Yggdrasil – the Tree of Life

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is an immense tree that is central in Norse cosmology; the world tree, and around the tree existed nine worlds.

It is generally considered to mean “Ygg’s (Odin’s) horse”.

Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson.

In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is central and considered very holy.

The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to hold their courts.

The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr.

Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the wyrm (dragon) Níðhöggr, an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.

Conflicting scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of the name Yggdrasill, the possibility that the tree is of another species than ash, the relation to tree lore and to Eurasian shamanic lore, the possible relation to the trees Mímameiðr and Læraðr, Hoddmímis holt, the sacred tree at Uppsala, and the fate of Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök.

In the second stanza of the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá, the völva (a shamanic seeress) reciting the poem to the god Odin says that she remembers far back to “early times”, being raised by jötnar, recalls nine worlds and “nine wood-ogresses” (Old Norse nío ídiðiur), and when Yggdrasil was a seed (“glorious tree of good measure, under the ground”).

In stanza 19, the völva says:

‘An ash I know there stands,

Yggdrasill is its name,

a tall tree, showered

with shining loam.

From there come the dews

that drop in the valleys.

It stands forever green over

Urðr’s well.’


In stanza 20, the völva says that from the lake under the tree come three “maidens deep in knowledge” named Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld.

The maidens “incised the slip of wood,” “laid down laws” and “chose lives” for the children of mankind and the destinies (ørlog) of men.

In stanza 27, the völva details that she is aware that “Heimdallr’s hearing is couched beneath the bright-nurtured holy tree.”

In stanza 45, Yggdrasil receives a final mention in the poem.

The völva describes, as a part of the onset of Ragnarök, that Heimdallr blows Gjallarhorn, that Odin speaks with Mímir’s head, and then:

‘Yggdrasill shivers,

the ash, as it stands.

The old tree groans,

and the giant slips free.’



In stanza 34 of the poem Hávamál, Odin describes how he once sacrificed himself to himself by hanging on a tree. The stanza reads:


‘I know that I hung on a windy tree

nine long nights,

wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,

myself to myself,

on that tree of which no man knows

from where its roots run.’

In the stanza that follows, Odin describes how he had no food nor drink there, that he peered downward, and that “I took up the runes, screaming I took them, then I fell back from there.”

While Yggdrasil is not mentioned by name in the poem and other trees exist in Norse mythology, the tree is near universally accepted as Yggdrasil, and if the tree is Yggdrasil, then the name Yggdrasil directly relates to this story.

In the poem ‘Grímnismál’, Odin (disguised as Grímnir) provides the young Agnar with cosmological lore.

Yggdrasil is first mentioned in the poem in stanza 29, where Odin says that, because the “bridge of the Æsir burns” and the “sacred waters boil,” Thor must wade through the rivers Körmt and Örmt and two rivers named Kerlaugar to go “sit as judge at the ash of Yggdrasill.”

In the stanza that follows, a list of names of horses are given that the Æsir ride to “sit as judges” at Yggdrasil.

In Old Norse, áss (plural æsir) is the term denoting a member of the principal groups of gods of the pantheon of Norse paganism. They include many of the major figures, such as Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Tyr. They are one of the two groups of gods, the other being the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two are described as having waged war against one another in the Æsir-Vanir War, resulting in the unification of the two into a single tribe of gods.

In stanza 31, Odin says that the ash Yggdrasil has three roots that grow in three directions.

He details that beneath the first lives Hel, under the second live frost jötnar, and beneath the third lives mankind.

Stanza 32 details that a squirrel named Ratatoskr must run across Yggdrasil and bring “the eagle’s word” from above to Níðhöggr below.

Stanza 33 describes that four harts named Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór consume “the highest boughs” of Yggdrasil.

In stanza 34, Odin says that more serpents lie beneath Yggdrasil “than any fool can imagine” and lists them as Góinn and Móinn which he describes as sons of Grafvitnir, Grábakr, Grafvölluðr, Ófnir, and Sváfnir, who Odin adds that he thinks will forever gnaw on the tree’s branches.

