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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Anon (Vǫlsa) 2I

[6] vǫlsi ‘rod’: Here denoting a horse phallus (cf. Context). Derived from vǫlr ‘stick’ (AEW), and spelt variously ‘volsi’, ‘uolse’, ‘uo᷎lsi’, and ‘vo᷎lse’ in the prose and verse of Flat, the word occurs as an appellative only here and in st. 8/5; otherwise (cf. st. 4/1) it is used as a proper name for the preserved horse phallus. Its relation to Vǫlsungr, progenitor of the house of the Vǫlsungar and descendant of Óðinn, is unclear. This patronymic with the suffix -ungr, falsely used as a proper name, gives rise to a certain Vǫlsi who occurs in Old English as Wæls, the father of Sigemund (Beowulf l. 897). Consequently, the name of the progenitor seems to refer to his procreative potential. Vǫlsi also appears as the name of a troll in Allra flagða þula in Vilhjálms saga sjóðs (Loth 1962-5, 4, 67). In the story of Ásmundur flagðagæfa (see Introduction) a horse phallus called Völski, described as a deity, waits on the guests and serves them. In the context of Vǫlsa, Vǫlsi is interpreted in the scholarly literature as a kind of fetish (Heusler 1903, 30; Neckel 1915-16, III, 241; Rosén 1919, 10; Schomerus 1936, 120; ARG I, 282, II, 207; Düwel 1971, 200), or as a deity or the hypostasis, representative, or symbol of a deity, mainly the fertility god Freyr (Detter and Heinzel 1894, 552 n. 1; Johansson 1917, 121 n. 1; F. Ström 1954, 23, 26-7; Turville-Petre 1964, 258; F. Ström 1967, 88; Å. Ström and Biezais 1975, 147; Steinsland 1997, 89; Näsström 2002, 153).


  1. Bibliography
  2. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  3. Turville-Petre, Gabriel. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  4. Ström, Folke. 1954. Diser, nornor, valkyrjor. Fruktbarhetskult och sakralt kungadöme i Norden. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademiens Handlingar, Filologisk-filosofiska serien 1. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.
  5. ARG = Vries, Jan de. 1956-7. Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte. 2 vols. 2nd edn. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  6. Heusler, Andreas. 1903. ‘Die Geschichte vom Völsi, eine altnordische Bekehrungsanekdote’. Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde 13, 24-39. Rpt. in Heusler 1969, 372-87.
  7. Johansson, K. F. 1917. Über die altindische Göttin Dhiṣáṇā und Verwandtes. Beiträge zum Fruchtbarkeitskultus in Indien. Skrifter utgifna av Kungl. Humanistiska Vetenskaps-Samfundet i Uppsala 20.1. Uppsala: Akademiska Bokhandeln and Leipzig: Harrassowitz.
  8. Näsström, Britt-Mari. 2002. Blot: Tro och offer i det förkristna norden. Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag.
  9. Rosén, Helge. 1919. ‘Phallosguden i Norden’. Antikvarisk tidskrift för Sverige 20, 1-24.
  10. Schomerus, Rudolf. 1936. Die Religion der Nordgermanen im Spiegel christlicher Darstellung. Borna-Leipzig: Robert Noske.
  11. Steinsland, Gro. 1997. Eros og død i norrøne myter. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
  12. Ström, Folke. 1967. Nordisk hedendom: Tro och sed i förkristen tid. 2nd edn. Gothenburg: Akademiförlaget.
  13. Loth, Agnete, ed. 1962-5. Late Medieval Icelandic Romances. 5 vols. EA B 20-4. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  14. Düwel, Klaus. 1971. Das Opferfest von Lade und die Geschichte vom Völsi: Quellenkritische Untersuchungen zur germanischen Religionsgeschichte. Partly published Göttingen: Habilitationsschrift.
  15. Neckel, Gustav. 1915-16. ‘Mörnir’. In Hoops 1911-19, 3, 241.
  16. Internal references
  17. Not published: do not cite (VǫlsaI)
  18. Not published: do not cite ()
  19. Not published: do not cite ()


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