Norse Myth Part 1: Norse Cosmology

Caption reads "The Ash Yggdrasil". T...

"The Ash Yggdrasil". The world tree Yggdrasil and some of its inhabitants. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry about the post being late, homework got the better of me this weekend, but here is the beginning of my series on Norse myth!

The cosmology in Norse religion consists of nine worlds held together by Yggdrasil, possibly one of the coolest names ever for a tree, otherwise known as the World Tree. What kind of tree Yggdrasil was varies from interpretation to interpretation, but a common version is that Yggdrasil was a gigantic ash-tree.

Yggdrasil has numerous important functions in Norse myth beyond holding the universe together, a fairly

important function in and of itself. Yggdrasil connects the nine worlds as well as holds them up.

Many creatures call Yggdrasil their home. In the branches at the top of the tree lives an eagle and underneath the tree reside numerous snakes, who eat its branches, and the dragon Nidhogg, who eats corpses and gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil. A squirrel named Ratatosk acts as a messenger between the eagle and Nidhogg. There are also four deer named Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr and Durathror live on Yggdrasil and eat its leaves.

The gods used the base of the World Tree as a place to go gather and take care of their “things.” A thing was an assembly where the gods made judgments and discussed their affairs.

Yggdrasil has special significance for Odin, the leader of Aesir gods. He hung himself from the tree while impaled by his own spear for nine days and nights in order to gain wisdom in the form of nine powerful songs/spells (for future reference nine is a very important number in Norse myth in case you could not tell).

It is not totally clear what happens to Yggdrasil during Ragnarok (the final battle between the Aesir gods and the giants, the end of the world), but two humans do survive Ragnarok by hiding within the World Tree, or at least there is a reference to a location called Hoddmímis holt that may be the same as Yggdrasil. I will say more on Ragnarok in a later post.

The Nine Worlds:

1. Muspellsheimr: World of Muspell (fire, realm of Surtr)

2. Alfheim: World of the Ljósálfr (‘light elf’)

3. Vanaheimr: World of the Vanir (the less known group of gods)

4. Asgard: World of the Æsir (the more well known group of gods including Odin and Thor)

5. Midgard: World of the Maðr (‘human’)

6. Jǫtunheimr: World of the Jǫtunn (‘giant’, home of the giants)

7. Svartálfaheimr: World of the Svartálfar (‘dark elves’, aka Dvergar ‘dwarves’)

8. Hel: World of Hel (the realm of the dead)

9. Niflheim: World of Nifl (arctic ‘mist’ and ice, where the giant named Hel rules from)

(List comes from Wikipedia and information from Lindow)

I will describe the nine worlds in greater detail later, but if you have any questions feel free to ask me and I will try to answer. If there are any topics you would like me to discuss in particular, then let me know. The topic for this next week will be the creation story, where I will also talk about at least a few of the nine worlds in greater detail.

Until then have a good week and DFTBA!



About dmmaster42

I'm a fantasy/fiction/philosophical writer.
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9 Responses to Norse Myth Part 1: Norse Cosmology

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  8. I think my favorite part of Yggdrasil was the Well of Urd, or Well of Wyrd. Norse Mythology is amazing to me, and you probably now this, but Middle Earth was based on Midgar (it is another name used for Midgar as well as Middle Garden). I have a similar post I am going to bring over from my other blog musing on what it would be like to be a Valkyrie, you should check it out.

  9. Pingback: Norse code: a handy glossary of mythical terms | As You Were

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