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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 December 2023

Nanjing University


This paper reconsiders the passage in Maxims I in which Woden is said to have constructed wēos, a word that can be understood to mean “idols” or “pagan shrines.” It compares the passage to various euhemeristic narratives concerning Woden (or Óðinn) preserved by authors such as Ælfric, Æthelweard, Saxo Grammaticus, and Snorri Sturluson, and it argues that the Maxims I passage has more in common with ideas expressed in the later Scandinavian sources than in the earlier homiletic or insular historiographical sources. This exercise in comparative euhemerism suggests that the Woden passage in Maxims I is indebted to a narrative that resembled either the story of Óðinn's misadventure with an idol (preserved in Gesta Danorum) or the story of Óðinn as the builder of temples and founder of pagan religion (preserved in Ynglinga saga). In either case, it appears that a euhemeristic narrative of the sort preserved by Snorri and Saxo circulated centuries earlier in England. Toponymic evidence lends support to this conclusion, as place-names such as Wōdnes dīc and Grīmes dīc bear witness to the early circulation of otherwise unrecorded ideas about Woden as a supernatural builder. Finally, the presence of the Woden passage in Maxims I is viewed as a manifestation of the poem's indebtedness to the tradition of the wisdom contest, a genre associated with Óðinn in Old Norse sapiential literature.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Fordham University

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1 For recent studies of the material culture pertaining to the cult of Woden, see Pesch, Alexandra, “Facing Faces: The Head Motif in Migration-Period Archaeology,” Medieval Archaeology 61 (2017): 4168Google Scholar; Price, Neil and Mortimer, Paul, “An Eye for Odin? Divine Role-Playing in the Age of Sutton Hoo,” European Journal of Archaeology 17 (2014): 517–38Google Scholar; and Behr, Charlotte, “The Origins of Kingship in Early Medieval Kent,” Early Medieval Europe 9 (2000): 2552CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The implications of the widespread iconographic evidence for the cult of Woden are corroborated by Woden's presence in place-names and royal genealogies, both of which associate Woden (and Woden alone) with the Anglian, Saxon, and Jutish regions of England. This point is well made in, for instance, Hutton, Ronald, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy (Oxford, 1991), 265–66Google Scholar. For an overview of the various forms of evidence for the cult of Woden in England, see Owen, Gale R., Rites and Religions of the Anglo-Saxons (Totowa, 1981), 822Google Scholar.

2 On Woden's presence in royal genealogies, see esp. Sisam, Kenneth, “Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies,” Proceedings of the British Academy 39 (1953): 287348Google Scholar; and Dumville, David N., “The Anglian Collection of Royal Genealogies and Regnal Lists,” Anglo-Saxon England 5 (1976): 2350CrossRefGoogle Scholar. There is a vast critical literature on the subject. For one relatively recent discussion that reviews much of this literature, see Fulk, R. D., “Myth in Historical Perspective: The Case of Pagan Deities in the Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies,” in Myth: A New Symposium, ed. Schrempp, Gregory and Hansen, William (Bloomington, 2002), 225–39Google Scholar.

3 On Woden and Beowulf, see the foundational remarks of H. M. Chadwick, The Cult of Othin: An Essay in the Ancient Religion of the North (London, 1899), 18, 38–39, and 50–54. For a recent discussion of Wodenic figures in Beowulf, see Edward Currie, “Political Ideals, Monstrous Counsel, and the Literary Imagination in Beowulf,” in Imagination and Fantasy in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Time: Projections, Dreams, Monsters, and Illusions, ed. Albrecht Classen (Berlin, 2020), 275–301. For arguments that Wodenic traditions have influenced Widsith, see Margaret Schlauch, “Wīdsīth, Víthförull, and Some Other Analogues,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 46 (1931): 969–87; and Leonard Neidorf, “Woden and Widsith,” English Studies 103 (2022): 1–18.

4 The texts of all Old English poems are cited throughout by line number from their editions in The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, ed. George Philip Krapp and Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie, 6 vols. (New York, 1931–1953). The translations provided throughout are cited from Old English Shorter Poems, Volume II: Wisdom and Lyric, ed. and trans. Robert E. Bjork (Cambridge, MA, 2014). The text and translation of Solomon and Saturn II, however, are cited from The Old English Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn, ed. and trans. Daniel Anlezark (Cambridge, 2009). Macrons are silently inserted throughout. Line 32 of the Nine Herbs Charm is relineated, with the word VIIII moved to the on-verse, where meter requires it to be.

