Augandzi ( The Tribe and Kingdom of Agder, Norway – Queen Asa, Halfdan the Black, a Human Sacrifice, and a Man called Wolverine…)

Augandzi (The Agder tribe in Norway)

In Jordanes 6th century AD “Getica”, he mentions a tribe called the Augandzi who lived in the southern parts of “Scandza”. Agder is a historical district of Norway in the southernmost region of Norway, corresponding to the two contemporary counties (fylker) Vest-Agder and Aust-Agder. In the early Viking Age, before Harald Fairhair, Agðir was a petty kingdom inhabited by a tribe named after it, the Egðir. These are the same as the Augandzi.

 

The name Agder is derived from Old Norse Agðir and possibly refers to a peak or an edge where the land points out into the open ocean, possibly inspired by the Lindesnes landscape. There are names in Europe that are related, like in Cap d’Agde at the Mediterranean coast of France – possibly due to a common Indoeuropean language root (i.e. “edge”). The Greeks perceived the name as Agathe, and from Hecateus´ geographical descriptions from 500 BC, we know that the Greek colony at Cap d’Agde was called Agathe.

 

Agder in Norway has been populated for thousands of years, and the name itself suggest that it was called that for thousands of years as well, leaving the “Augandzi” as one very ancient tribe. They were also powerful and clearly thought they could compete with the power of the Ynglinga kings of Vestfold. Of Agder as a kingdom, we have possible evidence that it was a kingdom as early as 200 AD (the migration period),which is the earliest date set for the famous Bjærum burial mound in Hægebostad, Agder, Norway. According to local tradition, he presided over the local court on Tingvatn, and he is said to have embarked on a journey to find a queen, travelling over the river Lygna and to Eikeland where there are also old barrows.

 

One particularly interesting rune-stone has been found in Agder, the Hogganvik stone. The Hogganvik runestone is a stone slab of about 1.5 m squared, weighing approximately 800 kg. The runic inscription extends to some 60 characters, an exceptionally long text for a runic inscription of the early period, rivalling the longest inscription predating the seventh century known previously, that of the Tune stone (known since 1627).

A report was issued in October 2009 which provide a transliteration of the runic inscription, which was in Proto-Norse. It could date as far back as 200 AD.

Knirk 2009 transliterates and translates the text in this way:
Transliteration
a. [s]kelbaþewas s^tainaR
b. aasrpkf aarpaa
c. inana naloR/naboR/(nawoR)
d. ek naudigastiR
e. ek erafaR
 
Translation:
1. Skelba-þewaR’s [“Shaking-servant’s” (personal name)] stone [=(grave) monument].
2. [Alphabet magic:] aaasrpkf | aarpaa (according to Wikipedia this is a “non meaningful sequence of letters used as an incantation”, whereas I would say it was probably extremely meaningful within a context unknown to us. Possibly it was the power of the rune or the rune sound itself that was being repeated, like the 3Xa)
3. ?Within/From within the ?wheel-nave/?cabin-corner [or: ?needle]. (Place)
4. I [=the rune carver] [am called] NaudigastiR [=”Need-guest” (personal name)]; (name of the Runecarver)
5. I, [nicknamed] the Wolverine.

 

Not the easiest rune-text to understand, but “Need-guest the Wolverine” seems to have known and used a more mysterious and esoteric aspect of the runes than most.

 

WIKIPEDIA ON PRE-VIKING AGE AGDER:

 

“Prior to the Viking Age is a gap in the history of the region for a few hundred years, but in Jordanes we also find regions of the same but earlier forms of names, presumably also petty kingdoms under now unknown chiefs. The previous most credible source, Ptolemy, gives the briefest of sketches, only citing all of Norway as the Chaedini (“country people”). Perhaps the difference between kingdoms were not sufficiently important to cite them individually.

 

Prior to then the most credible and respected source, Tacitus in Germania Chapter 44 described the Suiones, who were divided into civitates (kingdoms?) along the coast of Scandinavia and were unusual in owning fleets of a special type of ship. These were pointed on both ends and were driven by banks of oars that could be rearranged or shipped for river passage. They did not depend on sail (so Tacitus says) but other than that they do not differ from Viking ships. These civitates went all the way around Scandinavia to the Arctic, or at least to regions of very long days, where they stopped.

