion, whose lyres had the same power; and Odin, as leader of the dead, is the counterpart of Mercury Psychopompus, both being personifications of the wind, on whose wings disembodied souls were thought to be wafted from this mortal sphere.

The trusty Eckhardt, who would fain save Tannhäuser and prevent his returning to expose himself to the enchantments of the sorceress, in the Hörselberg, is like the Greek Mentor, who not only accompanied Telemachus, but gave him good advice and wise instructions, and would have rescued Ulysses from the hands of Calypso.

Thor and the Greek Gods

Thor, the Northern thunder-god, also has many points of resemblance with Jupiter. He bears the hammer Miölnir, the Northern emblem of the deadly thunderbolt, and, like Jupiter, uses it freely when warring against the giants. In his rapid growth Thor resembles Mercury, for while the former playfully tosses about several loads of ox hides a few hours after his birth, the latter steals Apollo’s oxen before he is one day old. In physical strength Thor resembles Hercules, who also gave early proofs of uncommon vigour by strangling the serpents sent to slay him in his cradle, and who delighted, later on, in attacking and conquering giants and monsters. Hercules became a woman and took to spinning to please Omphale, the Lydian queen, and Thor assumed a woman’s apparel to visit Thrym and recover his hammer, which had been buried nine rasts underground. The hammer, his principal attribute, was used for many sacred purposes. It consecrated the funeral pyre and the marriage rite, and boundary stakes driven in by a hammer were considered as sacred among Northern nations as the Hermæ or statues of Mercury, removal of which was punishable by death.

Thor’s wife, Sif, with her luxuriant golden hair, is, as we have already stated, an emblem of the earth, and her hair of its rich vegetation. Loki’s theft of these tresses is equivalent to Pluto’s rape of Proserpine. To recover the golden locks, Loki must visit the dwarfs (Pluto’s servants), crouching in the low passages of the underground world; so Mercury must seek Proserpine in Hades.

The gadfly which hinders Jupiter from recovering possession of Io, after Mercury has slain Argus, reappears in the Northern myth to sting Brock and to endeavour to prevent the manufacture of the magic ring Draupnir, which is merely a counterpart of Sif’s tresses, as it also represents the fruits of the earth. The fly continues to torment the dwarf during the manufacture of Frey’s golden-bristled boar, a prototype of Apollo’s golden sun chariot, and it prevents the perfect formation of the handle of Thor’s hammer.

The magic ship Skidbladnir, also made by the dwarfs, is like the swift-sailing Argo, which was a personification of the clouds sailing overhead; and just as the former was said to be large enough to accommodate all the gods, so the latter bore all the Greek heroes off to the distant land of Colchis.

The Germans, wishing to name the days of the week after their gods, as the Romans had done, gave the name of Thor to Jove’s day, and thus made it the present Thursday.

Thor’s struggle against Hrungnir is a parallel to the fight between Hercules and Cacus or Antæus; while Groa is evidently Ceres, for she, too, mourns for her absent child Orvandil (Proserpine), and breaks out into a song of joy when she hears that it will return.

Magni, Thor’s son, who when only three hours old exhibits his marvellous strength by lifting Hrungnir’s leg off his recumbent father, also reminds us of the infant Hercules; and Thor’s voracious appetite at Thrym’s wedding feast has its parallel in Mercury’s first meal, which consisted of two whole oxen.

The crossing of the swollen tide of Veimer by Thor reminds us of Jason’s feat when he waded across the torrent on his way to visit the tyrant Pelias and recover possession of his father’s throne.

The marvellous necklace worn by Frigga and Freya to enhance their charms is like the cestus or girdle of Venus, which Juno borrowed to subjugate her lord, and is, like Sif’s tresses and the ring Draupnir, an emblem of luxuriant vegetation or a type of the stars which shine in the firmament.

The Northern sword-god Tyr is, of course, the Greek war-god Ares, whom he so closely resembles that his name was given to the day of the week held sacred to Ares, which is even now known as Tuesday or Tiu’s day. Like Ares, Tyr was noisy and courageous; he delighted in the din of battle, and was fearless at all times. He alone dared to brave the Fenris wolf; and the Southern proverb concerning Scylla and Charybdis has its counterpart in the Northern adage, “to get loose out of Læding and to dash out of Droma.” The Fenris wolf, also a personification of subterranean fire, is bound, like his prototypes the Titans, in Tartarus.

