volva

Eru Völva allar fra Víðulfi
All the Völva’s from Víðulfi

This is a single line from a longer lineage verse in Hyndluljóð 33.
Víðulfi means, “far-roaming wolf” – so the Völva’s lineage is rooted
in Him, that Far Roaming Wolf.

Eru Völva allar fra Víðulfi – All the Völva’s from Víðulfi
Long before the wolf developed a bad reputation it was considered a primal progenitor – an ancient parent. The importance of the wolf in Old European lore is a subject that I discuss at length in my book Völuspá: Seiðr as Wyrd Consciousness, and the essay, Werewolf: A Northern History and Tradition. Immediately then, let us look to Geri and Freki. Geri means “ravener”, signifying a predator, and Freki means “harsh, rigorous” – both are said to be guardians of Helheim (Fjölsvinnsmál 14). As such we should ask: “Why is Wodan accompanied by two wolves? What do they represent?”

According to the Indo-European, the wolf had human thoughts, spoke with a human tongue, and guarded the gates of the Underworld, and particularly loved the taste of backbiters and bribe takers (1). As a Seið scholar I suggest that the wolf in question here, Víðulfi, is a ‘good’ wolf, as compared to Fenris, a ‘bad’ wolf. I say this because, as companions to Wodan the wolf must also represent might and main, meaning “with all one’s strength”, or physical strength. Whereas Wodan’s ravens – Hugin and Munin – represent Wodan’s “thought” and “memory”, or mental prowess. If so, then one may ask, “What need does a Völva have of such physical strength?”

The lore relates that Völva’s were greatly venerated by Heathen tribes, traveling as they did, upon request, from one farm and bustead (pub and marketstead) to another. Once there, they were treated with cautious respect, for their might was to see and speak an individual or tribes wyrd, equally as they could withdraw it. Their songs of blessing, the varðlokkur, were highly sought after, for these powerful “warding songs” assured rain or good crops, healthy children and strong calves. They were called upon to relate the wyrd of individuals and kinsmen, to speak the Forn Sed in courts of law, to assist women in labor with powerful birthing runes, to heal serious wounds and sickness, and even raise the dead (2).

These women were not warg or outlaws, but far-roaming wanderers who set themselves apart from the surety of hearthfire to live among the Náttúrar, the wild “nature spirits” (3). Living such, they needed wilderness skill, hunting skill, and survival skill – in short, the strength of a wolf. Ever traveling, these Völva’s were always ‘Betwixt and Between’, or in the liminal realm, the sensory threshold between Innengard and Utgard – or what is ‘in’ and safe and settled, and what is ‘out’ and wild and unknown.

Even so, Völva’s are also said to occasionally travel with a ‘band’ or group of kin-singers, usually in numbers reducible to three (4). Some passages in the lore relate that these women had ‘nine sisters’ or ‘twelve singers’; such numbers indicate a structured and initiatory framework, possibly a migratory learning center that would settle in one area for a particular season, when the weather was particularly harsh, for example (5). The fact that the wolf was not wholly bad is found still in common names, such as Wolfgang, Wolfram, Wolfhart, and from Old Irish, Conall, all meaning ‘strong wolf’.

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Reference:
1-Back-biters and Bribe takers. Rig Veda 5:8:2, 8:51:2, 8:55-56:1.
2-Raise the dead. Droplaugarsona saga mentions Alfgerd læknir, or ‘Elf-armor curer/healer’, who raises the dead.
3-Far-roaming wanderers who lived apart from society. See: Völuspá, Vatnsdola saga, Orvar-Odds saga, Þattr af Norna-Gesti and Gisli saga Surssonar, for a few examples.
4-Numbers. Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men, Richard Sharpe, page 84-86; and Hund, Wolf und Krieger bei den Indogermanen, Kim McCone, page 109.
5-Migratory leaning-center. Haralds saga hárfagra 34, and Tryggvasson saga 62.

wolf woman 2

 

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