Yggdrasil: the World Tree of Norse Mythology
Updated: Sep 25, 2020
It’s not uncommon that a huge “World Tree” features in Mythology so I’m not surprised if you saw this one coming. But I’m a fan of Norse Mythology so in this blog post we’re going to have a look at Yggdrasil, the World Tree of the Viking belief system.
There doesn’t seem to be an origin of the World Tree. Although the nine worlds came to be through the phenomenon of Ginnungagap (“Gaping Abyss”) it’s unclear whether the tree did so as well. Having said that, it seems like the natural origin. Ginnungagap deserves it’s own blog post, because it’s a little complicated (and rather bizarre), but for simplicities sake, we can compare it to the Big Bang. In even simpler terms, the world was made from a very dark and empty place.
Yggdrasil houses the nine worlds and several extraordinary creatures. This blog post will look at the nine worlds so let’s dig in!
The most important one, in my humble opinion, is Midgard. This is the home of the humans, or, mortals. It encircles the trunk of Yggdrasil and is basically the Norse word for “Earth”. It is no doubt also the inspiration for Tolkien’s Middle Earth if you’re interested in The Lord of the Ring. Midgard is surrounded by an ocean that has no end. In this ocean lives Jormundgandr (or the Midgard serpent) who is so long he can encircle Midgard and bite his own tail without much effort.
A favourite amongst fans of Marvel, Asgard is the home of the Gods. Or rather the Aesir. The Aesir are the Gods of War and include a collection of the most famous Gods such as Odin, Thor, Frigg and Loki. Asgard is located at the very top of the tree, or arguably, the sky.
Not as well known as Asgard, but also a home of the Gods. Another species of Gods though, the Vanir. The Vanir are the Gods of fertility, magic and wisdom. Vanaheimr is also the origin of the Völvas (Seeresses) which are highly regarded sorceresses in Viking culture. Vanaheim is the home of Freya until she becomes a permanent guest at Asgard, who plays a huge part in my WIP. It is also the home of her brother Frey, and their father Njord, the God of trade and weather.
Not very well known at all, Álfheim is the home of the Light Elves. There isn’t much information about the Light Elves, but they are fair to look at and so it wouldn’t be surprising if Álfheim was a beautiful land. It’s supposedly located in the branches of Yggdrasil.
In contrast to Álfheim, Svartálfheim is the home of the Dark Elves. The Dark Elves are often also referred to as Dwarves and so Svartálfheim is sometimes replaced with the world Myrkheim or Nidavellir.
Muspelheim is the land of fire and the home of the Fire Giants or correctly called the Fire Jötunn. It is guarded by the Fire Jötunn Surtr who has a flaming sword. It is supposedly one of the first worlds to be created during Ginnungagap.
Niflheim on the other hand is cold as ice. It is in fact made of ice, mountains, mist and darkness. It is a little unclear whether Ice Jötunn’s reside here, but I’d like to think so. Together with Muspelheim it was one of the first worlds to be created. When the cold of Niflheim mixed with the heat of Muspelheim another world was created, called Hel.
Hel is ruled by the Goddess of the same name: Hel. She is Loki’s daughter along with the wolf Fenrir and the Midgardserpent Jormundgadr. She rules over the dead who have not died a notable or heroic death. It’s not the best place to end up after death.
Jotunheim is the official Home of the Giants, or as the Vikings like to call them Jötnar or Jötunn (there’s a million different spellings). Jotunheim can also be referred to as Utgard, which means “Beyond the Fence” and suggests that it’s a wild and chaotic place.
There is so much more to say about Yggdrasil. There are the most fascinating beings, creatures and locations that inhabit the tree, not just within these nine realms. However, that could turn into a whole essay, if not a book on its own (and I’m sure there is one). So this is where I’ll leave it for today.
Thanks for reading,
- Ven xx