Back To Index VOLUSPA The 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 war between the sea-giants and the gods. The Eddas also predicted the end of the Nine Worlds fashioned by the gods and the regeneration of worlds beyond time. Folklorist Thomas Keightley has said that "Edda" signifies "grandmother", although others regard it as the feminine of "othr" or "odr", which has the meaning "wisdom". Hatley Burr Alexander, a former teacher of philosophy at the University of Nebraska, felt it "perhaps properly" 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 but anciently called Norraena Tunga (the northern tongue). It was once the common language of all Scandinavia and parts of the old Teutonic lands, but it became restricted to Iceland. The word Edda was at first applied to the younger or prose work, being finally extended to the elder or poetic notations, or "The Edda of Saemund the Wise". A collection of 33 heroic songs, dealing with mythological events, they were thought to have originated with the scalds, or poets, of the pagan north, long before the advent of Christianity. They were assembled on paper between the end of the tenth and the beginning of the twelfth century and were rediscovered by Bishop Brynjolf Sveinsson, who attributed them (perhaps incorrectly) to the historian Saemund (10551152). The prose Edda is credited to Snorri Sturleson (1179-1241). This younger Edda, often referred to as "The Edda of Snorri Sturleson", is based on the poetic Edda, and other ancient poems, 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's reader, 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. According to 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 her how to escape Odin's wrath when she purloined gold from his statue. In some parts of northern Europe she was known as Gullveig (Old Norse, golden drink), and equated with Freya, the goddess of love, and one of the race of sea-giants, called the Vana. Fulla was said to be very attractive, and representing the grains used to brew drink, was pictured as having long flowing golden hair restrained by a single golden circle. She was also called Fulla, Abundia, or Abundantia, 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 in southern Germany. The character of these goddesses is very like that of Frigga, and all are thoroughly confounded although they may once have been separate deities. Holda is considered to have had charge of the weather and when snowflakes fell it was said that she was shaking out her bedclothes. When it rained, it was claimed that the goddess was hanging her wash; and when gray clouds stripped the sky people were sure that she was weaving. In England, the Anglo-Saxons called this lady Eastre, or Ostara, the goddess of spring and in Prussia she was Bertha, or the Wight Lady, the ancestress of Charlemagne and the Imperial German family. Bertha was the patroness of spinners and weavers and as such flitted through villages 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 fine flax; 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 and travelled 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) and Misgard (Middle Earth, the place of men). According to some authorities, he even espoused Odin'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 they turned against him and welcomed the return of Odin, who drove his supplanter into the frozen north. Here, he built a "summer home" into which he retreated until the cold months were entrenched. Because Uller was a cold god, he shared Odin's reputation as a god of death. He possessed a magic ship made from a bone over which magic rune-language had been spoken, a vessel capable 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 for help 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 to a 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: In creating the earth he appointed children of the giant Mundilfari to manage the chariots that pulled the sun and the moon. The gods also summoned Nott (night), the daughter of Norvi, to have charge of the steed named Hrimfaxi (frost-mane), who dropped dew and frost on the ground. This goddess was three times married having sons named Aud and Annar, a daughter Jord 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 was Mimir (memory), who had charge of "the fountain of all wit and knowledge." In this the future was said to be mirrored, but the old gentleman who guarded it would only surrender a draught to Odin after he agreed to surrender one of his eyes. Drinking from this source Odin became one-eyed and all-wise, but depressed by his new insights for he knew that the gods and their worlds were fated to be destroyed. "The knowledge so affected his spirits that he ever after wore a melancholy and contemplative expression." When Odin fought, he wore his eagle helmet but at other times a low slouch-hat to disguise the fact that he lacked an eye, which was kept 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 the elder 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 their decline, 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 was magically 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 future 1. Hear me, all ye holy beings both high and low those of Heimdall's children; thou desirest, Valfather, that I place before you the innermost fates which will befall the world: 2. I remember now the kin of etins Those long gone who gave me life Nine worlds I know, nine places within The wondrous world-tree, the welkin supporting. 3. In the dawn of time was Ymir when 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 sons Who fashioned Midgarth, the incomparable earth. Then shone the southern sun on the first dry land Touching 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;

