Word of the Week: slímuseta

slímuseta (ON) n.
A ‘slime-sitting’. Refers to someone who overstays the hospitality of another. Such unwanted guests could be forcibly removed without legal penalties for assault.

hangers on OIce Mah 28
parasite OIce Js Mah 33
unwanted guest ONorw GuL Mhb


sitja slímusetri

to remain as a ‘slime-sitter’ OIce Js Mah 33
to stay afterward as a hanger on OIce Mah 28

Refs.: CV s.v. slímusetr; Fritzner s.v. slímusetr


Word of the Week: rauðarán

In order to improve our dictionary, and to showcase some of the material we’ve composed thus far, we’ll be periodically posting short articles discussing some of the more unclear terms appearing within medieval Nordic law texts. The editors welcome comments, suggestions and especially bibliographic citations referring to the term in question. We hope to share an article every week over the next six to nine months. This week’s word is rauðarán:

rauðarán (ON) n.

‘Red robbery’. The term is known only from Grg Rsþ 228 and is described as an extension of hand-seizure (ON handrán), where an item stolen out of someone’s hands is then taken away. The penalty for rauðarán was full outlawry (ON skóggangr). Most scholars have interpreted the first element as an intensifier meaning ‘outright, brazen, notorious’. This seems more likely than the alternative suggestion of ‘petty’ offered by Hoff. Saxo’s colorful etymology associated the term with a pirate called Røtho.

arrant seizure OIce Grg Rsþ 228

See also: handrán, rán
Refs.: CV; Fritzner; Grg tr. II:179; Hoff 2011:223

The Danish Medieval Laws Published by Routledge

A second volume of translations in the Medieval Nordic Laws series published by Routledge has appeared. The Danish Medieval Laws, edited by Ditlev Tamm and Helle Vogt, contains translations of The Church Law of Scania (Skånska kyrkelov), The Law of Scania (Skånske lov), Valdemar’s Law of Zealand (Valdemars sjællandske lov), Erik’s Law of Zealand (Eriks sjællandske lov) and the Law of Jutland (Jyske lov). Also included are translations of a few selected ordinances, a general introduction to the medieval Danish provincial laws, two glossaries (one annotated) and an index.

The Danish Medieval Laws can be purchased directly from the publisher, as can the first volume in the series, Christine Peel’s translations and commentaries on Guta lag and Guta saga.


Medieval Legal Manuscripts Exhibit at the BNP

A selection of medieval law manuscripts are currently on display until 31 May 2016 at the National Library of Portugal (BNP):


The exhibit was produced in tandem with a three-day conference held in Lisbon on the themes of medieval legal manuscripts and practitioners of law in the Middle Ages.



The Dominicans and Canon Law

A digital exhibition celebrating the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Dominican order is currently being hosted by Cambridge University Library. It features several eye-catching details from manuscripts held by The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University Library and some of the Cambridge colleges.


The accompanying texts, curated by Professor Nigel Morgan and Fr. Richard Finn, include a short section devoted to canon law and the influence prominent Dominicans had on it.


MNLD Bibliography

The draft bibliography for the Medieval Nordic Legal Dictionary is now available for public viewing under the ‘Bibliography’ menu tab. This is very much a working document containing fragmentary information and numerous notes. Users are therefore advised to use it with care. It is also being updated constantly by the dictionary editors, so new versions of it will be uploaded periodically.

Legal Culture in the Medieval North: 11-12 November 2015

The MNLD has organized a colloquium with the title ‘Legal Culture in the Medieval North’. Speakers specializing in a variety of fields, including legal history, canon law and literature, have been invited to join the MNLD editors and discuss some of the key aspects of medieval provincial law in Scandinavia. There will be talks and discussions on outlawry, administration, marriage and agricultural practices. A full programme is available here.

We are extremely grateful to the Kungliga Vitterhetsakademi for making this colloquium possible.

Call for Papers: Legal Culture in the Medieval North

Legal Culture in the Medieval North
Stockholm, 11-12 November, 2015

The editors of the Medieval Nordic Legal Dictionary (MNLD) invite submissions for presentations at a colloquium dedicated to discussing legal concepts and terminology found in medieval Nordic legal texts. We are especially interested to hear from researchers conducting comparative studies between multiple provincial and/or national laws. As the colloquium is sponsored by a dictionary project, there will be an emphasis on specific terms and phrases as they relate to a larger judicial-cultural framework. Possible topics of discussion and corresponding key terms include:

  • Pledges (property as surety regarding claims?): How are the different concepts and terms interrelated? (væþ, tak, nam etc)
  • Procedure: Is the (terminology for the) suing process as complex as it appears? (stæmna, kæra, kalla, vita, sökia, sækta, mæla, klanda, dela, illa etc) What did witnessing and testifying entail? (vita, vitna, vitnis byrth, vitsorþ, fæst) Who was/could be a witness? (hæræþsvitni, þingvitni, asynar vitni, fastir, vin etc) What was (considered) proof? (skærskuta, lysa, eþer, lagh, iarn etc)
  • Social status or legal function: What did being a goþer maþer or a goþ kona imply? Who were allir mæn? What was their capacity? How were fines entrusted to them handled and allocated?
  • Punishment: How were punishments enforced? Where were fines collected and by whom? Who carried out corporal punishments?
  • Punishment/Imprisonment: Were there prisons or just arrests (fangilse, haefta)? Did being sent to the konongsgarþer imply hard labour?
  • Official titles: What was the function of a hæraþshöfþingi? Who was a lænsmaþer?
  • Defamation: Were invectives (just) allowed – or were they even encouraged – when directed at convicted criminals (þiuver, horkona etc)? What can be gathered from the laws about the frequent cases for name-calling in later medieval case proceedings? (trolshamber, bikiuhvælper, lösharaþer etc)
  • Agriculture and Animal Husbandry: What, if any, distinction can be drawn between various terms for land (crop, pasture and otherwise)? (afrétt, almenning, rétt(r), akr, eng(i), búland, hagi, haglendi, húshagi, jörð, land, samrétt, taða, teigr, töðuvöllr, tún, túnvöllr, völlr)
  • Poverty: How were the poor defined, and how were they maintained within the various Scandinavian lands? (fátækismaðr, féleysi, göngumaðr, húsgangsmaðr, landsofringi, ölmusugerð, vaflanarför, þrotráði, verðgangr)
  • Magic: Are references in the laws to witchcraft and sorcery merely holdovers from earlier times? How long were such laws enforced? (fjölkyngi, fordæðuskap, görning)

Submissions of 250-word abstracts and a short list of keywords pertaining to your presentation (preferably specific legal terms) should be sent to jeff.love@su.se by 5 September 2015. Any inquiries concerning the colloquium may be directed to this address as well. Accepted presenters will be notified by the end of September. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters and The University of Stockholm.