Viking Religion

In the Beginning there was nothing but an abyss in space; no golden sand, no crashing waves, no nourishing soil nor a blade of grass and no sky to cover it all.

Many ages passed and there gradually existed a place of clouds and shodows, called Niflheim, to the north of the abyss and from there twelve rivers of glacial water flowed. Meanwhile, to the south of the abyss, a place of fire gradually existed, called Muspellsheim, and from here issued forth many rivers of bitter poison, that slowly came to set and become solid.

Somewhere in the centre of the abyss, the twleve icy rivers came into contact with the solidified rivers of fire and formed a thick covering of hoar-frost. As the warm air from Muspellsheim came into contact with the ice from Niflheim, there formed tepid droplets that gave rise to a giant, Ymir, in human form: the first of all beings and father of all giants.

As Ymir lay sleeping, bathed in sweat, there was born a man and a woman (giants) from his armpit. Ymir drank from the udders of the cow Audumla (the wet nurse of the giants) and she licked the ice, drawing nourishment from the salt water. As the ice melted under her enourmous tongue, so a living being was uncovered: Buri, father of Bor.

Bor married Bestla, one of the giants’ daughters and they in turn produced the three gods, Odin, Vili and Ve. These three began a great struggle with the giants that could only end in annihilation and indeed, Ymir’s blood filled the abyss and drowned all the giants except Bergelmir and his wife who managed to escape and eventually create the new race of giants.

Ymir’s body was raised from the sea by the son’s of Bor and formed the earth called Midgard (middle abode) which was halfway between Niflheim and Muspellsheim. His flesh became the land, his blood the sea, his bones the mountains and his hair the trees. His skull they raised up on four pillars and placed inside, the sparks from Muspellsheim, where they created the sun and the moon and many stars.

The gods set the day and the night and the duration of the year and from the warmth and light of the sun, green blades of grass grew from the earth. As the other gods joined the sons of Bor, they created their celestial dwelling place and named it Asgard (abode of the Aesir). A beautiful bridge was built between Asgard and Midgard and became known as Bifrost (rainbow).

From Ymir’s rotting corpse came forth grubs and so the gods made these into dwarves and they lived under the earth and stone that Ymir’s body had become.

Man was created from the vegetable world, where two lifeless tree trunks were happened upon by Odin, Hoenir and Lodr. Odin gave the breath; Hoenir gave them a soul and reasoning and Lodr gave them warmth and life. From the man, Ask (Ash), and the woman, Embla (vine), came forth the race of man.

Midgard was a vast circumference surrounded by water in which lived an enormous reptile; the Serpent of Midgard, whose massive coils encircled the earth. Beneath Midgard lived the giants and drawves and there was the domain of Hel, the Goddess of death, guarded by Garm, a monstrous dog who ensured that no living being entered.

Up through the centre of the once abyss, lived Yggdrasil, an enormous ash (the tree of life), that had it’s roots in Niflheim Muspellsheim, the land of giants, Hel’s domain and the place of peace where the gods met to render justice.

Near the root in Niflheim gushed the fountain Hvergelmir, the bubbling source of the primitive rivers and near the root in the land of giants, flowed Mimir, the fountain of wisdom from which Odin drank, for the price of one eye.

In the place of peace, there poured the fountain of youth, watched over by Urd, the wisest of the Norns.

The Norse Gods

Gossip of the Gods by Freyja Eriksdottir, DASmag Winter 2003

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