Being was from Lodur as was redness of face. 11. Another ash I knew, hight Yggdrasil that mighty tree moist with white dews; From which unfolds the floods. Ever green stands it upon Urth's well. 12. Thence came the wise maidens the three etin-kind: Under spreading boughs, their bower built; The hight one is Urth, another Verthandi, Skulld the third: they scores did cut, they laws did make they lives did sum up: for the children of men they scored the fates. 13. I remember the first war in the world came thus: The gods came upon Gullveig and gashed her with spears, In the halls of Hor they burned her form Thrice they burned her, but she was three times reborn, Ever and anon is she born: even now she liveth. 14. Useful she was named in houses where she came, a wise seeress, plier of witchcraft who cast spells as she might, levied fog on the mind: To wicked women she was always welcome. 15. Now came again the gods for counsel, The holy hosts, and held converse: Should the Aesir a truce with tribute buy, Or should all share in the year-end feast. 16. But Othin threw his spear o'er the host: Ending the argument and bringing the first blood-feud; then was broken the breastwork of Asgard, and fighting Vanir their fields trampled. 17. Gathered again the gods for counsel, the holy hosts, and held converse: upbraiding for oaths broken solemn vows lost and the uncouth etins to whom Odin's wife was given. 18. Thewy Thor brought down the foe: But is restless still when of etins he hears: Of the time when oaths were broken as were solemn vows, god's plighted troth, and pledges given. 19. Where Heimdall's horn lies, the dead one knows, Under heaven-touching holy world-tree; On it are shed the tears from Fiolnir's pledge: know ye further or how? 20. Alone she stood by when the lord of gods, Othin the old, her eye did seek:

"What seekest thou to know, why summonest thou me? Well know I, Ygg, where thy eye resteth." 21. She knows that Othin's eye is well hidden in the wondrous well of Mimir; each morn Mimir his mead doth drink out of Fiolnir's pledge: Wish ye further? 22. Then gave Ygg to her armrings and gems for her seeress' sight and the soothsaying: The fates I fathom, yet more I see, of the worlds about both far and wide, 23. The valkryra from afar she beholds, ready to ride on the realms of men: Skulld with her shield, Skogul likewise equipped as also Guth, Hild, Gondul and Geirskogul The height Herian maidens ready to ride o'er reddened battlefields. 24. I saw for Baldr the blessed god Ygg's dearest son what doom is hidden green and glossy, that which grew aloft among trees the mistletoe. 25. The slender-seeming sapling that became the fell weapon in the hands of Hoth; but Baldr's brother was born full soon; but one night old slew him Odin's son. 26. Neither cleansed his hands nor yet combed his hair till Baldr's slayer was chained in Hel; But Frigg wept in Fensalir grieving the awful deed: wish ye more? 27. A captive lies in kettle-grove, A shape like to the lawless Loki; there also sits Sigyn, full sad of mind by her fettered mate: Shall I say on? 28. From the east, through the festerdales, flows the stream called Slith, filled with swords and knives. 29. Waist-deep wade there in the waters swift mainsworn men and murderous, with those who have betrayed a trusted wife's friend; There also gnaws Nithogg upon naked corpses, there too the Fenris-one rends men wit ye more, or how? 30. Stood once in the north on Nitha-fields a golden palace which the dwarfs did own;

