Yggdrasil Great Tree of Life

Poetic Edda, Völuspá or “The Insight of the Seeress” described the majestic scene of Yggdrasil Tree Of Life like this:

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.

From there come maidens, very wise,
Three from the lake that stands beneath the pole.
One is called Urd, another Verdandi,
Skuld the third; they carve into the tree
The lives and destinies of children

At the centre of Norse cosmos was the Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil “IG-druh-sill” grew out of the Well of Urd. This great tree was famous for holding Nine Worlds within its branches which made it the symbol of interconnectedness.

Image of Yggdrasil Tree of Life
Yggdrasil Tree of Life

There were many ways to decipher the meaning of Yggdrasil Tree of Life though some were just unattested theories. Yggdrasil as the Horse of Odin was the meaning that satisfied scholars the most. “Drasill” meant “horse” and “Yggdr” was one of Odin’s names. This was quite a puzzling name for the tree. But it made sense when we consider tree to be a means of transportation between worlds. Odin often rode his eight-legged Sleipnir between the trunk of Yggdrasil and through its branches to travel the Nine Worlds. It remains a mystery whether it was Yggdrasil or Askr Yggdrasil (“Askr” meaning “the ash tree”). So Askr Yggdrasil would mean the ash tree of the horse of Odin? The last meaning of Yggdrasil that we could find was the “Yew Pillar” which derived “yggja” from “igwja” (yew tree) and “drasill” from “dher” (support).

During the event of Ragnarok, Yggdrasil Tree of Life did not collapse. The Great Tree of Life only trembled but it still survived the hard times of Ragnarok. The two human survivors hid inside Yggdrasil and this saved them from the destruction of Ragnarok.

Three Wells of Yggdrasil Tree of Life

There were three wells that lay in Yggdrasil and watered the tree: Urdarbrunn, Hvergelmir, and Mimisbrunnr. It was quite unclear where Urdarbrunn Well was at because some said Asgard (top branches of Yggdrasil) while some said the roots of Yggdrasil. Every day, the gods rode their horses to this well where they would hold the court of justice. The second well was Hvergelmir (Hot Spring Boiler) which existed in Niflheim the land of ice and frost. From this well flowed other 11 rivers. The final well was Mimisbrunnr or the Mimir’s Well. The water in this well contained a great fountain of wisdom and knowledge that many desired. But if one wanted to try the water, they must make a sacrifice. Odin once traded his eye for the water from Mimir’s Well.

Three Norns of Yggdrasil

There were three famous who dwelled in the Well of Urd in Yggdrasil. Their names were Urd “Past”, Verdandi “Present”, and Skuld “Future”. They were Norns or the goddesses of Fate in Norse mythology. They spent most of their times weaving the fates of all creatures in the cosmos. That was why the Norns were very respected by the Vikings for they knew what was going to happen in one person’s life.

Creatures on Yggdrasil

There were some special creatures who dwelled on Yggdrasil: a hawk, a squirrel, a dragon, and four deer. Vedrfolnir was the hawk that often flew on the top branches of Yggdrasil. Ratatosk was the name of the squirrel often running through the tree. Nidhogg was the serpent-like dragon. And Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr and Durathror were the stags that often chewed the leaves of Yggdrasil. More interestingly, Vedrfolnir and Nidhogg were foes and they often exchanged insult toward each other. But one on top and one at the bottom, how could they speak to each other? It was Ratatosk who loved gossip and found his pleasure in carrying insult between the hawk and the dragon. Maybe because of Ratatosk that Vedrfolnir and Nidhogg just remained enemies.

Image of Yggdrasil creatures
Depiction of Yggdrasil’s creatures