(Ed. Comment) This dissertation on the Voluspa illustrates some of the confusion about the Gods of the Wanr and the Aesr. By the time the Edda, of which the Voluspa is part, was compiled by Snorri -- the Aesir claimed they were THE Norse people and their Gods were THE Norse Gods. Typical of the Aesir. The Vanir seem never to have been interested enough to correct that attitude. Typical of the Vanr!

"Thoughts on the Voluspa"
1. The Voluspa is a long poem contained within the collection of Old Icelandic poetry known as the Poetic Edda. Written somewhere about 1000 BCE it marks the end of the heathen era and the start of the the Christian age. That being so, it is the single best source for understanding the views of the Pagan Norse speaking peoples concerning the beginning of the world and of the doom of the gods. In fact, it was to discover the secrets of the beginning and end, that Odin rode down into Hel's realm and called up from her sleep an Etin seeress. The poem, itself, is the text of her speech. (ed. note: The Feri folk lived underground so there was some confusion among the Aesr about the Feris being dead souls. Feris, being Feris, were amused by the confusion.)
2. Apparently Odin does not have foresight of future events and often has to go down into Helheim to call up the dead, to question them. From his high seat he has a view of all the worlds in the present, but is limited in knowledge about times where he was not present. He has two ravens who go to and fro into the worlds to bring back news. So he is limited in foreknowledge which makes Odin different from the Jewish/Christian/Islamic view of God.
3. The dead one that are rose was an Etin seeress. This means when an Etin dies they "go to Hel." Meaning they go like the human dead, those who are not chosen by Odin or Freyja during battle, to Hel's realm. The bodies of the Etins no doubt still lie in Jotenheim, but their "souls" go to rest in Niflheim. What Odin raises is not the Etin's body but their "soul."1 One's memory is contained within the "soul." If this was not the case, then Odin would have gone to where the Etin's body lay to raise it. Another example is that of Balder. He died in Asgard and was given a "Viking funeral". Though his body lay in the ocean his "soul" lives in a hall which Hel had prepared for him in Niflheim. [note: the dead who rise at ragnarok and invade on the ship of nails I feel are the Etin dead and not the human dead most suppose; why should our dead ancestors who did not fall in battle want to rise up and fight the gods and their relatives who were chosen by Odin and Freyja?]
4. The Voluspa was address to everyone. Though it was a special knowledge which Odin had to seek out, the seeress spoke it for all. This is the meaning of the verse:
Hear my words, you holy gods,
great men and humble sons of Heimdall;
Heimdall, the god who was born of nine mothers (the waves of the sea), is said to have been the father of all the castes of humankind. There is a Rig lay is which he fathers the three castes. He does not create human beings, rather he fathers sons from the three primal couples. It is through Heimdall that all human beings can claim to have the genes of the gods running through them. Until this occurred human beings were just like the other animals of this planet. We are equal now because the lower caste and the highest caste have been abolished; we are all children of Heimdall, our family the Aesir.
5. Verse two tells us the family of the risen seeress was of Etin kind. We don't know when she lived though it does say long ago. From her statement, "Nine worlds I know," we can assume that she lived after Odin and his brothers killed Ymir as the nine worlds did not exist before then. The first Etin population was destroyed when Ymir's blood flooded over them so she had to come after the surviving Etins recovered. We don't know how she died but it may have been violently. Etins can be compared to the Indian Asuras, the anti- gods, who battled the gods because they desired immortality. Immortality apparently does not mean that one in indestructable; it only means one might live forever if one does not meet a violent or accidental end. The Etins/Asuras lived a long time and had the power of the gods, but were not immortal. And they were very aware and envious of the gods because of it. The stealing of the Indun's apples would not have made the Etins immortal, as they apparently only governed the youth and strength of the gods, but it would have made the Etins equal to the Aesir (through the leveling down of the Aesir).
6. The seeress recalls the nine roots of the World Tree as the nine worlds. From other sources we know that three roots lead to wells which water the great Tree. Some see the worlds as being supported by the Tree but this poem has the nine world supporting it instead. It may well be that the Tree and the nine worlds are One; that they mutually support one another.
7. Ymir was there in the beginning as the first being. First to life and first to die. His body become the worlds. Thus he is very similar to the Iranian Yima and the Hindu/Buddhist Yama. The first being is sacrificed and from its body the world is made. In essence, everything is made up of Ymir, except the gods and the Etins. For the gods predated Ymir's killing and the Etins are it's children.
