The Völva's Prophecy
A Study Guide
Alt veit ek, Óðinn
hvar þú auga falt:

í inum mœra Mímis brunni;
drekkr mjöð Mímir
morgin hverjan

af veði Valföðrs.
Vituð ér enn eða hvat?

1905 Carl Emil Doepler 'the younger'
Odin meets the Völva
“I know all, Odin,
 where you hid your eye:

in Mimir's famous well;
Mimir drinks mead
every morning

from Valfather’s pledge.
Understand ye yet,
or what?


The poem known as Völuspá is comprised of two similar poems found in manuscripts known as Codex Regius and Hauksbók. While both manuscripts contain many similar and identical verses, each contains unique verses and variant readings not found in the other. All modern versions of this poem contain a mixture of material from both manuscripts. They are:

Snorri Sturluson quotes several verses from Völuspá in Gylfaginning. Many additional variant readings occur in the manuscripts of Snorri's Edda.

Old Icelandic Editions:

1665 Peder Hansen Resen, Voluspa (First modern printing of the poem)
1817 Frederich David Grater,
Volospa hoc est Volae seu Sibyllae Arctoae vaticinium.
1818 Rasmus Rask as "Völu-spá" (p. 1)
1828 Edda Saemundar hinns Fróda: Edda rhythmica seu antiquior
as "Völo-spá" (with facing Latin translation)
1829 Peter Wieseloren Völo-spa: hoc est Carmen Veledæ Islandice et Latine (Icelandic with Latin Translation)
1830 Ludwig Ettmüller as Vaulu-spá: Das älteste Denkmal germanisch-nordischer Sprache
1876 Karl Hildebrand as "Völuspá"
1899 Ferdinand Detter as Die Völuspa
1954 Guðni Jónsson in
Eddukvæði as Völuspá
English Translations:

The first English citation of Völuspá, representing parts of strophes 3 and 5 quoted in Snorri's Edda, occurs in Paul Henri Mallet's Northern Antiquities (1770), p. 105, under the title "VOLUSPA" or "The Oracle of the Prophetess". Translated from the French of Mallet, it reads:
"In the day-spring of the ages there was neither sea nor shore, nor refreshing breezes. There was neither earth below, nor heaven above, to be distinguished. The whole was only one vast abyss, without herb, and without seeds. The sun had then no palace : the stars knew not their dwelling places: the moon was ignorant of her power."
Völuspá is conspicuously absent from the first English-language collection of Eddaic poems: Amos Simon Cottle's, Icelandic Poetry or The Edda of Saemund (1797). This is because his is a translation of Edda Saemundar hinns Fróda: Edda rhythmica seu antiquior (1787), which did not include the poem. Völuspá and Hávamál had been previously published in 1665 by Peder Hansen Resen in Edda Islandorum. In his preface (p. xxix), Cottle indicates that he "has omitted one ode in this series, on account of its containing nothing of the Northern mythology. It is filled with little else but the absurd superstitions of the Church of Rome." By this he means Sólarljóð.

Ironically, Völuspá was among the first Eddaic poems to be published and one of the last to be translated into English. It was first published in 1665, followed by several mid- to late-18th century translations into Swedish, French, and German before being accurately translated into English for the first time in 1819 (abridged) and 1823 (complete).  For a more detailed context of this poem's publication history, see:

Chronological Order of the Earliest English Translations of the Eddaic Poems

Historic Editions and Translations of the Poetic Edda in Languages Other Than English

Although sometimes identified as the first English translations of Völuspá, the following two are original works only loosely based on the poem:

                  Prowett's poem of 1816 is clearly a revision of  "An Imitation of the Prophecy of the Edda" (1795)  published anonymously in "The Vision: A Poem ...with other Pieces" (1797), p. 33 with the disclaimer:

"The greater part of the images which form the composition, are taken from Voluspa or speech of the Prophetess. I have taken some prominent features of the Oracle and dropt others which were more particular, or interrupted the thread of the narration. Other parts again I have taken the liberty of supplying from invention: it was not meant to be a version of Voluspa, but only to throw together their leading opinions of a future state."