5 For discussion of the supernatural beings mentioned in the charms, see, for instance, Felix Grendon, “The Anglo-Saxon Charms,” Journal of American Folklore 22 (1909): 105–237, at 110–23; J. H. G. Grattan and Charles Singer, Anglo-Saxon Magic and Medicine, Illustrated Specially from the Semi-Pagan Text “Lacnunga” (London, 1952), 52–62; Marijane Osborn, “Archaic Magic of Wolf and Eagle in the Anglo-Saxon ‘Wen Charm’,” in The Book of Nature and Humanity in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. David Hawkes and Richard G. Newhauser (Turnhout, 2013), 223–38; Thomas D. Hill, “The Rod of Protection and the Witches’ Ride: Christian and Germanic Syncretism in Two Old English Metrical Charms,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 111 (2012): 145–68; and Stephen O. Glosecki, “Stranded Narrative: Myth, Metaphor, and the Metrical Charm,” in Myth in Early Northwest Europe, ed. Stephen O. Glosecki (Tempe, 2007), 47–70.

6 Eric Gerald Stanley, Imagining the Anglo-Saxon Past: The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism and Anglo-Saxon Trial by Jury (Woodbridge, 2000), 82.

7 On Woden in the Nine Herbs Charm, see, for instance, Stephen O. Glosecki, “‘Blow These Vipers From Me’: Mythic Magic in The Nine Herbs Charm,” in Essays in Old, Middle, Modern English and Old Icelandic: In Honor of Raymond P. Tripp Jr., ed. Loren C. Gruber, Meredith Crellin Gruber, and Gregory K. Jember (Lampeter, 2000), 91–123; Lászlo Sándor Chardonnens, “An Arithmetical Crux in the Woden Passage in the Old English Nine Herbs Charm,” Neophilologus 93 (2009): 691–702; Karin Olsen, “The Lacnunga and its Sources: The Nine Herbs Charm and Wið Færstice Reconsidered,” Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses 55 (2007): 23–31; and Rolf H. Bremmer, Jr., “Hermes-Mercury and Woden-Odin as Inventors of Alphabets: A Neglected Parallel,” in Runes and Their Continental Background, ed. Alfred Bammesberger (Heidelberg, 1991), 409–19. See also G. Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic (Nijmegen, 1948), 186–95.

8 The Woden passage receives minimal comment in, for example, the following editions of Maxims I: Carl T. Berkhout, “A Critical Edition of the Old English Gnomic Poems” (Ph.D. diss., University of Notre Dame, 1975); Poems of Wisdom and Learning in Old English, ed. and trans. T. A. Shippey (Cambridge, 1976); and The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry: An Edition of Exeter Dean and Chapter MS 3501, ed. Bernard J. Muir, rev. ed., 2 vols. (Exeter, 2000). For examples of the relatively brief discussion that the Woden passage in Maxims I generally merits in studies of Anglo-Saxon paganism, see Ernst Alfred Philippson, Germanisches Heidentum bei den Angelsachsen (Leipzig, 1929), 154; Owen, Rites and Religions (n. 1 above), 10; and Stephen Pollington, The Elder Gods: Religion and the Supernatural in Early England (Ely, 2011), 241. The passage does not appear to be discussed (or at least, it is not discussed at any length) in E. O. G. Turville-Petre, Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia (New York, 1964); Brian Branston, The Lost Gods of England (London, 1974); or David Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Paganism (London, 1992).

9 Biblical quotations are cited from Biblia Sacra: Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem, ed. Robert Weber and Roger Gryson, 5th ed. (Stuttgart, 2007); translations are from The Holy Bible: Douay Version Translated from the Latin Vulgate (Douay, A.D. 1609: Rheims, A.D. 1582) (London, 1963). On the relationship between these passages and Maxims I, see esp. Paul Cavill, Maxims in Old English Poetry (Cambridge, 1999), 161–62; Richard North, Heathen Gods in Old English Literature (Cambridge, 1997), 88–89; and Philippson, Germanisches Heidentum, 154.

