© Peter Tunstall 2004
The saga dates to the 13th century, and survives in a manuscript c. 1350, Codex Holm. B 64 (Royal Library at Stockholm) along with Gotland's legal code, the Gutalag (original http://www.nordlund.lu.se/Fornsvenska/Fsv%20Folder/ ; and in Modern Swedish translation http://www.gotlandshistoria.com/historia/gutalagen.htm ).
This Thielvar had a son called Hafthi. And Hafthi's wife was called Whitestar. Those two were the first to settle on Gotland. The first night they slept together she dreamt that three snakes were coiled in her lap. And it seemed to her that they slid out of her lap. She told this dream to her husband Hafthi. He interpreted it thus:
"All is bound with bangles,
While still unborn, he gave them all names:
"Guti will own Gotland,
These later divided Gotland into three parts, so that Graip the eldest got the northern third, Guti the middle third, and Gunfjaun the youngest had the south. Then, over a long time, the people descended from these three multiplied so much that the land couldn't support them all. So they selected every third person by lot to leave, with the right to keep and take away with them everything they owned except for their land. They were unwilling to leave then, but went to instead Torsburgen and settled there. But afterwards the country (i.e. Gotland) would not tolerate them, and drove them away.
Then they went away to Fårö and settled there. They couldn't support themselves in that place, so they went to a certain island off the coast of Estland, called Dagö, and settled there and built a town that can still be seen. But they couldn't support themselves there either, so they went up the river Dvina, up through Russia. They went so far that they came to the land of the Greeks (i.e. the Byzantine empire). They asked leave of the Greek king to stay there while the moon waxed and waned. The king granted that, thinking it was just for one month. Then after a month, he wanted to send them away, but they answered that the moon waxed and waned for ever and always, and so they said they were allowed to stay. Word of this dispute of theirs reached the queen. She said, "My lord king, you granted them permission to dwell while the moon waxed and waned; now that's for ever and always, so you can't take it off them." So they settled there, and live there still, and still have something of our language.
Before that, and for a long time long afterwards, men believed in holt and howe (grove and grave-mound), sanctuaries and sacred sites, and in the heathen gods. They made offerings of their sons and daughters and cattle, with food and ale. They did that in their error. The chief sacrifice was the one for the whole land, with people; otherwise each Third had its own sacrifice. The smaller assemblies had lesser sacrifices with cattle, food and ale. They were called suth-nautar (Brethren of the Boiling, Cooking Companions), because they cooked [the sacrificial feast] together.
Many kings made war on Gotland while it was heathen, but the Gotlanders always maintained their own religion and law. Then the Gotlanders were sending many messengers to Sweden, but none of them succeeded in negotiating a peace before Awair Strawlegs from Alva parish. He was the first to make peace with the king of the Swedes.
When the Gotlanders asked him to go, he answered, "You know that I am now most doomed and close to death, so if you want me to go into such peril, then give me three wergilds: one for me, one for my boy, and one for my wife. As he was a clever man, wise with words and artful, as the stories of him go, he established a fixed treaty with the Swedish king: 60 marks of silver a year - that is the tax for the Gotlanders - with 40 for the king, out of that sixty, and the jarl to get 20. This agreement he made in accordance with the advice of the whole land before he left.
So the Gotlanders submitted to the king of the Swedes of their own free will, that they might go anywhere in Sweden freely and unfettered by tolls or any duties. So too the Swedes could come to Gotland with no ban on the import of corn, or any other restrictions. The king was to give aid and help whenever they needed it and asked. The king would send messengers to the Gotland national assembly, and the jarl likewise, to collect their tax. These messengers must proclaim freedom to the Gotlanders to travel in peace over the sea, to all places where the Swedish king holds sway, and likewise to those on that side who have to right to come here.
Although the Gotlanders were heathens, they sailed with merchants' wares to all lands, Christian and heathen. Then the merchants saw the Christian ways in Christian lands. Then some had themselves baptised, and brought priests to Gotland. Botair of Akebäck was the name of the first to build a church, in that place which is now called Kulstäde. This the country would not tolerate, but burnt it. So the place is called Kulstäde (charcoal-stead) even now.
After this, there was sacrifice at Vi. He had a second church built there. The land wanted to burn this church too. Then Botair himself climbed on top of the church, and said, "If you want to burn this church, then you'll have to burn me with it."
He was an important man in those parts and married to the daughter of the most important man, who was called Lickair Snielli, a farmer who lived at the place called Stenkyrka. Lickair carried most authority at this time. He supported his son-in-law Botair and said, "Leave off burning this man and his church, for it stands in Vi (sanctuary) under the cliff."
And so that church was allowed to stand unburnt. It was consecrated in the name of all the saints at that place now called Saint Peter's Church. It was the first church in Gotland that was allowed to stand.
Then, some time after that, Botair's father-in-law, Lickair had himself baptised along with his wife, his children and his whole household, and built a church at his own farm, which is now called Stenkyrka (Stonechurch). That was the first church up in the Northern Third of Gotland.