      Actual Translations of Völuspá into English in chronological order of publication are:


Danish Translations:

1821 Finnur Magnússon as "Valas Spaadom eller Spaaqvindens Sang"     
1860 En Lægmand as "Valas Sandsagn"
1870 H. G. Møller as "
Vølvens Spådom"
1876 Frederick Hammerich as "Vølvespå: Nordens ældste digt"
French Translations:
1763 Louis-Félix Guynement de Keralio as "Vaulospa: Ou L'Oracle de la Sybille
1838 Frederic G. Bergmann as "
Visions de Vala"
1839 Édélestand Du Méril as "Le Chant de la Sibylle"
1842 Xavier Marmier in Chants populaires du Nord as "La Voluspa"
1844 Rosalie du Puget as "Prediction de Wola-la-Savante"
German Translations:

2 Michael Denis as Die Lehren der Vola (reprinted 1784)
1779 Johannes G. von Herder as "
Das Grab der Prophetin"
1818 Frederich Majer as "Die Weisheit der Seherin"

1829 Gustav T. Legis as "
Der Völa heiliga Weihsagung und Lehre"
1829 Jakob L. Studbach as "Das Wolagesicht"
1830 Ludwig Ettmuller as "Der Wala Weissagung"

1874 Karl Simrock as "Völuspá: Die Seherin Ausspruch"
1877 Bodo Wenzel as "Der Ausspruch der Vala"

1889 Wilhelm Jordan as "
Die Wala Weissagung"
1903 Friedrich Fischbach as "Wala Offenbarung" (p. 1)
1904 Hugo Gehring as "Der Seherin Weissagung"
1912 Leopold Weber in Kunstwart. XXV, pp. 296-312
1922 Rudolf John Gorsleben as "Seherin Gesicht"

Italian Translations:

1908 T. Cannizarro as "La Vision della Profetessa"
2005 Dario Giansanti and Oliviero Canetti as "Profezia della Veggente"

Spanish Translations:

1856 D.A. de los Rios as "Prediccion de la sabia Wola" (Wolu-spa)
Translated into Spanish from the French of du Puget (1843)

Swedish Translations:                  

1750 Johan Göransson as Voulo-spa
1818 Arvid August Afzelius as "
Valas Visdom"
1824  In Iduna, Vol. 3 as "Wala's Wisdom" with facing Old Norse Text
1877 Peter August Gödecke as
"Valans Visdom"
1880s Viktor Rydberg as "Valans Sång" (A 'restored' version of the poem)

1906 Karl Ljungestedt as "
Valans Spådom"


  [R=Codex Regius; H=Hauksbók]

1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20
R21/H26 R22/H27 R23/H28 R24/H29 R25/H21
R26/H22 R27/H23 R28 R29 R30
R31 R32 R33 R34/H30 H31
R35 R36 R37/H34 R38/H35 R39/H24
R40/H25 R41/H32 R42/H33 R43/H36 R44/H37
R45/H38 R46/H39 R47/H41 R48/H42 R49/H43
R50/H40 R51/H41 R52/H45 H46 R53
H47 R54/H48 R55/H49 R56/H50 R57/H51
R58/H52 R59/H53 R60/H54 R61/H55 R62/H56
      H57 R63/H58

1903 F. Detter and R. Heinzel, Notes to Völuspá
1997 Ursula Dronke, Völuspá in The Poetic Edda, Vol. II.


Selected Scholarship

The Theory of a Christian Origin
Bang, Bugge and Rydberg: Völuspá and the Sibylline Prophecies
1879 Anton Christian Bang, Vøluspaa og de Sibyllinske Orakler
1880 J.M. Hart, "Keltic and Germanic" in American Journal of Philology, Volume 1
1881 Viktor Rydberg Sibyllinerna och Völuspa in Nordisk Tidskrift
Sophus Bugge, Nogle Bemærkninger om Sibyllinerne og Voluspa in Nordisk Tidskrift IV 8. 163—172.

1881 Viktor Rydberg Astrologien och Merlin in Nordisk Tidskrift
1897 James Wilkerson,
The Book of Edda called Völuspá
1899 Sophus Bugge,  The Home of the Eddic poems: with especial reference to the Helgi-lays
Gro Steinsland, Völuspá: – a Source to Norse Pagan Mythology or a Christian Revelation in Disguise of a Classical Sibylline Oracle?
General Scholarship
1889 Hugo Elard Meyer, Völuspá: Eine Undersuchung
1899 Ferdinand Detter, Völuspá
1923 Sigurd Nordal, editor. Völuspá. Translated by B.S. Benedikz and John McKinnell (1978)
1988 Paul Schach "Some Thoughts on Völuspá
1997 Ursula Dronke, The Poetic Edda, Volume 2, The Mythological Poems: "Völuspá" pp. 7-153.
2004 Joseph Harris, "Myth and Literary History: Two Germanic Examples" in Oral Tradition, 19/1 pp. 3-19
2005 Völuspá bibliography in Carol J. Clover, John Lindow, eds. Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: a Critical Guide
2007 Daisy L. Neijmann. A History of Icelandic Literature
2013 Gunnell, Terry and Annette Lassen, eds., The Nordic Apocalypse: Approaches to Völuspá and Nordic Days of Judgement