Somewhere Over the Rainbow......
Images of Old Norse Cosmology
Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds
The Symbolism of Sacrifice

Gera ok Freka

seðr gunntamiðr
hróðigr Herjaföður;
en við vín eitt
Óðinn æ lifir.

Freki and Geri  

The far-famed fighter of old,
Host-father, does feed;  
But on wine alone
the weapon-decked,
Oðinn lives forever.  

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V. The Symbolism of Sacrifice
A Train of Thought by William P. Reaves


In the 10th century, Adam of Bremen describes a heathen festival at Upsala. He says:

(xxvii 27) “It is customary also to solemnize in Uppsala, at nine-year intervals, a general feast of all the provinces of Sweden. …The sacrifice is of this nature: of every living thing that is male, they offer nine heads with the blood of which it is customary to placate gods of this sort.”

 Jere Fleck: “Oðinn’s Self-Sacrifice”, Scandinavian Studies 43:2 Spring 1971 comments:

“In his description of the great sacrifice at Upsala, …Seventy-two corpses hang on trees: nine male examples of each species. That divides out to eight species— only humans, dogs and horses are mentioned.”

The whole community is gathered for a feast. No one is exempt. The heads and blood of the victims are given to the gods, and the decapitated bodies are hung and drained of blood. In practical terms, the same process is used to slaughter animals for eating. These pictures of a modern slaughterhouse illustrate the process: 



This is not to suggest that the animals hung in the grove described by Adam are eaten, although this cannot be ruled out. The passage is silent on this aspect.


The corpse is hung by the feet. Its neck is cut open and the blood is drained into a vessel. After the blood has drained, the animal is decapitated and dismembered (Note the severed head in the last picture above). Our sources inform us that the blood, known as hlaut, is caught in a bowl, known as a hlaut-bowl. Wood chips or twigs are dipped in the hlaut, and used for augery, and to sprinkle on the congregation and the walls of the temple. Some may be poured out on an altar fire and burnt.


 In slaughter, larger animals, especially cattle, are killed with a blow to the forehead. A hammer is the instrument of death. Similarly, when he kills giants, he "crushes their skull." In Thorsdrapa, the  giants fleeing Thor's hammer are called "calves."   Conversely, Thor with his hammer consecrates the empty skin and bones of his flayed goats, which have already been butchered and eaten. Upon doing so, they spring up whole. (Hymiskviða 37, 38). It is customary to consecrate a new bride in the same fashion.  The instrument of death is also an instrument of creation.


Bruce Lincoln suggests that all subsequent sacrifices imitate the first such killing, when the Sons of Borr slew Ymir and made the world from his body, thus perpetuating the cycle of life.  He uses a wide range of sources from across the Indo-European horizon, concluding that this is an ancient symbolic meaning of the practice. Each sacrifice imitates the first sacrifice that created the world, and thereby infuses it with continuing life. Like a sacrifice dismembered for meat, that Ymir is  decapitated and dismembered is sufficiently made clear in that the dome of the sky is made from his skull, the earth from his flesh, the rocks from his bones, etc.  His blood was likely drained from the neck. The poem Sonatorrek 3 refers to the ocean as the surging of Ymir’s “neck-wound.” The blood that flows from this wound forms the sea. That the sea symbolically represents a blood-catching vessel can be discerned from the fact that when Thor captures a kettle from the giant Hymir, he gives it to the sea-giant Ægir to brew mead for the gods. The source from which all waters, including the sea, originate is known as Hvergelmir, “the roaring kettle.” The sea is seen as both a hlaut-bowl and a boiling cauldron. Thor's last challenge before taking the giant's cauldron is breaking Hymir's cup. Ironically, Thor can only crush the cup against the giant's skull. His wife tells Thor the only thing harder than his cup is the giant's own head, and Thor smashes the magic cup against the old giant's skull, before carrying off his cauldron.


The symbol of the sea runs deeper still.   When Thor goes fishing with Hymir, he sacrifices Hymir's prize bull, Heaven-Roarer, whose horns reach heaven, by removing its head to use as bait.  His goal is to catch the Midgard Serpent. To do so,  Thor use the head of a bull accustomed to the highest heavens to lure the monster of the darkest deep, and draw its head above the surface. The waters in which Thor fishes are called "venom-cold" in Thorsdrapa, where eitr means both "venom" and "bitter cold".  The bitter cold in the White Sea (Arctic Ocean) is compared to a snake's venom. Here lies Jormunand's head, biting his own tail. When Thor carries his friend Aurvandil across these same waters, one of his toes is exposed and at once becomes frostbitten.  Bitter cold, like snake venom, turns skin dead and black. Thor took Aurvandil's toe, frozen in these water and threw it into heaven where it became a star. When Thor slew Thjazzi, he threw his eyes up into the heavens where they became stars. When Loki, the Father of the Midgard Serpent, is bound. Skadi takes revenge on Loki for his role in her father Thjazzi's death, by hanging a serpent above his head, dripping venom in his face. His faithful wife Sigyn catches the drops in a bowl, until it's full and she must empty it, then Loki writes in pain as eitr falls into his face.      

The Saga of Hakon the Good in Heimskringla and Eyrbyggja saga, ch. 4 describe a sacrificial temple, not unlike the one mentioned by Adam of Bremen. In reality, the “temple” may have simply been a community feasting hall. The whole building was considered a sanctuary. Just inside the door stood the high-seat pillars with the holy-nail affixed to them. In the center of the hall was a raised platform. On this platform lay a silver ring, which the temple-priest wore on his arm at every public meetings. Upon it,  everyone swore oaths. All kinds of animals were sacrificed there and the arm-ring was reddened in the blood of the victims by the priest who sacrificed it. On that platform there stood a large bowl which held all the blood which flowed from the slain beasts. The blood was called "hlaut" and the bowl, "hlaut-bolli". Hlaut-“twigs” were used to sprinkle the blood over the folk and beasts. All farmers paid a tax to support the temple and the temple priest. It was the priest’s business to maintain the temple, and hold sacrificial meals. At the feast, the meat was boiled in cauldrons at the center of the hall. Ale was passed over the fire, and the man who held the feast “signed” all of the food and drink, initiating toasts to Odin, Njord and Frey, and finally the bragafull.


Likewise Lokasenna depicts the gods gathered for a feast at Aegir’s, and Hymiskvida opens with the words:



Ár valtívar veiðar námu,
ok sumblsamir, áðr saðir yrði.
Hristu teina ok á hlaut sá:
fundu þeir at Ægis ørkost hvera
“Long ago the battle-gods [hunted/feasted on] game
and desired ale to drink before they had eaten their fill.
They shook the twigs and inspected the hlaut,
and discovered an abundance of cauldrons at Ægir's.”


    Similarly, in Hrafnagaldur Óðins 19, the gods gather for a feast:



að Bölverks ráði
sjöt Sæhrímni
saddist rakna
“Seated on benches
 at Bölverk's bidding
the tribe of gods
were  sated with Sæhrímnir.”


Grímnismál informs us that Sæhrimnir is a boar, boiled in a kettle, which feeds the Einherjar in Valhall. The Einherjar drink the milk of the goat Heidrun (to which Freyja is compared in Hyndluljod). Grimnismál 18-19 can be read to mean that Sæhrimnir, “the best of meats” represents the Einherjar themselves, indicating that those who die in battle are understood as sacrifices to the gods.  Human flesh is "the best of meats." Odin does not eat this meat himself, but feeds it to his wolves. “Food of wolves” is a common kenning for battle-slain warriors. Warriors enter battle with symbols and depictions of the boar adorning their armour.  Thus, at least on one level,  sacrificial pork, “the best of meats” is interchangeable with human flesh. The human sacrifices of war are equated with ritual sacrifices. We also have strong evidence that prisoners of war were sometimes actually used in this manner. The significance of this mytheme is underscored when we realize that Odin— who once sacrificed himself, hung on Yggdrassil, pierced with a spear—  ultimately is swallowed by the Fenris Wolf. In the end, Odin himself 'the Father of Hosts" becomes the "food of wolves." Like  Sol, the Sun,  who is eaten by the wolf Sköll, Odin, the other "one eye" in the sky, is swallowed whole by a wolf.