10 Joseph Strobl, “Zur Spruchdichtung bei den Angelsachsen,” Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 31 (1887): 54–64.

11 Strobl, “Zur Spruchdichtung,” 59, writes: “Freilich muss der Dichter die Psalm-stelle entweder aus unsicherem Gedächtnis übersetzt oder sie misverstanden haben, da er fecit auch zum regierenden Verbum des ersten Satzes macht.”

12 A. L. Meaney, “Woden in England: A Reconsideration of the Evidence,” Folklore 77 (1966): 105–15, at 110. Her paper is a response to J. S. Ryan, “Othin in England: Evidence from the Poetry for a Cult of Woden in Anglo-Saxon England,” Folklore 74 (1963): 460–80.

13 Cavill, Maxims in Old English Poetry, 165.

14 See North, Heathen Gods, 90; and Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum: The History of the Danes, ed. Karsten Friis-Jensen, trans. Peter Fisher, 2 vols. (Oxford, 2015), 1:52–53.

15 North, Heathen Gods, 110.

16 See John Daniel Cooke, “Euhemerism: A Mediaeval Interpretation of Classical Paganism,” Speculum 2 (1927): 396–410; Anthony Faulkes, “Descent from the Gods,” Mediaeval Scandinavia 11 (1982): 92–125; Gerd Wolfgang Weber, “Euhemerismus,” in Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde 8, ed. Heinrick Beck, Dieter Geuenich, and Heiko Steuer (Berlin, 1994), 1–16; and David F. Johnson, “Euhemerisation versus Demonisation: The Pagan Gods and Ælfric's ‘De falsis diis’,” in Pagans and Christians: The Interplay between Christian Latin and Traditional Germanic Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, ed. Tette Hofstra, L. A. J. R. Houwen, and A. A. MacDonald (Groningen, 1995), 35–69.

17 Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People 2.10, ed. and trans. Bertram Colgrave and R.A.B. Mynors, rev. ed. (Oxford, 1991), 170–71. On the date of Bonifatius's letter, see D. P. Kirby, “Bede and Northumbrian Chronology,” English Historical Review 78 (1963): 514–27, at 522.

18 Philip A. Shaw, “Uses of Wodan: The Development of his Cult and of Medieval Literary Responses to It” (Ph.D. diss., University of Leeds, 2002), 166.

19 On these texts and the tradition from which they emerge, see Diane Elizabeth Szurszewski, “Ælfric's De Falsis Diis: A Source-Analogue Study with Editions and Translations” (Chapel Hill, 1997); and Johnson, “Euhemerisation versus Demonisation.” Ælfric's rendition is the probable source of the Old Norse sermon Um þat hvaðan ótrú hófsk; on the relationship between them, see Arnold R. Taylor, “Hauksbók and Ælfric's De falsis diis,” Leeds Studies in English 3 (1969): 101–109.

20 The text is cited from Homilies of Ælfric: A Supplementary Collection, ed. John C. Pope, 2 vols. (London, 1967–68), 2:684; the translation is cited from Szurszewski, “Ælfric's De Falsis Diis,” 239. For Ælfric's source, see Martin of Braga, De correctione rusticorum, in Martini Episcopi Bracarensi Opera Omnia, ed. Claude W. Barlow (New Haven, 1950), 159–203.

21 On the poem's date, see Dennis Cronan, “Poetic Words, Conservatism, and the Dating of Old English Poetry,” Anglo-Saxon England 33 (2004): 23–50; and Leonard Neidorf, “On the Dating and Authorship of Maxims I,” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 117 (2016): 137–53. It has also been argued that Maxims I is a tenth-century product of the Benedictine reform movement: Michael D. C. Drout, How Tradition Works: A Meme-Based Cultural Poetics of the Anglo-Saxon Tenth Century (Tempe, 2006), 287–92; Brian O'Camb, “Bishop Æthelwold and the Shaping of the Old English Exeter Maxims,” English Studies 90 (2009): 253–73; and John D. Niles, God's Exiles and English Verse: On the Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry (Exeter, 2019), 102–106. The argument for tenth-century composition is, however, difficult to reconcile with the wide range of linguistic evidence that Maxims I is an archaic poem, including the presence of no fewer than six verses wherein scansion requires the substitution of seventh-century linguistic forms: rūmheort bēon (86b), tō frēan hond (90b), wuldor alwalda (132b), morþorcwealm mæcga (152a), Māþþum ōþres weorð (155b), and Slōg his brōðor swǣsne (196b). These verses, along with lexical archaisms — in umbor (“child,” line 31a), wlenco (“bravado,” line 60a), eodor (“lord,” line 89a), and heoru (“sword,” line 200b) — and an array of structurally required Anglian dialect forms, render the language of Maxims I distinct from that of poems securely dated to the tenth century. See Neidorf, “On the Dating and Authorship” for a full account of the linguistic evidence bearing on the date of Maxims I.

