The Essentials Of Norse Mythology
Complex but interesting, Norse mythology is the pre-Christian religion of the Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish peoples. It was mainly rooted from the Old Icelandic writing known as the 'Elder Edda,' which unknown skįlds wrote centuries before the Christianization of the North. It is multilayered, often contradictory, and reveals a number of parallelisms with other mythologies.
Like any other mythology, Norse mythology has its own version of the world?s creation; but before one can readily understand and imagine this, one needs to know the geography of the world in which the Norse mythological characters existed.
*GEOGRAPHY OF THE WORLD*
According to Norse mythology, the world consisted of three levels: the Upper, the Middle, and the Lower Levels. Distinct lands, which originated from a chasm called Ginnungagap, comprised each level. They were held together by a great tree, named Ygg-drasil.
The Upper Level contained Asgarš (The Land of the Aesir), Alfheim (The Land of the Elves), and Vanaheim (The Land of the Vanir). The Middle Level consisted of Midgarš (The Land of Human Beings), Jotunheim (The Land of the Giants), Svartalfaheim (The Land of the Dark-Elves), and Nithavellir (The Land of the Dwarves). The Lower Level had Muspell (The Land of Fire) and Niflheim (The Land of Ice and the Dead).
*CREATION OF THE WORLD*
=The Lands of Fire and Ice=
Initially the chasm Ginnungagap separated Muspell and Niflheim. When it eventually closed, fire and ice met and combined to form a cow and the first Giant, named Ymir. The cow, Aušumla, survived by licking the salty ice blocks; Ymir depended on her for nourishment. From the licked ice blocks emerged the first human being, Bur, who sired a son named Bor. Ymir, in turn, produced the first Frost Giant male and female out of sweat under his left armpit; from the couple came forth the rest of the Frost Giants. Bor subsequently married the Frost Giant named Bestla, who gave birth to three sons: Odin, Vili, and Vé.
=Odin Created the World=
With the help of his brothers, Odin killed the cruel Ymir. The blood that poured out of the Giant?s body consequently killed most of the Frost Giants. Odin created the world from Ymir?s corpse, the sea from the blood, the earth from the flesh, the sky from the skull, the mountains from the bones, and the trees from the hair. This realm became known as Midgarš?the middle world?the land of human beings. Ymir?s eyebrows served as a protective fence of Midgarš. In the ocean that surrounded Midgarš dwelled the serpent Jormunganš, whose enormous length was enough to circumscribe the middle world by putting its tail into its mouth.
=Then the Dwarves Were Born=
From the Giant Ymir?s decomposing flesh appeared a swarm of maggots, which, by the deities? decree, acquired a partly human appearance and comprehension. Known as the Dwarves, they lived in Nithavellir, deep down Earth?s caves, tunnels, and mines.
=And So Was Ygg-drasil=
From Ymir?s corpse also grew the great ash tree named Ygg-drasil, whose branches overshadowed the entire world. Ygg-drasil had three roots each going to the world?s three levels. Three springs supplied the roots with water. One root found its way into Asgarš, another into Jotunheim, and the last into Niflheim.
=Odin Built Asgarš=
In the middle of the world, Odin and his brothers built Asgarš, which became the stronghold of the deities and their kindred.
*OTHER ESSENTIAL CHARACTERS IN NORSE MYTHOLOGY*
The Aesir were the race of deities that originated from Odin. Although they lived longer than human beings, they were mortal. They were the deities of consciousness who inhabited the sky.
Baldur was a son of Odin and Frigg. His twin brother, Hošr, accidentally killed him because of Loki?s trickery.
Frigg was Odin?s wife. Their union brought forth all the deities that inhabited Asgarš.
Loki was a son of a Giant couple. He was supposed to live in Jotunheim; but when he was young, he tricked Odin into allowing him to reside in Asgarš and eventually became known as the god of mischief.
Mimir was the brother of Odin?s mother, Bestla. He was the wisest among all beings and the keeper of knowledge. From him came forth the wise Elves.
Thor was Odin and Frigg?s eldest son. The god of thunder, he ruled over the world?s weather. He was famous for his hammer, called Mjölnir, that returned to his hand every time he threw it. With Mjölnir mighty Thor killed many Giants.
Vali was the son of Odin born to avenge his brother Baldur?s death.
The Vanir were the race of deities associated with fertility, prosperity, and eroticism. Njorš, Freyr, and Freyja were the progenitor of this race. Regarded as the deities of the earth and biological life, the Vanir were gentler and more concerned with matters of nature than the Aesir. After a long war between themselves, both races settled peacefully and eventually shared Asgarš with each other.
Ashliman, D. L. The Norse Creation Myth. [http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/creation.html] 09/18/03.
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Elliot, Rob. A Dictionary of the Norse Gods. Gill, N. S. Ancient/Classical History: Creation of the World.
Mortensen, Karl. A Handbook of Norse Mythology. New York, USA: Dover Publications, Inc., 2003. Norse Gods, Goddesses, Giants, Dwarves, and Wights. [http://www.sunnyway.com/runes/gods3.html]
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