Pagan Burials and Transport
The Poetic Edda and Ynglinga Saga
13th century, Old Norse, Iceland.
Brynhild drove the wagon down the rode that leads to Hel until she came to the house of a giantess.
'Great burial mounds were a feature of Bronze Age Britain but also of the semi-mythical times that Medieval Icelandic writers liked to look back to when writing about pagan Scandinavia,' said Quintin.
'The Poetic Edda was written in Iceland in the 1270's but it is the earliest record we have of a collection of Norse poems that are much older than that. In a poem called Brynhild's Ride to Hel the heroine Brynhild is cremated on a wagon next to her husband Sigurd’s pyre. The cart was spread over with tapestries and the poem describes Brynhild driving the wagon down the rode that leads into the afterlife until she came to the house of a giantess.
'And in chapter twenty-seven of Snorri Sturluson’s Ynglinga Saga, the first saga in his massive Heimskringla, also recording ancient myths for the first time on paper in the thirteenth century,' he added, turning to a copy of an old translation he had downloaded, 'King Hake had been so grievously wounded that he saw his days could not be long; so he ordered one of his warships to be loaded with his dead men and their weapons and to be taken out to sea; the tiller to be shipped and the sails to be hoisted. Then he set fire to some tar-wood and ordered a pyre to be made over it in the ship. Hake was almost if not quite dead when he was laid upon this pyre of his. The wind was blowing off the land and the ship sailed swiftly, burning in clear flame, out between the islets, and into the open ocean.'