22 The Chronicle of Æthelweard, ed. and trans. A. Campbell (London, 1962), 7.

23 Chronicle of Æthelweard, ed. Campbell, 9.

24 Chronicle of Æthelweard, ed. Campbell, 18.

25 On the connection between Óðinn (or Woden) and Gautr (or Geat), see Jan de Vries, Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Berlin, 1970), §§369, 372, and 403; Hermann Moisl, “Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies and Germanic Oral Tradition,” Journal of Medieval History 7 (1981): 215–48, at 219–22; Fulk, “Myth in Historical Perspective” (n. 2 above), 232–33; Shaw, “Uses of Wodan” (n. 18 above), 179–80; and Pollington, The Elder Gods (n. 8 above), 202–204.

26 The text is cited from The Historia Brittonum, 3: The “Vatican” Recension, ed. David N. Dumville (Cambridge, 1985), 82–83; the translation is cited from Fulk, “Myth in Historical Perspective” (n. 2 above), 232.

27 The text is cited from Asser's Life of King Alfred, ed. William Henry Stevenson, rev. Dorothy Whitelock (Oxford, 1959), 3; the translation is cited from Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources, ed. and trans. Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge (New York, 1983), 67.

28 Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, ed. Friis-Jensen, trans. Fisher (n. 14 above), 1:378–81.

29 Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, ed. Friis-Jensen, trans. Fisher (n. 14 above), 1:52–53.

30 See The Poetic Edda, Volume III: Mythological Poems II, ed. Ursula Dronke (Oxford, 2011), 125–26; and Paul the Deacon, Historia Langobardorum 1.8, ed. Ludwig Bethmann and Georg Waitz, MGH, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum 48 (Hannover, 1878), 58. Hilda Ellis Davidson provides perceptive commentary on the episode in Saxo Grammaticus, The History of the Danes: Books I–IX, ed. Hilda Ellis Davidson, trans. Peter Fisher, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1979–80), 2:32; see also the discussion in Ingunn Ásdísardóttir, “Frigg,” in The Pre-Christian Religions of the North: History and Structures, Volume III: Conceptual Frameworks: The Cosmos and Collective Supernatural Beings, ed. Jens Peter Schjødt, John Lindow, and Anders Andrén (Turnhout, 2020), 1381–90.

31 See Annales Danici Medii Ævi, ed. Ellen Jørgensen (Copenhagen, 1920), 64.

32 The text is cited from Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Anthony Faulkes, 2 vols. (London, 1998), 1:5; the translation is cited from Snorri Sturluson, Edda, trans. Anthony Faulkes (London, 1995), 65. See also Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning, ed. Anthony Faulkes, 2nd ed. (London, 2005), 3–6.

33 On the question of Snorri's authorship of Ynglinga saga, see Patricia Pires Boulhosa, Icelanders and the Kings of Norway: Medieval Sagas and Legal Texts (Leiden, 2005), 6–21; and Haukur Þorgeirsson, “Snorri versus the Copyists: An Investigation of a Stylistic Trait in the Manuscript Traditions of Egils saga, Heimskringla, and the Prosa Edda,” Saga-Book 38 (2014): 61–74.

34 Jacob Hobson, “Euhemerism and the Veiling of History in Early Scandinavian Literature,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 116 (2017): 24–44, at 42. For another insightful analysis of the euhemerization of Óðinn in Ynglinga saga, see John Lindow, “Myth Read as History: Odin in Snorri Sturluson's Ynglinga saga,” in Myth: A New Symposium, ed. Gregory Schrempp and William Hansen (Bloomington, 2002), 107–23.

35 The text is cited from Heimskringla, ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson, 3rd ed. (Reykjavik, 1979), 19–20; the translation is cited from Heimskringla I: The Beginnings to Óláfr Tryggvason, trans. Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes (London, 2011), 11.

