Tag: pre-christian religion

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.

The Origins of the Norse Mythology

Norse mythology comprises the indigenous pre-Christian religion, beliefs and legends of the Scandinavian peoples, including those who settled on Iceland, where most of the written sources for Norse mythology were assembled.

Norse mythology is the best-preserved version of the older common Germanic paganism, which also includes the very closely related Anglo-Saxon mythology.

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Vanaheim

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

Aesir

The collective name for the the principal race of Norse gods; they who lived in Asgard, and with the All-Father Odin, ruled the lives of mortal men, the other was the Vanir.

The Aesir gods under the leadership of Odin, included:

  • Balder (god of beauty)
  • Bragi (god of eloquence)
  • Forseti (god of mediation)
  • Freyr (god of fertility, who originally was from the Vanir)
  • Heimdall (guardian of the bridge)
  • Hod (the blind god)
  • Loki (god of fire and ally of the frost giants)
  • Njord (the sea god, and another ex-Vanir)
  • Thor (god of thunder)
  • Tyr (god of war)
  • Vili (brother to Odin)
  • Ve (brother to Odin)
  • Vidar (Odin’s son)

The goddesses included:

  • Freya (the fertility goddess)
  • Frigga (Odin’s wife)
  • Sif (Thor’s wife)
  • Idun (keeper of the apples of youth)

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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