Reginnaglar

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Reginnaglar (singular reginnagli) is a word occurring twice in Old Norse. Its meaning is unclear but it is a compound of reginn, "powers/rulers/gods/sacred" and naglar, "nails".[1] Despite its rarity, the word has occasioned quite extensive scholarly debate because it may give insight into Norse mythology.

Occurrence in Glælognskviða[edit]

The first attestation is in a rather cryptic kenning in stanza 10 of the skaldic poem Glælognskviða by Þórarinn loftunga, thought to date from 1030×34. In it Þórarinn advises King Svein Knutsson of Norway, encouraging him to pray to his predecessor, Olaf II of Norway; the poem is among our earliest evidence for Olaf's status as a saint in Norway. One of the exhortations to Sveinn to pray runs

þás þú rekr
fyr reginnagla
bóka máls
bænir þínar

which appears literally to mean 'when you perform/present your prayers in front of the sacred nail(s) [reginnagla] of the language/speech/measure/inlaid decoration of books'.[2] The main interpretations of the phrase 'reginnalga bóka máls' have been:

  1. 'altar' or 'shrine' (taking the 'sacred nails of the language of books [i.e. Latin]' as a metonymy for the whole object)
  2. 'priests' or 'St Olaf' (taking the 'sacred nail(s) of the language of books [i.e. Latin]' as a kenning either for priests generally or Olaf specifically)
  3. 'liturgical book' (taking the 'sacred nails of the language/inlaid decoration of books' to refer to an ornamented book cover). [3]

Of these, 'Olaf' has historically been the most common and 'liturgical book', suggested by Margaret Clunies Ross, the most recent (as of 2014).

Occurrence in Eyrbyggja saga[edit]

The other attestation of reginnaglar is in the Icelandic saga Eyrbyggja saga, which relates the use of reginnaglar in the construction of a temple by Þórólfur Mostrarskegg (Thorolf Most-Beard):

Thereafter Thorolf fared with fire through his land out from Staff-river in the west, and east to that river which is now called Thors-river, and settled his shipmates there. But he set up for himself a great house at Templewick which he called Templestead. There he let build a temple, and a mighty house it was. There was a door in the side-wall and nearer to one end thereof. Within the door stood the pillars of the high-seat, and nails were therein; they were called the Gods' nails.[4]

Here the nails clearly represent some kind of metal, nail-like decorative feature of the high-seat pillars, and Clunies Ross sees it as plausible that despite the lateness of the source, it does represent a feature of pre-Christian material culture.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Margaret Clunies Ross, ' Reginnaglar ', in News from Other Worlds/Tíðendi ór ǫðrum heimum: Studies in Nordic Folklore, Mythology and Culture in Honor of John F. Lindow, ed. by Merrill Kaplan and Timothy R. Tangherlini, Wildcat Canyon Advanced Seminars Occasional Monographs, 1 (Berkeley, CA: North Pinehurst Press, 2012), pp. 3-21 (p. 11); ISBN 0578101742.
  2. ^ Margaret Clunies Ross, ' Reginnaglar ', in News from Other Worlds/Tíðendi ór ǫðrum heimum: Studies in Nordic Folklore, Mythology and Culture in Honor of John F. Lindow, ed. by Merrill Kaplan and Timothy R. Tangherlini, Wildcat Canyon Advanced Seminars Occasional Monographs, 1 (Berkeley, CA: North Pinehurst Press, 2012), pp. 3-21 (pp. 4, 8-10); ISBN 0578101742.
  3. ^ Margaret Clunies Ross, ' Reginnaglar ', in News from Other Worlds/Tíðendi ór ǫðrum heimum: Studies in Nordic Folklore, Mythology and Culture in Honor of John F. Lindow, ed. by Merrill Kaplan and Timothy R. Tangherlini, Wildcat Canyon Advanced Seminars Occasional Monographs, 1 (Berkeley, CA: North Pinehurst Press, 2012), pp. 3-21 (pp. 12-14); ISBN 0578101742.
  4. ^ Eyrbyggja saga, William Morris & Eirikr Magnusson translation (1892), Ch. 4.
  5. ^ Margaret Clunies Ross, ' Reginnaglar ', in News from Other Worlds/Tíðendi ór ǫðrum heimum: Studies in Nordic Folklore, Mythology and Culture in Honor of John F. Lindow, ed. by Merrill Kaplan and Timothy R. Tangherlini, Wildcat Canyon Advanced Seminars Occasional Monographs, 1 (Berkeley, CA: North Pinehurst Press, 2012), pp. 3-21 (pp. 14-17); ISBN 0578101742.