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Even in llie prospiil (Icciulciit state of tlic land, the region is rich in ccroals. The slopes of the hills, now covered with thick hnishwood, were, in the days of Israel's prosperity, covered with olive-trees, fig-trees, and vines. The fertility of the land gave rise to the saying, that in Aser oil flowed as a river. The valleys, the slopes of the hills, and the higli places are covered with Chanaanean, Jewish, Byzantine, and later ruins, showing a sort of stratified succes- sion of the civilizations that have flourished in the land. In the liistorj' of Israel the tribe of Aser plays an luiiniportaiit part. When the first census of Israel was made at Sinai, Aser nvnnbered 41, ,500 men that were able to go forth to war (Num., i, 40-41). Their chief was Phegiel, the .son of Ochran. In Num., xxvi, 47, this number had grown to 53,400. When the warriors of the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron to make him King over Israel, there came out of Aser 40,000 soldiers [I Par. (Chron,), xii, 36]. Aser's offering for the first altar dedicated by Moses in the desert is recorded in Num., vii, 72-77. In the tribe of Aser there were four Levi- tical cities: Masai, Abdon, Helcath, and Hohob, with their suburbs. When Zabulon and Nephtali exposed their lives unto death in war against Jabin, King of Chanaan, "Aser dwelt on the seashore, and abode in the havens"; hence it is chided in the Song of Debbora (Judges, v, 17). It redeemed itself some- what from this reproach by marching with Ciideon against Madian. \Vlien Ezechias invited the men of the northern kingdom of Israel to come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Pass- over, some of the tribe of Aser came (II Par., XXX, 11). — Anna the prophetess was of Aser (Luke, ii, 36).

III. Aser, a frontier village of the cis-Jordanic territory of the tribe of Manasses; most probably the modern Teiasir.

IV. Aser, an erroneous rendering in the Vulgate (Ex., vi, 24), of the name Assir, the son of Core. In the Vulgate text of I Par., vi, 22, the same person is called Asir. A. E. Breen.

Asg^aard (from An, plural Aeser, or in English, " Ases " — Norwegian for the gods — and guard, " yard ", i. e. enclosure, garden; the Garden of the Gods). It was the great place where the and their wives, the Asesses (Norse. Asynjer), dwelt apart, and from which they ruled. A bridge called led to it. In the middle of A.sgaard was a great castle in which was Odavold, where the gods (Ases) held their re- unions. In it were two magnificent halls: Glads- heim, with the throne Ilildskjolf, for Odin, and seats for the Ases; and Vingolf, with a throne for Frigg and seats for the Asesses. From this heavenly coimtry the Ases govern the course of the world and of men. Odin reigns there as father and head, who penetrates all, animates all; gives men intelligence and en- thusiasm, and breathes into them the desire for com- bat and war. At his side was his wife Frigg, the all- nourishing earth, who had Fensal as her abode. The other principal dwelling-places of the Ases in A.s-

faard were Thrudvang, or Thnidheim, where dwelt 'hor, the soi\ of Odin and of Frigg, and who was the thunder, the strength, the sanctification of the world, the friend of men, the defender against the evil powers, the protector of agriculture and of family life; Breidabtik, where dwelt Balder with his wife Nanna; Noatum, the abode of Njord; Thrynheim, that of Skad; Alfheim, that of Frey; Himinbjorg, whence Ileimdal protected the Ases; Ydal, where I'll was; Gletner, where Forsete lived, the most just of the; Folkvang, with the hall Sessrj-mner, where Freya lived, the Ascss of Love, and Scikkva- bekk. the dwelling of Saga. Moreover, there was Lidskjalv, from which Odin .saw the whole universe, and where there was Valaskjalv. all covered with

silver, and the yet more splendid and sumptuous hall, Valhal. Alwve Asgaard stretch the more ele\ated heavens, splendour culminates in Gimle, an unapproachable and golden hall, more luminous than the heaven. The site of Asgaard was placed near the Don, which was regarded as the boundary line between Asia and Europe. Hence Snorrc de- rives the name As from Asia, and imagined that the Ases were inhabitants of Asia.

Snorrk .Stchi.ahon. Eddn (ed. Amit Magneantk, 1848-87); KimfifsnyiuT (Kristiana, 1899): Pkterhfn, Sord-Uk M j'thi litffi (ISIB); li.KxKN, Nord. (iiulrlare (1888); Munui, K„i,,.ne C!wl,-;ii Hrltrmnn (1880); HuzzE, ,S/udi>T mtr nord. lium-og IIrUr,c,,in, Opnndehe (1881-80); Kkyseii, D.n Surtke hirku I/ifitorie uruler Katholicismen {}^6); ANDKHhON. A'ame Mi/lhol- v(iil (CIlicaBo, 187,5); Stury Telling to Chtldnn from Norte Mythulugy (CarneKie Library. Pittsburg, 190;i), lontainH anno- tated list of books in Englitih on Nor«e Mythology; IctUtndic

■'"""■'■ I-" <•'""""■ >»8^>- E. A. Wang.

Ash Wednesday. — The Wednesday after Quin- quagcsima Sunday, which is the first day of the Lenten fast. The name dies ciner-um (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Mi-ssal is found in the earliest existing copies of the tiregorian Sacra- ment ary and probably ilates from at least the eighth centurj'. On this day all the faithful ac- cording to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar bcl'dre the bcfiiniiing of Mass, and there the priest, (lipiiiiii; his thiunl) into ashes previously blessed, marks upon the forehead — or in the case of clerics upon the place of the tonsure — of each the sign of the, saying the words: " Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return." The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the pre\nous year. In the ble.ssing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient, and the ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself, be he bishop or cardinal, receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from .some other priest, usually the highest in dignity of those present. In earlier ages a peni- tential procession often followed the rite of the dis- tribution of the ashes, but this is not now pre- scribed.

There can be no doubt that the custom of dis- tributing the ashes to all the faithful from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. But this devotional u.sage, the reception of a sacramental which is full of the symbolism of penance (cf. the cnr cnnlritum quasi cinis of the " Dies Ira? ") is of earlier date than was formerly supposed. It is mentioned as of general observance for both clerics and faithful in the Synod of Beiievcntum, 1091 (, XX, 739), but nearly a hundred years earlier than this the Anglo-Saxon honiilist -Elfric a.ssumes that it applies to all clas-ses of men. "We read", he says, in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heatls to signify that we ought to repent of our .sins during the Lenten fast." And then he enforces this recommendation by the terrible example of a man who refu.sed to go to church for the ashes on Ash Wednesday and who a few days after was accidentally killed in a boar hunt (.Elfric, "Lives of Saints", e<l. Skeat, I. 262- 2t)0). It is po.ssible that the notion of penance which was suggested by the rite of Ash \\ etlne.sday was reinforced by the figurative exclusion from the .s;icred mysteries symbolized by the hanging of the Ix-nten veil before the s:inctuary. But on this and the practice of beginning the fast on Ash Wednesday see Lent.

(IlHR in Kirchmlez., s. v. Atchfrmittwoch: Thurbton. Ltnt and IhAu Wrrk (Ixindon. 1904), 88-99; Kellner. Uroriologit (Freiburg. 19(XJ), 78; Duchesne, Chrittian Worthip (tr. Ix)n-