In stanza 35, Odin says that Yggdrasil “suffers agony more than men know“, as a hart bites it from above, it decays on its sides, and Níðhöggr bites it from beneath.

In stanza 44, Odin provides a list of things that are what he refers to as the “noblest” of their kind. Within the list, Odin mentions Yggdrasil first, and states that it is the “noblest of trees“.

Yggdrasil is mentioned in two books in the ‘Prose Edda’, in Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál.

In Gylfaginning, Yggdrasil is introduced in chapter 15.

In chapter 15, Gangleri (described as king Gylfi in disguise) asks where is the chief or holiest place of the gods. High replies “It is the ash Yggdrasil. There the gods must hold their courts each day“.

Gangleri asks what there is to tell about Yggdrasil.

Just-As-High says that Yggdrasil is the biggest and best of all trees, that its branches extend out over all of the world and reach out over the sky. Three of the roots of the tree support it, and these three roots also extend extremely far: one “is among the Æsir, the second among the frost jötnar, and the third over Niflheim. The root over Niflheim is gnawed at by the wyrm Níðhöggr, and beneath this root is the spring Hvergelmir. Beneath the root that reaches the frost jötnar is the well Mímisbrunnr, “which has wisdom and intelligence contained in it, and the master of the well is called Mimir”.

Just-As-High provides details regarding Mímisbrunnr and then describes that the third root of the well “extends to heaven” and that beneath the root is the “very holy” well Urðarbrunnr.

At Urðarbrunnr the gods hold their court, and every day the Æsir ride to Urðarbrunnr up over the bridge Bifröst.

In chapter 16, Gangleri asks “what other particularly notable things are there to tell about the ash ?

High says there is quite a lot to tell about. High continues that an eagle sits on the branches of Yggdrasil and that it has much knowledge. Between the eyes of the eagle sits a hawk called Veðrfölnir.

A squirrel called Ratatoskr scurries up and down the ash Yggdrasil carrying “malicious messages” between the eagle and Níðhöggr.

Four stags named Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr, and Duraþrór run between the branches of Yggdrasil and consume its foilage.

In the spring Hvergelmir are so many snakes along with Níðhöggr “that no tongue can enumerate them“.

High continues that the Norns that live by the holy well Urðarbrunnr each day take water from the well and mud from around it and pour it over Yggdrasil so that the branches of the ash do not rot away or decay.

High provides more information about Urðarbrunnr, cites a stanza from Völuspá in support, and adds that dew falls from Yggdrasil to the earth, explaining that “this is what people call honeydew, and from it bees feed”.

In chapter 41, the stanza from Grímnismál is quoted that mentions that Yggdrasil is the foremost of trees.


Ragnarök

In chapter 54, as part of the events of Ragnarök, High describes that Odin will ride to the well Mímisbrunnr and consult Mímir on behalf of himself and his people.

After this, “the ash Yggdrasil will shake and nothing will be unafraid in heaven or on earth“, and then the Æsir and Einherjar will don their war gear and advance to the field of Vígríðr.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök (Old Norse “final destiny of the gods”) is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdall, and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and reborn gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors

Modern Influence

In modern times, Yggdrasil is sometimes depicted or referenced in modern popular culture. Modern works of art depicting Yggdrasil include Die Nornen (painting, 1888) by K. Ehrenberg; Yggdrasil (fresco, 1933) by Axel Revold, located in the University of Oslo library auditorium in Oslo, Norway; Hjortene beiter i løvet på Yggdrasil asken (wood relief carving, 1938) on the Oslo City Hall by Dagfin Werenskjold; and the bronze relief on the doors of the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities (around 1950) by B. Marklund in Stockholm, Sweden.

Poems mentioning Yggdrasil include Vårdträdet by Viktor Rydberg and Yggdrasill by J. Linke.

The significance of Yggdrasil for the Occult Reich is in its connection with the origin of the Runes (see ‘ARIOSOPHY AND THE RUNES‘ , its appearance in Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ in ‘Das Rheinegold’ (see ‘THE THIRD REICH & RICHARD WAGNER‘), and as the source of Wotan’s spear, on which the ‘world treaties’ are engraved in sacred runes.

 


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