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Gullveig

Gullveig

Gullveig (Drunkenness (or power) of gold) is a magician that can only be found in the Völuspá, a poem of Norse mythology probably composed in the 10th or 11th century.

History

The Aesir kill her with a sword and burn her three times in vain. This is what would have triggered the first world war. Georges Dumézil considers Gullveig as a Vanir because it fits with her name and her essence: gold, which, like any form of wealth, is placed under their patronage. Gullveig would be a hypostasis of the goddess Freya or the goddess herself.

Interpretations of the myth

K. V. Müllenhoff sees in the violence done to Gullveig the mythological account of the birth of the technique of purification of precious ore. Georges Dumézil, for his part, sees in this episode a more moral significance: the Aesir already possessed gold and knew how to work it.

This gold allowed for a life of harmony and joy, but with the appearance of the evil Gullveig it is bad gold that appears, that which makes drunk, that which degrades and is socially dangerous. This is why the Aesir, the just and vigorous gods, tried, but in vain, to annihilate this harmful character.

For Jean Haudry, if the etymology is difficult, the meaning of the character is not: "it is about greed as a source of decadence".

Viktor Rydberg hypothesized a connection between Gullveig's Völuspá song and two songs in the Völuspá hin skamma (found in some edition of the Poetic Edda as the last part of the poem Hyndluljóð), in which Loki finds a woman's heart in the ashes and eats it, getting pregnant and then giving birth to "women-trolls."

If that heart that Loki ate is Gullveig's, then Gullveig might still be alive through these women-trolls that Loki begat. "Women-troll" could also refer to seers and malevolent witches in general. The word flagð means 'woman-troll, female monster, ogre, giantess, witch.' But metaphorically it can also mean female wolves, or all wolves, or even monsters in general.

The Völuspá hin skamma also refers to Heid and Hrossthjóf (another unknown name) as Hrímnir's sons in a context that suggests that Hrímnir is a giant.

viking-jewelry

Rydberg took the tale of Loki eating the heart as a recapitulation of the previous canto, and thus identified Gullveig with Angrboða, Fenrir's mother. To make this work Rydberg translates flagð 'woman-troll' as referring to trolls of both sexes and includes Fenrir among them. However, Snorri Sturluson in his Edda knew that Angrboda was a giantess of Jǫtunheim and that with Loki she sired Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hel and gives no indication that Loki gave birth to any of them alone.

Rydberg also identifies his Gullveig/Angrboda with the old woman of Járnviðr mentioned in the 49th canto of Völuspá, where she raises Fenrir's lineage, a normal interpretation. More daring is his association of Gullveig, Angrboda and the old woman with Aurboda, the wife of Gymir and mother of Gerðr and also with the giantess Hyrrokin, who is said to have been killed by Thor in a list in the þulur.

Rydberg believes that Gullveig was finally killed by Thor's hammer Mjolnir. Rydberg then notes that in the Svipdagsmál Aurboda is also the name of one of Menglöd's nine maidservants (Menglöd is often understood as a variant of Freya), that Heid was the name of Hrímnir's daughter, and that in the Völsunga saga Hljóð is both the daughter of the giant Hrímnir and Frigg's maidservant. This Hljóð marries the hero Volsung and thus begets the hero Sigmund. Rydberg takes them all to be other variants of Gullveig.

Rydberg's multiple identifications are generally not accepted by the latest scholars.

A different theory supported by Gabriel Turville-Petre is that Gullveig is a name for the goddess Freya. In the Edda prose story Gylfaginning, Freya cries tears of gold for her husband Odr in his absence and that she is the mother of Gersemi and Hnoss, whose names both mean "treasure." Freya is often associated with the love of jewelry and treasures in representations that have come down to us.

In Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, in Ynglinga Saga, chapter 4, Snorri explains that it was Freya who introduced Seidr (Norse Magic) among the Aesir since it was fashionable among the Vanir. Therefore if the theory about Gullveig being a Vanir is correct this would be an acceptable interpretation of this myth.