The axis of the universe was an enormous ash tree,Yggdrasill,also known as the World Tree,which formed a column linking the worlds of the gods, mankind, the giants and the dead. Its fortunes mirrored those of the universe it sheltered; as well as sustaining the world, it suffered in the same way as those who dwelt in it....Nothing is known of the origin of Yggdrasill. It appears to have been timeless, existing before the beginning of the world and destined to survive Ragnarok. A variety of creatures dwelt in or by the tree: a wise eagle who sat in its uppermost branches, with a hawk called Vedrfolnir between its eyes;a monsterous serpent,Nidhogg,who lay deep down in Niflheim,by its roots; a squirrel named Ratatosk who ran up and down its trunk carrying insults between the eagle and the serpent; and four stags, named Dain,Dvalin,Duneyr and Durathror, who lived among the trees branches eating young green shoots. To them and others the tree was a source of life. It dripped dew so sweet that the bees made honey from it, and its cooked fruit was said to be helpful to women in labour; hasting the emergence of the child. As well as providing protection and nourishment for the world, the tree was said to suffer anguish and bitter hardships, caused by the very creatures it sustained. The stags and the squirrel stripped it of new growth,andNidhogg gnawed at its roots,as did countless other serpents.In this way the tree knew the tribulations of the universe at every level and suffered just as much as those who dwelt in it.To counteract this damage and pain,the Norns who dwelt by the well of Urd, tended the tree every day by pouring water and mud from the well over the branches so they would not rot away.The water was so holy that everything it touched immediately turned as white as the delicate film inside an eggshell.As guardian to the whole world,Yggdrasill was the supreme example of the widespread belief in trees` protective qualities.In Germany,Scandinavia and the British Isles, particular trees beside buildings were venerated,andthe welfare of the family or community was seem to depend on their health.Offerings were made to them.Temples also had guardian trees:Adam of Bremen,in his description of the temple at Uppsala,refers to a great evergreen growing close at hand.Details of his description are remarkably similar to those of Yggdrasill in Norse poetry:the trees outstretched branches offered a shelter to the temple, and had a well at its foot.
Once the gods have shaped the cosmos from the primal substance according to its pattern and set the whole in motion, so that it becomes a living, organic, evolving thing, the whole is viewed as a cosmic tree-Yggdrasill. The discriptions of the world structure given in the Eddas does not always provide a consistent picture, but we do not expect one in a multiversal system. The enigma and mystery housed in metaphors show us that these are observations of the travelers supraconscious, the true shamans, and not the dogmatic constructs of rationalistic philosophers. However, at present we have need and use for these schematizations to help us unwrap some of the enigma enshrouding the cosmos. Therefore, we must now explore the esoteric analytically before delving into the uncharted waters of Niflheimr. The approximations of such schemata must always be borne in mind.
From the Prose Edda and our knowledge of the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasill, we can build a primary structure of the cosmos. But in and around these worlds (Old Norse heimar; sg.,heimr) there are many dwellings, and the Eddas speak of them in many passages.
We know that Midhgardhr (the manifested "material" world) is in the middle of Ginnungagap; that is, it is not, as some occult philosophies would have us believe, at the bottom of the universe. To the north is Niflheimr, to the south, Muspellsheimr; to the east lies Jötunheimr (Etin-World); and to the west is Vanaheimr (Vanir-World). Along a central (but omnipresent) axis- the Irminsúl- running through the center of Midhgardhr, the realms "above" and "below" Midhgardhr are arranged. It must be remembered that these directions are symbolic of eternal and omnipresent mysteries. Below Midhgardhr is Svartálfheimr (Black-Elf (=dwarf)-World, and below that is Hel (=enclosure of death, the hidden place, the stead of stillness). Above Midhgardhr is Ljossálfheimr (Light Elf-World. or simply Elf-World), and above that is Ásgardhr itself (the enclosure of the Æsir). These Nine Worlds are thus arranged along the plan of Yggdrasill and the three-dimensional snowflake pattern. This pattern consists of a horizontal plane, described by Muspellsheimr- Niflheimr- Jötunheimr- Vanaheimr- Midhgardhr, and a vertical axis described by Midhgardhr- Ljossálfheimr- Svartálfheimr- Ásgardhr- Hel. Actually, the center plane should be tiltedin the imagination so that Niflheimr is on the nether edge and Muspellsheimr is on the higher one. We know that this is an old conception because linguistic evidence shows us that the root word from which "north" is derived (ner-) originally meant "under". Above Midhgardhr is the realm of light- "the heavens"; below is the world of darkness- "the nether world". And the Irminsúl, the cosmic pillar of Yggdrasill connects them all. Mircea Eliade`s book, "Myth of the Eternal Return", speaks most eloquently of this mystery.The vertical column or axis defines the psychocosmic bisection between the conscious and unconscious, between light and dark, just as the horizontal plane defines the bisection between the expansive, electric energies of fire and the constrictive, magnetic energies of ice. The horizontal is energy and the plane in which "physical" energy is found; the vertical is the psychic pattern of consciousness and being. All meet in potential harmony in Midhgardhr. The potential can be activated by the runester.
