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World Tree

Known amongst Scandinavian nations traditionally as the ‘Ash Yggdrasil’. Having three main branches and roots the tree was believed to have sprung from the beginning of time out of primordial slime and ashes.

The roots represent time, past, present, and future, and all spread to reach wells or fountains at different points. The first root was next to a fountain or well called ‘Hvergelmir’ in ‘Niflheim’. The second root was by inhabited by ‘Mimir’ in ‘Jotunheim’. The third root was found by ‘Vurdh’ or ‘Urdar’. This was in heaven and a sacred place were the gods would hold their meetings.

The central first branch reached out over the whole universe and ran through the centre of the earth holding it up. ‘Asgard’ was a mountain and home of the gods and rose up out of where the root pierced the earth. The leaves on this branch represented the clouds whilst the fruit were the stars.

The second branch came up by a place of a fountain with holy water and guarded by the three ‘Fates’ or ‘Norns’ (Vurdh, Verhandi and Skuld). The Fates represented the past, present and future respectively. The water fed the tree, and in the fountain one could see two swans which represented the sun and the moon.

‘Hunangsfall’ is like honey and is believed to have fallen from the tree. Scampering amongst the branches and nibbling the top shoots were four male deer. At the top sits an eagle which represents the atmosphere with a hawk (‘Veorfolnir’) representing the ether. ‘Nidhoggr’ is a serpent that represents the inner torment that is in every person and is coiled up at the bottom of the tree with other snakes, continually attacking the roots. The serpent waits to take over the earth. A squirrel, ‘Ratatosk’, runs up and down the main stem between the eagle and the serpent endeavouring to engage the two in a process of salvation. It represents the snow and the rain.

‘Mimir’ is seen as a wise man, or in some cases a giant, that dwells in the second fountain providing a source of wisdom for man. The water here too provides the source for all streams. The ‘Frost-Giants’, or ‘Hrim-thyrs’ also live in Jotunheim. When the last judgement or final conflict occurs a horn called ‘Giallr’ will be sounded by ‘Heimdallr’. He is the warder of the gods who live on the mountain. When everything in the world is about to end including time itself the gods and men will be raised for the final fight, known at the ‘doom’ or ‘twilight’.

The following poem tells us what will happen after the final conflict. The tree will grow once again and the gods will meet on ‘Idafield’ beneath it. A new host of people will inhabit the earth. They have been hidden during the conflict in ‘Hoddmimir’s Grove (the World Ash), Their parents are ‘Lif’ which means ‘Life’ and ‘Lifthrasir’ which means ‘Desire of Life’ (who could be equated to Adam and Eve).

‘Woluspa’ or ‘Lay of Wala’
taken from ‘The Edda’

‘The sons of Mimir tremble, the tree in the middle takes fire
At the startling sounds of the noisy horn;
Heimdal, horn in air, loudly sounds the alarm;
Odin consults the head of Mimir.
Then the Ash raised from Yggdrasil,
That old tree, shivers; the Jotun breaks his chains;
The shades shudder upon the roads to the lower region,
Until the ardour of Surtur has consumed the tree.’

Also known traditionally as ‘Irminsul’ in Germanic culture. The name refers to the trunk of the tree as it represents the structures which hold up the universe. The roots of the tree are similar to the ‘Yggdrasil’. Wooden sculptures of the Gods were placed on wooden pillars called ‘Irminsul’.

‘Upon an yrmensul
Stood an idol huge,
Him they called their merchant.’