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Myths The Myth Concerning The Earliest Period And The Emigrations From The North.

Hadding's Journey To The East Reconciliation Between The Asas And Vans

Halfdan's Conflicts Interpreted As Myths Of Nature

Halfdan's Identity With Mannus In Germania

Halfdan's Birth And The End Of The Age Of Peace The Family Names Ylfing Hilding Budlung

The Creation Of Man The Primeval Country Scef The Bringer Of Culture

Hadding's Defeat Loke In The Council And On The Battle-field

The Breach Of Peace Between Asas And Vans Frigg Skade And Ull In The Conflict

Borgar-skjold's Son Halfdan The Third Patriarch

Sorcery The Reverse Of The Sacred Runes Gullveig-heidr The Source Of Sorcery The Moral Deterioration Of The Original Man

The Teutonic Emigration Saga Found In Tacitus

Halfdan's Enmity With Orvandel And Svipdag

Halfdan's Character The Weapon-myth

The Sacred Runes Learned From Heimdal

The World War Its Cause The Murder Of Gullveig-heidr

Loke Causes Enmity Between The Gods And The Original Artists

The Position Of The Divine Clans To The Warriors

The War In Midgard Between Halfdan's Sons

Heimdal And The Sun-dis Dis-goddess

Halfdan And Hamal Foster-brothers The Amalians Fight In Behalf Of Halfdan's Son Hadding

Evidence That Halfdan Is Identical With Helge Hundingsbane

Gulveig-heidr Her Identity With Aurboda Angrboda Hyrrokin The Myth Concerning The Sword Guardian And Fjalar

The Significance Of The Conflict From A Religious-ritual Standpoint

Scef The Author Of Culture Identical With Heimdal-rig The Original Patriarch

Review Of The Svipdag Myth And Its Points Of Connection With The Myth About Halfdan

The World War Its Cause The Murder Of Gullveig-heidr


Source: Teutonic Mythology

Thus the peace of the world and the order of nature might seem secured.
But it is not long before a new war breaks out, to which the former may
be regarded as simply the prelude. The feud, which had its origin in the
judgment passed by the gods on Thjasse's gifts, and which ended in the
marriage of Svipdag and Freyja, was waged for the purpose of securing
again for settlement and culture the ancient domain and Svithiod, where
Heimdal had founded the first community. It was confined within the
limits of the North Teutonic peninsula, and in it the united powers of
Asgard supported the other Teutonic tribes fighting under Halfdan. But
the new conflict rages at the same time in heaven and in earth, between
the divine clans of the Asas and the Vans, and between all the Teutonic
tribes led into war with each other by Halfdan's sons. From the
standpoint of Teutonic mythology it is a world war; and Voeluspa calls it
the first great war in the world--folcvig fyrst i heimi (str. 21, 25).

Loke was the cause of the former prelusive war. His feminine counterpart
and ally Gullveig-Heidr, who gradually is blended, so to speak, into
one with him, causes the other. This is apparent from the following
Voeluspa strophes:

Str. 21. That man hon folcvig
fyrst i heimi
er Gullveig
geirum studdu
oc i haull Hars
hana brendo.

Str. 22. Thrysvar brendo
thrysvar borna
opt osialdan
tho hon en lifir.

Str. 23. Heida hana heto
hvars til husa com
volo velspa
vitti hon ganda
seid hon kuni
seid hon Leikin,
e var hon angan
illrar brudar.

Str. 24. Tha gengo regin oll
a raukstola
ginheilog god
oc um that gettuz
hvart scyldo esir
afrad gialda
etha scyldo godin aull
gildi eiga.

Str. 25. Fleygde Odin
oc i folc um scaut
that var en folcvig
fyrst i heimi.

Brotin var bordvegr
borgar asa
knatto vanir vigspa
vollo sporna.

