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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, 2 [Vol. 1, 1093]

[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).

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