What is the Yggdrasil?


What is Yggdrasil? The sacred tree of Norse mythology, said to connect the nine worlds in some sort of cosmic order. What does it mean for us today? We explore some possible interpretations and meanings behind this beautiful mythological symbol.

The Yggdrasil is a huge ash tree that connects the nine worlds in Norse mythology. It’s said to be so large that its branches reach up into the heavens and its roots go down into the depths of hell. This cosmic tree represents order and balance, connecting all things in existence.

For us today, the Yggdrasil is a reminder of the sacredness in all things, and our connection to nature. It’s also seen as an embodiment of wisdom – think about how vast it must be for its roots go down into hell!

Yggdrasil teaches us that we don’t have to look too far; even if something seems out-of-reach, it’s still connected in some way.

Scandinavian cosmology is based on the existence of nine worlds, each connected by the great tree Yggdrasil. The branches of this ash reach up into the heavens, and its roots plunge down into the depths of hell. This mighty symbol represents order and balance in the universe, as well as our connection to all things. The eight worlds (except Midgard) are:

  • Muspelheim – Fire and heat
  • Niflheim – Ice and cold
  • Asgard – Heaven
  • Helheim – Hell
  • Vanaheim – Creation
  • Jutunheim – Destruction
  • Alfheim – Light
  • Svartalfheim – Darkness

According to the Scandinavian, the universe consists of three levels: Asgard, Midgard and Utgard. Asgard is the world of the Aesir, or gods; Midgard is the land of humans; and Jotunheim is home to giants. Yggdrasil connects these three realms in a cosmic order that constantly threatens destruction yet never truly falls apart thanks to its regenerative nature.

Each of these levels is divided into three, resulting in a total of nine worlds, each of which remains in place, holding on to the branches of the World Tree, Yggdrasil.

So, Yggdrasil (also containing three magic wells) itself is divided into three levels: heaven, earth and underworld. It is also the only way between these levels.

The Highest Level includes:

  • The Highest Level includes:
  • – Asgard, the world of the Aesir
  • – Vanaheim, home of the Vanir gods
  • – Alfheim, land of the elves

The Medium Level includes:

  • – Midgard, our world, land of humans
  • – Svartalfheim, dark elves’ realm

The Lowest level includes:

  • – Helheim of the dead (basically underworld)
  • – Niflheim, primordial realm of ice and mist
  • – Muspellsheim, world of fire in which Surt resides

Njor / Scadi / Freya / Freyr

Even the Gods are divided into two groups, the Vanir and the Aesir. The Vanir are the older gods, while the Aesir are younger. The Vanir live in Vanaheim, and the Aesir live in Asgard.

The Vanir are the gods of fertility and prosperity, while the Aesir are more warlike and aggressive.

The Vanir included Njor, the god of fertile coastal land,  and his son, Frey. Frey was the god of fertility, peace and prosperity. He could also make it rain or snow as he wished.

Freyja was the goddess of love, beauty, sex, and death. She was a member of both the Vanir and Aesir pantheons.

The Aesir included Thor, the god of thunder, and Odin, the all-father.

Odin was the chief of the Aesir gods and the most powerful. He was a god of war, wisdom, magic, poetry, death, and the underworld.

One story tells how Odin sacrificed one eye in order to gain knowledge from Mimir’s well.

The tree also has three wells: Urdarbrunnir (well of fate), Mimisbrunnir (well of memory) and Hvergelmir (gushing spring). These wells are said to be the source of the tree’s life force.

Urdarbrunnir is located at the base of Yggdrasil and is presided over by the Norns, a trio of goddesses who determine the destiny of all beings. They water the tree with sacred water from the well, which prevents it from dying.

Mimir’s well is located in Asgard, and Odin sacrifices an eye to drink from its waters in order to gain knowledge.

Hvergelmir is a giant spring located at the base of Niflheim. It is said to be the source of all rivers, including the river Gjoll which leads to Helheim.

The tree represents not only the connection between worlds, but also the connection between past, present and future. The Norns water it with sacred water from Urdarbrunnir in order to keep it alive, representing our constant need to remember the past in order to shape our future.

Mimir’s well is a symbol of wisdom and understanding, gained by making sacrifices. Hvergelmir is a reminder that everything is connected, and that even the deepest darkness contains life-giving force.

Odin`s Sacrifices

Another similar sacrifice of Odin was his eye. He sacrificed his one eye in order to gain knowledge of the future. This sacrifice was made during a time when Odin was seeking wisdom from the Well of Mimir. In order to gain access to the well, Odin had to sacrifice an eye.

Odin is also known for sacrificing himself for the good of others. One famous example of this is when Odin hung himself upside down from Yggdrasil, pierced with a spear for nine days and nights. During this time Odin did not eat, nor slumber. This was done so that he could acquire the wisdom of the Runes.

In another example of Odin’s self sacrifice, we learn of how he bargained away his own left arm in order to gain the magical mead of poetry from the giants. This Mead was said to make whoever drank it a master of all poetic forms.

Another example of Odin’s willingness to make great sacrifices for the good of his people is his decision to give up his right eye in order to gain knowledge from the well of Mimir. This well was a source of great wisdom and by sacrificing his eye, Odin was able to gain access to it.

Though Odin is often seen as a god who makes great sacrifices, he is also known for his wisdom and compassion. He is a god that can be both merciful and harsh.

Odin is also shown to be a god who can make great sacrifice for the greater good of his people. Odin did this by marrying Frigg and taking on her responsibilities to ensure balance in all worlds (Earth, Asgard, etc) while she stayed in Asgard to watch over it.

How is Yggdrasil structured ?

“Yggdrasil” is an Old Norse name for the World Tree, which was known to the Vikings as one of their most important mythological trees. It was said that all worlds are connected to Yggdrasil, that it holds the 9 realms together, and that it’s roots are at Valhalla.

It can be hard to visualize what this looks like, so here’s a helpful diagram:

As you can see, Yggdrasil is a very complex tree with many branches and roots. It connects all 9 of the Norse realms together, and it’s said that the fate of all worlds rests upon it. Without Yggdrasil, the universe would unravel.

Interestingly, the World Tree is not just a Norse mythological symbol – it’s also found in other cultures around the world. For example, in Hinduism there is a tree called “Banyan” which is said to be the root of the physical universe. And in Buddhism, there is a tree called “The Bodhi Tree” which is said to be the tree of knowledge and enlightenment, with it’s roots in heaven.

It doesn’t end there though – the World Tree is also a very prominent theme in modern day fantasy. In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, “Fangorn Forest” is heavily inspired by Yggdrasil, and the tree-like Ents that live there are direct descendants of the Norse World Tree.

So next time you’re watching your favourite fantasy movie or reading a Tolkien book, be sure to appreciate the symbolism of the World Tree! It’s a motif that appears in many different cultures and religions, and it’s significance is far greater than most people realize.

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