36 Heimskringla, ed. Aðalbjarnarson, 16; Heimskringla I, trans. Finlay and Faulkes, 1:9.

37 Eddic poetry is cited throughout by stanza number from Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern, Volume 1, Text, ed. Gustav Neckel, rev. Hans Kuhn, 5th ed. (Heidelberg, 1983). Translations provided throughout are cited from The Poetic Edda, trans. Carolyne Larrington, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 2014).

38 On the question of the sources and origins of the so-called learned prehistory, to which these narratives are related, see Faulkes, “Descent from the Gods” (n. 16 above), 123–24; Hobson, “Euhemerism and the Veiling of History,” 25–27; and Heinz Klingenberg, “Odin und die Seinen: Altisländischer Gelehrter Urgeschichte anderer Teil,” Alvíssmál 2 (1993): 31–80. See also the foundational study of Andreas Heusler, Die gelehrte Urgeschichte im altisländischen Schrifttum (Berlin, 1908).

39 For a suggestion that Saturn “is doubtless related to the Germanic god Woden ultimately,” see C. L. Wrenn, A Study of Old English Literature (New York, 1967), 162; on Woden and Widsith, see Schlauch, “Wīdsīth, Víthförull, and Some Other Analogues” (n. 3 above); and Neidorf, “Woden and Widsith” (n. 3 above).

40 For a sense of the numerous connections between Beowulf and Saxo's work, one need only to survey the passages from the Gesta Danorum included in Beowulf and its Analogues, trans. G. N. Garmonsway and Jacqueline Simpson (New York, 1971). See also Eduard Sievers, “Béowulf und Saxo,” Berichte über die Verhandlungen der königlich sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, philologisch-historische Klasse 47 (1895): 175–92.

41 Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning (n. 32 above), 5. On the influence of Old English written sources on Old Norse literature, see Faulkes, “Descent from the Gods” (n. 16 above), 99–100; Taylor, “Hauksbók and Ælfric's De falsis diis” (n. 19 above); Christopher Abram, “Anglo-Saxon Influence in the Old Norwegian Homily Book,” Mediaeval Scandinavia 14 (2004): 1–35; and Kari Ellen Gade, “Ælfric in Iceland,” in Learning and Understanding in the Old Norse World: Essays in Honour of Margaret Clunies Ross, ed. Judy Quinn, Kate Heslop, and Tarrin Wills (Turnhout, 2007), 321–40. For a possible historical context for such influence, see Lesley Abrams, “The Anglo-Saxons and the Christianization of Scandinavia,” Anglo-Saxon England 24 (1995): 213–49.

42 This list of Wōden place-names (Old English place-names are italicized, whereas those that remain in use in England are not) is cited from Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Paganism (n. 8 above), 11, which is in turn indebted to a series of earlier studies that aim to collect and refine the relevant names; see Bruce Dickins, “English Names and Old English Heathenism,” Essays and Studies 19 (1934): 148–60; F. M. Stenton, “The Historical Bearing of Place-Name Studies: Anglo-Saxon Heathenism,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 23 (1941): 1–24; Margaret Gelling, “Place-Names and Anglo-Saxon Paganism,” University of Birmingham Historical Journal 8 (1961): 7–25; and Margaret Gelling, “Further Thoughts on Pagan Place-Names,” in Place-Name Evidence for the Anglo-Saxon Invasion and Scandinavian Settlements: Eight Studies, ed. Kenneth Cameron (Nottingham, 1975), 99–114. See also Sarah Semple, Perceptions of the Prehistoric in Anglo-Saxon England: Religion, Ritual, and Rulership in the Landscape (Oxford, 2013), 172–73. Semple, in contrast to her predecessors, places great emphasis on the dates of the first written attestations of these names, which are not recorded before charters from the ninth century, tenth century, or later. Yet the date of first attestation provides only a terminus ad quem for the name's existence and sheds minimal light on when the name was coined. A substantial chronological gap between the coinage of a name and its first attestation is to be expected: see Margaret Gelling, Signposts to the Past: Place-Names and the History of England, 2nd ed. (Chichester, 1988), 106–29, esp. at 124, where she discusses the case of Aughton (“Æffe's estate”), which is first recorded in 1346, yet must have been coined during the middle of the tenth century, when Æffe inherited the estate in question from Wulfgar, her husband, who bequeathed it to Æffe in a will composed in 931. For the earliest attestations of Aughton, see its entry in J. E. B. Gover, Allen Mawer, and F. M. Stenton, The Place-Names of Wiltshire (Cambridge, 1939). For a recent paper that furnishes additional examples of a demonstrable chronological gap between coinage and attestation, see Carole Hough, “The Migration of Old English to Scotland: Place-Name Evidence for Early Northumbrian Settlement in Berwickshire,” in Language on the Move Across Domains and Communities: Selected Papers from the 12th Triennial Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster, Glasgow 2018, ed. Joanna Kopaczyk and Robert McColl Millar (Aberdeen, 2020), 231–50.

