Ár Var Alda: The Ancient Germanic Studies Society at UGA (ÁVA) was an interdisciplinary student group at the University of Georgia. Active from January 2012 until March 2015, ÁVA met the second week of every month, generally in in Joseph "Joe" E. Brown Hall in Athens, Georgia. From the curious and totally new to the seasoned philologist who wanted to get more familiar with the early Germanic literary record, all were welcome. All meeting were held in English and all necessary materials were provided by ÁVA, which were prepared beforehand by Joseph Hopkins. The purpose of ÁVA was academic; ÁVA was neither political nor religious in nature.
WHAT DID WE DO AT ÁVA?
At ÁVA meetings we read aloud translations of ancient texts (well, those of us who were willing!) and discussed surviving texts from the Germanic cultural sphere from the medieval period and prior with a focus on the pre-Christian and its transmission into he modern period. While readings were always in English, the original texts were in Old English, Old Norse, Old High German, and/or various other related languages. While our focus was ancient, we were not limited to the old: for example, related folklore was a common subject discussed at ÁVA.
Ár Var Alda is an Old Norse phrase found in an early stanza of the poem Vǫluspá. The phrase may be roughly translated to 'in days of yore'. As it has cognates (words that are 'born from the same mother') in a few other ancient Germanic texts, it appears to have once been a part of an early Germanic cosmological formula. In Vǫluspá, recorded somewhere around the 13th century, an undead vǫlva (a pagan Norse seeress) tells the wisdom-seeking god Odin what has been and what will be, including the primordial dissection of the enormous being Ymir, the endless reach of the cosmic tree Yggdrasill, the creation of mankind from driftwood by three gods, and the eventually fiery end and rebirth of the world and survival and regeneration of mankind.
While reading the source material, we discussed the gods, locations, themes, and influences that the material presents. ÁVA was a great way to get familiar with the historical roots of the ancient Germanic peoples and the world around them all the way up until the echoes of those beliefs and values as they appear today.
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