Yggdrasil – The Great Tree of Life

Image of Yggdrasil

There stands an ash called Yggdrasil,
A mighty tree showered in white hail.
From there come the dews that fall in the valleys.
It stands evergreen above Urd’s Well.

What was Yggdrasil Tree?

At the center of the Norse cosmos was the Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil was the name of an enormous and sparkling ash tree that connected the Nine Worlds – nine realms of the universe – within its branches and roots.

Image of Yggdrasil holding nine worlds

The uppermost level of Yggdrasil were Asgard, home of the Aesir Gods, Vanaheilm, home of the Vanir Gods, and Alfheim, home of Light elves. On the lower level lay Midgard (Earth), human home; Jotunheim, home of giants, and  Nidavellir, home of dwarfs. The Yggdrasil’s roots reached the dark underworld which was Muspellheim (land of fire), Niflheim (land of mist) and Helheim (land of the dead). This made Yggdrasil be called as the interconnectedness of all things in cosmos. Though Yggdrasil stood in the middle of the cosmos, this Great Tree was invisible to the mankind.

Three wells, which were Well of Urd, Well of Mimir, and Well of Hvergelmir, watered the roots of Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil tree also possessed a wonderful source of fruits which could provide the Gods with youth and longevity. The sacred ash tree “suffers agony more than men know” said Odin in the poem Grimnismal because of many creatures that chewed and ate the roots, branches, and leaves of this sacred tree.

Image of Nidhogg under Yggdrasil roots
Nidhogg under Yggdrasil roots

In Norse mythology, Odin longed for acknowledging the meaning of the Runes through Yggdrasil. As he wanted to see and control the destiny, he must have the ability to decipher the Runes understood only by three maidens of fate who lived between the  Well of Urd. So, to gain the desired ability, Odin must make the sacrifice. He hung himself on Yggdrasil branches for nine days and nights. Additionally, his body was inflicted by hunger and thirst and tormented by his own spear. Only then could he obtain the meaning and the magical power of the Runes.

Image of Odin hung himself on Yggdrasil
Odin hung himself on Yggdrasil

Yggdrasil and Ragnarok

Another remarkable occasion involving Yggdrasil was the Ragnarok – the End of Gods. After the Ragnarok, the world of Norse gods ended and another world would begin. That was the darkest time in Norse mythology. Everything was under the cloak of darkness and despair. Every creature was at war and the Giants were destroying the whole cosmos. However, only two humans whose names respectively were Lif and Lifthrasir survived the Ragnarok. They hid deep in Yggdrasil tree. These two humans were the first starters for a new cosmos of peace where there was no sight of evil or despair.

Image of Yggdrasil Tree

Overall, Yggdrasil could be considered to be the supreme container and observer of all creation. This sacred tree was evergreen and it was to convey the destiny of the whole cosmos.