8. The gods gathered together in council to decide the courses of the sun, moon and stars. These are seen as living beings. One of the things one notices within the heathen world view is that everything is alive and has sentience. Not one god lords over all in this process. Actually none are named; only as a group do the gods act.
9. The gods after creating Midgard by lifting the land up than created their own home. They built shrines [note: to whom do the gods give worship that shrines were required?] and halls. They engaged in metal work and gathered wealth. In fact, they did the very same things that their human followers did. As below, so above.
10. Things apparently went pretty well until three Etin maidens came "awful in might from Etin-home." These are the three Norns who govern Time in three parts: past, Present, and Future. All things are under their rule including the Gods/Goddesses. How did the norns get so much power? Did any being have control over their functions before the Norns came to the Tree and Well. Who are the Norns parents and what powers do they represent? Do the Norns die at Ragnorak? Why did the Norns not take husbands nor have children? The norns are called wise in verse 20 because between them three they hold all knowledge, but apparently do not give it out. Which explains Odin's frequent journeys to the land of the dead for knowledge.
11. The creation of human beings was not out of nothing. A basic principle of Nordic cosmology is that all things are made out of previous things. One day three of the Aesir, Odin, Hoenir and Lodur (Loki) (the Aesr Loki, ed.) were walking along the seashore until they came across two feeble trees. Odin gave them the spiritual force soul, Hoenir gave them mind and senses, and Lodur gave them the external features to differentiate them from other creatures. Thus human beings descended from the trees through the intervention of the Gods. Later, as mentioned earlier, Heimdall's blood entered into the human race making all of us, the direct children of the gods, instead of just created creatures.
12. The first war was the war of Buri's children against Ymir and his children, but that was before the formation of the nine worlds. Thus there is no contradiction when the seeress states she had seen the first war "in the world," and goes on to describe the Aesir war with the Vanir.
13. The war appears to go badly for the Aesir whose fortifications were destroyed. A truce was arraigned and hostages exchanged. However, considering how the Vanir killed Mimir, a hostage and good friend of Odin, and the lack of retaliation by the Aesir upon the hostages they held, I feel the Vanir must have been in a position of strength.
14. Odin cast spear over the opposing army of the Vanir signifying that the other army would be sacrificed to himself. However, as had to have happen to one side or another he lost. Asgard's walls were breached and "fighting Vanir trod the field of battle." The question can be raised why did not the Vanir, then go on and sacrifice the Aesir? (Not the Vanir way of doing things, ed.)
15. Verses 25-6 are very difficult to interpret. Freyja2 was offered to the Etins which some has taken to be trace of the myth of rebuilding Asgard's walls. I take the gods in verse 25 to be the Vanir. After exchanging hostages, Freyja, Frey and Njord3 , the Aesir then were willing to trade Freyja to the Etins for new walls. This would violate the peace treaty which would make sense of the verse: "were sworn oaths broken and solemn vows, gods' plighted troth, the pledges given." However, Thor killed the Etin preventing the exchange thus preserving the Vanir-Aesir peace.
16. At the final battle, the Gods (ed. the Aesir Gods that is) and Etins fall. Strangely enough the Vanir (exception Frey) and the goddesses are not present. The waters rise and covers the world battlefield. I take this to mean a Vanic function; from flood comes fertility once the waters recede. I would say this mythically as the coming of Freyja's warrior's; as Surt threw fire over the world, Freyja cast Frigga's tears over it. Surt and the sons of Muspell were defeated. The stage for a new world created. I see Frigga and Freyja's warrior's storming the gates of hell freeing the human and god dead, given Hel takes her place in the world to come.
(c) 1996 by Jim Davis

Ed. Notes.
1. I believe the Freja is being confused with Frigga here. It doesn't make sense for Odin to offer Freja to the Etins as Frej and Freja are Vanir and the Vanir have just finished kicking Aesir butt. IMHO is more likely that a.) Odin loaned the Etins his wife Frigga, or b.) that Freja bargained with the Etin on behalf of Odin and the Aesir losers, Freja being in good favor with the Feri folk. In any case Thor messes everything up anyway.
2. Excuuuse me! In the Aesir dreams!!! Njordur is Frej and Freja's daddy, the Lord of the Vanir pantheon and they and the rest of the Vanr have just finished tearing down the walls of Odin's fortress around his ears. IMHO it sounds like more Aesir spin doctoring.
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