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47

(1922) [MARC] Author: A. Walsh
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CHAPTER VII.
THE VIKINGS AND THE CELTIC CHURCH.
BEYOND a few meagre allusions the Irish Annals throw no
light on the progress of Christianity among the
"
foreigners
"
in Ireland during the ninth century. Fortunately, however,
the Icelandic
Sagas_and the Landndmabok have preserved
some interesting details concerning a small number of the
Xorse settlers in Iceland, who had previously come under
the influence of Christianity in Ireland and in the Western
Islands of Scotland. As far as we can gather from these
sources the new faith seems at first to have made but little
headway ; heathenism retained a strong hold on the majority
of the Norse people, and there can be little doubt that this
form of religion was extensively practised in Ireland during
the Viking age. Evidence of this is to be found in The
War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, which describes how
Authr, wife of Turgeis, sat on the high altar of the church
in Clonmacnois, and gave audiences as a prophetess.
1
In
this instance the high altar would seem to have corresponded
to the seithr hjallr or platform which it was customary to
erect in Icelandic houses when a volva or prophetess was
called in to foretell the future. 2
Some writers 3
also point
1
Waif
of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 13.
Cf. also Three Fragments of Annals, p. 146 :
"
In a battle fought
between the Irish and the Norsemen the latter were driven to a
small place surrounded by a wall. The druid Hona went up on the
wall, and with his mouth open began to pray to the gods and to
exercise his magic ; he ordered the people to worship the gods. ..."
2
Cf. Thorfinssaga Karhefnis, ch. 3 ; Valnsdaela Saga, ch. 10 ;
Thdtty af Nornagesti, ch. 1 1 ; Hrolfs Saga. Kraka, ch. 3 ; etc.
3
e.g., C. Haliday : The Scandinavian Kingdom of Dublin, p 12 ff.
Margaret Stokes, op. cit., pp. 96-98.
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