Yggdrasil, Tree of Life - Norse
Long, long ago—Im uhr Zeit war es (In old time was it)—Dat var en gang (That was once), there
yawned in space a vast gulf of nothingness called Ginnungagap. Ginnungagap—it hung like a windless summer day—Ginnungagap.
Far, far to the north of Ginnungagap was Nifelheim. Ooooh! Nifelheim, the realm of ice and misty
darkness. Where twelve rivers of ice creaked and crashed into Ginnungagap and velvety, frosty vapors
wisped and whirled about huge chunks of ice—and howling, whirling winds screamed in sorrowful
symphonies over great sheets of ice.
Far, far to the south of Ginnungagap was Muspelheim. Mmmmm! Warm Muspelheim, the luminous
realm of fi re and light. There, twelve rivers of molten moving rock poured into Ginnungagap. Fires
flared and sparks flew up and out into Ginnungagap.
Th ere and then did it happen. Th ere and then did it all begin. Th ere, where the tempests of gloom
creaked and crashed toward the moving molten rock. Th ere and then, where fi re met ice and ice met
fire. There, where the first flames licked upon the canyons of ice. Th ere and then did all life begin—in
the first drip, drip—drop upon drop of water.
Drop upon drop—swirling—a small spot of soil in that pool of water. Soil upon soil spilling in and
upon itself, molding the first form of life made from mud. Ymir, the great mud giant! When Ymir
woke, Ymir was hungry! So, Ymir ate. And after Ymir ate, Ymir slept!
In that sleep, Ymir gave birth out of his left foot to the first of the Ice and Mud Giants! Then, from
the sweat of his right armpit, he gave birth to Mimir and Bestla—Mimir, God of Memory and Bestla,
Goddess of Mindfulness. And surely, for Ymir, this was a sweaty birth. In time, Mimir and Bestla gave
birth to Bure who gave birth to Bor—who, in turn, gave birth to the first of the Asir gods. You may
know them. Th ere was Odin or All-Father, God of Spirit; Ve, God of Strength and Honor; and Vile or
Loki, the Trickster. In time, a great battle ensued between the Asir gods and the Ice and Mud Giants.
For the Ice Giants always wanted the warmth of the Asir goddesses. And because they were always in a
So a great battle ensued, but in time, the Asir gods triumphed over the Ice and Mud Giants. They
killed Ymir and sliced open his body, spilling out his icy cold blood, which became the oceans of the
world. They pulled out his bones to hold up the world’s mountains. They broke his jaw and threw his
teeth out along the shores, which became the boulders you see today strewn on the lands near the sea.
Th en, they threw his body down, down below the ocean floor upon the great World Mill. The great
World Mill—it sits deep below in the ocean floor. It is churned and turned by nine giant maidens
with hair of braided white light. Th ere the giant maidens are churning, turning—grinding up Ymir’s
bones, body, and girth, spewing forth the new lands of the earth. Every time you feel the earth tremble or quake below your feet, know that it is the work of the nine giant maidens. They are throwing
the body of another Mud or Ice Giant upon the World Mill and churning it up.
Now, it happened in this early time, that a great seed fell to the earth—and from this seed sprouted
forth a magnificent tree—Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil sent three roots down, down into the dark earth and
sent its limbs high into the heavens.
One root grew down into the realm of Erda, the Goddess of Earth, whose name gives us the English
word for “earth.” Under the soil, Erda is hostess to a vast multitude of fairies, who are constantly
feeding Yggdrasil. Up upon the earth, other fairies douse the tree with a sweet dew. For out of Erda’s
realm, Yggdrasil is forever blossoming, growing, nourished.
The second root grows down into the realm of Hela, the Hag of Death. Th ere, she lives with her
dragon, Nidhogg, who is constantly chewing, chewing on the root and life of Yggdrasil. Up above,
deer and other creatures constantly nibble on the tree’s leaves and bark. All manner of bugs and birds
burrow into its bark. For there, Yggdrasil is always dying—decaying. For ne’er can there be good to
which evil comes not—nor can there be growth without decay.
The third root, white like light it is, streams down, down the center core of Yggdrasil into the well
of all memory. Th ere, Mimir, the God of Memory, makes his home. Deep, deep in this dark rooty
realm, Mimir keeps company with a vast multitude of small dark dwarfs who are busy, busy, busy
day and night, night and day, making a sweet mead. So sweet, it is said, that any mere mortal who
passes through the forest and smells this sweet mead sifting up through the soil, will become so
intoxicated that words will fall forth as if formed in the mouth of the first creator—and this is how
poetry is born.
Deep, down, the roots of Mimir’s realm hold the origin of the singing spring, called Sokvabek. Sometimes Odin rests by the spring and Saga, the Goddess of Story, translates its song for him. Sokvabek
sings forth, forming a fine, sweet brook from which all story begins—Out of which all life is renewed—To which the Salmon of Knowledge ever returns—By which all life is sustained—Through
which Saga’s story flows ever onward.
And then, there is Ratatoskr, the squirrel, who is busy, busy, busy day and night, night and day, running up and down the tree, carrying news from the gods and goddesses below to the gods and goddesses high above in the canopy—and back again. Busy, busy, busy, Ratatoskr is carrying the news.
Now if this story has not impressed you yet, imagine this: when you go out tonight and look at the
stars, sparkling as a canopy of light above you, know that they are hanging on the highest limbs of