The Faroe Islands released a stamp set in 2003 themed after the Völuspá and designed by Anker Eli Petersen.
Here are the complete set (from top left): The Völva The Creation The First Humans The Norns & Yggdrasil Gullveig’s Execution Odin & The Valkyries The Death Of Baldr Ragnarök Begins The Death Of Odin The Return of Baldr & Höðr
In Norse mythology, Níðhöggr (Malice Striker, often anglicized Nidhogg) is a dragon who gnaws at a root of the world tree, Yggdrasil. In historical Viking society, níð was a term for a social stigma implying the loss of honor and the status of a villain. Thus, its name might refer to its role as a horrific monster or in its action of chewing the corpses of the inhabitants of Náströnd: those guilty of murder, adultery, and oath-breaking, which Norse society considered among the worst possible crimes.
According to the Gylfaginning part of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Níðhöggr is a being which gnaws one of the three roots of Yggdrasill. It is sometimes believed that the roots are trapping the beast from the world. This root is placed over Niflheimr and Níðhöggr gnaws it from beneath. The same source also says that “The squirrel called Ratatöskr runs up and down the length of the Ash, bearing envious words between the eagle and Nídhöggr”. In the Skáldskaparmál section of the Prose Edda Snorri specifies Níðhöggr as a serpent in a list of names of such creatures: These are names for serpents: dragon, Fafnir, Iormungand, adder, Nidhogg, snake, viper, Goin, Moin, Grafvitnir, Grabak, Ofnir, Svafnir, masked one. Snorri’s knowledge of Níðhöggr seems to come from two of the Eddic poems: Grímnismál and Völuspá. Later in Skáldskaparmál, Snorri includes Níðhöggr in a list of various terms and names for swords.
The poem Grímnismál identifies a number of beings which live in Yggdrasill. The tree suffers great hardship from all the creatures which live on it. The poem identifies Níðhöggr as tearing at the tree from beneath and also mentions Ratatoskr as carrying messages between Níðhöggr and the eagle who lives at the top of the tree. Snorri Sturluson often quotes Grímnismál and clearly used it as his source for this information. The poem Völuspá mentions Níðhöggr twice. The first instance is in its description of Náströnd.
“A hall I saw,far from the sun,On Nastrond it stands,and the doors face north,Venom dropsthrough the smoke-vent down,For around the wallsdo serpents wind. I there saw wadingthrough rivers wildtreacherous menand murderers too,And workers of illwith the wives of men;There Nithhogg suckedthe blood of the slain,And the wolf tore men;would you know yet more?”
The most prevalent opinion is that the arrival of Níðhöggr heralds Ragnarök and thus that the poem ends on a tone of ominous warning.
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“The Prophecy of the Witch” is laid in the mouth of a witch, what the Norse called a völva, a “carrier of the sacred wand”, a well-respected female, who, once initiated into her arts, would operate as a traveling, professional diviner and magician. These women were important members of Old Norse society, but also liminal and much feared people, set outside of the normal hierarchy of class and gender.
The witch, the völva, who speaks the prophecy that is to shape the framework of the Poetic Edda, the story of the beginning and of the end, is not any human völva either – this is The Old Witch, an immensely ancient creature who can remember nine worlds before the present Universe. The old woman remembers giants who existed before the beginning of time itself, giants who fostered her then.
She knew nine worlds, conceived of as nine ividjur – troll-women, giantesses or witches – who personify each universe before this present one that we are experiencing. These nine giantess worlds existed before the present World Tree sprouted from the ground. In fact they gave birth to it in unison, a world, the world as we know it, conceived of as a giant or as a tree. He is Heimdallr, the “Splendid World”, he is Ymir, primeval Sound, born of nine previous giantesses, coming into existence from the melting ice of the world of the dead.
The ancient völva who tells the tale appears to stand outside of Time, older than everyone, observing everything and carrying the memory of all these previous worlds and even the memory of the future.