43 The examples are cited from Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Paganism (n. 8 above), 7–10. For further discussion, see Semple, Perceptions of the Prehistoric, 76–77; John Hines, “Religion: The Limits of Knowledge,” in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century, ed. John Hines (Woodbridge, 1997), 375–401, at 384–88; Audrey Meaney, “Pagan English Sanctuaries, Place-Names and Hundred Meeting Places,” Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 8 (1995): 29–42; David Wilson, “A Note on OE hearg and weoh as Place-Name Elements Representing Different Types of Pagan Worship Sites,” Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 4 (1985): 179–83; and Gelling, “Further Thoughts,” 100–103.

44 For a list of pertinent names, see Stefan Brink, “How Uniform was the Old Norse Religion?” in Learning and Understanding in the Old Norse World: Essays in Honour of Margaret Clunies Ross, ed. Judy Quinn, Kate Heslop, and Tarrin Wills (Turnhout, 2007) 105–36, at 113 and 129–31. See also Kristian Hald, “The Cult of Odin in Danish Place-Names,” in Early English and Norse Studies: Presented to Hugh Smith in Honour of his Sixtieth Birthday, ed. Arthur Browne and Peter Foote (London, 1963), 99–109, who notes that “The most striking fact in the Danish material is that compound elements of the -vi type – indicating, that is, a real cult centre with a temple building of some sort – are not only rare, but when they do occur, they are found practically only in combination with the name of a single god – Odin” (99). See also the important methodological discussion of Per Vikstrand, “Sacral Place-Names in Scandinavia,” Onoma 37 (2002): 121–43, who critiques the preference for secular interpretations of these names and notes that “Sacral place-names seem to be a global phenomenon and . . . should be regarded as normal, anticipated and non-dramatic features of a toponymic landscape formed by human conceptions” (137).

45 Stenton, “Historical Bearing of Place-Name Studies,” 12.

46 Eilert Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, 4th ed. (Oxford, 1960), 483, s.v. wēoh. On the heathen temple as an institution of Anglo-Saxon paganism, see John Blair, “Anglo-Saxon Pagan Shrines and their Prototypes,” Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 8 (1995): 1–28.

47 See Thomas L. Markey, “Germanic Terms for Cult and Temple,” in Studies for Einar Haugen: Presented by Friends and Colleagues, ed. Evelyn Scherabon Firchow, Kaaren Grimstad, Nils Hasselmo and Wayne A. O'Neil (The Hague, 1972), 365–78, at 373–75.

48 See Cronan, “Poetic Words” (n. 21 above), 30–35.

49 See Cronan, “Poetic Words” (n. 21 above), 33–34; and Dennis Cronan, “Poetic Meanings in the Old English Poetic Vocabulary,” English Studies 84 (2003): 397–425, at 400–401.

50 Stenton, “Historical Bearing of Place-Name Studies” (n. 42 above), 20. For an alternative interpretation of the naming of Wansdyke, see Andrew Reynolds and Alex Langlands, “Social Identities on the Macro Scale: A Maximum View of Wansdyke,” in People and Space in the Middle Ages, 300–1300, ed. Wendy Davies, Guy Halsall, and Andrew Reynolds (Turnhout, 2006), 13–44, who argue that Wansdyke is an eighth–century West Saxon construction, and offer the following conjecture, at 34, regarding its name: “The reference to Woden may have been connected with a desire to name the frontier after a heroic ancestor, deeply rooted in the familial traditions of the West Saxon royal house.” The onomastic argument is unconvincing for reasons made clear in Leonard Neidorf, “Woden and the English Landscape: The Naming of Wansdyke Reconsidered,” Folklore 133 (2022): 378–98. See also the trenchant criticisms of their argument in Erik Grigg, Early Medieval Dykes (400 to 850 AD) (Manchester, 2015), 207–209.