Blood in turn is directly compared to mead, which men drink.  In Fafnismal, blood is called "the liquor of the sword". In Skaldskaparmal, the Aesir and Vanir are said to gather together after a conflict. As a means of securing peace, they all spat into a vessel. Afterwards, they created a man from it named Kvasir, who was the wisest of them. He traveled widely around the world teaching men knowledge until he was murdered by some dwarves, who drained his blood into two vats and a pot, one of which was called Oðrerir. They mixed honey with the blood, brewed it into mead, so that whomever drank of it became a poet and scholar. Here the various symbols converge.  Blood is equated with an intoxicating beverage. The blood is the essence of the victim and there is little doubt that blood played a central role in the Germanic sacrifice.  It is caught in a bowl, and the gathered are sprinkled with it. In Hyndluljóð, Ottar reddens Freyja’s altar with ox-blood. As we have seen, Adam of Bremen specifies that the blood and head are given to the gods. Symbolicly, the head is the highest part of the creature, and the seat of its identity.  There are many examples of skulls and severed heads being elevated, i.e. set atop or hung from poles perhaps by nails, (cp. nails in the high-seat pillar and the “world-nail” or North Star upon which the sky, “Ymir’s skull”, rotates). Just as the skull of Ymir, the first sacrifice, forms the dome of the sky (cp. the skull nailed to a pole, such as a nidstöng, to Ymir’s skull sitting atop the world-tree or axis mundi), the head of the sacrifice, placed in an inverted position, can represent the hlaut-bowl.



In Hymiskvida 34, when Thor steals the brewing kettle from Hymir, he lifts it over his head:


hóf sér á höfuð upp hver Sifjar verr,
en á hælum hringar skullu
“Sif's husband heaved the cauldron up on his head,
and the rings banged against his heels.”



The inverted cauldron can represent the dome of the sky (Ymir’s skull). Thor, inside the cauldron as he carries it on his head, represents the thunderclouds in the sky. Conversely, when inverted, the same kettle represents the sea, evidenced by the fact that the giant Aegir later brews mead in it for the divine feast. The sky is a reflection of the sea.  That this symbolism is conscious is evident in that in the same poem, Thor rips the head off of Hymir’s best bull, 'Heaven-Roarer', and uses it as bait to catch the world serpent. The rough seas in which the serpent struggles symbolize the boiling sacrificial cauldron. Thus, the brewing kettle symbolically represents the sky and the sea.  As lightning, Thor is the go-between Earth and Sky.


In turn, this cauldron and its contents are represented by the severed head (the skull) of the sacrifice and its blood caught in a hlaut-bowl.  Food and drink are repetitive motifs in the poem. When Thor returns from Hymir’s, he discovers that one of his goats, the thunder-god’s own perpetual food source, is lamed. While still at Hymir’s, to demonstrate his strength, Thor must break the giant’s cup. The only surface harder than the cup is the giant’s own head. When Thor shatters it, the giant says he can no longer ask “ale art thou hot?” The cup, the brewing kettle, the sea and perhaps even the giant’s head are interchangeable. Extending this metaphor, the contents of the inside of the head (i.e. thoughts, inspiration, memory) are equated with the sacrificial blood and brewed mead. In support of this, Celtic sources mention drinking from skulls, and in Volundarkvida, Volund makes drinking vessels of the skulls of his opponent’s sons. No doubt, a similar symbolic significance lies behind the image of Mimir’s severed head, and the contents of his well. Although just a head, Mimir is said to drink from his well every day. In Sigurdrifumál 14, the same liquid is said to drip from "Hodd-dropnir's skull," which may be a metaphor for Mimir's head [cp. Hoddmimis holt, variant Hoddmimis holdi in Vafþrúðnismál 45]. Odin, who preserves and consults Mimir’s head, pledges his eye for a draught.




Adam of Bremen, History of the  Archbishops of Hamburg 1075-1080 AD
 Book IV, Ch. 27:
Regarding The Temple at Old Uppsala
"For all their gods there are appointed priests to offer sacrifices for the people. If plague and famine threaten, a libation is poured to the idol Thor; if war, to Wotan; if marriages are to be celebrated, to Frikko. It is customary also to solemnize in Uppsala, at nine-year intervals, a general feast of all the provinces of Sweden. From attendance at this festival no one is exempted Kings and people all and singly send their gifts to Uppsala and, what is more distressing than any kind of punishment, those who have already adopted Christianity redeem themselves through these ceremonies. The sacrifice is of this nature: of every living thing that is male, they offer nine heads with the blood of which it is customary to placate gods of this sort. The bodies they hang in the sacred grove that adjoins the temple. Now this grove is so sacred in the eyes of the heathen that each and every tree in it is believed divine because of the death or putrefaction of the victims. Even dogs and horses hang there with men. A Christian told me that he had seen 72 bodies suspended promiscuously." 

Scene from The Oseberg Tapestry

The Hanging Tree from Peter Robinson's Svipdagsmal



     The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg,
Ch 17:
Regarding The Temple at Lejre, Denmark
"Because I have heard strange stories about their ancient sacrifices, I will not allow the practice to go unmentioned. In those parts the center of the kingdom is called Lederun (Lejre), in the region of Selon (Sjælland), all the people gathered every nine years in January, that is after we have celebrated the birth of the Lord [Jan 6th], and there they offered to the gods ninety-nine men and just as many horses, along with dogs and cocks— the later being used in place of hawks."


In Hávamál 138-140, when Odin hangs on the “wind-blown tree,” (vindga meiði); he does so as a sacrifice. Pierced with a spear (to drain his blood?), Odin “peers downward” and “takes up” the runes, probably from Mimir’s well. Fjölsvinnsmál 20 refers to Yggdrassil as Mima-meiðr, “Mimir’s Tree.” Here the person who provides Odin the drink is designated as the famous son of Bestla’s father, Bölthorn, i.e. Odin’s own maternal uncle. In symbolic terms, Odin stares down into the vessel which catches his blood, the hlaut-bowl used for divination. Fleck believes this allusive description suggests an inverted (head-down) position. Thus, Odin can look downward, as well as reach downward to take up the runes, assuming his arms were unbound, something he would be unable to do if hung from the neck. The image of the Hanged Man from the Major Arcana of Tarot best illustrates this position:  





The symbolism of sacrifice seems inextricably linked to the preparation of food.  In the passage mentioned above, nourishment is a predominant theme. Hávamál 139 says that Odin received no bread to eat or horn to drink from as he hung on the tree, and verse 140 specifies that he got a drink of the precious mead poured from Oðrerir, here denoting a vessel, while in Havamál 107, Óðrerir would seem to denote the mead itself (see David H. Evans’ commentary). 


The Gundestrup cauldron, a sacrifical bowl found in Denmark, dating from the first century BC, uses similar imagery. On one panel, a war sacrifice is held by his feet, with his head held into a cauldron. At the base of the cauldron, which may have served as a hlaut-bowl, a bull kneels with a warrior poised over him ready for the kill, armed with a blade directed toward the animal's neck.




The objects used for the sacrifice are equated with the sacrifice itself. In the same vein,  the kettle and its contents are one, symbolically speaking.  Many scholars recognize this passage as referring to Odin obtaining a drink from Mimir’s well.  Havamál indicates that the provider of the drink is the brother of Odin’s mother, Bestla. Mimir provides the drink. Thus Mimir and Bestla's father is called Bölthorn, a name which appears no place else. Like all mythic characters, the giant Ymir has alternate names. Vafþrúðnismál says that the giants call him Aurgelmir, and inform us that a “man and a maid” were born together under his arm. Might this man and maid be Bestla and her brother Mimir? When it comes to the earliest generations, we have few other choices.  If so, Mimir is Odin’s maternal uncle, a relationship which Tacitus in his Germania tells us was considered sacred among the Germans.  If Bölthorn is in fact an alternate name for Ymir in this passage, Odin’s self-sacrifice is directly compared to his slaying of Ymir.  


