gullveig, thrice born
“The war I remember, the first in the wold,
When the gods with spears had smitten Gollveig,
And in the hall of Hor had burned her,
Three times burned, and three times born,
Oft and again, yet ever she lives.
Heith they named her who sought their home,
The wide-seeing witch, in magic wise;
Minds she bewitched that were moved by her magic,
To evil women a joy she was.
– Voluspa, Verse 21-22, Bellows Translation
Gullveig is a powerful being from Norse Mythology, but she is only mentioned in the Poetic Edda, specifically the Voluspa. At first glance this verse might seem like it is about witch burning, but on deeper inspection it is not so. Gullveig means something close to "Gold Might." As the symbol of gold she has been burned 3 times, refined, and emerges as Heith, "Shining One," becomes a powerful magic user and spreads joy among evil women. (You know strong women who think for themselves!)
The verse after Heith is born is about the first war. For this reason, many theorize that the burning of Gullveig started the war between the two branches of gods: Odin and his Aesir and the Vanir gods like Freyr and Njord. If Gullveig is gold, and her death sparked the first war, then the first war was fought over gold, a surprise to none I’m sure.
There is another goddess with a strong connection to gold, and that is Freya. She cries golden tears for her lost husband. Perhaps Freya was Gullveig – Gold Might in disguise. Of course Frey would go to war over the burning of his sister! Then lets look at Heith, the shining one another reference to gold, but also described as a powerful magic user and seer, who bewitched minds and was a joy to women. That sounds like the perfect description of Freya.
We might just be witnessing the metamorphosis of Freya, at first she is unrefined, but faces the challenges of men, facing fire 3 times, she emerges beautiful and powerful, the shining one!
I based my painting off of the ink drawing I did for Verse 21 from one of my Norse Mythology books, “The Illustrated Voluspa.”
The original painting was done in oil and measures 18" x 24".