14 Fascinating Facts about Yggdrasil (Norse Mythology)

Yggdrasil is a giant mythical tree that serves as the center of the Norse cosmology in Norse mythology.

It is an immense ash tree that is said to connect the nine worlds of Norse cosmology. Each of these nine worlds is inhabited by various beings, including gods, humans, and elves.

The roots of Yggdrasil extend into the underworld, and the branches of the tree reach up into the heavens.

Yggdrasil is a giant mythical tree that serves as the center of the Norse cosmology in Norse mythology.
It is an immense ash tree that is said to connect the nine worlds of Norse cosmology. Each of these nine worlds is inhabited by various beings, including gods, humans, and elves.
The roots of Yggdrasil extend into the underworld, and the branches of the tree reach up into the heavens.
Yggdrasil was the immense ash tree that connected and supported the world in Norse mythology

Yggdrasil did not have a creator

Yggdrasil’s origins in the Norse mythological poems are not properly explained; however, by reading the Norse creation story, we know that the sacred waters of Mimir, Urd, and Hvergelmir were among the first locations to be created out of the dead giant Ymir.

It is possible that the seed that would become Yggdrasil obtained it’s nourishment from these waters and began to grow into the World Tree of the Norse.

Yggdrasil was an ash tree

Throughout the majority of Norse mythological sources Yggdrasil has been described as an ash tree, and not an oak or a yew.

The Norse deeply venerated the ash tree, and even believed the gods created the first man, Ask, out of an ash tree and gave it divine spirit.

The many uses of ash wood, such as in spears, bows or building material, created a deep appreciation for it, which over time led to it being considered a sacred tree.

Yggdrasil has three roots that hold Midgard, Jottunheim and Asgard

A common theme in Norse mythology is that Yggdrasil has three roots, and each of these taps into a sacred water source that gives the tree its eternal life.

The northern root spreads over the realm of Niflheim, ruled by the goddess Hel, and taps into the spring Hvergelmir.

Just underneath the southern root is Mimir’s fountain. On this root lies Jottunheim, the land of giants.

Finally, the realm of Asgard is said to reside on the third root of Yggdrasil, with Urd’s Well just underneath it.

This raises a curious problem, since it is said that Asgard lies far above in Heaven. However, if Asgard is situated on a root, then this implies the root is not stuck into the “ground” but rather juts out into Heaven.

The water from all three sources kept Yggdrasil eternally green and always renewing. But if Yggdrasil lost access to even one of these water sources, it would then be doomed to die.

Finally, the Norse cosmogony says there are nine worlds in total that are connected to the world tree, but Jotunheim, Niflheim, and Asgard are the only ones that are precisely located on Yggdrasil.

The other six worlds are not given exact locations, but all are connected to Yggdrasil.

Odin hanged himself from Yggdrasil to master the wisdom from Mimir’s fountain

Sitting at the southern root of Yggdrasil, Mimir’s fountain contained either sacred water or holy mead that gave great wisdom to anyone who drank from it.

Seeking to drink from the fountain, Odin offered Mimir an eye in exchange for a drink.

Afterwards, Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights so he could master the magic runes and magical powers granted by the fountain.

Yggdrasil’s name comes from Odin himself

The complete name of the world tree is Askr Yggdrasil, meaning “the ash of Yggdrasil.”

Yggdrasil means “Ygg’s horse,” or “Ygg’s Steed”. Ygg (translated as “the Terrible”) was another name of Odin’s.

Thus, Yggdrasil can be interpreted as “the ash steed of Odin” or “the ash horse of Odin.”

There are many theories that explain the origin of this name.

The most obvious is the story of Odin’s hanging, since Odin “rode” an ash tree as he hung from it.

Another explanation of the name may be due to the fact that victims sacrificed to Odin were hung on sacred trees, riding the tree, gallows, or horse sacred to him.

Another explanation is that Odin tied his steed to Yggdrasil.

From Urd’s Well, the Norns watered Yggdrasil and foretold the future

In Norse mythology, the destinies of all living beings were determined by a trio of goddesses called the Norns. These were Urd, Verdandi and Skuld.

Thence come the maidens, great in wisdom,
Three from the hall beneath the tree,
Urd one is called, the second Verdandi,
(On a wooden tablet they scored), Skuld the third.
Fast they set the lot of life
To the sons of men, the fate of men.

The Norns resided underneath one of Yggdrasil’s roots and used water from Urd’s Well (named after the chief Norn) to nourish Yggdrasil and cleanse its roots of all corruption.

It was said that the water from Urd’s Well was so holy and pure that everything it touched became immaculate white.

It is for this reason that Yggdrasil’s roots are commonly thought to be this pure white color.

