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Norse Witch: Gullveig

Gullveig is an important female figure mentioned in two stanzas in the Völuspá, one of the poems in the Nordic Poetic Edda. Her prominent role describes the events leading to the Aesir-Vanir War, the war between the two main tribes of deities in Norse mythology, the Aesir and the Vanir and the destruction of the worlds in Ragnarok.

Gullveig is introduced thus:

“I remember the first murder ever in the world, when Gullveig was pierced by spears and burned in Odin’s hall.

They burned her three times, she was reborn three times;

often killed–not a few times!-still she would live again.

They named her Heith

when she came into their homes, a sorceress who foresaw good things.

She knew magic, she knew witchcraft, she practiced witchcraft.

She was the pride of an evil family.

Then all the gods went to their thrones,

those holy, holy gods,

and came to a decision,

about whether they should endure

Gullveig’s depradations

or whether they

should seek revenge.”

These stanzas tell us that Gullveig was a practitioner of magic, often called the “seidr” (seiðr) in Old Norse. Magic was seen as highly ambivalent amongst the Norse. Its practitioners often provided valuable services, but their art inherently increased their personal power in ways that rulers felt threatened and others to be underhanded

There are scholars who believe that Gullveig is the Vanir goddess Freya by another name. Freya weeps tears of gold and owns the golden, jewel-studded necklace Brísingamen which is possibly the most precious piece of jewelry in Old Norse literature. She also teaches the sedir to Odín.

Other scholars believe that Gullveig is the ghost summoned in Hel and consulted about Frigg’s dreams that her favourite son Baldr will die. The ghost tells again of the coming of Ragnarok- the Doom of the Gods.

Source:

The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes. Völuspá, stanzas 21-23. Jackson Crawford, pp. 6-7.