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Published by Rodney Mackay
The strangest thing Rod has undertaken
The strangest thing Rod has undertaken

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Published by: Rodney Mackay on Nov 23, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Back To IndexVOLUSPAThe Voluspa is an Old Norse word which translates into English as the song of Vol or Volla.The uncapitalized form, voluspa identified any seeress or prophetess. The "song of the sibyl"was one of Eddaic poems, treating the origin of the world, the meeting of the gods, and the warbetween the sea-giants and the gods. The Eddas also predicted the end of the Nine Worldsfashioned by the gods and the regeneration of worlds beyond time.Folklorist Thomas Keightley has said that "Edda" signifies "grandmother", although othersregard it as the feminine of "othr" or "odr", which has the meaning "wisdom". Hatley BurrAlexander, a former teacher of philosophy at the University of Nebraska, felt it "perhapsproperly" indicated the place called Oddi, in Iceland, where the two writers lived.Both the poetic and the prose Edda were written in the tongue now called Old Norse butanciently called Norraena Tunga (the northern tongue). It was once the common language of allScandinavia and parts of the old Teutonic lands, but it became restricted to Iceland. The wordEdda was at first applied to the younger or prose work, being finally extended to the elder orpoetic notations, or "The Edda of Saemund the Wise". A collection of 33 heroic songs, dealingwith mythological events, they were thought to have originated with the scalds, or poets, of thepagan north, long before the advent of Christianity. They were assembled on paper between theend of the tenth and the beginning of the twelfth century and were rediscovered by BishopBrynjolf Sveinsson, who attributed them (perhaps incorrectly) to the historian Saemund (1055-1152).The prose Edda is credited to Snorri Sturleson (1179-1241). This younger Edda, oftenreferred to as "The Edda of Snorri Sturleson", is based on the poetic Edda, and other ancientpoems, some incorporated into it. Beside the preface and conclusion, it consists of two parts:"Gylfa's Deception," sometimes called "Hars Lygi" (Odin's Lies) and "Braga-raedur" (Braga'sreader, or narrative). This last is divided into several illustrative stories, some called the"Kenningar", a list of poetic names and phrases to be used in wordsmithery.Volla, or Fulla, was one of the attendants of the goddess Frigga, the wife of Odin. Accordingto some folklorists she had charge over her mistresses's toilet and had care of her jewel casket.She alone was privileged to wear Frigga's golden shoes and was her confidante, advising herhow to escape Odin's wrath when she purloined gold from his statue. In some parts of northernEurope she was known as Gullveig (Old Norse, golden drink), and equated with Freya, thegoddess of love, and one of the race of sea-giants, called the Vana. Fulla was said to be veryattractive, and representing the grains used to brew drink, was pictured as having long flowinggolden hair restrained by a single golden circle. She was also called Fulla, Abundia, orAbundantia, in parts of Germany, where she was considered a symbol of the ripened earth.Volla is also a synonym for Holle, and she was called Frau Holle, or Holda, or Hulda insouthern Germany. The character of these goddesses is very like that of Frigga, and all arethoroughly confounded although they may once have been separate deities. Holda isconsidered to have had charge of the weather and when snowflakes fell it was said that she wasshaking out her bedclothes. When it rained, it was claimed that the goddess was hanging herwash; and when gray clouds stripped the sky people were sure that she was weaving. InEngland, the Anglo-Saxons called this lady Eastre, or Ostara, the goddess of spring and inPrussia she was Bertha, or the Wight Lady, the ancestress of Charlemagne and the ImperialGerman family. Bertha was the patroness of spinners and weavers and as such flitted throughvillages on the twelve nights of Yule, peering in each window to judge the quality of craft-
work. Those who performed well were rewarded with golden threads or a distaff of extra fineflax; but careless spinners found their wheel broken, and bad weavers, their flax soiled.Volla was the female counterpart of Uller, the winter-god, a son of Sif (of the golden-hair)and the step-son of Thor, god of thunder. His father is not mentioned in the northern myths,but is presumed to have been one of the frost-giants, for Uller delighted in the cold andtravelled the land on snowshoes or skates.The winter-god was considered second to Odin, whose place he once usurped for a period of nine months. During this time he held complete power is Asgard (the garden of the gods) andMisgard (Middle Earth, the place of men). According to some authorities, he even espousedOdin's wife Frigga