elsewhere on Okolnir, was the etin's beer-hall called Brimir the high. 31. A hall stood also fartherest from the sun, on Nastrond's shore: northward stood its doors; drops of poison dripping through its louvres, its walls overrun with coiling snakes. 32. East sat the old one, within Ironwood, bred there also the bad brood of Fenris-wolf. One of these, worse than the others will swallow the sun chasing it down the sky. 33. He feeds on the flesh of fallen men, and with their blood dampens the seats of the gods; these will blacken the sun in the summers of hereafter, the weather none but woe to see; wit ye more, or how? 34. His harp striking on the hill there sat gladsome Yggther, the one who guards the oggress; o'er him gaily in the gallow-tree crowed the fair red cock the one called high Fialar. 35. He crowed o'er the gods. Gullinkambi rouses now the heroes with Herian who dwell; another crows the earth beneath in the halls of Hel the lands of dark red hue. 36. Garm bays loudly before the Gnipa cave, Fenris tears free and dashes to the battle. The fates I know in full yet more I see: of the mighty gods and their impending doom. 37. Brother now will battle to bloody end, And sister's sons their sib betray; woe stalks the world with full wantoness; now falls axe-age, sword-age, sundered shields; wind-age, wolf-age presaging a crumbling world; will the spears of no man spare his brother? 38. Mimir's sons dance to see the doom break to hear the blaring and gleaming of old Giallar-horn; loud heard o'er Heimdall, the shout walks in Hel's dark hall the horror spreadeth. 39. Trembles again the towering Yggdrasil, its leaves sough loudly; unleashed again is the etin; once more Othin with Mim's head speaketh before the sib of Surt doth swallow both. 40. What ails the Aesir and what of the alfs? In uproar are the etins- the Aesir nearly matched.

At the gates to their grots the wise dwarfs groan In their fell-fastness. Wit ye further... 41. Garm bays loudly before the cave, tears him free Fenris and fares to battle! The fates I fathom, and more: I see the mighty gods and their engulfing doom. 42. Now rises Hrym from the east, holding his shield; The Mithgard-worm also rises in a mighty rage scattering the waves; screams also the eagle, his nib tears the dead; Naglfar loosens. 43. Sails a ship from the north with shades from Hel; O'er the ocean it rushes Loki the steersman; in the wake of this wolf rush witless hordes who with baleful Byleist's brother must do fare. 44. Now Surtr from the south with the singer-on-twigs; the war-god's sword flashes like the very sun; the tall hills totter, and the trolls stagger men fare to Hel and the heavens rive. 45. Another woe awaiteth Hlin, when forth ventures Othin to meet the wolf and the slayer of Beli matches against Surtr; then falls Frigga's husband lifeless. 46. Strides now Vithar, Valfather's son, fearless above all, Fenris-wolf to lay low; to the heart he hews him the Hvethrung's son. Avenged then is Vithar's father. 47. Now Hlothyn's son, the hammer-holder; grasps the grisly earth-girdling serpent as Thor strides forth to stay that worm. 48. Mightily mauls that creature Midgarth's warderShall all the wights in this world wander afar-; falls back nine steps Fiorgyn's offspring, Yet there is no fear for his fame from that frightful 49. Beneath the sea the land dips, the sun pales. from the heavens fall the fair bright stars; gushes forth also steam and gutting fire, To the highest heaven roars the hurtling flame. 50. Garm bays loudly before Gnipa cave, Loosens he Fenris who fares forth to battle. The fates I know and more than that: Before me lie the mighty gods and their engulfing end.


51. Again see I, bright green new-risen The earth rises from the sea; fell-torrents flow, overflies them the eagle, on the hoar highlands hunting fish. 52. Again the Aesir on Itha-field meet, and speak of the mighty Midgarth worm, go over again the details of world-doom, and Fimbultyr's unfathomed runes. 53. Then in the grass the golden tablets, the far-famed ones may be found once more which they had owned in elder days, the foremost gods and Fiolnir's kin. 54. On unsown acres the ears will come forth, all bale will be bettered, then will Baldr return. Both he and Hoth with Hropt will dwell and the war-gods alway: do you wit more, or how? 55. Will high-souled Hoenir handle the blood-wands. and Ygg's sons forever dwell in wide wind-home; do you require more? 56. Last cometh doom to the world the great godhood that controls all. 57. Comes last the darksome dragon flying that glossy Nitthogg, survivor from the Nitha-fells; he bears in his pinions as the plains he o'erflies, naked corpses; but now will he sink. Based on the translation of Lee M. Hollander Back To Index