World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000309380
Reproduction Date:

Title: Hörgr  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Freyja, Vingólf, Norse mythology, Temple (Germanic paganism), Germanic paganism
Collection: Altars, Germanic Paganism, Norse Mythology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A hörgr (Old Norse, plural hörgar) or hearg (Old English) was a type altar or cult site, possibly consisting of a heap of stones, used in Norse paganism, as opposed to a roofed hall used as a temple (hof).

The Old Norse term is attested in both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, in Icelandic sagas, skaldic poetry, its Old English cognate in Beowulf. The word is also reflected in various place names (in English placenames as harrow), often in connection with Germanic deities.

Old Norse hǫrgr "altar, sanctuary", Old English hearg "holy grove; temple, idol".[1] Old High German harug continue a Proto-Germanic *harugaz, possibly cognate with Insular Celtic carrac "cliff".[2]


  • Old Norse tradition 1
    • Literary 1.1
    • Epigraphic 1.2
    • Toponymy 1.3
  • Old English tradition 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4

Old Norse tradition


The term hörgr is used three times in poems collected in the Poetic Edda. In a stanza early in the poem Völuspá, the völva says that early in the mythological timeline, the gods met together at the location of Iðavöllr and constructed a hörgr and a hof (Henry Adams Bellows and Ursula Dronke here gloss hörgr as "temples"):

Old Norse:
Hittoz æsir á Iðavelli,
þeir er hǫrg ok hof hátimbroðo.[3]
Henry Adams Bellows translation:
At Ithavoll met the mighty gods;
Shrines and temples they timbered high;[4]
Ursula Dronke translation:
Æsir met on Eddying Plain
they who built towering altars and temples.[3]

In the poem Vafþrúðnismál Gagnráðr (the god Odin in disguise) engages in a game of wits with the jötunn Vafþrúðnir. Gagnráðr asks Vafþrúðnir whence the Van god Njörðr came, for though he rules over many hofs and hörgar, Njörðr was not raised among the Æsir (Benjamin Thorpe here glosses hörgr with "offer-steads" and Bellows glosses with "shrines"):

Benjamin Thorpe translation:

Tell me tenthly, since thou all the origin
of the gods knowest, Vafthrudnir!
whence Niörd came among the Æsir's sons?
O'er fanes and offer-steads he rules by hundreds,
yet he was not among the Æsir born.[5]

Henry Adams Bellows translation:

Tenth answer me now, if thou knowest all
The fate that is fixed for the gods:
Whence came up Njorth to the kin of the gods,—
(Rich in temples and shrines he rules,—)
Though of gods he was never begot?[6]

In the poem Hyndluljóð, the goddess Freyja speaks favorably of Óttar for having worshiped her so faithfully by using a hörgr. Freyja details that the hörgr is constructed of a heap of stones, and that Óttar very commonly reddened these stones with sacrificial blood (Thorpe glosses hörgr with "offer-stead", Bellows with "shrine", and Orchard with "altar"):

Benjamin Thorpe translation:
An offer-stead to me he raised,
with stones constructed;
now is the stone
as glass become.
With the blood of oxen
he newly sprinkled it.
Ottar ever trusted the Asyniur.[7]
Henry Adams Bellows translation:
For me a shrine of stones he made,
And now to glass the rock has grown;
Oft with the blood of beasts was it red;
In the goddesses ever did Ottar trust.[8]
Andy Orchard translation:
He made me a high altar
of heaped-up stones:
the gathered rocks
have grown all bloody,
and he reddened them again
with the fresh blood of cows;
Ottar has always
had faith in the ásynjur.[9]


The place name Salhøgum that is mentioned on a 9th-century Danish runestone known as the Snoldelev Stone has a literal translation which combines Old Norse sal meaning "hall" with hörgar "mounds," to form "on the hall mounds," suggesting a place with a room where official meetings took place.[10] The inscription states that the man Gunnvaldr is the þulaR of Salhøgum, which as been identified as referring to the modern town Salløv, which was in the vicinity of the original site of the runestone.[11]


Many place names in Iceland and Scandinavia contain the word hörgr or hörgur, such as Hörgá and Hörgsdalur in Iceland and Harg in Sweden. When Willibrord Christianized the Netherlands (~700 AD) the church of Vlaardingen had a dependency in Harago/Hargan, currently named Harga. This indicates that near those places there was some kind of religious building in medieval times.[12]

Old English tradition

In the interpretation of Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Paganism (1992), hearg refers to "a special type of religious site, one that occupied a prominent position on high land and was a communal place of worship for a specific group of people, a tribe or folk group, perhaps at particular times of the year", while a weoh, by contrast, was merely a small shrine by the wayside.

Beowulf has the compound hærgtrafum in the so-called "Christian excursus" (lines 175–178a), translated as "tabernacles of idols" by Hall (1950).[13]

Following the regular evolution of English phonology, Old English hearg has become harrow in modern English placenames (unrelated to the homophone harrow "agricultural implement"). The London Borough of Harrow derives its name from a temple on Harrow Hill, where St. Mary's Church stands today. The name of Harrow on the Hill (Harewe atte Hulle) was adopted into Latin as Herga super montem; the latinized form of the Old English name is preserved in the name of Herga Road in Harrow.[14][15]


  1. ^ Simek (2007:156).
  2. ^ Gerhard Köbler, Germanisches Wörterbuch, 5th ed. (2014). Pokorny (1959) s.v. "3. kar- 'hard'".
  3. ^ a b Dronke (1997:8).
  4. ^ Bellows (1936:5).
  5. ^ Thorpe (1866:16).
  6. ^ Bellows (1923:79).
  7. ^ Thorpe (1866:108).
  8. ^ Bellows (1936:221).
  9. ^ Orchard (1997:89).
  10. ^ Sundqvist (2009:660-661)
  11. ^ Peterson (2002).
  12. ^ Kvaran (2006).
  13. ^ Yasuharu Eto, "Hearg and weoh in Beowulf, ll. 175-8a" The Bulletin of the Japanese Association for Studies in the History of the English Language, 2007, 15-7.
  14. ^ Briggs, Keith "Harrow", Journal of the English Place-name Society, volume 42 (2010), 43-64
  15. ^ Room, Adrian: “Dictionary of Place-Names in the British Isles”, Bloomsbury, 1988. ISBN 0-7475-0170-X


  • Bellows, Henry Adams (Trans.) (1936). The Poetic Edda. Princeton University Press. New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation.
  • Bellows, Henry Adams (Trans.) (1923). The Poetic Edda. American-Scandinavian Foundation.
  • Dronke, Ursula (Trans.) (1997). The Poetic Edda: Volume II: Mythological Poems. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-811181-9
  • Kvaran, Guðrún (May 29, 2006). "Hvað þýðir orðið hörgur?." Vísindavefurinn.
  • Orchard, Andy (1997). Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-34520-2
  • Peterson, Lena (2002). Nordisk runnamslexikon. Swedish Institute for Linguistics and Heritage (Institutet för språk och folkminnen).
  • Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. ISBN 0-85991-513-1
  • Sundqvist, Olof (2009). "The Hanging, the Nine Nights, and the "Precious Knowledge"". In Heizmann, Wilhelm; Beck, Heinrich. Analecta Septentrionalia. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.  
  • Thorpe, Benjamin (Trans.) (1866). Edda Sæmundar Hinns Frôða: The Edda of Sæmund the Learned. Part I. London: Trübner & Co.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.