Also located near Urd Well was the council chamber of the gods, where they met every day to discuss the business of the world.

The dragon Nidhogg gnawed on one of Yggdrasil’s roots

The northern root of Yggdrasil spanned into Niflheim, the Norse realm of the dead, and touched the spring Hvergelmir and its water basin. Within that basin were countless snakes, each one biting, digging, and scratching at the root of Yggdrasil.

However, none caused more damage to the World Tree than Nidhogg, an evil dragon who constantly gnawed at the northern root.

Nidhogg did this to sever the World Tree’s connection to the waters of the Hvergelmir, which would have caused the tree to wither and die, which would have brought about the end of all Norse gods as well.

A squirrel called Ratatoskr antagonized Nidhogg

At the very top of Yggdrasil sat an eagle (perhaps Odin in animal form), who sought to protect Yggdrasil from Nidhogg but could not reach him.

Ratatoskr saw an opportunity to cause trouble, so he climbed up and down Yggdrasil all day, passing insults from the eagle to Nidhogg and vice versa.

This made them both angry and encouraged the dragon to do its cruel work of bringing down the world tree.

Four stags feed on Yggdrasil’s leaves and produce the world’s rivers

Because Yggdrasil was evergreen and its leaves never withered, it served as pasture ground for Odin’s goat, Heidrun, which supplied the heavenly mead, the drink of the gods.

Besides Heidrun, Yggdrasil was also home to four stags called Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, and Durathor, from whose horns honey-dew dropped down upon the earth and furnished the water for all the rivers in the world.

Yggdrasil is slowly decaying

After the Norse world was created, Yggdrasil grew quickly and gloriously, fed by the three sacred waters at its roots.

During the first epochs in the Norse timeline, Mimir carefully guarded and nourished the World Tree and protected it from evil.

At this time, Mimir’s seven sons watched over the correct succession of the seven seasons, as it was described in the world-law.

But these good times came to an end when Loki’s female counterpart, Gulveig-Heid, started plots and schemes that led to a war between the Aesir and Vanir gods.

During this conflict, Mimir was killed, and so Yggdrasil lost the watchman of its most important water source.

Mimir’s seven sons were all put to sleep, which disrupted the cycle of the seven seasons. They would not awaken again until the arrival of Ragnarock.

Without its protectors, Yggdrasil was in a state of slow death and decay. From below, Nidhogg gnawed at its roots, while from above, the four stags nibbled on its leaves.

The Sun and the Moon traverse Yggdrasil every day

In Norse mythology, the sun and moon were personified as two deities: Sol as the sun goddess and Mani as the moon god.

Each day, Sol and Mani traveled across the sky on fixed paths, with their journeys starting and ending from “horse-doors” that were located in the eastern and western mountain walls of the lower world.

Heimdall’s Gjallarhorn is hidden among Yggdrasil’s roots

Heimdall is an Aesir god and a guardian of Asgard. From his outpost, he carefully watches over the world.

It is prophesized that Heimdall is the one who will announce the arrival of Ragnarock using his sounding horn, Gjallarhorn, and alert the gods that the final battle is at hand.

Until then however, Gjallahorn is hidden “beneath the hedge-of the foreshadowing holy tree”.

Yggdrasil survives Ragnarock

As a living being connected to everything in the world, Yggdrasil itself can feel approach of Ragnarock.

Yggdrasill shivers,
the ash, as it stands.
The old tree groans,
and the giant slips free.

Despite the great suffering experienced by Yggdrasil because of Nidhogg, the four stags, and the absence of Mimir, the World Tree survives Ragnarock.

In fact, the prophecies say that neither a sword nor fire can harm Yggdrasil; and when evil has reached its climax, and when the present world is ended in the Ragnarock conflict, burned by Surtr’s flames and Jormungandr’s flooding, then Yggdrasil is destined to regain that freshness and splendor which it had at the dawn of time.

The seven sons of Mimir, who were put to sleep after their father’s death, are awakened by Heimdall’s Gjallarhorn and participate in Ragnarock.

All of them survive this event, and from here on out, the seven sons of Mimir resume their occupation as Yggdrasil’s caregivers.

Yggdrasil protects and nurtures the survivors of Ragnarock

During Ragnarock, Jormungandr causes a flood that destroys the earth while the giant Surtr uses his flaming sword to burn the sky.

All humans perish in the event, with the exception of Lif and Lifthrasir (“Life” and “Vitality”). These two succeed in taking refuge in Mimir’s grove and are nourished every day with morning dew from the world tree.

Once Ragnarock is over, the flooding recedes, and the flames consuming the sky exhaust themselves, the surviving humans will find themselves settling in a new Midgard and under the care of the new ruling gods that have replaced the old ones.

Atlas Mythica

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