by William P. Reaves

© 2018
The Völva's Prophecy

Normalized 2
Codex Regius 2

Hauksbók 2

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I remember giants

  Ek   man jötna   
  I to call to mind, remember giants  
  124 437 328  
    muna jötunn  

born early on,
  ár  um borna,    
  early of to give birth to  
  44 649 58  
  esp. in the sense of yore   bera  

  who long ago
  þá er   forðum mik
  then, thereupon which, who, that  aforetime, formerly, once, erst, me
  732 131 164 427
      esp. in the sense of yore, in days of old personal pronoun, accusative, ek

 had nutured me;

  fœdda höfðu      
   to rear, bring up
to feed, give food to
to have    
  181 228    
fæða pret. ind. pl. 3, hafa

Nine homes I remember,
  Níu man   ek heima
  Nine to call to mind, remember I homes
  456 437 124 249

nine wood-ogresses,

  níu    íviðjur    
  nine ogresses cp. í-viðja     
  456 320    
    The R reading: íviði, "in the wood", is erroneous.    

 the famous Measure-Tree,

  mjötvið   mæran    
  mjöt- : measure
viðr- :  a tree
 famous, glorious, great    
  433 443    
  cp. mjötuðr, v.  45
cp. mjöðr- : mead

down beneath the earth.

  fyr  mold neðan  
  joined with adverbs ending in -anfyrir neðan, denoting direction earth, mould
(from, mala and mylja)
from beneath, from below  
  182 434 450  
  preposition fyrir        

  2. I remember giants,
    born early on,
    who long ago
    had nutured me;
    Nine homes I remember,
    nine wood-ogresses,
    the famous Measure-Tree
    down beneath the earth.

2/2 ár um borna, "born at the beginning of existence". These age-old giants fostered the sibyl, who says nothing of her ancestry. This fostering explains how she could possess true stories of the world from the earliest times. [Sigurd Nordal, Völuspá, p. 9].

Níu heima, has its analogue in Vafþrúdnismál 43: níu kom ek heima fyr Niflhel neðan; hinig deyja ór helju halir, "I have come to nine worlds, down below Niflhel; into those worlds men die from Hel." Although the geography here is unclear, the 'nine homes' must be the realms of the dead. [Ursula Dronke, P.E. II, p. 9]. Germanic cosmology divides the universal structure into nine 'homes' or 'worlds' (níu heimar), but the separate regions cannot be named with certainty. It would seem as if only the number nine itself was fixed. While Völuspá 2 speaks of nine worlds in its all-inclusive sense, the old giant in Vafþrúðnismál 43 speaks of nine heimar down below Niflhel, these being regions of punishment. Conversely, nine heavens are mentioned and called by name in Skáldskaparmál 75, [Anthony Faulkes tr.]. The concept of nine heavens is preserved in a list of their names in a þula of Himins heiti, Níu eru heimar/á hæð talðir, 'Nine are the heavens counted on high." A recurrent pattern observed in early religious literature of a number of Indo-European stocks, Greece and India in particular, suggests a physical triparition of the universe. [J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams, Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, p. 131]. Remnants of a system of nine layers above heaven and nine below can be seen in Hesiod's Theogony 722-8, where the  'layers' have become distances measured by time; a nine days drop from heaven to earth, another nine days from earth to Tartarus. [Dronke, Poetic Edda Vol. II, p. 109-110]. Compare Hermod's nine day ride to Hel to get news of Baldur in Gylfaginning 49 and return with the ring Draupnir, also referenced in Skírnismál 21.  Likewise, Vedic cosmology divides the universe into nine, or three times three, world-regions, but its subdivisions never seem to be the same. Usually three earths, three atmospheres, and three heavens are spoken of and the three earths are represented as lying one beneath the other. See Rigveda IV, 53, 5 which reads: "Savitar thrice surrounding with his mightiness mid-air, three regions, and the triple sphere of light, sets the three heavens in motion and the threefold earth, and willingly protects us with his triple law." [Griffith tr.]. See also Rigv. I, 34, 8; I, 108, 9; II, 27, 8; III, 56, 8; V, 60, 6; VII, 87, 5; IX, 113, 9, among others.

2/6:  íviðjur, plural of íviðja, a rare word meaning "troll-wife" also recorded in Hyndluljóð 48, and in a þula of heiti for troll-women, where it may have originally meant "she who dwells is the woods" or "malicious creature" (cp. íviðgjarn, 'wicked, evil' and OE inwidde, adj. 'malicious'),  [Sigurd Nordal, Völuspa, p. 9].  In Hrafnagaldur Óðins 1: elr íviðja, íviðja bears offspring. Likewise, in aldna  í Járnviði, 'the old one in the Ironwood', who is identified as a giantess by its location "in the east", breeds Fenris kindir, 'Fenrir's progeny' in  Völuspá 39. Compare this to the numerous offspring of járnviðja, a term applied to Skadi in Háleygjatal 3/4 by Eyvindr Finnsson (c. 980), who bears many sons to Odin. [Dronke, P.E. Vol. II, p. 142].

In the 1970s, x-ray analysis of the Codex Regius manuscript proved that the reading íviði, "in the wood", is erroneous.

níu íviðjur:
This has been interpreted in various ways, but there is little hope of it ever being fully explained, (Sigurd Nordal, Völuspa, p. 9). Sophus Bugge suggests that the níu íviðjur are Heimdall's nine mothers named in Hyndluljóð 35, said to turn the world mill as eylúðrs níu brúðir, 'the nine brides of the island-mill', in a lausavísa attributed to a certain Snæbjörn . Although the nine names attributed to the giant maidens in Hyndluljóð 35 contain no elements relating to trees or roots,  Ursula Dronke concludes, "as Heimdall is the world-tree", his mothers "must be the roots (well expressed as 'sisters)." [P.E. II, p. 109].   The physical image of a tree growing out of a giantess' body is preserved in a curse in Helgakviða Hjörvardsson 16. The giantess Hrímgerðr is cursed into the earth, Nío röstom/ er þú skyldir neðarr vera,/ ok vaxi þér á baðmi barr! "Nine miles deeper down you should be, and may a tree (lit. a pine needle) grow on your bosom!"

The poem places a fair amount of emphasis on trees. This strophe is the first of three sections of Völuspá that chart the origin and life of this specific Norse tree, and ultimately herald its death.  [Lars Schlereth, British Theories of Mythology and Old Norse Poetry, p. 157].

2/7 mjötvið, "measuring tree" , see also mjötuðr, v.  45.

2/8 fyr mold neðan: Ursula Dronke takes this to mean that the völva first knew the world-tree only as its roots before it broke out into the light, but acknowledges the reference might more generally include the subterranean world (nío heima...) she remembers [P.E. II, p. 110].

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