Yggdrasil, the tree of life carrying the 9 worlds
YGGDRASIL, THE COSMIC FRENE
In the Nordic mythology, there is talk of a giant and mystical tree that supported the 9 worlds that make up the universe. A cosmic tree whose highest branches touch the heavens and whose roots reach deep into the underworld. This is the world tree, Yggdrasil. (It slams)
It is supported by three huge roots. These three roots hold the shape of the cosmos that make up the world in Norse mythology. The first is in Asgard, the second goes all the way to the end of Yotunheim, and the third, all the way to Niflheim.
Here's a video from Azura that perfectly sums up the legend of Yggdrasil.
Bearer of the 9 Worlds
As mentioned earlier, Yggdrasil supports the 9 worlds, in order to better understand the Nordic mythology, let yourself be immersed in the universe of each of these worlds.
Located atop Yggdrasil, Asgard is the realm of the Aesir gods, ruled by the mighty Odin (the father of all things). Surrounded by a great wall, once built by a giant master builder, and his magical horse, Sleipnir.
To penetrate these walls, the only path was the Bifrost, the famous rainbow bridge, often featured in movies such as the Marvel Thor films. The Bifrost was, according to the legends, made of three threads of felt, braided by the gods. It was made this way to prevent the giants from crossing the bridge, burning them. The only way to use it was for the god Heimdall, guardian of the bridge, to open the bridge.
It is also the place where Fenrir, the giant wolf, is imprisoned until Ragnarok, when he will finally be freed.
Valhalla is also found in Asgard, that place where fallen warriors are brought before Odin, upon their death.
Asgard has featured heavily in the cinematic universe in recent years, particularly in the Marvel films. He is very well represented there, and we find in this series of films, several references to Norse mythology such as the Yggdrasil, the Bifrost, or even Midgard.
Vanaheim lies on the upper branches of Yggdrasil, on the same level as Asgard. It is home to the Vanes, the second and lesser known family of gods.
Often described as a dark place, its inhabitants regard war as an art and face death without fear. Courage, honour and glory are honoured, social status there is dictated by victories in battle.
The Vanes, representing fertility and nature, have long been at war with the Aesir, dwelling in Asgard. This war, relatively short and offering no winning place to any family, ended in a truce. Indeed an agreement was made between the two families : the marriage of the giantess Ase, Skadi and the god Vane, Njörd.
This truce also resulted in an exchange between some of the gods. The Vanes sent Njörd, Freyr and Freya, and the Aesir sent Honir and Mimir. This exchange, deemed unsatisfactory by the Vanes (3 for 2), they decapitated Mimir and sent his head to Asgard. This act created no more tension, and ended the war nonetheless.
Then there is Alfheim, also located near Asgard, in the upper part of Yggdrasil, this is the world of the light elves. The light elves were beings feric of incredible beauty and grace. They radiated like the sun and possessed immense magical power. The ruler of Aflheim was Freyr, the god of fertility.
According to the legends, Alfheim could be two different places. Either it was, as mentioned above the world of the elves, or the home of Freyr.
In the second legend, Alfheim was a gift from the gods to Freyr when he had pierced his first tooth. This legend, however, contradicts the great myth of the war of the Ases against the Vanes. Indeed, according to this legend, Freyr played a very important role in the war and was exchanged at the end of the war. During this journey, Freyr was already an adult. If the second legend is to be believed, the gods gifted him a world as a child.
Besides this questioning, very little information has been found in Norse myths about Alfheim.
The infernal world, covered in lava and flames. It lies on the middle level of the Yggdrasil, on the same level as Midgard and Svartalfheim.
This was the domain of the giant Surt. Equipped with a flaming sword, he annihilated worlds with his fiery flames. It is he who will lead the Yötuns at the time of Ragnarok. It is said that his sword was brighter than the sun and that he will make Asgard flaming, overrun with flames that ravage everything in their path.
It is one of the two original worlds of the Norse universe, along with its opposite, Niflheim. This opposition created the giant Ymir, when the flames of Muspellheim melted the ice of Niflheim.
There is little myth about Muspellheim, so little was said about this world in the legends. It was simply of enormous importance during Ragnarok, when Surt destroyed the 9 worlds with his flaming sword.
According to the myths, after this destruction, the sparks of Muspellheim became the sun, moon and stars of our world.
Niflheim was the absolute opposite of Muspellheim. It was located on the middle level of the Yggdrasil. It was a dark world, covered in ice, where the cold reigned supreme. With its icebergs, ice mountains as well as frozen rivers running through the world.
As mentioned earlier, Ymir was created when the flames of Muspellheim melted the ice of Niflheim.
Other than this, Niflheim does not appear in any mythological poems.
Niflheim is often confused with Niflhel, which is part of the kingdom of Helheim.
It is said that the spring of water that nourishes Yggdrasil, Hvergelmir, was in this world. This water source is guarded by a terrible dragon. (Just that).