It will be noted that between these Nine Worlds there are twenty-four pathways. This has two meanings. It indicates that the mystery of twenty-four helps shape and hold the entire cosmos together (as it formulates the structure of the runic system itself), and on a certain level it indicates that runestaves could be ascribed to the various roads as keys to unlock conscious access to them. Experience has shown that there may be no objective one-to-one correspondence between a runestave and a roadway, although speculative exercises in this direction have always proved meaningful. The universal truth seems to be that the structure of Yggdrasil and that of the runic system are shaped by the same twenty-four-fold force and that each pathway contains an entire potential futhark within it. In the ebb and flow of energies within the system one rune may dominate a certain roadway, but that does not mean other runes are not to be found there. As usual with the runes, much is dependent on the state of being of the runester-the observer of the mysteries.
As far as anylizing the essences of the world is concerned, the following table (Keys to the World of Yggdrasill) provides the fundamental esoteric lore necessary to the runic comprehension of the realms of Yggdrasill.
These worlds and enclosures interact with one another in a cosmic ecology of energy and essence. The eight realms outside Midhgardhr each oppose and balance a counter realm: Ásgardhr balances Hel, Ljossálfheimr balances Svartálfheimr, Muspellsheimr (fire) counters Niflheimr (ice), and Vanaheimr counters Jötunheimr. The "material world", Midhgardhr, stands in the midst of all-the realm of all potential. From it the runester can reach out in all directions and ascend to the realms above or ride down to the worlds below. However, it should be noted that there is a special relationship between Ásgardhr, Midhgardhr, and Hel, which are properly called "the three realms"- heavenly, earthly, and chthonic. There is a similar bond among those six realms properly called heimar, which "surround" Midhgardhr. Access to realms beyond these six into the outermost two is difficult, to say the least.
Keys to the Worlds of Yggdrasill
Ásgardhr:Realm of consciousness that is in and of itself complex, with many enclosures and halls within it, among
them Valhöll (Walhalla, Valhalla), Hall of the Fallen. The abode of the fetch, and the house of the spirit
Ljossálfheimr: Broad expanses of light (which also contain other sub-planes). The abode of mind and memory- the
Midhgardhr: Middle-Earth. In the cosmos this is material manifestation-earth. In the makeup of man this is the
body, but also the all-potential of the self. In Midhgardhr all the worlds meet.
Svartálfheimr: Abode of the hamr (shape or hide). A"subterranean" world of darkness where shapes are forged.
Realm of the emotions.
Hel: Realm of the instincts. Abode of stillness and inertia - unconsciousness. The final resting place of the soul of
the non- Erulian.
Niflheimr: Realm of mist becoming ice, abode of contraction and magnetism. The force of antimatter, a point
constantly pulling in on itself, like a "black hole".
Muspellsheimr: Realm of fiery sparks, abode of expansion and electricity. The force of pure energy constantly
expanding away from itself.
Vanaheimr: Realm of organic patterning and coalescence-water. Abode of forces in fruitful and static balance.
Jötunheimr: A realm in constant motion, seeking to oppose and give resistance to whatever it meets. Force of
dissolution and deception. Reactive power of destruction (necessary to evolutionary change).
Collectively, the pathways between the worlds are known as Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge.The stucture is a model of the world, but it also is the pattern of the "world within"- the microcosm of man if you will. This is made abundantly clear in the skaldic languageof the north in which humans are often paraphrased in terms of trees; for example, a warrior will be called "the oak of battle". These "kennings" are derived from the mythic fact that humans were "shaped" from trees (ie., already living, organic substance) by the triad of divine consciousness. (Compare this to other mythologies in which humans are fashioned from inert matter). In the Yggdrasill patternwe have the ancient Germanic (and perhaps even Indo-European) model of the subjective universe and a model for its linkages to the objective universe. Here continues to be hidden a rune of great power!
source: Runelore A Handbook of Esoteric Runology by Edred Thorsson
Hi, I'm new here and always been fascinated by ancient mythology.
I didn't really pay attention when touching a very old yew tree in the west of England. A witch friend told me the tree was known but its significense was kept secret, for obvious reasons. Now, almost 2 years later, dreams have been coming repetatively, the energy of this tree is still calling, being a seedling of Yggdrasil.
Somehow I know and need to share that the ancient lore will start anew, with very few trees and with us as their champions.
Please tell me if there is anything you recognize.