As Bruce Lincoln concludes, each subsequent sacrifice is an imitation of the initial act of creation, designed to reinforce and perpetuate the natural order. In symbolic terms, the corpse is hung in an inverted position from a pole representing the world-tree, its blood drained and its corpse dismembered.  The head (skullcap) is restored to the top of the pole, and the meat  boiled in a giant cauldron representing the sea, just as Odin and his brothers slew Ymir, decapitated him and had his flesh and bones ground in the mill of the sea to create the food-bearing silt. The purpose of the mill at the bottom of the sea is to grind up the bodies of the old giants into rocks and sand. Ymir's flesh became soil, and his bones became rocks. The mill is the mechanism by which this happens. Vafthrudnismal 32 tells us that Bergelmir was laid upon the mill, not that he was rescued in a boat, like the Biblical Noah. In Lokasenna 43, Freyr's servant Byggvir  says if he was of such a lineage as Freyr's, that he would grind Loki up and crush all his limbs." Loki retorts that Byggvir could never distribute food evenly among men. As a servant of Freyr, the Lord of Harvests, Byggvir-Barley, is dependant on the quality of the soil produced by the mill, which grinds up the ancient giants. The sea distributes arable soil unevenly.


Gylfaginning 9 places Mimir’s well among the frost-giants, but later (and most likely more accurately) locates it “where Ginnungagap once was”, placing Mimir’s well at the site of the first sacrifice, the region where Ymir came into being and was slain. In Ginnungagap, Ymir, the first anthropomorphic being, arose along with a cow who nursed him, like a calf, suggesting he may have been symbolically represented as a bull. While Ymir was sacrificed and his corpse used to create the world, the fate of Audhumbla is unknown. 


Audhumbla licks the first god from the ice. On the first day, as she licked the rime-stones, a man’s hair appeared, on the second, his head, and on the third day, the whole man. Of interest here, the hair and head of the primal god appear first. If we relate this to the image of the sacrifice, hung in an inverted position, we have the image of a child being born, emerging from the womb headfirst. Reflexively, when Ymir is slain and his flesh used to form the earth, the first life to appear are plants (Völuspá 4). Plants are a common alloform of hair. In skaldic poetry, grass and trees are often described as earth’s tresses or hair. If this interpretation is correct, and the head of the inverted sacrifice indeed represents the cauldron used to collect its blood, as well as the spring at the base of the world-tree, this provides a natural explanation why Odin’s eye and Heimdall’s ear (see Sigurd Nordal’s commentary on Völuspá 28's Heimdallars hljóð) are both hidden in Mimir’s well. The eye and the ear are sensory organs of the head. The tree used to hang the sacrifice is thus equated with the sacrifice itself. Not surprisingly then, the world-tree itself is the symbolic equivalent of the human body.


The first man is called Askur (Ash-tree). Man is often equated with trees in kennings. Throughout Eddic poetry, the world-tree is most often designated as Yggdrassils Askur, “the Ash of Ygg’s [Odin’s] horse. It is called Yggdrassil a single time in Völuspá, which was cited by Snorri and so became the popular name of the tree. However, in at least one manuscript of Snorri's text, the name reads Yggdrassils. Magnusson demonstrates that this was probably the original version of this passage: “I know an Ash called Yggdrassils”, indicating that Yggdrasil's Ash was the proper name of the world-tree (which is also called Mimameiðr, Læraðr, Veðrglasir, Aurglasir and Glasir in our texts). Instead of simply Yggdrasil, it is Yggdrassils Askur “Yggdrassil’s Ash.” Ygg is another name for Odin. Drassil is a poetic term for horse. Yggdrassils Askur, "the Ash of Odin’s horse” would be its rider. Odin’s horse is the eight-legged Sleipnir, whose eight legs most likely represent the eight winds, and by extension the eight directions, of Icelandic tradition (Magnusson). Sleipnir is the wind that whips around the tree in all directions, carrying Odin (óðr). Odin is the rider on the storm, the master of the Wild Hunt in Germanic tradition. Some scholars have also compared its eight-legs to those of four pall-bearers. Odin’s horse carries him to all worlds, including the land of the dead. As a sacrifice hung on the world-tree, it is Odin’s “horse” which he rides to Hel and back.


In Indo-European tradition, horses are a common sacrificial animal (the Indian horse-sacrifice is a vivid example). Decapitated horses are found in both Celtic and Germanic graves. Although the custom of eating horseflesh was widespread in early medieval Northern Europe, it disappeared from the diet after the Christian conversion, as church authorities undermined the practice. Baldur, the dying god, is most often depicted as a rider (Lokasenna 28, 2nd Merseberg Charm, Saxo Book 3). Before his death, his horse is lamed. Saxo says that he himself could barely walk. The human and animal victim are symbolically equated, and interchangeable with the pole or tree upon which they are hung. A living being walks upright with his skull atop his pole/body. In death, the body is inverted, hung by its feet with its head down. Then the skull is at the base of the pole (representing a hlaut-bowl, or brewing cauldron).  The system of oppositions first identified by Melitinsky, as well as the multi-faceted examples of ritual inversion recognized by many scholars, thus apply and are extended. Death is a reflection of life. Ritual sacrifice is the inverse of life, and represents the birthing process. In birth, the head emerges from the woman's body first. The child enters the world in an inverted fashion, in the position of the sacrifice. Mimir's head in the well, may represent the infant's head emerging from the birth canal. It is the source of all wisdom. Odin visits this grove often.


This symbolic imagery is consciously repeated throughout the mythic corpus. In Fjolsvinsmal, the young Svipdag must bring a sword into a well-guarded walled city in order to win Menglad-Freyja. Melitinsky points out that in Snorri’s version of the story of Odin’s visit to Gunnlod, Odin enters Gunnlod’s cavern as a snake and exits as an eagle. In sexual terms, a man with a sword entering a ring-walled fortress or a snake entering a hole is obvious. In cosmological terms, the serpent Nidhogg gnaws at Yggdrassil’s roots, and an eagle perches atop it. At Gunnlod’s Odin drinks the stolen mead from three vessels, representing the three wells which nourish the world-tree, and flies away with it, back to Asgard at the apex of Yggdrassil, in the guise of an eagle.  In the course of events, Odin is both the Serpent and the Eagle.


 Odin's  journey to Gunnlod represents a journey down to roots of the world-tree, and so to the land of the dead, ultimately followed by an ascension to heaven. In one sense, the Germanic hero follows the path to death and redeption/rebirth. In the Norse myth, Odin has intercourse with a giantess and himself emerges from the womb transformed. The auger used to bore the corridor which Odin travels down into and back up, is called Rati cp. Ratatosk, the squirrel who carries malicious messages between the eagle and Nidhogg (Grimnismál, Gylfaginning).


While living, the sacrificial victim walks erect, with his head in the air. In death, he is inverted, his body hung from a tree head down to drain the blood. Once the blood is drained, his head is severed and returned to the top of the pole (representing the body, and therefore a symbolic rebirth). The world of the dead is an inverse of the world of the living. A comparison of Fjölsvinnsmál 24 and 28 support this idea, indicating that the top half of the tree (veðurglasir) is a mirror image of the bottom half of the tree (aurglasir), thus providing a composite image of the sacrificial man, living and dead.  Veður-glasir, the Glasir of the weather, and Aur-glasir, the Glasir of the mud, are two sides of the same coin.