Territory of the goddess Hel, this is the realm of the dead. It is a cold and dark world, often associated with Niflheim. It is the world that houses those who have died of old age or disease. Half of those who died in battle were sent to Valhalla, in Asgard. The other half were sent to Folkvangr, a plain in Helheim, guarded by the goddess Freya.
According to the myths, the dead were sent either to Folkvangr or to Nifhel, guarded by the dog Garm, in his cave Gnipahellir.
Once inside Helheim, it was impossible to leave. This is because Helheim is surrounded by a great river, Gjoll, which even the gods cannot cross.
Christian influence turned this place into a place of passage for humans who had sinned during their lives. Gradually, the Helheim became hell. It was this distortion that gave the English name for hell " hell ".
The icy wind of this world is created by the giant Hraesvelg (we'll spare you if you can't pronounce it). This giant could transform into an eagle and produce a chilling wind by flapping his wings.
Also known as Nidavellir, it represents the world of the dwarves. According to versions of the myths, these two worlds were distinct. In this version, Nidavellir represents the world of the dwarves and Svartalfheim represents the world of the dark elves.
In both versions, the dwarf world was a dark, mineral-rich mountain covered world. Expert in forging, and skilled with their hands, the dwarves who inhabited this world made most of the magical items possessed by the gods, such as Odin's famous spear, or Mjollnir, Thor's hammer.
Although the term has been distorted in recent years, the dwarf is not a small man, they are a totally different race from humans. They were born from maggots gnawing on the corpse of Ymir, the first giant.
The gods found the dwarves too ugly, so they made them live underground, so that no one could see them anymore (a funny way to thank them for making their weapons).
This world is located halfway up the Yggdrasil ash tree, near Midgard.
This is the world of the giants, left to the giants by Odin just after the creation of the first giant, Ymir. In this world, covered in dance forests and giant rocks, is the fortress of Utgardar, a towering citadel made of ice and snow, the top of which was known to be impossible to see.This is where Utgardar Loki, king of the giants, resides.
There are also other citadels such as :
- Gastropnir, where the giantess Menglad resides.
- Tryheim, also called the " Abode of the Tumult "
- The city of the giant Thaizi, founded in the mountains
It is also in Jotunhaim, where the source of infinite wisdom is found, guarded by Mimir.
It is located at the middle level of Yggdrasil.
Bergelmir and his wife were created in Jotunheim, in order to avenge Ymir's death, during Ragnarok.
The world of humans, Midgard was much like our world today, on this world dwelt men who just lived their lives normally. Those who were born, grew up, worked, married and so on until they died. The biggest difference comes from the fact that compared to our world, Midgard was surrounded by a huge cosmic ocean that housed the giant serpent Jormungand, son of Loki.
The only way out is across the Bifrost, a rainbow bridge, woven from three rods of felt by the gods, that separates Midgard from Asgard. Because the bridge is on fire, no human or giant can cross it, only the gods can, which is why this bridge only serves one of the two worlds.
It is located in the middle of Yggdrazyl, as indicated by the root " Mid " of Midgard.
CREATION OF YGGDRASIL, THE COSMIC TREE
Yggdrasil is said to have been created by Odin, creator of all things (it is partly because of this creation that it was given this nickname). As myths were only transmitted orally at the time, very few texts allow us today to affirm all this information. The creation of the cosmic tree, however, remains one of the few legends about which there is only one version.
Before this, the various worlds were already in existence, there was however no structure to hold them (the universe). Before telling the story of Yggdrasil, it is important to tell the story of Ymir, the main actor in this construction. He was created when the icy winds of Niflheim met the fiery flames of Muspellheim. This giant was used by Odin, indeed, he used his blood to build Yggdrasil. However, we have very little information of this creation process, we only know that the roots of the cosmic tree were created within the body of Ymir.
The three-tiered structure we know today has always existed, with each tier possessing three worlds, with Midgard at its centre, allowing the balance of the other eight worlds.
Yggdrasil was completely impacted by Ragnarok, associated with the end of the world. This tragic event was caused by Surt, the giant, ruling Muspellheim. It began with three winters in a row, where men entered into a terrifying war. At the end of these three winters, the sky opened up and the sword of Surt shone through. At that moment the sons of Surt appeared to attack the various worlds.
When Heimdall became aware of this disaster, he blew into the Gjallarhorn, causing the ash tree to tremble and awakening all the gods. A war broke out, leaving many gods dead. This event created a lot of myths, battles between different gods or giants, notably that of Odin against Fenrir or that of Thor against Jörmungand, Loki's snake.
YGGDRASIL AND ODIN'S HALL
Thank you for reading, it's a pleasure to write for Odin's Hall, the reference brand in accessories stemming from Norse mythology.
You can visit our Yggdrasil collection to find a jewel representing the tree of life.
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I'll tell you a bit about our logo if you like ! At Odin's Hall we wanted to have our own logos representing the strong symbols of Norse mythology, and Yggdrasil has its own of course. I'll put it right below.
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