Yggdrasil : Tree of Life and Tree of the Nordic World

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Tree of Life and Tree of the Nordic World

At the geographical center of the Nordic spiritual cosmos is a mighty tree named Yggdrasil (Old Norse Yggdrasill or Askr Yggdrasils). The branches and roots of this tree connect the different parts of the cosmos with each other and around it are ranged the Nine Worlds and the rest of this cosmos. Thus, their well-being results from that of Yggdrasil. He controls them. For example, the trembling of the tree announces the arrival of Ragnarök and the destruction of the universe.

In Yggdrasil, "Yggr" is one of the names of the god Odin. He means "Terrible" which shows how the Vikings saw him as powerful and how much they feared him. “Drasill” represents a “horse”. The name "Yggdrasil" then represents "Horse of Odin". This name refers to the sacrifice of the god Odin in order to decipher the runes. Since the tree was the support of its softened body, the Scandinavian poets then depict them as a horse and its rider.



In Scandinavian literature, Yggdrasil is usually an ash tree, but it is not certain. Sometimes it is mentioned that no one really knows their species. It seems that there is no certainty about this enigmatic subject in the time of the Vikings. Just like other Norse mythologies for that matter.


Our tree of life jewelry:

The poem Völuspà refers to Yggdrasil as "the friend of the clear sky", so high that even his crown is above the clouds. Like the highest mountains, the snow covers its heights and “The dews that fall in the valleys” touch its leaves. According to Hàvamàl , the tree is encircled by violent and recurring winds. It is therefore "windy". "No one knows the sources of his roots" which extend to hell. Apart from shamans, no one can see him before he dies. Near the tree is held daily the assembly of the gods.

Yggdrasil shelters many lives whether in its branches or in its roots. The Nidhogg dragon dominates the bottom of its trunk and other snakes attack its roots.

At the top of Yggdrasil nestles a majestic eagle which is a great enemy of the dragon Nidhogg. This quarrel amuses Ratatosk the squirrel so much, who is quick to fuel the hatred between them. He goes back and forth between Nidhogg and the eagle to tell what they say about each other.

At this time, the four stags: Dainn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Durathror eat the leaves of the tree.

Despite this amusing image, these facts depicted have a deep meaning: its death is expressed by the browsing of its leaves by animals. And this death also announces the death of the cosmos which depends on it.

Yggdrasil animals

@Carolyn Stewart

The arrangement and number of its roots and the shafts that lie beneath the base of the trunk of Yggdrasil are provided by Old Norse sources. But these accounts are contradictory.

Yggdrasil has according to the poem Grimnismàl , three main roots, one of which is planted in the World of humanity Midgard, another in the world of the giants Jotunheim, and the last in the underworld Hel. Völuspà meanwhile mentions only one well under the tree: the well of Urd or well of destiny .

However, in his Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson relies on the fact that there are three wells beneath Yggdrasil, one for each root. And that the well of Urd is not below Yggdrasil, but in the sky like Völuspà and that its root bends towards the sky.

Yggdrasil story

@ᚠᛖᛚᛁᛈᛖ ​​ᚨᛊᛏᛖᛒᚨᚾ

The Well of Urd is where the daily council and assembly of the gods are held.

The second well of Yggdrasil is named Hvergelmir, he and the second root descend into the primary ice world Niflheim. It is this root that the dragon/snake Nidhogg eats. It is also known that when a corpse arrives in Hel, Nidhogg sucks its blood.

The well of sage Mimir is the third well of Yggdrasil. He and his root are found in Jotunheim, the realm of the giants.

Snori incorporates an artificial systematization of his own invention that did not exist in the Viking Age, as he wrote centuries later. However, some of these elements come from legitimate sources that we have lost. It is shown that there was a special connection between Mimir and Yggdrasil, and surely also with the well often mentioned about Mimir. For example, Yggdrasil was sometimes called Mimameidr or "Mimir's post".


What are the Nine Worlds? How do they place themselves vis-à-vis Yggdrasil?

The Old Norse does not show it to us. It is uncertain whether there was a distinguished "map" or image of the Nine World or their organization that the pagan Nordics believed. Indeed, the lack of systematization or codification characterizing the whole of Norse mythology and religion, as well as the fluidity, ambiguity and contradiction imply doubts in this regard. (Any images found online are speculative and unverifiable at best.)

the worlds in Yggdrasil


However, some clues in the sources allow us to construct a provisional scheme. The Nine Realms appear to be placed on two axes, vertical and horizontal. The vertical axis would correspond to the trunk of Yggdrasil, with in the highest branches, Asgard. At the base on the ground, Midgard and among the roots underground, Hel. As for the horizontal axis, it would be based on the difference between the innangard and the utangard that the Vikings make for themselves. Because of this, Asgard sits above the Trunk, Midgard around the Trunk, and Jotunheim further, as it surrounds Midgard.

The celestial sphere is then composed as follows:

      Asgard : the world of the Aesir gods related to Odin;

      Vanaheim: the world of the Vanir gods;

      Alfheim: the world of light elves.

The intermediate sphere consists of:

      Human world or Midgard

      World of the Ice Giants or Jötunheim

      World of the Elves or Svartalfeim


Although the tree of life is badly destabilized after the apocalyptic tale of the coming comet, Ragnaröket, it will be the source of life. Lif and Lifdrasir , two humans who hid in Yggdrasil will come into being. The golden age of the Norse gods will return with the rebirth of the world after Ragnarök.

odin rune and Yggdrasil

@Keagan Ash

On the tapestry of Överhogdal which dates from 1066, the events of Ragnarök, the apocalyptic story of the next comet, as well as the fate of the gods appear there. We also see the image of Yggdrasil.

The inspiring Yggdrasil

For the Scandinavians, Yggdrasil was vital. We find this perception by the number of trees that the Vikings consider as its representative. In Sweden, near the temple of Uppsala, Adam of Bremen depicts one which is especially magnificent. Around these trees are formed the trusses to make miniature reproductions of the sacred spiritual cosmos.

Given Yggdrasill's place in the Norse world, it is necessary to draw parallels between this entity and the real and symbolic trees in Norse worship.

Sacrifice and its meaning

In Norse/Germanic custom, sacrifices are hung on trees. This practice would have been drawn from the circumstance of this myth where one identifies these victims with Odin. Adam of Bremen describes it in detail in the depiction of the temple at Uppsala as follows “Next is the sacrifice: nine victims of all the male creatures will be offered. Appeasing the gods with the blood of these creatures is customary. Their bodies are hanged in a grove next to the temple. From then on, all the trees found there are considered sacred due to the death or putrefaction of the sacrificial victims”.

attachment to trees

Other, smaller trees considered cousins ​​of Yggdrasil are revered. This is the case of the imposing sacred conifer of Uppsala, and Irminsul, an oak supposed to connect earth and sky venerated by the pagan Saxons.

Sacred trees are considered the center of Norse worship, healing magick and shamanism.

The tree symbolizes the cosmos, but also expresses life, youth, immortality and wisdom. Apart from the cosmic trees of Nordic mythology such as the Yggdrasil, the history of religions also notes trees of life in Mesopotamia; of immortality in Asia or in the Old Testament; of knowledge always in the Old Testament; of youth in Mesopotamia, India and Iran. The tree demonstrates all that the religious man deems real and sacred. He makes her realize that the gods have their own nature and that it is inaccessible to everyone.

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