 

It seems clear that in the Roman Iron Age Norway was populated by people of the same identity as Sweden, who were called the Suiones by Latin sources. In settling the coast at some point in prehistory they had been divided into civitates by the terrain. These states took on mainly geographical names or names of individuals or mythological characters. Agder was one of them.

 

After the unification of Norway by Harold Fairhair and army and allies in the 10th century, all the civitates became provinces (fylker) and after their conversion to Christianity dioceses or parishes. The development of Old Norse into local dialects and the dissimilation of customs due to isolation added an ethnic flavor to the fylker, which is cherished today.”

 

KINGS AND QUEENS OF AGDER

Norway of the Viking Age was divided into petty kingdoms ruled by chiefs who contended for land, maritime supremacy or political ascendance and sought alliances or control through marriage with other royal families, either voluntary or forced. These circumstances produced the generally turbulent and heroic lives recorded in Snorri´s sagas of the Norwegian Kings, the Ynglinga saga, but there is one interesting account of an early Agder king in the Gautrek´s saga:

 

King Víkarr of Agder – the King that was Sacrificed to Óðinn

 

According to Gautreks saga, Víkarr was the son of a king of Agðir named Harald Agder-king (Haraldr inn egðski). After the death of Starkaðs father Stórvirkr, young Starkaðr was brought up in Harald’s court along with Harald’s son Víkarr. King Herþjófr of Hördaland made a surprise attack one night, slew Harald Agder-king and took his son Víkarr hostage to ensure the behavior of Harald’s former subjects.

 

But after some years Víkarr gathered some champions to himself, including the young Starkaðr, made a surprise attack on Herthjóf’s hall, and slew King Herþjófr and thirty of his men.

 

Víkarr then became king of Agðir, Jaðar (modern Jaederen in Hördaland), and Harðangr (modern Hardanger) which Herþjófr had also ruled.

 

The tale then tells of Víkarr’s successful battle at Lake Vænir (Lake Vänern in Sweden) against King Sísarr of Kiev, of Víkarr’s defeat of Herthjóf’s brother King Geirþjófr of the Uplands in a war in which Geirthjóf fell in the “First battle of Telemark”, and how Víkarr then took over not only the Uplands but also Telemark which belonged to Geirthjóf’s brother Fridthjóf who was not there at the time. When Fridthjóf returned and attacked, Víkarr defeated him with the aid of King Óláf the Keen-eyed (Óláfr inn skyggni), king of Nærríki in Sweden (modern Närke). Fridthjóf agreed to a treaty by which his kingdom was turned over to Víkarr but Fridthjóf kept his life and freedom. At the Second battle of Telemark. In all these battles Starkaðr was Víkarr’s greatest warrior.

 

The Royal Sacrifice to Óðinn

 

After all these victories, when sailing north from Agðir to Hördaland with a large army, Víkarr was becalmed. Divination showed Óðinn required a sacrifice of one person chosen by lot and Víkarr’s lot came up each time. The decision was put off till the next day.

 

Then Grani Horsehair (Hrosshárs-Grani), Starkaðr‘s foster father, took Starkaðr to a secret council of the gods and revealed himself to be Óðinn. After blessings and curses laid on Starkaðr alternately by Óðinn and Thor, Óðinn asked Starkaðr to send him King Víkarr in payment for Óðinn’s blessings. Starkaðr agreed and Óðinn gave Starkaðr a spear which Óðinn promised would appear to be only a reed-stalk.

 

Then Starkaðr told the king that there would be a mock sacrifice only, where the noose was made out of calf entrails, the spear was made out of reed. But when Starkaðr let loose the branch, the apparent reed-stalk with which Starkaðr stabbed at the king was seen to be a real spear, the stump under Víkars feet fell away, and the calf guts which had been used instead of rope turned into a strong withy. Víkarr died. Saxo Grammaticus in Gesta Danorum (book 6) refers to a similar version relating a magic transformation, but prefers or invents a more rational account in which Starkaðr tied the osier very tightly so that Víkar could hardly breathe and then stabbed Víkar with his sword. This was the first of Starkaðs three great crimes.So Víkarr met his death.

 

Saxo Grammaticus in “Gesta Danorum” (book 6) refers to a similar version relating a magic transformation, but prefers or invents a more rational account in which Starkaðr tied the osier very tightly so that “Wikarus” could hardly breathe and then stabbed Wikarus with his sword. This was the first of Starkaðs three great crimes.

