Norse Mythology

Snorri and the Eddas

What was the Norse cosmology?

The mythic universe of the Norse consisted of three levels divided from each other by space. At the top was Asgard, home of the Aesir, the warrior gods led by Odin and Thor.

The great hall in Asgard where slain warriors continued to fight and then be revived was Valhalla. In Valhalla, Odin’s maids, the Valkyries, served the warriors pork and mead.

The top level was also the home of the Vanir, the ancient fertility gods who once opposed the Aesir. Elves lived on the top level, too, in a place called Alfheim, and the righteous dead lived there in Gimli.

The middle level of the universe was Midgard, the home of humans. It was surrounded by an ocean in which the world serpent, Jormungand by biting its own tail and forming a kind of belt, held the world together. The terrible giants, who opposed the Aesir, lived on this middle level in a place called Jotunheim. Dwarfs, or Dark Elves, also lived on this level in Nidavellir and Svartalfheim.

In the bottom level of the universe was Niflheim, the home of the evil dead. Here was the citadel of Hel, ruled over by a queen, herself named Hel.

The axis mundi (axis of the world) of this universe was the world tree Yggdrasill, the cosmic ash tree with roots leading to Hel and to Midgard. At the foot of the tree were the spring of Uror (Fate) and the well of Mimir (Wisdom).


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