goði (ON) noun

A leader or chieftain in Iceland during the commonwealth. As a secular chieftain, it has been suggested that the goði was the Icelandic equivalent of a hersir (‘local chief, lord’) or jarl (q.v.) elsewhere in Scandinavia. The title of goði appears almost exclusively in Iceland, but toponyms and evidence from runestones suggest that they may once have existed throughout the Nordic lands. Prior to the advent of Christianity goðar are thought to have served as a type of priest.

In Grg the power of a goði stemmed from ownership of a goðorð (q.v.) A goði had a variety of administrative duties and was required to attend public assemblies. They sat as members of the legislative Law Council (ON lögrétta), inaugurated assemblies, served as foremen of certain courts (such as the Confiscation Court [ON féránsdómr]) and occasionally delivered verdicts (ON goðakviðr) or issued vetoes (ON goðalyrittr). Evidence from sagas suggests that goðar also provided limited police functions within their home districts.

From about the year 930 the number of goðar in Iceland was fixed at 36. This was subsequently raised to 39 and then 48. The position was abolished with the institution of Js in 1271.


chieftain OIce Grg Klþ 10, 17 Þsþ 20, 22 Vís 96, 110 Lrþ 117 Arþ 118 passim Refs:

CV s.v. goði; Fritzner s.v. goði; GAO s.v. Gode, Godentum; KLNM s.v. goði og goðorð; LexMA s.v. Gode; MSE s.v. Goði; Riisøy 2013

Citation
  • ‘goði’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/1775
    (12/07/2022)