The first thing to be established in the interpretation of these
strophes is the fact that they, in the order in which they are found in
Codex Regius, and in which I have given them, all belong together and
refer to the same mythic event--that is, to the origin of the great
world war. This is evident from a comparison of strophe 21 with 25, the
first and last of those quoted. Both speak of the war, which is called
folkvig fyrst i heimi. The former strophe informs us that it occurred
as a result of, and in connection with, the murder of Gulveig, a murder
committed in Valhal itself, in the hall of the Asa-father, beneath the
roof where the gods of the Asa-clan are gathered around their father.
The latter strophe tells that the first great war in the world produced
a separation between the two god-clans, the Asas and Vans, a division
caused by the fact that Odin, hurling his spear, interrupted a
discussion between them; and the strophe also explains the result of the
war: the bulwark around Asgard was broken, and the Vans got possession
of the power of the Asas. The discussion or council is explained in
strophe 24. It is there expressly emphasised that all the gods, the Asas
and Vans, regin oll, godin aull, solemnly assemble and seat themselves
on their raukstola to counsel together concerning the murder of
Gullveig-Heidr. Strophe 23 has already described who Gulveig is, and
thus given at least one reason for the hatred of the Asas towards her,
and for the treatment she receives in Odin's hall. It is evident that
she was in Asgard under the name Gulveig, since Gulveig was killed and
burnt in Valhal; but Midgard, the abode of man, has also been the scene
of her activity. There she has roamed about under the name Heidr,
practising the evil arts of black sorcery (see No. 27) and encouraging
the evil passions of mankind: ae var hon angan illrar brudar. Hence
Gulveig suffers the punishment which from time immemorial was
established among the Aryans for the practice of the black art: she was
burnt. And her mysteriously terrible and magic nature is revealed by
the fact that the flames, though kindled by divine hands, do not have
the power over her that they have over other agents of sorcery. The gods
burn her thrice; they pierce the body of the witch with their spears,
and hold her over the flames of the fire. All is in vain. They cannot
prevent her return and regeneration. Thrice burned and thrice born, she
still lives.

After Voeluspa has given an account of the vala who in Asgard was called
Gullveig and on earth Heidr, the poem speaks, in strophe 24, of the
dispute which arose among the gods on account of her murder. The gods
assembled on and around the judgment-seats are divided into two parties,
of which the Asas constitute the one. The fact that the treatment
received by Gulveig can become a question of dispute which ends in
enmity between the gods is a proof that only one of the god-clans has
committed the murder; and since this took place, not in Njord's, or
Frey's, or Freyja's halls, but in Valhal, where Odin rules and is
surrounded by his sons, it follows that the Asas must have committed the
murder. Of course, Vans who were guests in Odin's hall might have been
the perpetrators of the murder; but, on the one hand, the poem would
scarcely have indicated Odin's hall as the place where Gulveig was to be
punished, unless it wished thereby to point out the Asas as the doers of
the deed, and, on the other hand, we cannot conceive the murder as
possible, as described in Voeluspa, if the Vans were the ones who
committed it, and the Asas were Gulveig's protectors; for then the
latter, who were the lords in Valhal, would certainly not have
permitted the Vans quietly and peaceably to subject Gulveig to the long
torture there described, in which she is spitted on spears and held over
the flames to be burnt to ashes.

That the Asas committed the murder is also corroborated by Voeluspa's
account of the question in dispute. One of the views prevailing in the
consultation and discussion in regard to the matter is that the Asas
ought to afrad gjalda in reference to the murder committed. In this
afrad gjalda we meet with a phrase which is echoed in the laws of
Iceland, and in the old codes of Norway and Sweden. There can be no
doubt that the phrase has found its way into the language of the law
from the popular vernacular, and that its legal significance was simply
more definite and precise than its use in the vernacular. The common
popular meaning of the phrase is to pay compensation. The compensation
may be of any kind whatsoever. It may be rent for the use of another's
field, or it may be taxes for the enjoyment of social rights, or it may
be death and wounds for having waged war. In the present instance, it
must mean compensation to be paid by the Asas for the slaying of
Gullveig-Heidr. As such a demand could not be made by the Asas
themselves, it must have been made by the Vans and their supporters in
the discussion. Against this demand we have the proposition from the
Asas that all the gods should gildi eiga. In regard to this disputed
phrase at least so much is clear, that it must contain either an
absolute or a partial counter-proposition to the demand of the Vans, and
its purpose must be that the Asas ought not--at least, not alone--to
pay the compensation for the murder, but that the crime should be
regarded as one in reference to which all the gods, the Asas and the
Vans, were alike guilty, and as one for which they all together should
assume the responsibility.

The discussion does not lead to a friendly settlement. Something must
have been said at which Odin has become deeply offended, for the
Asa-father, distinguished for his wisdom and calmness, hurls his spear
into the midst of those deliberating--a token that the contest of reason
against reason is at an end, and that it is to be followed by a contest
with weapons.

The myth concerning this deliberation between Asas and Vans was well
known to Saxo, and what he has to say about it (Hist., 126 ff.),
turning myth as usual into history, should be compared with Voeluspa's
account, for both these sources complement each other.