This interpretation is consistent with other symbol sets found within Germanic mythology as a whole:



 The Creation of Man: Man & Tree


The first man is named Askur (Ash) Völuspá 17

Odin gives his clothing to the "tree-men" in the field (Hávamál 49),

once clothed they consider themselves heroes

The 3 sons of Borr (Odin and his brothers) bestow 3 gifts on Man  [Ask and Embla equally] Völuspá 18

The World-Tree is an Askur/Ash (Völuspá 19)

The three Norns lave the Tree with water from Urd’s well (Völuspá 20)

These ideas are presented as parallel


The body of man = the World-Tree

Yggdrassils Askur = Askur

Microcosm = Macrocosm


Yggdrassil has 3 roots on three ways below the Tree (Grímnismál 31)

A man has 3 lower appendages (2 legs and a penis)

A man has three upper appendages (2 arms and a head)

The rune Algiz/ Algiz  reversed


Key Ideas:



Man and woman are created at the same time, equally, and given the same gifts by the gods.

Human beings are created from already living material, wood/trees.



If we laid the images over one another and added a circle, we'd have a spoked wheel.

Life and death is a cycle, a spinning wheel.


3 wells feed the Tree

3 sons of Borr bestow gifts on men

The Tree takes up the liquids of the well

Honeydew falls into dales from the Tree

The liquids rise as sap in the Tree and fall as dew being reabsorbed into the root system.

The liquid of the wells makes a continuous circuit through the Tree/Body of Man.

The liquid of the central well (Mimir’s) is the holiest and equated with the poetic mead. It is Odhrerir, the “óðr-stirring.”

Mimir's grove is the "holiest of holies"= Hodd-Mimir's hoard, hodd goða

Mimir's companion bestows óðr on man. Odin exemplies this trait. He bestows önd (breath)


Man and Woman are created together and given equal gifts

They are opposite, but complementary. Together they can produce new life.

The Tree is not male, but male & female intertwined (Don’t be fooled by the name Askur)

All life springs from a balance of two opposite forces


The world is a system of opposites:




Up- down








The Ancient Valknut Symbol

Associated with Odin:

The Power of Three


The mythology operates on a system of opposing dualities, and balanced trinities.

At the intersection of two opposites, a third balanced thing emerges.


Too Cold + Too Hot = Just Right

Male + Female = Child


Snorri says that the first human were created from logs, but more likely living trees.

The gods do not create life, but shape it.

In Avesta (Bundehesh 15), another IE source, man and woman are created from intertwined trees.

The gods separate the man from the woman [thus they naturally ‘fit’ together]

In the base of kennings, both men and women are designated as trees

The three sons of Borr shape man in their image (providing goða litur, the good form, the god-form)

Their destiny is meted out by three sisters: Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld


The 3 Sons of Bor:

  • Lodur-Vili [later replaced by Loki in function]

  • Hoenir-Ve

  • Odin-Vidrir


These 3 create Midgard and create mankind

  • Lodur-Vili (Will) bestows (skin/membrane/damp covering/ hair), læti (expression/manner/bearing/ voice) and litu góða (good complexion/ god complexion?). The body can becalled Vili's burden.
  • Hoenir-Ve (Holy, Sanctuary) bestows óðr (mind/wit/sense/soul)
  • Odin-Vidrir bestows önd (breath/spirit/wind)


The 3 Apprentices of Mimir:

  • Lodur-Vili: Also known as Mundilföri. Father of Sol, Mani and Heimdall. Progenitor of the elves. As an apprentice of Mimir, Lodur succumbs to hubris, seeking power for its own sake. He rebelled against his master and was deposed. He probably becomes Surt ('the burnt one'), taking a band of dwarfs with him into exile in the hot southern regions, where he plots revenge.

  • Hoenir-Ve: Father of Njörd and Jörd-Frigg. Progenitor of the Vanir. A failed apprentice of Mimir. As cheiftain of the Vanir, he was once usurped by his brother Lodur. When traded as a hostage after the Van-As war, he famously said "let others decide" when asked to judge.

  • Odin-Vidrir: Father of Thor, Tyr, Baldur and Höðr. Mimir's successful apprentice. Progenitor of the Aesir. Ruler of the earth and sky.


The versatile word óðr can be used a number of ways. It is the root of the name Odin. As a noun, the word óðr refers to the “mind, wit, soul, sense.” It can also used as a poetic name for poetry. An óðar-smiðr is a song-smith. The tongue is an óðar-ár, speech-oar and óðar-lokarr, speech-plane. Similarly, the mind is referred to as óðar-rann, óðr’s hall. Óð-rerir, inspirer of óðr, is the name of one of the vessels in which the blood of Kvásir was kept. In Hávamál 107, it is applied to the mead of poetry itself. As an adjective óðr means “mad, frantic.” According to the Cleasby/Vigfusson Icelandic-English Dictionary, oðr, when used to describe living beings, means “frantic, furious, vehement, eager.” A madman is an óðr maðr; similarly, a mad dog is an óðr hundr. When used of a thing, it means “violent,” such as a violent gale, óðr útsynningr, óðr byrr, or a raging fire, óðr eldr. [1]


Odin’s name is derived from óðr, so why isn’t this his gift to man? 

Are these qualities a progression/evolution?


Lodur's gifts make the "wooden men" animal (la and læti) and then human (litr goða).

Hoenir's gift makes them fully human (óðr: thinking, reasoning, feeling)

Odin's gift (önd) breathed 'spirit' into them.

önd (breath) activates óðr

The regulation of the breath provides a spiritual conduit

Before battle, warriors perform a shield-song. Is this a mass breathing/chanting exercise?


 [1] All of these terms are cited by Cleasby/Vigfusson, s.v. óðr, and/ or by Svein Björn Egilsson in Lexicon Poeticum, s.v. óðr.


Creation: The Spontaenous Generation of Life


In the beginning, there were two worlds one of fire in the south and cold in the north

In the middle, there was an abyss Ginnungagap

Fire and Ice meet in the center creating life

Life is dual in nature: a giant (bull?) and a cow

The name Ymir may derive from a word meaning “twin”

Ymir & Audhumbla beget life asexually



From under Ymir’s arm spring a man and a maid [noble giants: Bestla (Urd?) and Mimir].

From them come the noble giants.

Ymir’s two feet together create a 3 headed monster named Bergelmir.

From him come the Hrimthurses and other Jotuns.


The ancient giants are wise

Mimir= Memory (cp. Odin’s ravens thought and memory)



Audhumla licks a man out of the ice Borr/Burr (is this the Tree?)

Borr/Burr mates with Bestla  creating 3 sons: Odin, Hoenir, and Lodur. These engender the three divine tribes: Aesir, Vanir and Alfar.


Hvergelmir to the north in Niflheim / cold

Mimir’s well in the middle: “where Ginnungagap once was” (Gylfaginning 15)

Urd’s well to the south/ warm


Hvergelmir-Masculine-cold-semen: [3 or 6-headed monster(s)]

Urd’s well-feminine-hot-menstrual blood: [Urd-Verdandi-Skuld]


Why is Hvergelmir masculine?

Water freezes. It goes from a liquid state into a solid state

The penis goes from a flaccid state into an erect state

Semen is a milky white liquid comparable to ice water


Why is Urd’s well feminine?

Menstrual blood is comparable to lava.

 Semen and menstrual blood mix in the womb to create new life

The ice-floes of Hvergelmir meet the ‘sparks of Muspelheim’ to create first life


The current lower world is the first world

The oldest creatures ‘own’ the wells

Urd takes the southern well [Hel]

Mimir takes the central well [Glassirvellir/Glittering plains]

The frost-giants take the northern well [Niflheim/Niflhel]


The sons of Borr sacrifice Ymir, opening his neck veins (according to a skaldic kenning)

Ymir is the first human sacrifice, all human sacrifices are an imitation of creation

Ymir’s body is dissected and the parts used to form the world [Indo-European myth]

Audhumbla may have been sacrificed as well [cows are a common sacrifice]


Imagery of decapitated giants is repetitive:


Ymir is decapitated (his skull becomes the sky)

Mimir is decapitated (Odin preserves the head as an oracle)

Vafthrudnir is decapitated (Vafþrúðnismál 19)

Loki wagers and ‘loses’ his head to dwarves. [Heimdall cuts it off during Ragnarok]

Völund decapitates Mimir-Nidhad’s sons and makes drinking cups of their skulls.