 

HARALD RED-BEARD AND HIS DAUGHTER, ÁSA, MOTHER OF HALFDAN THE BLACK

 

In the Ynglinga saga, Snorri Sturluson relates the story of the Ynglinga kings, counting their lineage back into prehistory. The Ynglinga lineage originated in Sweden and were the original kings of Uppsala and the Svea nation, but after wars that must have happened during the 5th or 6th centuries, the royal dynasty, who claimed to be descended from Freyr, had to flee into Norway, where they managed to fight their way into Vestold and make of it their own kingdom – from which they began to expand….

As the Ynglinga saga reaches the 8th century AD, we also reach characters we know to have lived for real. In chapter 53, Snorri relates how Gudrod, the King of Vestfold (in Norway):

 

“Gudrod, Halfdan’s son, succeeded (his father as king of Vestfold).  He was called Gudrod the Magnificent, and also Gudrod the Hunter.  He was married to Alfhild, a daughter of King Alfarin of Alfheim (Østfold), and got with her half the district of Vingulmark (Oslo/Akershus).  Their son Olaf was afterwards called Geirstad-Alf (…)

 

Now when Alfhild died, King Gudrod sent his men west to Agder to the king who ruled there, and who was called Harald the Red Beard (Haraldur hinn granrauði).

 

They were to make proposals to his daughter Ása upon the king’s account; but Harald declined the match, and the ambassadors returned to the king, and told him the result of their errand.  Soon after King Gudrod hove down his ships into the water, and proceeded with a great force in them to Agder.  .

He immediately landed, and came altogether unexpectedly at night to King Harald’s house.  When Harald was aware that an army was at hand, he went out with themen he had about him, and there was a great battle, although he wanted men so much. 

 

King Harald and his son Gyrd fell, and King Gudrod took a great booty.  He carried away with him Asa, King Harald’s daughter, and had a wedding with her. 

 

(HOW ÁSA AVENGED HER KINSMEN AND HER OWN HONOR:)

 

They had a son by their marriage called Halfdan; and the autumn that Halfdan was a year old Gudrod went upon a round of feasts. 

He lay with his ship in Stiflesund, where they had been drinking hard, so that the king was very tipsy.  In the evening, about dark, the king left the ship; and when he had got to the end of the gangway from the ship to the shore, a man ran against him, thrust a spear through him, and killed him.  The man was instantly put to death, and in the morning when it was light the man was discovered to be Aasa’s page-boy: nor did she conceal that it was done by her orders. 

 

Thus tells Thjodolf of it: –

 

     “Gudrod is gone to his long rest,
     Despite of all his haughty pride –
     A traitor’s spear has pierced his side:
.
     For Asa cherished in her breast
     Revenge; and as, by wine opprest,
     The hero staggered from his ship,
     The cruel queen her thrall let slip
     To do the deed of which I sing:
     And now the far-descended king,
     At Stiflesund, in the old bed
     Of the old Gudrod race, lies dead.”

 

 

.

If we read between the lines, we realize that one of the reasons Gudrod went to a lot of feasts may have been exactly because he found that forcing a Viking princess to marry him after killing her father and brother might not have been the best idea he ever had. It promptly ended in a most dishonorable death – murdered by his wife´s doting page-boy. But at least, young Halfdan was born – and the unusually dark color of his hair (hence his nickname “the black”) was only commented upon as if it did not matter. I, for one, wonder what color the page-boy´s hair had.

 

After the death of her husband, Ása returned to Agder totally unpunished, of course, seeing as she had a right to vengeance and was besides a woman, and the one who had carried out her order was dead. There, to all appearances, she ruled the kingdom while raising her son Halfdan the Black. Gudrod´s older half-brother Ólafr ruled in Vestfold. But when Halfda turned eighteen, he set his eyes on several other Norwegian kingdoms.

 

He became the father of Harald Hair-Fair, who united all the kingdoms of Norway into one realm – Norway (and, accidentally, caused a massive migration from Norway to Iceland because lots of old noble and royal families refused to live as subjects to the Ynglinga king.

 

It has often been thought that Ása is one of the women buried at the famous Oseberg ship in Vestfold (burial happened in 834 AD). At least she would have known these women, for they were contemporaries.

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