Yggdrasil: The Tree of Life
In the middle of Asgard, where the gods lives, is Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil is the tree of life. It is an eternal green Ash tree; the branches stretches out over all of the nine worlds, and extend up and above the heavens. Four deer run across the branches of the tree and eat the buds; they represent the four winds. There are other inhabitants of the tree, such as the squirrel Ratatosk (“swift teeth”), a notorious gossip, and Vidofnir (“tree snake”), the golden cock that perches on the topmost bough. The roots are gnawed upon by Nidhogg and other serpents. On the day of Ragnarok, the fire giant Surt will set the tree on fire.
The Roots of Yggdrasil
The three roots of the World Tree reach downward into the realms of Asgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim are located.
The Three Wells
Three wells lie at the base of each of Yggdrasil’s roots:
- At the base of one of the great World Tree’s roots lies the well called Urdarbrunnr, or Urda’s Well. This extremely holy well is presided over by three Jotun maidens, who it is said are hideous to look at. These Norn maidens go by the names of Urda, ( Past ), Verdandi, ( Present ), and Skuld, ( Future ). These wise maidens established the laws that men were to follow, and they hold the past, manipulate the present, and weave the future. Two swans drink from this well, and are as white, ” As the film that lies within the eggshell”. The mud at the bottom of the well is also this purest of white shades, and it is said that a dew falls on the valley below keeping it evergreen. The Norns water Yggdrasil’s root daily so that it will not rot damaging the great World Tree. This well is also where the Gods hold Their court of justice.
- The next well, which actually was the first to be formed, is Hvergelmir which exists in Niflheim. From this well, or spring, flow the rivers: Svol, Gunnthra, Fjorm, Fimbulthul, Slid, Hrid, Sylg, Ylg, Vid, Leipt, and Gjoll. Gjoll it is said flows directly in front of Hel’s gate. It is described in Gylfaggining this way, ” And the third root extends over Niflheim, and under that root is the well Hvergelmir”. Here it is said the serpent, or dragon, Nidhogg resides. Nidhogg constantly gnaws at the great root and will in the end eat through it and unbalance the great ash tree, but this will not occur until Ragnarok.
- The final well is Mimisbrunnr, Mimir’s Well, which is, ” located in the direction of the Frost Ogres”. In this well is “hidden” wisdom and understanding. It is guarded by Mimir and his children, and to drink from its holy waters you must give a personal sacrifice. Mimir is the wisest of Gods because he drinks from the well daily from the horn Gjoll. Wise Odin consulted the head of Mimir even after it was seperated from his body by the Vanir who were not happy with Hoenir. It was into these holy waters that All – Father sacrificed his eye, as a pledge, for a single drink of these waters of wisdom.
The Three Norns
There are three Norns who lives at the well Urd. Their names are Urd “past”, Verdani “present” and Skuld “future” The three Norns are the goddesses of fate. They spend most of their time spinning the threads of life, deciding the fate of every human, animal and every god. Whenever a child is born, the Norns spins the fate of the child in their threads. The three Norns will every morning start the day by placing a rooster at the top of Yggdrasil.
The bragging of the rooster is a wakeup call for all humans and gods. Every day the Norns will also carry water from Urd’s well, and pour it over Yggdrasil. The water from the well is of vital importance to keep the tree green and healthy. The Norns was very respected in Viking times, it was quite common to serve a woman who had just given birth to a child some porridge, they called this porridge for “Norn porridge” The Vikings believed the Norns were always nearby whenever a child was born. The porridge was considered an offering to the Norns. They hoped the porridge would please the Norns and secure good health for the mother and the child.