Völuspá - last stanza

in #poetry3 years ago

One of the most important and also one of the most interesting texts from the old Norse cultures is the opening poem of the Poetic Edda; The Völuspá or Prophecy of the Völva.

As is the case with the Greek poet Hesiod whose poem Theogony is the primary source to the Ancient Greek cosmology, the unknown writer of the Völuspá covers both the beginning where the Gods build the world from the dead body of Hymer and the end - Ragnarok.

But the thing I want to talk about comes after the end, because the last stanzas describes a fireproff hall in Valhalla that has survived the scorching and where now a new world arises with a single god. The Hall is called Gimle and the one God is most often interpreted as the Christian God - the texts that survived in Iceland was all from the early middle ages and the word of the Christian God had begun to play an important role.

So Gimli dominates the end of the poem this place where peace and light rules, but then we come to the last stanza.

          There flies the gloomy
          glistening serpent,
          the dark dragon
          from Nida-fels.
          flying over the battlefields
          between Nidhugg's wingfeathers
          corpses hang.
          Now she will descend.

(This is my interpretation built on the original text and different Scandinavian translations.)

It is as if the nice mood of the new God suddenly is blown away. It is as if the poet relapses to the old religion when he, or she, evokes this terrible image: Over the Val, the battlefield, you can still see the dragon of Hel collecting the fallen, between the feathers of its wings lies dead bodies.

No one knows the exact meaning of this strange postlude, but it is fascinating, gloomy and strange. You might have wondered about the last line, but what it refers to is the Vølve who goes out of her seer-trance, descending from her visions.

If this interested you take a look at this old post where I have translated another last verse of a historic text - and the Völuspá plays a role also in this poem:

N.S.F. Grundtvig

Drawing made by myself...


I remember rading the poem (Actually, the whole edda) some yeara GO, and i had the feeling i read another translation for that bit (By the way, it is an awesome piece).

So, i went to the internet and hala! This is the traslation I remembered:

From below the dragon
dark comes forth,
Nithhogg flying
from Nithafjoll;
The bodies of men on
his wings he bears,
The serpent bright:
but now must I sink.

Indeed, this is a powerful and gloomy scene. A vision of a true nightmare, but also a fascinating example of a culture and a mythology that never stops to amaze me.

Thank you very much for sharing!


Well.."corpses hang" I think that says it all. Good drawing as well again love your woodcut erasing style!

Yes, the drawing is woodcut erasing style in its pure form :)

Woah, I love this! I really want to get more into ancient poetry of Norse and Irish origins, getting into druids and bards and poets of long ago, and words of power.

Thank you for this inspiration and insight, truely fascinating <3

Sadly we know almost nothing about the druids - but the Norse mythology has many sources. For a quality introduction in fictive form I have heard that Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman should be good

If you are interested in the philological aspects or want the original texts I am not sure what to propose but your local library might help you with that.

Good reading :)

There is actually a pretty good collection of information for the Irish cycles, other places not so much. I have a few books of my own, one of Goddess' and the brief history of the druids by Peter Berresford Ellis. It seems to be a strong introduction.

I also use the website BardMythologies for the Irish stuff. I have read that bards, druids and poets, although not entirely the same are quite similar, so you can infer a lot of stuff about the poetic schools is also similar to the druidic schools.

Is there a Norse equivalent to the druids? I know I have read about Scandinavian shamans at least.

Thank you for your time!

The druids play a big role in Irish mediaeval mythology, that is true, what I meant was that almost nothing remains of their religion and myth. The Romans eradicated them rather thoroughly, and the best sources we have are Roman. But as with the Slavic mythology a lot can of course be gathered from folklore.

In Scandinavia you had heathen priests, probably very much like the druids, called godi. They are named on many runestones. You also had female sorceress, called seid-women or vølva just like the one that is supposed talk in the poem I wrote about above.

No problem with using my time! I am just glad people will write some real comments instead of great post, sir. I will see if I can find Peter Berresford Ellis' book about the druids.

Have you ever studied the Tuatha de Danaan of Ireland?
It is a shame that the Romans basically did cultural genocide, like all over the place. What they didn't eradicate Christianity twisted to fit their own stories. Most of the ancient Irish stories were written by medieval monks.

I really would love to get into studying Norse and Scandinavian myth and old religion, I find it entirely fascinating. I have scottish and dutch anscestors, do you know if Scandanavian old religion reached as far south as to Holland?

I think that comments add quality and insight into posts, so I try to make them relevent and interesting haha. Its a good way to make friends too.

No, I only have a superficial knowledge of the Irish mythology; I never read any of the original texts, but it is something that I would like to study more especially because my comic is about England and sports three forgotten Celtic Gods (of my own invention). So it is very much on my todo-list.

There's a lot of literature about Norse Myth and you can also find translations of the original texts in English, which is what I find most fascinating. Even on the internet I think. I have a special Nordic website with all the original texts I use, but it is in the West Scandinavian languages only.

Holland was as far as I know a bit of a borderland between the Celtic and the Germanic world and as the Rhine, that became the frontier of the Roman empire after they gave up on conquering the wild Germanic people, runs south of Holland there is a good chance that they shared the same Gods and myths. Scotland is even more connected to the Northern cultures, even today. If you take your boat and go straight west from Denmark you will end in Scotland, and many Danes did exactly that back in the time of the Viking invasions. You have many places in SCotland with old Danish names.

In this post for example the most interesting things is in the comments :)

Irish myth is entirely fascinating. Bard Mythologies has audio recordings of myths you can listen to for easy learning too! I want to make update posts about the Tuatha, I have written a really long essay on them haha.

I did not know that Holland was on the border between them all, very interesting indeed. I really want to get deeper into my own ansestry and history, its very fascinating stuff! I couldnt learn enough about ancient history in a single lifetime haha.
Also, sounds like a cool comic!

Thanks I will try to check them out. When making not too complicated work I sometimes listen to podcasts.

I post my comic here on Steemit every Thursday and you can also read it here: http://phillfromgchq.co.uk/

actually the first time i heard about falhalla and the so-called the great hall has something to do with Christianity the old Scandinavian used to believe in this, for the stanza actually i have no idea cause it seems really deep and thank you for this

You are welcome, ancient mythology is a fascinating but difficult topic. I am glad you read it.

yes indeed it's really fascinating but i'm looking for more post that kind from you thank you brother

I'll see if I can find the time :)

I've never come across that poem but great explanation for it you got...

However, this drawing looks so real

As I live in Denmark and this is from the heathen past of my people it is quite well known here, but it is of course not common to read In Nigeria :) Glad you liked the sinister drawing.

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