Head in a well and decapitation are pervasive in Celtic folklore

Sacrificial animals, such as Hymir's bull, are said to be "made shorter by a head" when killed


The upper worlds are built on top of the first world/ great foundation/Jormungrund

Ymir’s skull becomes the dome of the sky

Ymir’s blood becomes the ocean

Ymir’s skull is rotated around a stationary earth by a great mill spinning in the ocean

The mill revolves grinding his bones and flesh into rocks and soil.

The stars on the dome rotate: Precession of the Equinoxes.

The soil is fertile due to being fed on Audhumbla’s milk

Aur is fertile soil (Ymir is Aurgelmir/ Norn’s lave Tree with ‘ausinn hvita auri’)

Earth is a “house” and "hall" built from Ymir’s body (Völuspá 4, 17)

Subsequent giants such as Bergelmir are also ground (Vafthrudnismal 32)

The top of the world-tree, above ground, and thus exposed to the elements is Vedurglasir ('Weather-Glasir')

The subterreanean part of the world-tree is called Aurglasir ("Glasir of the mud") cp. Fjölsvinnsmál 24 & 28




The mill-wheel and the Tree

Ring and Pole

The Midgard-Serpent and the Tree

Wheel and Axle

Ring and sword (of the Völund myth)

Skull and spine

Cup and staff

Vagina and Penis


The world is all contained in a skull [Ymir’s skull]

All reality is in your head

The Tree in the skull is a brain and the spinal column and nervous system

Ymir’s skull and the Tree’s three ‘silver-white’ roots = Brain and Nervous system 

The liquid of the wells is blood/mead/water

The mind is called “wind of the giantess” in a kenning.


There are 3 vertical “worlds”:


Asgard is in its branches

Midgard is at the level of the trunk

Hel/Niflhel are located below

The water makes the Tree as “White as the inner lining of an eggshell” [i.e. transparent]

The Tree itself is called Glasir [‘glassy’]

The top of the Tree is Vedurglasir (Weather-glasir) [Fjolsvinnsmal 28]

The bottom of the Tree is Aurglasir (Mud-glasir) [Fjolsvinsmal 24]

Cf. Mimir’s realm “Glassirvellir” [from various Fornaldarsögur speaking of Gudmund-Mimir of Glasirvellir]

Valhalla is built around the Tree. The Tree emerges from its roof

Mimir is at the bottom of the Tree/ Odin in Valhall is at the top


There are 3 horizontal worlds:


Hel: South (Norns lave the Tree with water)

Glassirvellir/Glittering Plains: middle of the underworld

Niflhel: north (Serpents gnaw on the root)

Each world has a root of the Tree and a well that feeds it.


The Sons of Borr may be symbolized as three wading birds.

Hoenir is the long-legged, Aur-king i.e. long-legged, king of the mud— a wading bird.

Hoenir's name means ‘cock’ (male bird)


The bull and three cranes in the tree found in Celtic iconography probably represent the 3 creator gods and Ymir or Audhumbla. In Gylfaginning, the three creating gods are pictured as walking along the shore. 


There are 3 sons of Borr

There are 3 divine races: Aesir, Vanir, Alfar


Odin= Aesir

Hoenir= Vanir

Lodur = Elves/Alfar



Vanaheim is across the sea to the west (vestur)

Alfheim is near a body of water in the east (austur) Jotunheim lies across the water

Jotunheim is situated in the north and the east. I believe this is because of the position of Scandinavia (See a map) Finland is associated with Alfheim and the Finns are regularly associated with the Alfar in the lore.


If you pass from Sweden across the Baltic Sea you arrive at Finland (i.e. Alfheim, which was actually called this in early medieval sources). When you cross Finland you arrive at the White Sea which opens into the Barents Sea. This is the ‘actual’ location of Jotunheim (The Arctic Circle). In Hymiskvida 7 and  38 we see that Thor stops at Egil’s house. Egil is an elf and the brother of Volund, the elf-smith (one of Ivaldi’s sons). This is Thjalfi’s home. Thor leaves his goats there before traveling onto Jotunheim by foot. He wades into the water. In effect, Thor is wading into the Arctic Ocean to get to the home of the frost-giants. This is the same body of water that Thor goes fishing with Hymir on and catches the Midgard Serpent. The head of the serpent lies in this sea. The waters are venom-cold. Thor’s belt allows him to grow in size to be able to wade the waters. Anything dipped into the water instantly dies. Thor carries Aurvandil (Egil) on his back once. Aurvandil’s toe is exposed and is frost-bitten. He breaks it off and makes it into a star. The nature of the elves if luminous.


The elves live in the east and the Vanir live in the west, Asgard lies above

This represents the rising sun, the sun at its apex, and the setting sun.



We get a handy alliteration:


East: Alfheim, Alfar

West (vestur): Vanaheim, Vanir, Vali born in western halls

North: Niflheim, Niflhel, Nastrondur

South: Surt, Surt’s sokkdalir (sunk-dales)

Middle: Mimir, Midgard


Mimir: Water has Memory


Germania 9: the relationship of male child and mother’s brother is sacred

Mimir is the mother’s brother of the sons of Borr [inferred from Hávamál 140]

Mimir (memory) acts as a teacher to his nephews/ 3 sons of Borr are his disciples


Both Odin and Hoenir are closely associated with Mimir, Lodur is thus likely to have been as well. Once Lodur disappears (after creation) he is replaced by Loki.


Lodur is not Loki, but Loki is like Lodur. He is of a dual nature. He helps and harms. He is an ally and an enemy. His ultimate role is destructive.


Lodur-Vili (Will) is the first disciple of Mimir. He is hot natured and willful [Vili].

Lodur-Mundilfori is the father of the sun and moon. He is vain.

Lodur is probably also Surt, the “fallen” disciple of Mimir who craves the mead. Surt means ‘soot’ or ‘black’. The Fiery one (Lodur) becomes the Black one (Surt).

He goes into self-exile in the far south beyond Urd’s well. This realm is called Surt’s sokk-dalir [sunk-dales]. Surt is also called Sokk-Mimir, the Mimir of the deep.

The elves are his descendants and rebel against the gods in each generation [The second generation, the Sons of Ivaldi, end up in self-exile in the far north]


Later both Odin and Thor will travel to Surt’s (Lodur’s?)  realm:


·        Odin retrieves the mead from Gunnlod’s home taking 3 drinks (‘at Fjalar’s’)

·        Thor faces Utgard-Loki / Fjalar (There he takes 3 drinks)

·        Fjalar is a dwarf-name too, and thus probably Surt’s son


Mimir-Motsognir [Mead-sucker, Power-sucker] and Durin [Dusky] (Surt-Lodur) create the dwarves [Völuspá 9-10]

Lodur is Mundilfori (the conductor of the mill-handle), father of the sun and moon


The entire mythic epic can be seen as a struggle between the forces/poles/duality of fire (Surt) and ice (Jotuns) against the balance (represented by Mimir and his successful disciple Odin). The Sons of Ivaldi which are descendents of both elves (fire) and giants (ice) are apprentices of Surt. The elves are friends and then bitter foes of the gods in each of four successive generations. The gods must fight and then reconcile with each generation. This is the basic motif, unrecognized by Viktor Rydberg, but readily apparent in his reconstruction. Thus, we see the big picture of two poles having to strike a balance/medium. It is an endless repetitive cycle.