The similarity between the gentle, music-loving Bragi, with his harp, and Apollo or Orpheus, is very great; so is the resemblance between the magic draught Od-hroerir and the waters of Helicon, both of which were supposed to serve as inspiration to mortal as well as to immortal poets. Odin dons eagle plumes to bear away this precious mead, and Jupiter assumes a similar guise to secure his cupbearer Ganymede.

Idun, like Adonis and Proserpine, or still more like Eurydice, is also a fair personification of spring. She is borne away by the cruel ice giant Thiassi, who represents the boar which slew Adonis, the kidnapper of Proserpine, or the poisonous serpent which bit Eurydice. Idun is detained for a long time in Jötun-heim (Hades), where she forgets all her merry, playful ways, and becomes mournful and pale. She cannot return alone to Asgard, and it is only when Loki (now an emblem of the south wind) comes to bear her away in the shape of a nut or a swallow that she can effect her escape. She reminds us of Proserpine and Adonis escorted back to earth by Mercury (god of the wind), or of Eurydice lured out of Hades by the sweet sounds of Orpheus’s harp, which were also symbolical of the soughing of the winds.

Idun and Eurydice

The myth of Idun’s fall from Yggdrasil into the darkest depths of Nifl-heim, while subject to the same explanation and comparison as the above story, is still more closely related to the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, for the former, like Bragi, cannot exist without the latter, whom he follows even into the dark realm of death; without her his songs are entirely silenced. The wolf-skin in which Idun is enveloped is typical of the heavy snows in Northern regions, which preserve the tender roots from the blighting influence of the extreme winter cold.

Skadi and Diana

The Van Niörd, who is god of the sunny summer seas, has his counterpart in Neptune and more especially in Nereus, the personification of the calm and pleasant aspect of the mighty deep. Niörd’s wife, Skadi, is the Northern huntress; she therefore resembles Diana. Like her, she bears a quiver full of arrows, and a bow which she handles with consummate skill. Her short gown permits the utmost freedom of motion, also, and she, too, is generally accompanied by a hound.

The story of the transference of Thiassi’s eyes to the firmament, where they glow like brilliant stars, reminds us of many Greek star myths, and especially of Argus’s eyes ever on the watch, of Orion and his jewelled girdle, and of his dog Sirius, all changed into stars by the gods to appease angry goddesses. Loki’s antics to win a smile from the irate Skadi are considered akin to the quivering flashes of sheet-lightning which he personified in the North, while Steropes, the Cyclops, typified it for the Greeks.

Frey and Apollo

The Northern god of sunshine and summer showers, the genial Frey, has many traits in common with Apollo, for, like him, he is beautiful and young, rides the golden-bristled boar which was the Northern conception of the sunbeams, or drives across the sky in a golden car, which reminds us of Apollo’s glittering chariot.

Frey has some of the gentle Zephyrus’s characteristics besides, for he, too, scatters flowers along his way. His horse Blodug-hofi is not unlike Pegasus, Apollo’s favourite steed, for it can pass through fire and water with equal ease and velocity.

Fro, like Odin and Jupiter, is also identified with a human king, and his mound lies beside Odin’s near Upsala. His reign was so happy that it was called the Golden Age, and he therefore reminds us of Saturn, who, exiled to earth, ruled over the people of Italy, and granted them similar prosperity.

Freya and Venus

Gerda, the beautiful maiden, is like Venus, and also like Atalanta; she is hard to woo and hard to win, like the fleet-footed maiden, but, like her, she yields at last and becomes a happy wife. The golden apples with which Skirnir tries to bribe her remind us of the golden fruit which Hippomenes cast in Atalanta’s way, and which made her lose the race.

Freya, the goddess of youth, love, and beauty, like Venus, sprang from the sea, for she is a daughter of the sea-god Niörd. Venus bestowed her best affections upon the god of war and upon the martial Anchises, while Freya often assumes the garb of a Valkyr, and rides rapidly to earth to take part in mortal strife and bear away the heroic slain to feast in her halls. Like Venus, she delights in offerings of fruits and flowers, and lends a gracious ear to the petitions of lovers. Freya also resembles Minerva, for, like her, she wears a helmet and breastplate, and, like her, also, she is noted for her beautiful blue eyes.

Odur and Adonis

Odur, Freya’s husband, is like Adonis, and when he leaves her, she, too, sheds countless tears, which, in her case, are turned to gold, while Venus’s tears are changed into anemones, and those of the Heliades, mourning for Phaeton, harden to amber, which resembles gold in colour and in consistency. Just as Venus rejoices at Adonis’s return, and all Nature blooms in sympathy with her joy, so Freya becomes lighthearted once more when she has found her husband beneath the flowering myrtles of the South. Venus’s car is drawn by fluttering doves, and Freya’s is swiftly carried along by cats, which are emblems of sensual love, as the doves were considered types of tenderest love. Freya is appreciative of beauty and angrily refuses to marry Thrym, while Venus scorns and finally deserts Vulcan, whom she has been forced to marry against her will.

