Völuspá

Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva or seeress addressing Odin. It is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology.

The prophecy commences with an address to Odin. The seeress then starts relating the story of the creation of the world in an abridged form. She explains how she came by her knowledge and that she understands the source of Odin’s omniscience, and other secrets of the gods of Asgard. She deals with present and future happenings, touching on many of the Norse myths, such as the death of Baldr and the binding of Loki. Ultimately the seeress tells of the end of the world, Ragnarök, and its second coming.

Völuspá is found in the Codex Regius manuscript (ca. 1270) and in Haukr Erlendsson’s Hauksbók Codex (ca. 1334), and many of its stanzas are quoted or paraphrased in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda (composed ca. 1220, oldest extant manuscript dates from ca. 1300). The order and number of the stanzas varies in these sources. Some editors and translators have further rearranged the material. The Codex Regius version is usually taken as a base for editions.

Völuspá is still one of the most discussed poems of the “Poetic Edda” and dates to the 10th century, the century before the Christianization of Iceland. Most scholars agree that there are Christian influences on the text, some specifically pointing out parallels with the Sibylline Prophecies.Bellows stated in 1936 that the author of Völuspá would have had knowledge of Christianity and infused it in his poem. Bellows dates the poem to the 10th century which was a transitional period between paganism and Christianity and both religions would have co-existed before Christianity was declared the official religion on Iceland and the old paganism was tolerated if practiced in private. This allowed the traditions to survive to an extent in Iceland unlike in mainland Scandinavia. Some authors have pointed out that there is religious syncretism in the text.

Some have suggested that the Dvergatal section and the part where the “Almighty who rules over all” are later insertions to the poem. Although some have identified “the Almighty” (a seemingly alien concept in Norse Mythology) with Jesus, Bellows thought this was not necessarily the case.

The English translation chosen for the Poetic Edda is by Henry Adams Bellows, from a 1936 publication that is now in Public Domain.

Bellows’ Translation has been corrected where there have been clear issues with the numbering of stanzas and where the author has clearly strayed from the Old Norse original text. All other areas of the translation are the original works of Henry Adams Bellows.

Odin and the Völva” (1895) by Lorenz Frølich

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