Mythic Monday (Sort of): Yggdrasill – If You Can Pronounce It, You May Be A Viking

First, I’m late. I know it. There was death and sadness that I found really odd since I didn’t know the man at all except for the characters he played but I felt sad anyway. And then there were assholes making snarky superior comments about how Robin Williams is going to hell for committing suicide, and then there was angry me changing the theme of Mythic Monday this week six times because I was SO LIVID at the bitch at work who made said comments I had a whole post planned on hubris and arrogance…

And then someone found my blog by searching lilith spurned adam ,marries satan (typed exactly as found) and I chuckled and remembered MY anger over her judgmental bitch behavior won’t do a stitch of good. And…I spelled “stitch” incorrectly the first time around. Proofreading: it’s not just for English Majors anymore.

And so I’m back on my original post topic…potentially with fewer fragments and more actual sentences. (My apologies, Mr. Benson.)

Crap. The period goes INSIDE the parentheses in this case, right? Sigh. Honestly it doesn’t matter one bit: spellchecker is going to explode with this post anyway.

Moving on.

Norse Cosmology (not creation and the gods, just the worlds)…because I plan on doing a post on other excellent stories (like Thor fishing for Jormungand in the sea around Midgard) but in order to do so a prequel must be presented for those who aren’t Astaru or Heathen or just mythology freaks like me. (If I’m incorrect on anything here, those of you who ARE Astaru or Heathen or just better vested into Norse myth than I am, please comment).

Also: Norse mythologies use spellings from Old Norse, Modern Norwegian, Icelandic (which is VERY close to Old Norse but not exactly the same), Modern Swedish, Modern Danish, and of course the English translations.

What I’m saying here is that there are MULTIPLE spelling nuances for most of these names. Please try not to rip my head off because I spelled something different from your usual use (particularly if you use it in your spiritual beliefs)…I just picked one relatively consistent spelling and went with it across the board.

The Norse universe is set up in sets of three. Yes, three IS the number and the number shall be three. I am not going into Gods here, just the cosmos for now.

The universe itself is made up of three…hmm…plates, or levels. Envision one of those china caddy things that hold plates horizontal yet separated from each other, so they’re stacked but not touching. This is the universe: three “plates” set up with space above and below each. And just as you’d imagine, the top level is the one with the most light while the bottom has the most shadow.

The top level houses Asgard, Vanaheim, and Alfheim. The Aesir gods dwell here in their halls, and Valhalla (which is seriously a full post on it’s own merits, which I have planned), the hall of the warrior dead. Also located in Asgard is the site of Ragnarok (the battle at the end of time between all gods, men, and monsters): Vigrid, a battle plain so vast it’s a sea of land. I envision something like the Great Plains, or the Steppes of Russia and Mongolia, but ultimately Asgard was, as you’d expect, enormous.

Asgard – land of the Aesir, the warrior gods
Vanaheim – land of the Vanir, the fertility gods (until they united with the Aesir, anyway)
Alfheim – land of the light elves.

Below Asgard, in the second level, is Midgard, the world of man.

Midgard is the level surrounded by a never-ending ocean, and Jormungand, the serpent dwelling at the bottom of the sea who’s so long he bites his own tail.

Midgard – land of man.
Nidavellir – Dark Home, land of dwarves, in the Northern caves and potholes (I wonder occasionally if they wear hardhats and reflective vests while they’re fixing potholes?)
Svartalfheim – land of dark elves, in the Northern underground.
Jotunheim – land of giants, in the Eastern Mountains along the coast.

The way between Asgard and Midgard is the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge. Those of you who’ve seen the Thor movies know exactly what I’m talking about: they truly did a fantastic job.

The third level, the darkest, is Niflheim, the world of the dead. The citadel of Niflheim is Hel, a world of it’s own. However, in some of the creation myths Niflheim and Hel are combined into one and the ninth world is Muspellheim, land of fire. Interestingly, and in typical Norse circular fashion…the “big bang” in the universe which CREATED the levels and nine worlds occurred when Niflheim, land of ice, collided with Muspellheim, land of fire. Yes, it’s confusing. Now, even more confusing is the idea that Niflheim contains the PLACE “Hel” and has since creation. Dwelling in Hel is the monster/creature, Hel, who is the daughter of Loki (who hasn’t happened yet, if creation just banged when the two worlds collided to form the underworld). The dead must pass THROUGH Hel the creature to reach Hel the citadel and finally to get to Niflheim.

The center of all three levels, at the center of the UNIVERSE, is the ash tree, Yggdrasill, the World or Guardian Tree. Yggdrasill’s branches reach above out over all the worlds and over heaven, and its three roots are planted in Asgard at the Well of Urd (Fate); in Jotunheim at the Spring of Mimir (Knowledge); and in Niflheim at the Spring of Hvergelmir (the source of eleven rivers).

Yggdrasill truly is presented as a sort of all encompassing Tree of Knowledge, Ark, and central pillar of sustenance to the universe. Yggdrasill is where Odin sacrificed his eye to drink from the Spring o Mimir to gain his vast knowledge. Near the Spring of Hvergelmir dwells the great dragon Nidhogg, who gnaws at the root of the world tree. Deer, goats, eagles, squirrels all live on the tree and eat from it. Ratatosk the squirrel carries insults from Nidhogg at the root of the tree up to the eagle who lives in the uppermost branches. The Well of Urd, or Fate, is where the Norns reside, the goddesses of destiny who carefully tend their root to keep the tree healthy with all the creatures damaging it for their survival.

Yggdrasill is so powerful, it survives Ragnarok, the final battle at the end of the world. It truly is the central, stable being of Norse myth.

For those of you who want pronunciations…honestly there’s no way I can phonetically spell the neat Norse “ou” sound, which isn’t the same as “hound” or “wound.” It’s a Minnesota (minnesooota) accent thing, I suppose, so I can pronounce it but I can’t WRITE it properly.

In general, Y sounds like a short ‘i’ (dig). J is usually a “y” (yes). LLs have a bit of a roll to them.

The other part of Norse language that’s difficult to convey in writing is the rocking rhythm of the words themselves. Poetry, after all, was the primary source of entertainment and storytelling for a reason for a people with a rocking-horse style of speaking Ragnarok would be RAg-na-ROK.

Now, go forth and practice Hvergelmir (VER gel meer, g is hard) and Jotunheim  (Yout un hime) to your heart’s content.

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