Völsa þáttr


Völsa þáttr

Völsa þáttr is a short story which is only extant in the Flatey Book, where it is found in a chapter of "Óláfs saga helga". It is probably from the 14th century but takes place in 1029 when Scandinavia was still largely pagan, and it appears to preserve traditions of a pagan phallos cult, the "völsi" (see also blót).

The worship

It relates that an old man and an old woman lived with their brisk son and intelligent daughter on a promontory far from other people. They also had a male and a female thrall.

When the thrall had butchered a horse and was to throw away the penis, the boy ran past, took it and went to the place where his mother, sister and the slave woman were sitting. There he joked at the slave woman telling her that the organ would not be dull between her legs, whereupon the slave woman laughed. The daughter asked her brother to throw away the disgusting object, but her old mother rose and said that it was a useful thing that should not be thrown away. She wrapped in a cloth of linen together with onions and herbs to conserve it and put it in her coffer.

Every evening in the autumn she took it out of the coffer and prayed to it as to her god and had the rest of the household take part. She recited a verse over it, handed to her husband who did the same and so on until every one had taken part.

Enter king Olaf

One day when king Olaf II of Norway was fleeing king Canute the Great, he came by their promontory. He had heard of their worship and wanted to convert them to the Christian faith. He went to their abode and only brought with him Finnr Árnason and Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld and they were all wearing grey cloaks to hide their identity.

They entered the house and when it was dark, they met the daughter who asked them about their identity. They all answered that their names was "Grímr" (hooded). The girl was not fooled and said that she saw that he was king Olaf. He then asked her to keep quiet about it.

They then met the rest of the household and they were invited for dinner. The old woman came last and carried the völsi, the penis. She put the völsi in her husband's lap and read a poem saying "may the giantess ("Mörnir") accept this holy object". The husband accepted it and read a poem including the same phrase, and this continued until everybody in the company, but the king, had recited a poem with this phrase.

When it was the king's turn he revealed himself and preached about Christianity, but the old woman was very sceptical whereas her husband was very interested. Finally, they all accepted to be baptised by the king's chaplain and they stayed Christian ever since.

External links

* [http://www.heimskringla.no/original/islendingesagaene/volsathattr.php Völsa þáttr] from «Kulturformidlingen norrøne tekster og kvad» Norway.
* [http://www.hi.is/~eybjorn/ugm/volsi.html Site with the original text and an English translation back to back]
* [http://www.wikinger.org/wikinger2/volsa.htm German translation of the þáttr]
* [http://www.fut.es/~mrr/islandes/volsathattr.html Völsa þáttr]


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