Time is cyclical, moving forward in a linear fashion.

It moves in a circular direction, forming an ever-repeating cycle.

Birth-growth-death-rebirth-growth-death-rebirth…. etc.

Not surprisingly, there is some evidence of a belief in reincarnation. 


The Tree/ Man never dies ‘neither flame nor blade can harm it’ (Fjolvinsmal)

Surt is a fire-demon holding a sword (flame and blade). He destroys the upper worlds.

But the Tree and humanity (Lif and Lifthraiisr) survives in Mimisholt (Mimir’s grove)


At Ragnarok, the creation of the gods is destroyed but the original world remains.

The upper worlds are burned up, but the lower world remains.

See the map in Our Fathers’ Godsaga to get a clear idea of this. Asgard and Midagrd are destroyed. Hel/Niflhel remain. This is clear from Völuspá. Compare the beginning, middle, and the end.

Ginnungagap/Mimir’s Realm serve as the reproductive organs (womb/testicles) of the World/Tree. Life is begun and preserved in that space.


Serpents gnaw at the northern root of the Tree, (Grímnismál 33)

Niddhogg gnaws the roots of the Tree (Völuspá 36).

Niddhogg also sucks on/eats the corpses of men.

The duel role of Niddhogg confirms the image of the Tree/Man.

Niddhogg represents decay. The universe is in a constant state of decay. The body of man is in a constant state of decay-- ever approaching death.

In Völuspá, after Ragnarok, Niddhogg flies off with the last corpses, no longer gnawing on the Tree. Death is at an end. No more state of constant decay.

Thorsdrpa suggests that the head of the Midgard-Serpent was located in the North, in the White Sea (Gandvik). The words for venom and deadly cold are one, eitr.


The Tree represents the body of man

A well of Creative fluid (testicles) reside beneath the central root.

Mimir’s well resides beneath the central root.

Odin is a one-eyed, hooded god (cp. uncircumcised penis—one-eyed and hooded)

Odin repeatedly enters Mimir’s grove (cp. vagina— sexual intercourse, source of creation)

Mimir’s grove is the archetypal sacred grove.

Mimir’s grove serves as a womb.

Odin’s twin sons [Baldur and Hodur] are there waiting to be reborn into the new world.

The Tree is pregnant with new life, so to speak.

Thus we have a male and a female Tree (intertwined as Ask and Embla were according to the Avestan myth)


Baldur is a peacemaker and Hodur is a warrior. They are opposites.

Baldur and Hodur are twins. The word Ymir also derives from a word meaning ‘twin’.

Both Odin and Hermod (Odr) travel on Sleipnir (Yggdrassil) to Mimir’s realm to visit Baldur’s home there. Odin goes before Baldur gets there, and Odr-Hermod goes after he arrives.


According to Völuspá, Hoenir returns with Baldur and Hodr after Ragnarok.

Hoenir is seen as ‘stupid’ and remains with Mimir. He returns after Ragnarok along with the humans Lif and Lifthrasir.

Rydberg equates him with the stork, which brings babies [long-legged, king of the muck].

The fruit of Yggdrassil are human embryos. Hoenir’s messengers deliver them to women.

Hoenir may be seen as instilling óðr into each new human embryo. 


I suspect that önd (breath/wind/air) activates the otherwise ‘dumb’ óðr inherent in all men. In battle the warriors sang under their shields. If they heard Odin (the wind) singing with them, they were assured victory. This may have been equivalent to using breathing exercises to work oneself into a frenzied state where pain was dulled and strength was enhanced. Roman sources describe the ‘baritus’ [shield-song] of the German troops before battle. If the army heard Odin's voice join in, they knew victory was their's.


Odin is a sky/wind god. His home is in the heavens.

The Tree is called Ygg’s drassil. Odin’s horse.

Odin’s horse is Sleipnir, the 8-legged steed.

Only Odin and Odr (Hermod) ride Sleipnir. Odin’s name is derived from the word óðr.

There are 8 winds representing the 8 directions (4 cardinal points and points in between)

The Tree is at the center of the 8 winds unmoved.

As the wind, Odin travels through all the worlds.

Odr-Svipdag-Hermod is the great traveler in the mythology (Erik the far-travelled)

The wind is seen as the mind (Wind = Giantess’ mind, and other allusions)

Giant’s are often equated with the number 8 (not sure why)

For example, Thyrm hides Thor’s hammer 8 rasts below the ground.

Ancient Giants are wise, but not clever like Odin.


Parallel ideas:


Odin’s seat gives him a view of all the worlds.


Odin is the Sun, the one-eye of the sky. His other eye is reflected in Mimir’s well. If you see the sun and moon in the sky at the same time, the moon appears as a ‘dead-eye.’ If you doubt this imagery, remember that wolves swallow the sun and moon at Ragnarok. Odin too is swallowed by a wolf.

The sun travels over the world at day and below the world at night seeing all worlds in turn.

In the human body/Yggdrasil, Hlidskjalf corresponds to the pituitary gland/third eye

Odin’s ravens fly over “Jormungrund" (the Great-Ground, the Lower World) reporting what they see and hear because Midgard blocks Odin’s view of the lower world, from his seat in the heavens.

Mimir = Memory, Odin’s Ravens are Thought and Memory.

The upper world is a giant’s skull: Everything takes place in the giant's head. All Reality is his thoughts figuratively.

The central figure in the lower world is Mimir, another decapitated giant, son of Ymir.


The Tree can also be represented as a stag with the sun between his antlers. 


Bifröst/Bilröst is the great celestial meridian.
Think of the earth as a plate, and the sky as an inverted bowl resting on it. (This conception is clearly what lies behind kennings like "bottom of the storm-bowl" which means "earth").
Now, on the edge of the plate, mark the four cardinal points, N, S, E, W. Also the apex point of the bowl, i.e. the point in the sky which is directly above your head if you stand in the middle of the plate. This point is the Zenith. Finally draw a semi-circle connecting North, Zenith, and South. This is the meridian, i.e. Bifröst.

In astrology, the N-S meridian is called the mid-heaven. It divides heaven into two equal parts, the Eastern and the Western. All celestial bodies cross the horizon (the plate) in the Eastern part, and ascend towards the meridian. When they reach the meridian, they are said to "culminate", i.e. they have reached the the highest position they can reach. Then they cross into the Western part, and descend towards the Western horizon, and finally set.
Bifröst (meridian/midheaven) divides the heavenly "bowl" into two equal parts, which are mirror-images of each other.
The Icelandic term for Zenith is "hvirfilpunktur". Cleasby-Vigfusson define "hvirfill" as: "the crown of the head, where the hair turns all ways as from a centre. The Zenith is thus the "hvirfil"-point, the "center" at the top of the head.
The sky is Ymir's skull, and the clouds are his brain. The brain, like the sky-bowl, is divided into two halves. The two halves are separated by a groove.
"Bil" (as in Bil-röst) can mean "clearance, a space which separates two things", as e.g. in "orðabil", the space between two words. In Icelandic the "space bar" is "bilstong". Röst can mean a "road, path", but it can also mean "the wake of a ship" (which appears to be a "groove" in the ocean). The atmosphere is compared to a body of water, in which things must wade (Grímnísmal 21) or swim (Fafnismál 13).
These ideas also throw light on the unique kenning for head in Þórsdrápa: skal reikar Heðins "bowl of'Heðinn's hair-parting". The hair-parting is also a "groove" on the head, an external manifestation of the "parting" of the two halves of the internal brain. It also originates and passes through the "hvirfill"-point.
Heimdallur is the lord of the "atmospheric ocean" which effectively fills the heavenly bowl. "Heimr" means world, "dallr" can mean "bowl." [Dronke, PE II] In his role of Dagr (Day) he spreads light throughout the heaven-bowl.
In the center of the earth-plate, Yggdrasill rises towards the zenith (the crown of the head, "hvirfill"). This tree is an ash, "askur". Interestingly "askur" can also mean "bowl." [Dronke, PE II]

Odin's throne Hildskjalf is located at the very apex of heaven, at the zenith. The tree is most frequently designated as Yggdrasils Askur. Yggdrasill can mean "Odin's horse". Sleipnir has 8 feet, symbolizing the eight winds, the eight directions. The Icelandic for direction is "att", for eight "atta". Askur is the name of the first man. Thus, the askur ('ash') of "Odin's horse" is its rider. The god of the zenith rides the horse of the winds, as well as hangs on the "wind-blown" tree.

