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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. Anonymous Lausavísur, 8. Lausavísur from Vǫlsa þáttr, 4 [Vol. 1, 1095]

[5] þiggi Maurnir ‘may Maurnir receive’: The reading of Flat is ‘maurnir’ here and in st. 5/3, then the word is abbreviated in sts 6-12; in 292ˣ it is ‘Mo᷎rnir’ here and in st. 5/3 but otherwise always ‘Maurnir’. It is usually normalised as mǫrnir or mørnir; however, in Vǫlsa in Flat <au> always stands for the diphthong normalised as <au>, while <ǫ> is written as <o> or <o᷎>. The meaning is disputed. There are two views represented among scholars (cf. Heusler 1903, 35-7): (a) The pl. of mǫrn f. ‘ogress, giantess’. In this context Mǫrnir are understood either as female deities (Skaði or Freyja with her followers, dísir, norns, mahrengleiche Wesen ‘mare-like beings’, i.e. evil female spirits, cf. ‘nightmare’; Unwerth 1910, 176-82; Olrik and Ellekilde 1926-51, I, 167-8; Grönbech 2002, II, 330; F. Ström 1954, 23-31) or else as giantesses (LP (1860): mörn; LP: 2. mǫrn; Steinsland and Vogt 1981, 94-9; Steinsland 1997, 89) with whom a phallic fertility god unites in a sacred marriage (hieros gamos; F. Ström 1954, 28; Steinsland and Vogt 1981, 99-100; Steinsland 1997, 89). (b) Mǫrnir (mss ‘maurnir’, ‘mavrnir’) m. sg. ‘sword’, used here in the sense of ‘phallus’ (for the semantic change from ‘sword’ to ‘phallus’, cf. Grett Lv 32, 33V (Gr 64, 65); SnE 1848-87, I, 543 n. 21; Almqvist 1965-74, I, 167-8), or simply ‘phallus’, which has been interpreted mostly as a reference to the god Freyr, depicted, according to Adam of Bremen, with a colossal reproductive organ (Johansson 1917, 120-1; Olsen 1917, IIb, 655-9; Turville-Petre 1964, 257-8; Almqvist 1965-74, I, 175; Å. Ström and Biezais 1975, 147; Davidson 1993, 105; Näsström 2002, 153; cf. following Note). The verb þiggi ‘may ... receive’ does not help arbitrate between (a) and (b) because it could be either sg. or pl. As for the relationship between the two phallic deities of Vǫlsa, Völsi and Maurnir, it is mostly their dissimilarity, rarely also their identity, that has been subject to scholarly consideration (Johansson 1917, 121 n. 1; Turville-Petre 1964, 258; Almqvist 1965-74, I, 176; F. Ström 1967, 89; Å. Ström and Biezais 1975, 147; Näsström 2002, 153).


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