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Voluspa – A Symbolic Cross – Section of an Ancient Norse Religious Poem Part 1

What I find immediately most compelling about Freya Aswynn’s translation of the Voluspa is that the first few stanzas are mysteriously missing from any other translation I have come across. This prologue, for so it seems to be, identifies the speaker as a magic user and lists what appears to be credentials for her in that guise. She tells us of her renown, not only to human agencies, but also among the Aesir. The seeress’ power, it seems comes from knowing Odin and from receiving his gifts of jewelry and wisdom. She knows where his eye is hidden, and where Heimdal’s horn is also hidden. Both are power objects to the gods. The eye of Odin represents in this case the power of clairvoyance (as we know Odin sees all from his throne) granted to the seer, while the Gjallerhorn represents the power of clairaudience (as Heimdal not only hears the hair growing on the backs of sheep, but is able to warn the Aesir of the impending doom of Ragnarok). From these proclamations we are led to trust the word of the Seer as truth, for her knowledge comes directly from the Aesir themselves. The final catch phrase of the stanza “well would you know more?” not only implies that the Seer’s wisdom is vast but also echoes a challenge to defy her knowledge, or to test her. A challenge which, it is probable, would be dangerous to make.

The next stanza begins the Voluspa proper, or rather, the section most often quoted by translators. It begins with a call for silence, identifying her audience as the many peoples of Midgard. Heimdal’s excursion as Rig shows us that all people are descendants of the same gods, or rather that the DNA of the gods has made its way into every social class through interbreeding with divine beings. The Seer tells us that Odin is asking her to relate tales to us from as far back as she can remember. As the tone of the tale related suggests that all of history is being here explained, we can assume that not only the span of human history is explained, but also that she is digging back into her own memory to the earliest things that were there contained, i.e.) the first gleanings of childhood. It is no surprise in that context that we come across references to ‘giants who fed me in former days’. Who are these giants? A moment of reflection in honesty gives us a vision of our own parents hovering over our crib: nameless masses of google-eyed drooling idiocy poking and fawning over us with their faux baby-talk giving us food when we cry and changing our diapers. These ancestral beginnings are also related to the open endless void of Gunningagap, which can be correlated with the primal whirling of Kether in the KBLH or the ‘Alaya Vijnana’ of Buddhism. In this place, things are devoid of form, quality or even differentiation. There are no ‘things’ as it were. No objects, thoughts, or images, but only the open endlessness of the void. Bur’s sons are then depicted as being responsible for the creation of Midgard. They are the creative forces in nature manifesting a conception of the world around the developing child whose eyes have just seen the forms surrounding them. There follows a state of confusion, where the elements of the world represented by the planets, stars and sun are in the sky, but have no idea what their proper place is. By relating this process to similarities in the Qabalistic tradition, we see things moving through the primary triurnal from Kether through the creative forces of Chokmah (where Bur’s sons give the primal energy of the void impetus towards creation) and into form in Binah. At this stage, there is still no order to the movements of these planets (that will come in Chesed) and the planets are depicted as being in a state of chaos. This is also reflected in the Taoist tradition as the movement of primal energy out of the state of Wuji (void) into the primary duality of Yang and Yin (force and form respectively).

 

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