and took charge of the Wild Hunt, which gathered the souls of the dead.Unfortunately for him, Uller was an indifferent host and bestowed few gifts on mankind, so theyturned against him and welcomed the return of Odin, who drove his supplanter into the frozennorth. Here, he built a "summer home" into which he retreated until the cold months wereentrenched.Because Uller was a cold god, he shared Odin's reputation as a god of death. He possessed amagic ship made from a bone over which magic rune-language had been spoken, a vesselcapable of moving instantaneously in time and space. His symbol was the snowshoe, which,anciently, resembled the shield. He was, therefore, named the "shield-god" and was invoked forhelp by those who felt that their time on earth was limited.In Anglo-Saxon lands, Uller was known as Vulder, while in parts of German, he was Holler,the husband of Holda. Some suspected it was he who spread winter snow, so that the fields of his wife would be protected from the cold until the coming of spring.Both the land and the sea-giants warred with the gods, and the former were once reduced toa single survivor who fled to most northern lands where he establish Joutunheim (the home of the great eaters). Nevertheless, Odin conscripted the giants to his world-building enterprises: Increating the earth he appointed children of the giant Mundilfari to manage the chariots thatpulled the sun and the moon. The gods also summoned Nott (night), the daughter of Norvi, tohave charge of the steed named Hrimfaxi (frost-mane), who dropped dew and frost on theground. This goddess was three times married having sons named Aud and Annar, a daughterJord or Urth (earth), as well as the creatures known as Dellinger (dawn) and Dag (day).Odin himself frequently consulted the frost-giants and the sea-giants: One of the latter wasMimir (memory), who had charge of "the fountain of all wit and knowledge." In this the futurewas said to be mirrored, but the old gentleman who guarded it would only surrender a draughtto Odin after he agreed to surrender one of his eyes. Drinking from this source Odin becameone-eyed and all-wise, but depressed by his new insights for he knew that the gods and theirworlds were fated to be destroyed. "The knowledge so affected his spirits that he ever afterwore a melancholy and contemplative expression." When Odin fought, he wore his eaglehelmet but at other times a low slouch-hat to disguise the fact that he lacked an eye, which waskept as a talisman at the bottom of Mimir's well.One of the distinctive features of northern gods was their mortality. It was claimed that theelder gods were an infinite race, but their sons, starting with Odin, were the product of miscegenation between them and the giants. The Allfather, or creator-god, promised theirdecline, and doomed them to suffer physical death, periodic reincarnation, and a loss of individual identity. The giantess Vol, or Holla, preceded Odin into that dark land , but she wasmagically called back to Urdar fountain at the base of Yggdrasil (Ygg, or Odin's tree) to
provide him with details of the past and the apocalypse, which the king knew lay in the future1. Hear me, all ye holy beingsboth high and low those of Heimdall's children;thou desirest, Valfather, that I place before youthe innermost fates which will befall the world: 2. I remember now the kin of etinsThose long gone who gave me lifeNine worlds I know, nine places withinThe wondrous world-tree, the welkin supporting.3. In the dawn of time was Ymirwhen there was neither sea nor sand nor salty ocean;neither stood earth nor the upper heavens,Naught save the Ginnungagap and green things nowhere.4. Then was the land lifted aloft by Borr's sonsWho fashioned Midgarth, the incomparable earth.Then shone the southern sun on the first dry landTouching ground with the growth of greensward.5. From south the sun, at the side of the moon,Thrust his right hand over heaven's rim;Knowing not what place he held.The moon knew not his own might,Neither knew the stars what stead to hold.6. Then gathered the gods to hold council.The holy ghosts then held converse;to night and the new-moon gave they names;the morning named, and mid-day also,forenoon and evening and ordered the year.7. On Ithafield met the mighty gods;shrine and temples they built from timbers;forges they formed to craft gold,tongs did they shape and tools from this place.8. Played they at draughts in their garth, happy were they,Nor lacked they anything including lustrous gold.Then maidens three from the thruses came,Awful in aspect and might, from etin-home.9. To the coast the Aesir came, kind yet mighty.Three great gods from that long past meeting;on the landward side they found little strength,In a time when Ask and Embla were without fate. 10. Sense this pair had not, soul they lacked,Neither being nor hearing nor blooming hue;But Othin gave soul, and Hoenir sense;

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