the dictionary of norse mythology


YGGDRASIL The ash tree of Norse myth, called the World Tree because it forms a link between the nine worlds.At the uppermost level are asgard, home of the aesir gods vanaheim, home of the vanir gods and alfheim, home of the light elves.On the next level lie midgard Earth, the home of humans jotunheim, home of the jotuns, or giants svartalfheim, home of the dark elves and nidavellir, home of the dwarfs.In the dark underworld, Yggdrasil's roots reach muspellheim, land of fire, and niflheim, including hel's realm, the land of the dead.Three wells water the roots of Yggdrasil. One is the Well of urd, urdarbrunn, a sacred place tended by the three norns and where the gods sit in council.The second is mimir's well, in which is preserved the head of the wisest of all beings, mimir. odin him-self consults Mimir when in need of knowledge.The third spring is Vergelmir, in Niflheim, the land of the dead. The foul dragon nithog lives there, forever nibbling at the roots of Yggdrasil.Writhing serpents breathe clouds of venom onto the roots of Yggdrasil. Huge stags and goats tear leaves and bark from the tree. Yggdrasil survives all these torments, helped by the Norns who sprinkle Urd's water upon the roots. It will survive ragnarok,the end of the world, though it will tremble. lif and lifthrasir will hide in the depths of the tree, fed on its dew and emerge afterward to repeople the earth.In the topmost branches of Yggdrasil sits a mighty eagle with a small hawk upon its brow, surveying the world. A squirrel, ratatosk, scampers up and down the tree bearing tales from Nithog to the eagle and back again.Once Odin hanged himself from the branches of Yggdrasil for nine nights to learn the secret of the runes. The Norse sometimes called the gallows a horse drasil, and Odin, Ygg Terrible One.A tree is commonly used in myths to symbolize long life, fertility, regeneration, and knowledge.

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