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Gunnlaug Is Witch-Ridden,
Geirrid Summoned, Of Thorarin.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33

On a day at the beginning of that winter wherein Snorri first kept house at Holyfell, it befell that Gunnlaug Thorbiornson fared to Mewlithe, and Odd Katlason with him. Gunnlaug and Geirrid talked long together that day, and when the evening was far spent Geirrid said to Gunnlaug: "I would that thou go not home this evening, for there will be many ride-by-nights (1) about, and oft is a fiend in a fair skin; but methinks that now thou seemest not over-lucky to look upon."

Gunnlaug answered: "No risk may there be to me," says he, "since we are two together."

She said: "No gain will Odd's help be to thee, and withal thou wilt thyself have to pay for thine own wilfulness."

Thereafter they went out, Gunnlaug and Odd, and fared till they came to Holt. Katla was by then in her bed; she bade Odd pray Gunnlaug to abide there. He said he had so done, "and he must needs fare home," said he. "Let him fare then as his fate he shapes," says she.

Gunnlaug came not home in the evening, and folk talked it over that he should be searched for; but the search came not off. But in the night, when Thorbiorn looked out, he found Gunnlaug his son before the door; and there he lay witless withal. Then was he borne in and his clothes pulled off; he was all black and blue about the shoulders, and the flesh was falling from the bones. He lay all the winter sick of his hurts, and great talk there was over that sickness of his. Odd Katlason spread that about that Geirrid must have ridden him; for he said that they had parted with short words that evening. And most men deemed that it was even thus.

This was about the summoning days. So Thorbiorn rode to Mewlithe and summoned Geirrid for this cause, that she was a ride-by-night and had brought about Gunnlaug's trouble. The case went to the Thorsness Thing, and Snorri the Priest took up the case for Thorbiorn his brother-in-law; but Arnkel the Priest defended the case for Geirrid his sister: a jury of twelve should give a verdict thereon. (2) But neither of the two, Snorri or Arnkel, were deemed fit to bear witness, (3) because of their kinship to the plaintiff and defendant.

Then was Helgi, the Priest of Templegarth, the father of Biorn, the father of Gest, the father of Shald-Ref, called to give out the twelve men's finding. Arnkel the Priest went to the doom and made oath on the stall-ring that Geirrid had not wrought the hurt of Gunnlaug; Thorarin made oath with him and ten other men, and then Helgi gave the verdict for Geirrid. And the case of Thorbiorn and Snorri came to nought, and thereof gat they shame.

Go to Chapter XVII

(1)  "Ride-by-night" (kveld-ritha), a possessed female wight, who
     after the fashion of troll-women riding wolves with snakes
     for reins in the dusk and dark of night, boding evil (cf.
     Lay of Helgi Hiorvardson, 35, and the prose piece after v.
     30), were supposed to flit about at night in order to
     inflict grievous bodily harm on man and beast.

(2)  "A jury of twelve should give the verdict thereon."  The
     jury (kvithar), in this case, was the so-called "tylftar-"
     or "to1ftar-kvithr", which was called in in cases where
     evidence, not of palpable facts, but of probability, was to
     be given.  In this case the kind of twelve-men's jury
     delivering the verdict was the so-called "gotha-kvithr",
     priest's jury, which was empannelled by the gothi himself
     out of his Thingmen without any reference to neighbourship.
     -- Gragas, i, a, 66-67.

(3)  "Bear witness"; read: give out the verdict; cf. 1. 30, "give
     out the twelve men's finding," which is the same function
     that kinship was considered to prevent Snorri and Arnkel
     from undertaking.