Category: The Realms (Page 1 of 2)

Muspell

Of the nine worlds under Yggdrasill, Muspell was the first to exist. It is said that Hel and Niflheim comprised one world making Muspell the ninth world however, Muspell had no place in the tricentric structure of the universe.

“It is light and hot that region flames and burns so that those who do not belong to it cannot endure it”
– Snorri Sturluson

Muspell is guarded by the giant Surt. Surt has a flaming sword and at the end of the world he will come and vanquish all the gods and burn the whole world with fire.

At Ragnarok, Surt is accompanied by the sons of Muspell who will “form a host in themselves and that a very bright one.”

That is all we hear of the “sons of Muspell” as they are not mentioned again in the Eddas!

The Nine Worlds of Norse mythology

The Norsemen visualized the universe in three vertical levels; a tricentric structure. Between each level and its adjacent level was a space.

The axis of the three levels and nine worlds was the Yggdrasill tree, a mighty ash which is timeless, has no origin and will survive Ragnarok.

The first level

  • Asgard, world of the Aesir
  • Vanaheim, land of the Vanir
  • Alfheim, land of the light elves.

The second level

  • Midgard, Land of humans (middle world/garden)
  • Nidavellir, Land of the dwarfs
  • Jotunheim, Land of the giants (Jotuns)
  • Svartalfheim, Land of the dark elves.

The third level

  • Hel, Realm of the dead
  • Niflheim, World of the dead.

If Hel and Niflheim comprised one world, as is suggested in some sources, the ninth may have been Muspelheim (Muspell), the land of the fire giants. This region had no place in the tricentric structure of the universe, and Snorri Sturluson wrote that is was the first world to exist and that is lies in the southern hemisphere. Also, the worlds of Svartalfheim and Nidavellir may have been the same. No valid distinction can be drawn between the dwarfs and dark elves; they appear to have been interchangeable.

Bifrost

In Norse mythology, Bifrost is the bridge between Midgard, the realm of man, and Asgard, the realm of the gods. Since it is the only way for the giants to enter Asgard it is closely guarded by Heimdall, the watchman of the gods.

Bifrost was made of three colors with magic and great skill by the Aesir and is incredibly strong. It is also called Asbru, referring to its makers. At the end of the cosmos, this rainbow-bridge will collapse.

Helheim

Helheim (“house of Hel”) is one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology. It is ruled by Hel, the monstrous daughter of the trickster god Loki and his wife Angrboda.

This cold, dark and misty abode of the dead is located in the world of Niflheim, on the lowest level of the Norse universe. No one can ever leave this place, because of the impassable river Gjoll that flows from the spring Hvergelmir and encircles Helheim.

Once they enter Helheim, not even the gods can leave. Those who die of old age or disease, and those not killed in battle, go to Helheim while those who die bravely on the battlefield go to Valhalla.

The entrance to Helheim is guarded by Garm, a monstrous hound, and Modgud. The giant Hraesvelg (“corpse eater”) sits at the edge of the world, overlooking Helheim. In the form of an eagle with flapping wings he makes the wind blow.

Niflheim

Niflheim (“house of mists”) is the far northern region of icy fogs and mists, darkness and cold. It is situated on the lowest level of the universe.

The realm of death, Helheim is part of the vast, cold region. Niflheim lies underneath the third root of Yggdrasil, close to the spring Hvergelmir (“roaring cauldron”).

Also situated on this level is Nastrond, the Shore of Corpses, where the serpent Nidhogg eats corpses and gnaws on the roots of Yggdrasil.

After Ragnarok, there will be a hall here for the punishment of murderers, oath breakers, and philanderers.

Midgard

In Norse myth, the defensive fortress which the gods build about the middle portion of the earth allotted to men in order to protect mankind from the giants.

Midgard (“middle world”) is on the same level as Nidavellir (land of the dwarfs), Svartalfheim (land of the dark elves/dwarfs) and Jotunheim (the land of the giants).

Alfheim

Alfheim (“elf home”), in Norse mythology, is one of the nine worlds.

It is located on the highest level of the Norse universe. Also found on this level are the worlds of Asgard and Vanaheim.

Alfheim is the palace of the god Freyr and the homeland of the elves of light.

Neither the elves of light nor the elves of darkness, who live in Svartalfheim, participate in any of the events described in the Norse myths. Elves do, however, have active roles in the literature of quite a few of the other branches of Indo-European mythology.

Vanaheim

Vanaheim (“home of the Vanir”) is the land of the Vanir. It is located in Asgard, on the highest level of the universe.

Jotunheim

Jotunheim is one of the nine worlds, the homeland of the frost giants and rock giants. Situated in Midgard, on the middle level of the Norse universe, Jotunheim is separated from Asgard by the river Iving, which never freezes over. It lies in the snowy regions on the outermost shores of the ocean. Mimir’s well of wisdom is in Jotunheim, beneath the Midgard root of the ash tree Yggdrasil.

Jotunheim is ruled by Thrym (“uproar”), the feared king of the frost giants. The stronghold of Utgard, the chief city of Jotunheim and the abode of the giants, is ruled by the giant Utgard-Loki. Other strongholds include Gastropnir, home of the giantess Menglad, and Thrymheim (“house of uproar”), mountain stronghold of the giant Thiazi.

Yggdrasil

yggdrasillIn Norse mythology, Yggdrasil (“The Terrible One’s Horse”), also called the World Tree, is the giant ash tree that links and shelters all the worlds.

Beneath the three roots the realms of Asgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim are located.

Three wells lie at its base: the Well of Wisdom (MĂ­misbrunnr), guarded by Mimir; the Well of Fate (Urdarbrunnr), guarded by the Norns; and the Hvergelmir (Roaring Kettle), the source of many rivers.

Four deer run across the branches of the tree and eat the buds; they represent the four winds. There are other inhabitants of the tree, such as the squirrel Ratatosk (“swift teeth”), a notorious gossip, and Vidofnir (“tree snake”), the golden cock that perches on the topmost bough. The roots are gnawed upon by Nidhogg and other serpents.

On the day of Ragnarok, the fire giant Surt will set the tree on fire.

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