helagher (OSw) hailigr (OGu) heilagr (ON) helægher (OSw) hælagher (OSw) hælægher (OSw) adj.

This word is used in at least three distinct ways. Firstly, it is translated as ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’, in such expressions as helga land, ‘the Holy Land’ (GL), heilög orð, ‘sacred words’ (Grg). In referring to persons it is used as a designation of holy people as a class (that is those connected to the church), or the saints in general or the particular, Secondly, it refers to ‘holy’ days as opposed to working days: Sundays, saints’ days, church festivals, etc. Thirdly, it is translated as protected in some way. The related noun, hælgh (q.v.), and all its derivatives are used with similar implications and the noun appears in the concept, manhælghþ. In the translations ‘immune’ and ‘protected’, the word is related to the concept of hemfriþer, the protection that one had in one’s own home against attack. The concept is very closely connected with that of friþer (q.v.) and being ‘under the King’s Peace’, with all the protection that the rule of law supplied.

The original meaning of the word, as opposed to the translations employed, has been much disputed, and the history of this is reflected in the references. The discussion is the more interesting as it is a word carrying concepts of great importance in the Norse and wider Germanic sources, both legal and literary.


hallowed ONorw GuL Krb
holy ONorw BorgL 14.2
ONorw FrL KrbA 29, 31 LlbA 25
OGu GL A 6, 8, 9, 60
OIce Grg Feþ 166 Lbþ 181
ONorw GuL Krb, Kpb, Olb
OIce HT 2
OIce KRA 7, 9
OSw UL Kkb, Äb
OSw VmL Kkb

immune OSw DL Gb
OIce Grg Þsþ 52, 53 Misc 240
OIce Js Rkb 2

immune by the law ONorw GuL Mhb
inviolate ONorw FrL Mhb 22
protected OGu GL A 37, 59, Add. 1 (B 4)
protected by law OIce Llb 59
sacred OGu GL A 6, 8
sanctified OGu GL A 8
without guilt ONorw GuL Olb Expressions:

heilagt vatn (ON)

hallowed water ONorw GuL Krb

heilög jörð (ON)

hallowed earth ONorw GuL Krb

heilagr dagr (ON)

In general, most kinds of work, the eating of meat and fish, prosecutions and sexual intercourse were forbidden during holy days and the preceding night. See, e.g., GuL chs 16−18, 20, 27 and 266.

holiday ONorw GuL Krb, Kpb, Olb

heilagr dómr (ON)

relic OIce Js Kdb 5

Refs:

Bætke 1942; Calissendorff 1964, 119−20; Heggstad, Leiv, Finn Hødnebø, and Erik Simensen 2012, s.v.v. helga, helgi; KLNM s.v.v. helgener, helgi, helligbrøde, kalendarium II, vilodagar; Lexikon des Mittelalters s.v. friede; Peel 2015, 172 note 37/7−9; Schlyter 1877, s.v.v. helagher, hælgh; Sundkvist 2015, 119−20

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

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/2070
    (02/06/2023)