It is time for the awakening... Not for the goddess; she has always been alert... But for ourselves to awaken to her. This is a necessity if we are to bring any sort of balance to the world and an increased sense of wholeness to the human inhabitants of this planet.
I have always been captivated by goddess myth and legend, and like many others who identify closely with goddess energy, I have looked far and wide for those that I can relate to the most. It seems that the more I looked, the more I consistently noticed that a disproportionate amount of the lore from a variety of cultures put goddesses in roles that were vulnerable, damaged, and even weak. There are the exceptions, of course, and thankful I am for those, but hours upon hours of study has only brought me closer to the conclusion that our goddesses need a closer look to be understood, and we need to ask for guidance to distill the truth from distortion and manipulation. The goddess energy at large, the goddess with the big "G," has been brutalized and diminished over the centuries. What this has caused is the imbalance that we see in the world and has fractured the human psyche as a collective whole. Things that are predominantly associated with the sacred feminine such as, mother nature, intuition, art, making a living using a physical craft or labor (no secret that artistic and physical labor pay less then scientific and analytical work) have been belittled in their importance and at worst, completely desecrated.
Perhaps this need for awakening is why I was given the name Gullveig.
The journey to this acceptance led me to a deeper love for the goddess then ever before, and it brought a forgotten part of myself back home.
However, the name Gullveig that was given to me was not such a simple decision to accept, as you will see…
I have many spiritual guides and teachers. One day, one of them started calling me Gullveig, and then very shortly after, all astral entities started to call me this. At the time, I had only begun to research Norse tradition, lore and magic, and had never heard the name Gullveig before. When I looked the name up, I was perplexed as to why I was being called this by my astral guides and teachers, as the stanza states:
She remembers the first war in the world
When Gold Brew was hoist on the spears
And in the High One´s hall they burned her
Three times they burned then three times born
Often, not seldom, but she still lives!
She was called Bright One when she came to the settlements
The greatly talented Carrier of the Wand
She performed magic, ecstatically she performed it
She knew how to cast spells
She was always loved by wicked women.
Voluspá, st.21-22 (“The Vision of the Witch”), Poetic Edda
The tale of Gullveig is of a powerful Volva (meaning wand carrier) that travels from her home tribe of the Vanir camp of gods to the Aesir. She travels into Odin’s hall and demonstrates and/or teaches them magic. (It is important to know that it was common for Volvas to travel from place to place and offer their magical services and lead ritual. Typically these individuals were women who lived outside of the cultural norm, not obligated to a husband, brother, or father, their powers made them both feared and respected members of their society.) During Gullveig’s stay with the Aesir, she was speared and burned 3 times, and reborn 3 times. After this last rebirth, she was known was Heidr. Shortly after this, the first war of the gods began.
The first interpretation that I found on the meaning of this name was, “gold greed.” Certainly not a connotation I wanted to embrace nor did I feel that it was an accurate description of my personality. Even more, I wasn’t too thrilled with being referred to as someone who started the first war of the gods who was “loved by evil women.”
I resisted this name because of my preconceived notions, and I suffered because of them.
So, I relented and I dug deeper…
Most interpretations of the story include that the Vanir were so appalled by the treatment of one of their kinswomen, that they started the war. Although, the Vanir ended up accepting a truce with the Aesir, I have not found any evidence showing that they were the ones who initiated the war. Furthermore, just as Gullveig’s name has had many colorful interpretations, the term in which we translate the word for evil, illrar, has also seen many different translations and leaves a lot to context. It’s important to remember that the Poetic Edda was first written down by scholars, who were monks, in the 12th century. Whether or not the point of view of Gullveig, and women like her, was that these women were evil, was more of a viewpoint of the scholar or the Norse people, is left for us to decide at this point.
The more I researched and asked for guidance, the more it seemed to me that there was an underlying meaning in this story that was only discussed in a few circles of those interested in Norse mythology.
We find that it is a common thread throughout different cultures and history that initiation into a sacred or divine role was a near death experience, either metaphorically or physically. For example, Odin receives the runes by hanging on a tree for 9 nine days. Jesus dies for 3 days and comes back from the dead. We see similar rites for the medicine men of the Americas. Sacred numbers such as 3 and 9 have importance in many of these rites. Why is it that this story follows the same patterns of initiation that we find throughout many cultures, and yet, Ms. Gullveig gets a bum rep of being a war-starting evil doer?
Gullveig is a term that literally means “gold drink” or “gold strength.” Other interpretations have been made, such as “gold greed,” however, these interpretations are likely more based on scholars own perspective on the tale. Gold, just like in many other cultures, was not just valuable, but considered sacred to the Norse. It was associated with wisdom and divine power in many Norse tales.
Based on this, it is my perspective that what we see here with Gullveig is the story of initiation. We see a goddess from the Vanir tribe teaching the way of the volva. It is widely known that Odin is a seeker and lover of wisdom and knowledge. To me, it is no accident that this initiation took place in his hall. Whether or not there was malice behind the Aesir's actions towards Gullveig, that is up for speculation, but I'm not sure if that part is as important; for example, Jesus's crucifixion was at the hands of those who hated him, but the fact still remains that his crucifixion was an initiation into a divine role. Gullveig represents the journey to divine wisdom and enlightenment. Just like gold is smelted in a fire to burn off the impurities, so too do we see Gullveig going through the fire to be reborn as the “bright one,” Heidr.
To embrace the name meant that I must embrace the goddess without the preconceived notions, which also meant that I had to embrace this forgotten aspect of myself.
Now, I embrace this name and am proud to be known as Gullveig; I embrace this name so that others may know her. In doing so, I feel a sense of wholeness and raw authenticity. I feel that it is connected to my passion as a seeker of wisdom and enlightenment. My path is about the journey and about assisting in other’s journey as well; only those who have walked through flame can teach others how to as well. The story of Gullveig teaches us that just as the Aesir learned from witnessing the fiery transformation of their female Vanir guest, so too do we teach others through smelting in our own fire.
The empowerment that I have found through the goddess is not just for me alone. It is everyone's birthright. Look deep into the lore, find the truths just hiding under the surface, ask the goddess for guidance, and she will bring you back home.