The first thing that strikes us in Saxo's narrative is that sorcery, the
black art, plays, as in Voeluspa, the chief part in the chain of events.
His account is taken from a mythic circumstance, mentioned by the
heathen skald Kormak (seid Y ggr til Rindar--Younger Edda, i. 236),
according to which Odin, forced by extreme need, sought the favour of
Rind, and gained his point by sorcery and witchcraft, as he could not
gain it otherwise. According to Saxo, Odin touched Rind with a piece of
bark on which he had inscribed magic songs, and the result was that she
became insane (Rinda ... quam Othinus cortice carminibus adnotato
contingens lymphanti similem reddidit). In immediate connection
herewith it is related that the gods held a council, in which it was
claimed that Odin had stained his divine honour, and ought to be deposed
from his royal dignity (dii ... Othinum variis majestatis detrimentis
divinitatis gloriam maculasse cernentes, collegio suo submovendum
duxerunt--Hist., 129). Among the deeds of which his opponents in this
council accused him was, as it appears from Saxo, at least one of which
he ought to take the consequences, but for which all the gods ought not
to be held responsible ( ... ne vel ipsi, alieno crimine implicati,
insontes nocentis crimine punirentur--Hist., 129; in omnium caput unius
culpam recidere putares, Hist., 130). The result of the deliberation of
the gods is, in Saxo as in Voeluspa, that Odin is banished, and that
another clan of gods than his holds the power for some time. Thereupon
he is, with the consent of the reigning gods, recalled to the throne,
which he henceforth occupies in a brilliant manner. But one of his first
acts after his return is to banish the black art and its agents from
heaven and from earth (Hist., 44).

Thus the chain of events in Saxo both begins and ends with sorcery. It
is the background on which both in Saxo and in Voeluspa those events
occur which are connected with the dispute between the Asas and Vans. In
both the documents the gods meet in council before the breaking out of
the enmity. In both the question turns on a deed done by Odin, for which
certain gods do not wish to take the responsibility. Saxo indicates this
by the words: Ne vel ipsi, alieno crimine implicati innocentes nocentis
crimine punirentur. Voeluspa indicates it by letting the Vans present,
against the proposition that godin oell skyldu gildi eiga, the claim
that Odin's own clan, and it alone, should afrad gjalda. And while
Voeluspa makes Odin suddenly interrupt the deliberations and hurl his
spear among the deliberators, Saxo gives us the explanation of his
sudden wrath. He and his clan had slain and burnt Gulveig-Heid because
she practised sorcery and other evil arts of witchcraft. And as he
refuses to make compensation for the murder and demands that all the
gods take the consequences and share the blame, the Vans have replied in
council, that he too once practised sorcery on the occasion when he
visited Rind, and that, if Gulveig was justly burnt for this crime, then
he ought justly to be deposed from his dignity stained by the same crime
as the ruler of all the gods. Thus Voeluspa's and Saxo's accounts
supplement and illustrate each other.

One dark point remains, however. Why have the Vans objected to the
killing of Gulveig-Heid? Should this clan of gods, celebrated in song as
benevolent, useful, and pure, be kindly disposed toward the evil and
corrupting arts of witchcraft? This cannot have been the meaning of the
myth. As shall be shown, the evil plans of Gulveig-Heid have
particularly been directed against those very Vana-gods who in the
council demand compensation for her death. In this regard Saxo has in
perfect faithfulness toward his mythic source represented Odin on the
one hand, and his opponents among the gods on the other, as alike
hostile to the black art. Odin, who on one occasion and under peculiar
circumstances, which I shall discuss in connection with the Balder myth,
was guilty of the practise of sorcery, is nevertheless the declared
enemy of witchcraft, and Saxo makes him take pains to forbid and
persecute it. The Vans likewise look upon it with horror, and it is this
horror which adds strength to their words when they attack and depose
Odin, because he has himself practised that for which he has punished

The explanation of the fact is, as shall be shown below, that Frey, on
account of a passion of which he is the victim (probably through
sorcery), was driven to marry the giant maid Gerd, whose kin in that way
became friends of the Vans. Frey is obliged to demand satisfaction for a
murder perpetrated on a kinswoman of his wife. The kinship of blood
demands its sacred right, and according to Teutonic ideas of law, the
Vans must act as they do regardless of the moral character of Gulveig.

Next: Gulveig-heidr Her Identity With Aurboda Angrboda Hyrrokin The Myth Concerning The Sword Guardian And Fjalar

Previous: Review Of The Svipdag Myth And Its Points Of Connection With The Myth About Halfdan

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