Carla O'Harris observes: "If so, then Heimdall provides the link between the intuitive and the rational, the nonverbal and the verbal, the fluidic and the linear, the creative and the mathematical ...


"And that bridge is, once again, where the opposites find their balance and moderation. At its peak, Asgard, to inspire and remind us that the mean between two extremes is not mediocrity, but excellence!"
In Grímnismál 21, as a name for Bifröst/Bilröst, we encounter the puzzling phrase  "Þjóðvitnir's fiskr", commonly translated as the "great-wolf's fish". Viktor Rydberg has pointed out that in Icelandic, the end of a bridge is called a sporðr, 'fish-tail'. Thus, metaphorically, the bridge itself may be called a "fish." Sigrdrifumal informs us that runes were cut on the "sporðr" of Bifröst. The word vitnir, derived from vit "senses",  is a designation for a wolf, the one with sharp senses ['My what big ears you have!']. Þjóð-vitnir, the "great-wolf" thus may mean "the one with very powerful senses." If the fish indeed refers to Bifröst, as the context of Grímnismál 21 suggests, Thjóðvitnir appears to be a name for Heimdall, "the one with very sharp senses". The phrase "Þjóðvitnir's fiskr", as Eysteinn Björnsson has pointed out, thus may simply mean "Heimdal's bridge", i.e. Bifröst.

The senses ("vit") reside in the head. The reason why Heimdall's head = Sword, and Heimdall's sword = Head, has never been satisfactorily explained. Could the  reason be that his senses were sharp as a sword?

Fjölsvinsmál informs us that "neither fire nor edge" can harm the tree. Heimdall, often interpreted as a personification of the world-tree itself, represents both. He is the holy friction fire, and the god whose head is a sword.




Ritual Inversion:

A Symbol of Death



The act of sacrifice is a recreation of Creation (the slaughter of Ymir) intended to sustain the universe.

A sacrifice was most likely physically inverted and decapitated. The blood was drained into a bowl.

this can be deduced from the evidence:

Human sacrifices and slaughtered animals are hung from trees.

The blood is drained from the body both animal or human.

Odin is the hanged god— he is a sacrifice “me to myself”

Odin hangs from the Tree 9 nights and looks down into the well (Hávamál 140-143), he is pierced with a spear. [The Hanged Man of the Tarot?]

Odin’s eye (normally on the face) and Heimdall’s ear (normally on the head) are found in the well. This suggests that the head is where the feet should be.

The well below the tree is guarded by Memory (Mimir), from it springs all inspiration.

The name of the well is Oðrerir — the Óð-stirrer, the mover of spirit.

The same vessel is said to conatin the blood of Kvasir, brewed into the Poetic Mead.

The well as hlaut-bowl catching the blood of the sacrifice.



Odin hangs in an inverted position on the "windy tree", peering downward [Jere Fleck]

The male member (one-eyed, hooded) hangs off the body/tree, 'peering' downward.

After penetrating Mimir's grove, he ascends to heaven.

In the temple at Uppsala, sacrifices are hung in the trees, all were male. A festival was held there every 9 years.


Adam of Bremen (10th century) reports:


xxvi (26) That folk has a very famous temple called Uppsala, situated not far from the city of Sigtuna and Björkö. In this temple, entirely decked out in gold, the people worship the statues of three gods in such wise that the mightiest of them, Thor, occupies a throne in the middle of the chamber; Wotan and Frikko have places on either side. The significance of these gods is as follows: Thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather and crops. The other, Wotan -that is, the Furious [cp. óðr] --carries on war and imparts to man strength against his enemies. The third is Frikko, who bestows peace and pleasure on mortals. His likeness, too, they fashion with an immense phallus. But Wotan they chisel armed, as our people are wont to represent Mars. Thor with his scepter apparently resembles Jove. The people also worship heroes made gods, whom they endow with immortality because of their remarkable exploits, as one reads in the Vita [Life] of Saint Ansgar they did in the case of King Eric.


xxvii (27) For all their gods there are appointed priests to offer sacrifices for the people. If plague and famine threaten, a libation is poured to the idol Thor; if war, to Wotan; if marriages are to be celebrated, to Frikko. It is customary also to solemnize in Uppsala, at nine-year intervals, a general feast of all the provinces of Sweden. From attendance at this festival no one is exempted Kings and people all and singly send their gifts to Uppsala and, what is more distressing than any kind of punishment, those who have already adopted Christianity redeem themselves through these ceremonies. The sacrifice is of this nature: of every living thing that is male, they offer nine heads with the blood of which it is customary to placate gods of this sort. The bodies they hang in the sacred grove that adjoins the temple. Now this grove is so sacred in the eyes of the heathen that each and every tree in it is believed divine because of the death or putrefaction of the victims. Even dogs and horses hang there with men. A Christian told me he had seen seventy-two bodies suspended promiscuously. Furthermore, the incantations customarily chanted in the ritual of a sacrifice of this kind are manifold and unseemly; therefore, it is better to keep silence about them.



In Ibn Fadhlan's account of the death of Scandinavian ruler, the rites last 10 days which translates into 9 nights, according to our system of reckoning. 


I suspect that the significance of 9 is the 9 months of pregnancy (i.e. cycles of the moon)


Three likely repeats because 3 x 3 = 9.






Heimdall is the son of 9 sisters according to  the lost Heimdalsgaldur.


Heimdall three drinks Hyndluljod

Grímnismál 13: Heimdall drinks the “good mead”

Grímnismál 21:  Thjod-Vitnir’s fish

Heimdall himself is a symbol of the Tree and the progenitor of 3 castes of men, Rigsthula

Heimdall is the son of Lodur/Surt/Mundilfori and the 9 waves

Heimdall represents fiction-fire, holy fire (corresponds to the Hindu Agni)

Heimdall associated with the rooster at dawn (Hranfagaldur Odins 24, 25; cp. Gjallarhorn)

Heimdall’s station is at the apex of the Bifrost bridge in Asgard.

He is the "whitest of the gods", the most shining. He can see by day or night.

In Hrafnagaldur Odins, he travels to the underworld and back, completing a full circuit.

Heimdall  associated with the golden rooster on the world-tree

Heimdall ('the light of the world') is a solar deity, perhaps identical to Dag (Day)



The water of the wells are associated with three drinks that feed the Tree/Man



odr-- gift of Hoenir, Mimir's  friend (Völuspá 17.18)

Hermod-Odr best of the Einherjar, (Skaldic poems)


the boar Saehrimnir-- the best of meats, feeds the Einherjar.

Freyja rides Othar in the form of a boar. 


Yggdrassil is Ygg's horse, Odin's horse.

Odr= root of the name, Odin.....

Only Odin and Hermod-Odr are depicted riding the 8 legged steed

There are 8 winds in all directions from the tree


Heiros gamos ['sacred marriage'] parallel:


Odin married to Earth, Frigg (All-mother)

Odr married to Freyja, fertility

Frigg/Freyja associated with childbirth (Odrunsgratr 9) 



Yggdrassil's Ash is associated with the first man Ash. The body of man = the universal tree, microcosmos = macrocosmos.

Three roots on three ways below the tree = 2 legs and the penis. Odin, the one-eyed, hooded god represents the uncircumcised penis penetrating into Mimir's grove, the vagina.