51 Stenton, “Historical Bearing of Place-Name Studies” (n. 42 above), 20.

52 Eilert Ekwall, “Grim's Ditch,” in Studia germanica tillägnade Ernst Albin Kock den 6 December 1934 (Lund, 1934), 41–44, at 43. On Grímr as an alias of Óðinn, see Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology, trans. Angela Hall (Cambridge, 1993), s.v. Grímr; and Pollington, The Elder Gods (n. 8 above), 205–206.

53 Gelling, Signposts to the Past (n. 42 above), 150. See also Semple, Perceptions of the Prehistoric (n. 42 above), 173–76; and Meaney, “Woden in England” (n. 12 above), 107–108.

54 Hald, “Cult of Odin” (n. 44 above), 106, notes the existence of modern (seventeenth-century) folklore in Denmark and Sweden reflecting a belief that Odin lived in certain mountains.

55 R. MacGregor Dawson, “The Structure of the Old English Gnomic Poems,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 61 (1962): 14–22, at 19. See also Nigel F. Barley, “Structure in the Cotton Gnomes,” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 78 (1977): 244–49.

56 The Exeter Book, ed. George Philip Krapp and Elliott van Kirk Dobbie (New York, 1936), xlvi–xlvii.

57 On this tradition, see The Poetical Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn, ed. Robert J. Menner (New York, 1941), 57–58; John McKinnell, “The Paradox of Vafþrúðnismál,” in Essays on Eddic Poetry, ed. Donata Kick and John D. Shafer (Toronto, 2014), 153–72; and The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, ed. and trans. Christopher Tolkien (London, 1960), xviii–xxi.

58 Poetical Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn, ed. Menner, 58.

59 Ursula Dronke offers a similar reading of Hávamál. She writes: “Many stanzas read as if they were the product of a party game: as if one of the company has to propose a thought or theme, and another is to complete it: seriously or humorously or ironically, just as he chooses.” See Poetic Edda, Volume III: Mythological Poems II, ed. Dronke (n. 30 above), 36.

60 Though Maxims I is sometimes regarded as three separate poems, there are reasons to regard it as a single poem; see Neidorf, “On the Dating and Authorship” (n. 21 above), 146–50.

61 Susan E. Deskis, “Proverbs and Structure in Maxims I.A,” Studies in Philology 110 (2013): 667–89, at 688. Though Deskis's argument for the reuse of proverbs differs from my own, it is certainly not incompatible with it, since proverbs could be used by speakers in a wisdom contest poem.

62 Malone, Kemp, “Notes on Gnomic Poem B of the Exeter Book,” Medium Ævum 12 (1943): 6567CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 66.

63 Brown, Carleton, “Poculum Mortis in Old English,” Speculum 15 (1940): 389–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 398. For an update to Brown's reading, see Russom, Geoffrey, “The Drink of Death in Old English and Germanic Literature,” in Germania: Comparative Studies in the Old Germanic Languages and Literatures, ed. Calder, Daniel G. and Christy, T. Craig (Cambridge, 1988), 175–89Google Scholar.

64 Malone, “Notes on Gnomic Poem B,” 66.

65 For a general interpretation of Óðinn as a god whose overarching activity is the acquisition and distribution of numinous knowledge, see Schjødt, Jens Peter, “Óðinn,” in The Pre-Christian Religions of the North: History and Structures, Volume III: Conceptual Frameworks: The Cosmos and Collective Supernatural Beings, ed. Schjødt, Jens Peter, Lindow, John, and Andrén, Anders (Turnhout, 2020), 1123–94Google Scholar.

66 Heimskringla, ed. Aðalbjarnarson (n. 35 above), 20; and Heimskringla I, trans. Finlay and Faulkes (n. 35 above), 11.

67 Jackson, Elizabeth, “From the Seat of the Þyle? A Reading of Maxims I, Lines 138–40,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 99 (2000): 170–92Google Scholar, at 191.

68 Jackson, “From the Seat of the Þyle,” 191.