Gullveig

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In Norse mythology, Gullveig (Old Norse, potentially "gold drink" or "gold might") is a mysterious figure who appears solely in the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá in association with the Æsir-Vanir War. In the poem, Gullveig is stated to have been burned three times in Odin's hall, yet to have been three times reborn.

Contents

Völuspá

Gullveig is only mentioned, at least by that name, in the Völuspá, stanza 21. The seeress, after her account of the coming of the Norns, continues:

The wide-seeing witch,       in magic wise;
Minds she bewitched       that were moved by her magic,
To evil women       a joy she was.

The war I remember,       the first in the world,
When the gods with spears       had smitten Gullveig,
And in the hall       of Hár had burned her,
Three times burned,       and three times born,
Oft and again,       yet ever she lives.

Heiðr they named her       who sought their home,
The wide-seeing witch,       in magic wise;
Minds she bewitched      that were moved by her magic,
To evil women       a joy she was.[1]

Hár, 'High', is a common name for Odin. Heiðr means 'gleaming' and as a noun 'honor'. It is a common name for seeresses or witches in the sagas, notably in the Landnámabók, in the Hrólfs saga kraka, and in Örvar-Odds saga. The Old Norse uses the term seið, a particular type of magic, often looked on pejoratively. The phrase translated here "Minds she bewitched that were moved by her magic" can also be rendered as "worked seið in a trance".

It is generally assumed that the two stanzas are connected and that Heiðr is another name for Gullveig. The poem continues with a council apparently about who should pay "wergild" for Gullveig and that leads into a war with the Vanir.

Commentators speculate variously on this passage, but with general agreement that in part it speaks about the corrupting power of gold and generally understanding that mistreatment of this Gullveig was the reason for the resultant war between the Æsir and Vanir. Gullveig is usually taken to be one of the Vanir.

Theories

Gullveig's brief mention in surviving texts has resulted in a number of scholars and others speculating on the nature of the figure.

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