When they saw the ways of the Christians, the Gotlanders hearkened to God's word and the teaching of priests. The people as a whole received Christianity, of their own free will, uncompelled, without anyone forcing them to be Christians. As the people all became Christian, another church was built on the island, at Atlingbo. That was the first one in the Middle Third. Then a third church was built in the South Third, at Fardhem. After that, churches sprang up all over Gotland, because people built churches for greater convenience.
A while after that, King Olaf the Saint came fleeing Norway with his ships and put in to the harbour of Akergarn. Saint Olaf stayed a long time there. Then Ormica of Hejnum and many other important men came to him with gifts. Ormica gave him twelve yearling rams and other valuables. In return, Saint Olaf gave Ormica two drinking bowls and a battle-axe. Then Ormica received Christianity according to the teaching of Saint Olaf and built himself an oratory there where Akegarn church now stands. Then Saint Olaf went to Yaroslav in Holmgard (Novgorod).
Before Gotland linked itself permanently to a particular bishop, bishops came to Gotland on their way to the Holy land, as pilgrims to Jerusalem, and on their way home from there. At that time there was a route to Jerusalem through Russian and the Byzantine Empire. At first, it was they who consecrated the churches and churchyards at the request of those who had the churches built.
After the Gotlanders had become accustomed to Christianity, they sent messeges to the Lord Bishop of Linköping, as he was the nearest to them, to the effect that he should come to Gotland, by a confirmed statute, to attend to them on the following conditions: that the bishop should come from Linköping every third year with twelve of his men who would accompany him all over the island on horses supplied by the farmers, twelve and no more.
Thus the bishop has to travel round Gotland consecrating churches and collecting his payment in kind: three meals for each consecration of a church, but no more, and also three marks. For consecrating an alter: one meal and twelve oyrar (modern Swedish öre), if just the altar is to be consecrated. But if both altar and church are unconsecrated, then both shall be consecrated for three meals and three marks in coin (as opposed to silver).
From every second priest (i.e. from half of the priests), the bishop is entitled to receive, as the customary fee for his visit, payment in kind of three meals and no more. From each of the other priests who do not pay that year, the bishop shall receive a fee, as stipulated for the churches. Those who did not make payment in kind that time, shall make payment in kind when the bishop returns after three years, while the others shall be obliged to pay a fee, those who last time made payment in kind.
If there are disagreements for the bishop to judge, they should be settled in the same Third, because those who live nearest will know most about the truth of the matter. If the disagreement is not dealt with there, then it shall be referred to the national assembly, and not moved from one Third to another. If conflicts or disagreements arise, which pertain to the bishop to settle, then the parties must await the bishop's arrival, and not go over to the mainland unless compelled, and it be a great sin, too great for the rural dean to absolve. Then one must go over to the mainland between the Feast of Saint Walpurga (Mayday) and the Feast of All Saints, but not after that during the winter until that following Walpurgis Night. In Gotland, a fine to the bishop shall be no fine higher than three marks.
From the time when the Gotlanders received bishop and priest, and completely accepted Christianity, they also undertook to accompany the king of the Swedes into battle with seven longships against heathen lands, but not against Christian ones. It has to be like this though: the king has to call the Gotlanders to muster after winter, with a month's notice, but the mustering day must be before midsummer and not after. Such is a legal summons, and nothing else. Then the Gotlanders have a choice to go if they want, with their longships and eight weeks' supplies, but no more. If they are not able to accompany [the king], they must pay 40 marks in coin for each ship - but only on the following year, not the same year as they were called. That is called the levy-hindrance [tax].
In that month [when the summons goes out], during the first week, the summons-baton shall be sent around and an assembly called. If it is agreed that the expedition is to go ahead, then half a month shall be given over to further preparations. And then, for seven days before the mustering day, the men must stand ready, and wait for a favourable wind. But if it should then so happen that a favourable wind does not come that week, they must wait seven more days after the mustering day. Then if a favourable wind still does not come in that time, they have the right to go home without penalty, because they can't cross the sea rowing, but only sailing. If the summons comes at shorter notice than a month, they needn't go, but have the right to remain at home without penalty.
If it so happens that the king will not believe that the summons was given unlawfully, or that the wind hindered at the time specified by law, then the king's messengers, who come to receive the tax at the next assembly after Saint Peter's Day, must demand an oath from twelve nominated men - the king's men to nominate who is to swear - that they stayed for lawful reasons. No oaths of nominated men are given in Gotland, expect for oaths to the king.
In the unfortunate event of a crowned king being driven by force from his kingdom, the Gotlanders do not have to pay tax, but should hold onto it for three years. They should however collect tax every year, but let it lie - and then give it to whoever is ruling the Swedish kingdom then. A letter sealed with the king's seal, shall be sent concerning the king's whole law, but not an open letter.