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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Heilagra meyja drápa, 34 [Vol. 7, 912-13]

[All]: Stanzas 34-6 relate the legend of S. Margaret of Antioch, one of the most popular Christian saints, on account of her supposed ability to help women in childbirth. The legend tells that Margaret was the Christian daughter of a pagan priest, Theodosius, during the reign of Diocletian, who rejected the advances of the prefect Olybrius. He then denounced her as a Christian. She was subjected to various tortures, including the assault of Satan in the form of a dragon, who tried to swallow her. She was eventually beheaded. There are three versions of the saga of S. Margaret in C14th and later ON mss (Unger 1877, I, 474-81; Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 320; Wolf 2003, 42-9, 158-9). Some of the later mss, particularly the very small ones, were almost certainly used as talismans to help women in childbirth (cf. Jón Steffensen 1965), a subject important to the poet of Mey (see st. 36). On her cult, see Cormack 1994, 121-2.


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