The Greeks represented Justice as a goddess blindfolded, with scales in one hand and a sword in the other, to indicate the impartiality and the fixity of her decrees. The corresponding deity of the North was Forseti, who patiently listened to both sides of a question ere he, too, promulgated his impartial and irrevocable sentence.

Uller, the winter-god, resembles Apollo and Orion only in his love for the chase, which he pursues with ardour under all circumstances. He is the Northern bowman, and his skill is quite as unerring as theirs.

Heimdall, like Argus, was gifted with marvellous keenness of sight, which enabled him to see a hundred miles off as plainly by night as by day. His Giallar-horn, which could be heard throughout all the world, proclaiming the gods’ passage to and fro over the quivering bridge Bifröst, was like the trumpet of the goddess Renown. As he was related to the water deities on his mother’s side, he could, like Proteus, assume any form at will, and he made good use of this power on the occasion when he frustrated Loki’s attempt to steal the necklace Brisinga-men.

Hermod, the quick or nimble, resembles Mercury not only in his marvellous celerity of motion. He, too, was the messenger of the gods, and, like the Greek divinity, flashed hither and thither, aided not by winged cap and sandals, but by Odin’s steed Sleipnir, whom he alone was allowed to bestride. Instead of the Caduceus, he bore the wand Gambantein. He questioned the Norns and the magician Rossthiof, through whom he learned that Vali would come to avenge his brother Balder and to supplant his father Odin. Instances of similar consultations are found in Greek mythology, where Jupiter would fain have married Thetis, yet desisted when the Fates foretold that if he did so she would be the mother of a son who would surpass his father in glory and renown.

The Northern god of silence, Vidar, has some resemblance to Hercules, for while the latter has nothing but a club with which to defend himself against the Nemean lion, whom he tears asunder, the former is enabled to rend the Fenris wolf at Ragnarok by the possession of one large shoe.

Rinda and Danae

Odin’s courtship of Rinda reminds us of Jupiter’s wooing of Danae, who is also a symbol of the earth; and while the shower of gold in the Greek tale is intended to represent the fertilising sunbeams, the footbath in the Northern story typifies the spring thaw which sets in when the sun has overcome the resistance of the frozen earth. Perseus, the child of this union, has many points of resemblance with Vali, for he, too, is an avenger, and slays his mother’s enemies just as surely as Vali destroys Hodur, the murderer of Balder.

The Fates were supposed to preside over birth in Greece, and to foretell a child’s future, as did the Norns; and the story of Meleager has its unmistakable parallel in that of Nornagesta. Althæa preserves the half-consumed brand in a chest, Nornagesta conceals the candle-end in his harp; and while the Greek mother brings about her son’s death by casting the brand into the fire, Nornagesta, compelled to light his candle-end at Olaf’s command, dies as it sputters and burns out.

Hebe and the Valkyrs were the cupbearers of Olympus and Asgard. They were all personifications of youth; and while Hebe married the great hero and demigod Hercules when she ceased to fulfil her office, the Valkyrs were relieved from their duties when united to heroes like Helgi, Hakon, Völund, or Sigurd.

The Cretan labyrinth has its counterpart in the Icelandic Völundarhaus, and Völund and Dædalus both effect their escape from a maze by a cleverly devised pair of wings, which enable them to fly in safety over land and sea and escape from the tyranny of their respective masters, Nidud and Minos. Völund resembles Vulcan, also, in that he is a clever smith and makes use of his talents to work out his revenge. Vulcan, lamed by a fall from Olympus, and neglected by Juno, whom he had tried to befriend, sends her a golden throne, which is provided with cunning springs to seize and hold her fast. Völund, hamstrung by the suggestion of Nidud’s queen, secretly murders her sons, and out of their eyes fashions marvellous jewels, which she unsuspectingly wears upon her breast until he reveals their origin.

Myths of the Sea

Just as the Greeks fancied that the tempests were the effect of Neptune’s wrath, so the Northern races attributed them either to the writhings of Iörmungandr, the Midgard snake, or to the anger of Ægir, who, crowned with seaweed like Neptune, often sent his children, the wave maidens (the counterpart of the Nereides and Oceanides), to play on the tossing billows. Neptune had his dwelling in the coral caves near the Island of Eubœa, while Ægir lived in a similar palace near the Cattegat. Here he was surrounded by the nixies, undines, and mermaids, the counterpart of the Greek water nymphs, and by the river-gods of the Rhine, Elbe, and Neckar, who remind us of Alpheus and Peneus, the river-gods of the Greeks.

