By Margaret Wade Labarge
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Additional resources for A Medieval Miscellany
ReykjavõÂk: Hi Âõslenzka fornritafeÂlag. Bruhn, Ole 1999, Historien og skriften. Bidrag til en litterñr antropologi. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. Bugge, Sophus 1881±89, Studier over de nordiske Gude- og Heltesagns oprindelse. Fùrste Rñkke. Kristiania (Oslo): Alb. Cammermeyer. 1894, Bidrag til den ñldste Skaldedigtnings Historie. Kristiania (Oslo): H. s Forlag. 1908, Norsk sagafortñlling og sagaskrivning i Irland. Kristiania (Oslo). Clunies Ross, Margaret 1987, SkaÂldskaparmaÂl. Snorri Sturluson's ars poetica and Medieval Theories of Language.
The more detailed description of the tradition in JoÂns saga, that the verses were disgraceful, contemptible and unbecoming, is a re¯ection of clerical distaste in support of the prohibition and adds little to our knowledge of the tradition itself. Bishop JoÂn's vigilance was directed against heathen practices ( JoÂnsson 1953: II 96±7) ± he had the Icelandic names for days of the week changed to omit reference to the heathen gods ± yet his prohibitions extended beyond speci®c religious acts such as sacri®ce to incantations (galdrar) and ancient beliefs in general (on the range of meanings of the word forneskja, from `old times' to `old lore, heathenism', see Fritzner (1883±96 I: 459)).
The means by which lawmen retained the law ñttir in their memories must therefore have depended on memory aids outside the text, or structures within the text not recognized by us as mnemonic. The famous act by the lawspeaker at the 999 Althing of retiring to his booth and lying under a cloak for twenty-four hours is a captivating historical detail, but one which offers no particulars of the intellectual processes involved (see A alsteinsson 1999: 103±9, 200). The annual recitation was the only formal means we know of by which members of Icelandic society could learn the laws of the land, and more particularly, the points of law relevant to cases being brought for settlement at the Althing.