The frequency of shipwrecks on the Northern coasts made the people think of Ran (the equivalent of the Greek sea-goddess Amphitrite) as greedy and avaricious, and they described her as armed with a strong net, with which she drew all things down into the deep. The Greek Sirens had their parallel in the Northern Lorelei, who possessed the same gift of song, and also lured mariners to their death; while Princess Ilse, who was turned into a fountain, reminds us of the nymph Arethusa, who underwent a similar transformation.

In the Northern conception of Nifl-heim we have an almost exact counterpart of the Greek Hades. Mödgud, the guardian of the Giallar-bridge (the bridge of death), over which all the spirits of the dead must pass, exacts a tribute of blood as rigorously as Charon demands an obolus from every soul he ferries over Acheron, the river of death. The fierce dog Garm, cowering in the Gnipa hole, and keeping guard at Hel’s gate, is like the three-headed monster Cerberus; and the nine worlds of Nifl-heim are not unlike the divisions of Hades, Nastrond being an adequate substitute for Tartarus, where the wicked were punished with equal severity.

The custom of burning dead heroes with their arms, and of slaying victims, such as horses and dogs, upon their pyre, was much the same in the North as in the South; and while Mors or Thanatos, the Greek Death, was represented with a sharp scythe, Hel was depicted with a broom or rake, which she used as ruthlessly, and with which she did as much execution.

Balder and Apollo

Balder, the radiant god of sunshine, reminds us not only of Apollo and Orpheus, but of all the other heroes of sun myths. His wife Nanna is like Flora, and still more like Proserpine, for she, too, goes down into the underworld, where she tarries for a while. Balder’s golden hall of Breidablik is like Apollo’s palace in the east; he, also, delights in flowers; all things smile at his approach, and willingly pledge themselves not to injure him. As Achilles was vulnerable only in the heel, so Balder could be slain only by the harmless mistletoe, and his death is occasioned by Loki’s jealousy just as Hercules was slain by that of Deianeira. Balder’s funeral pyre on Ringhorn reminds us of Hercules’s death on Mount Œta, the flames and reddish glow of both fires serving to typify the setting sun. The Northern god of sun and summer could only be released from Nifl-heim if all animate and inanimate objects shed tears; so Proserpine could issue from Hades only upon condition that she had partaken of no food. The trifling refusal of Thok to shed a single tear is like the pomegranate seeds which Proserpine ate, and the result is equally disastrous in both cases, as it detains Balder and Proserpine underground, and the earth (Frigga or Ceres) must continue to mourn their absence.

Through Loki evil entered into the Northern world; Prometheus’s gift of fire brought the same curse upon the Greeks. The punishment inflicted by the gods upon the culprits is not unlike, for while Loki is bound with adamantine chains underground, and tortured by the continuous dropping of venom from the fangs of a snake fastened above his head, Prometheus is similarly fettered to Caucasus, and a ravenous vulture continually preys upon his liver. Loki’s punishment has another counterpart in that of Tityus, bound in Hades, and in that of Enceladus, chained beneath Mount Ætna, where his writhing produced earthquakes, and his imprecations caused sudden eruptions of the volcano. Loki, further, resembles Neptune in that he, too, assumed an equine form and was the parent of a wonderful steed, for Sleipnir rivals Arion both in speed and endurance.

The Fimbul-winter has been compared to the long preliminary fight under the walls of Troy, and Ragnarok, the grand closing drama of Northern mythology, to the burning of that famous city. “Thor is Hector; the Fenris wolf, Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, who slew Priam (Odin); and Vidar, who survives in Ragnarok, is Æneas.” The destruction of Priam’s palace is the type of the ruin of the gods’ golden halls; and the devouring wolves Hati, Sköll, and Managarm, the fiends of darkness, are prototypes of Paris and all the other demons of darkness, who bear away or devour the sun-maiden Helen.

Ragnarok and the Deluge

According to another interpretation, however, Ragnarok and the consequent submersion of the world is but a Northern version of the Deluge. The survivors, Lif and Lifthrasir, like Deucalion and Pyrrha, were destined to repeople the world; and just as the shrine of Delphi alone resisted the destructive power of the great cataclysm, so Gimli stood radiant to receive the surviving gods.

Giants and Titans

We have already seen how closely the Northern giants resembled the Titans. It only remains to mention that while the Greeks imagined that Atlas was changed into a mountain, so the Northmen believed that the Riesengebirge, in Germany, were formed from giants, and that the avalanches which descended from their lofty heights were the burdens of snow which these giants impatiently shook from their crests as they changed their cramped positions. The apparition, in the shape of a bull, of one of the water giants, who came to woo the queen of the Franks, has its parallel in the story of Jupiter’s wooing of Europa, and Meroveus is evidently the exact counterpart of Sarpedon. A faint resemblance can be traced between the giant ship Mannigfual and the Argo, for while the one is supposed to have cruised through the Ægean and Euxine Seas, and to have made many places memorable by the dangers it encountered there, so the Northern vessel sailed about the North and Baltic Seas, and is mentioned in connection with the Island of Bornholm and the cliffs of Dover.

While the Greeks imagined that Nightmares were the evil dreams which escaped from the Cave of Somnus, the Northern race fancied they were female dwarfs or trolls, who crept out of the dark recesses of the earth to torment them. All magic weapons in the North were said to be the work of the dwarfs, the underground smiths, while those of the Greeks were manufactured by Vulcan and the Cyclopes, under Mount Ætna, or on the Island of Lemnos.

The Volsunga Saga

In the Sigurd myth we find Odin one-eyed like the Cyclopes, who, like him, are personifications of the sun. Sigurd is instructed by Gripir, the horse-trainer, who is reminiscent of Chiron, the centaur. He is not only able to teach a young hero all he need know, and to give him good advice concerning his future conduct, but is also possessed of the gift of prophecy.

The marvellous sword which becomes the property of Sigmund and of Sigurd as soon as they prove themselves worthy to wield it, and the sword Angurvadel which Frithiof inherits from his sire, remind us of the weapon which Ægeus concealed beneath the rock, and which Theseus secured as soon as he had become a man. Sigurd, like Theseus, Perseus, and Jason, seeks to avenge his father’s wrongs ere he sets out in search of the golden hoard, the exact counterpart of the golden fleece, which is also guarded by a dragon, and is very hard to secure. Like all the Greek sun-gods and heroes, Sigurd has golden hair and bright blue eyes. His struggle with Fafnir reminds us of Apollo’s fight with Python, while the ring Andvaranaut can be likened to Venus’s cestus, and the curse attached to its possessor is like the tragedy of Helen, who brought endless bloodshed upon all connected with her.

Sigurd could not have conquered Fafnir without the magic sword, just as the Greeks failed to take Troy without the arrows of Philoctetes, which are also emblems of the all-conquering rays of the sun. The recovery of the stolen treasure is like Menelaus’s recovery of Helen, and it apparently brings as little happiness to Sigurd as his recreant wife did to the Spartan king.


Brunhild resembles Minerva in her martial tastes, physical appearance, and wisdom; but her anger and resentment when Sigurd forgets her for Gudrun is like the wrath of Œnone, whom Paris deserts to woo Helen. Brunhild’s anger continues to accompany Sigurd through life, and she even seeks to compass his death, while Œnone, called to cure her wounded lover, refuses to do so and permits him to die. Œnone and Brunhild are both overcome by the same remorseful feelings when their lovers have breathed their last, and both insist upon sharing their funeral pyres, and end their lives by the side of those whom they had loved.

Sun Myths

Containing, as it does, a whole series of sun myths, the Volsunga Saga repeats itself in every phase; and just as Ariadne, forsaken by the sun-hero Theseus, finally marries Bacchus, so Gudrun, when Sigurd has departed, marries Atli, the King of the Huns. He, too, ends his life amid the flames of his burning palace or ship. Gunnar, like Orpheus or Amphion, plays such marvellous strains upon his harp that even the serpents are lulled to sleep. According to some interpretations, Atli is like Fafnir, and covets the possession of the gold. Both are therefore probably personifications “of the winter cloud which broods over and keeps from mortals the gold of the sun’s light and heat, till in the spring the bright orb overcomes the powers of darkness and tempests, and scatters his gold over the face of the earth.”

Swanhild, Sigurd’s daughter, is another personification of the sun, as is seen in her blue eyes and golden hair; and her death under the hoofs of black steeds represents the blotting out of the sun by clouds of storm or of darkness.

Just as Castor and Pollux hasten to rescue their sister Helen when she has been borne away by Theseus, so Swanhild’s brothers, Erp, Hamdir, and Sörli, hasten off to avenge her death.

Such are the main points of resemblance between the mythologies of the North and South, and the analogy goes far to prove that they were originally formed from the same materials, the principal differences being due to the local colouring imparted unconsciously by the different races.