Wells, springs and other bodies of water are commonly interpreted as female symbols.

The Tree emerges from the pool./Child from Womb/ Penis from vagina

Mimir's name means memory and the memory of a race is connected to its lineage and ancestry. Mimisholt, Mimir's grove with Baldur and Mimir = a pregnant tree, holding new life for the new world, a 2nd cosmic birth.





Niddhögg gnaws the roots of the Tree.

Niddhögg also sucks on/eats the corpses of men.

The duel role of Niddhögg confirms the image of the Tree/Man.

Niddhögg represents decay. The universe is in a constant state of decay. The body of man is in a constant state of decay-- ever approaching death.

In Völuspá, after Ragnarok, Niddhögg flies off with the last corpses, no longer gnawing on the Tree. Death is at an end. No more state of constant decay.


Neither fire nor sword can fell the Tree according to Fjolsvinsmal. In the same poem, we see Mimir's tree, the fruits that become the "kindling of men" and the Volund sword which destroys the worlds, but not the Tree itself.


I think this says that the body of man (goda likur, image of the gods in man) is eternal. That life will always be renewed, regardless of the decay.


The new revelation specifically is that Niddhogg gnaws both the body of man and the Tree that represents the body of man.


It may pay to investigate the meaning of Niddhogg and the other serpents-- mentioned in Völuspá and Grímnismál. What is the meaning of the symbol of the serpent ??? (as the force surrounding the Tree-- the serpent biting its tail.)

The snake biting his tail is like a wheel. The Tree and the wheeel, (the mill-wheel) are like an axle and wheel spinning in space. Fate is also associated with spinning, and perhaps a spinning wheel. Urd's well and Hvergelmir (Niddhogg's home) are on opposite sides of the Tree. Mimir's well is in the middle.Do the spinning wheel and the serpent represent a kind of life force?


In Hymiskvida, when Thor (who consecrates marriages) threatens to kill the serpent, the imagery is of Ragnarok.   The death of the snake signals Ragnarok, Ragnarok signals the end of the snake's power. The snake binds the earth (mortal men) together?????


When the snake's venom falls on Loki's face, earthquakes happen when he writhes. In Loki's binding, his three children are symbolized (wolf guts bind him/Fenrir, a snake is hung above him/Jormungand, his hairs contain pestilence which causes disease/ "Hel", Hvethrung's maid).


Also related perhaps is Hyrokkinn/Aurboda riding to Baldur's funeral on a giant wolf with snakes as reins. Aurboda is the wife of Aegir, the sea-god who encircles the world. Jormungand encircles the world. Jormungand is the son of Angrboda.


Baldur is taken to Mimir's well, to be reborn.

Mimir's head in the well = infant emerging from birth canal (inverted)


Hymiskvida, fishing for snake (Ragnarok imagery), Thor hits snake with hammer

Thor (protector of men, consecrater of marriage) killed by serpent

Aud-Njord and Nerthus-Jord-Frigg


Thor-Indra as killer of Vitra, blocker of waters






Below the sacred Tree are three roots on three ways and beneath each a well that feeds the root system.


Urd owns one.

Mimir another.

The third is Hvergelmir, the Mother of All Waters.


The first man is named Askur (Ash) Völuspá 17

The World-Tree is an Askur  (Ash) Völuspá 19

The body of man = the World-Tree

Yggdrassils Askur = Askur

Microcosm = Macrocosm


Yggdrassil has 3 roots on three ways below the Tree (Grímnismál 31)

A man has 3 lower appendages (2 legs and a penis)

A man has three upper appendages (2 arms and a head)

The rune Algiz/ Algiz  reversed



Heimdall provides the creative spark between a man and a woman. In each case in Rigsthula, Heimdall sleeps between the man and the woman, nine months later a son is born in each house who symbolizes each tier of a three level caste system.


In Hyndluljod, Heimdall is prepared for this journey. He is the son of nine mothers, likely the waves who turn the great Mill out n the ocean at the edge of the earth. They are mentioned in many sources, most notably the Grotto-song. Heimdall is given a threefold drink. A similar grouping is recorded in Gudrunarkvida II, 23.


  1. “strength of the earth”/ Urd’s strength
  2. “Son’s blood’
  3. Cool-cold Sea”.


Again we have reference to the three wells.


“strength of the earth” is found in variant as “Urd’s strength” (ON Urdar magn vs.  jardar magn. This is Urd’s well, that of the Norns. Swans swim in its waters. It is warm according to Hrafnagaldur Odins. Skaldskaparmal places it in the “south.”


Son is an alternate name of Mimir’s well. “Son’s blood” refers to its waters, the mead of poetic inspiration. This is the drink that Odin sacrificed himself for. The well is located “where Ginnungagap once was”, “know one knows its roots.” “Fire nor sword can harm it. No one knows by what it will fall.” The Tree itself is known as Mimir’s Tree. It appears to literally and figuratively be located at the center of the universe. Mimir means “memory.”


Cool-cold Sea” refers to Hvergelmir from which all waters flow. It arose in Niflheim before Ginnungagap was closed. It is located in the northern world of ice. Grímnismál 26-28 names many rivers that flow from it. Among these runs Sval, “cool.”


The wells are portrayed as “seas” and “fountains”, “wells” etc.


In Hyndluljod, the babe Heimdall is given a drink from each of these wells, then sent across the sea. The world-wells are equated with the sea(s)



The Boar Saehrimnir


In Grímnismál, Odin is said to only drink the “one wine”. He eats no meat. He feeds the meat he gets to his wolves. A kenning for fallen warriors is “the food of wolves.” The implication is that Odin feeds human flesh to his wolves.


The boar Saehrimnir is the food in Valhal.


Hrafnagaldur Odins 19: "the tribe of gods was sated with Sæhrimnir"


Grímnismál  18: the boar Saehrimnir, cooked by Andhrimnir, in the vessel Eldhrimnir


Saehrimnir “the best of meats” “feeds” the Einherjar

The boar regenerates every night just as the warriors do.


Boars as symbol of Frey (rides to Baldur’s funeral)

Freyja "rides" (a sexual pun) a boar who is her lover Ottar-Odr

Freyja herself is called Sýr (sow), and in Saxo Siritha.

“Mother of Gods” with emblem of Boar in Tacitus

Yule Boar: swear oaths on its bristles

Elves (Ribhus) are associated with year-end and the Vanir gods

Frey and Frigg specifically are associated with Yule.

Significance of a boar’s head with an apple? (eternal life)

Idunn (an elf) keeps the apples


Einherjar drinks the milk of the goat Heidrun (female)

Heidrun: Freyja runs hot at night like Heidrun

Goddesses serve mead in Valhall

Cp. Heid-Gullveig with Heid-run

Cp. Thor’s male goats who are slaughtered, eaten and resurrected (cp. Saehrimnir)


Sexual Inversion:


Loki, a male god, bears children: Sleipnir with Svadilfari; Fenris, Jormungand and Hel by Angrboda.


Odin accuses Loki of being a milkmaid (a nursing mother?) in Hel for 8 years (Lokasenna)


Loki ties his scrotum to the beard of a nanny goat to make Skadi laugh.

Skadi chooses a husband by his feet, the male gods are veiled by a curtain.

[Normally a bride is chosen by the beauty of her face, and she is veiled]


Thor must dress as a bride to retrieve his phallic hammer. (Thrymskvida)



Odin and his Three Drinks


Odin is one of three brothers

The 3 sons of Borr create the three races of gods: Aesir, Vanir, Elves

Aesir at the apex, Vanir in the west and Alfar in the east represent the 3 stations of the sun (sunrise, noon, sunset).

Odin’s one eye is the sun.

He has a throne in Valhall from which he surveys all the worlds.


In Grímnismál, Odin is said to only drink the “one wine”. He eats no meat. He feeds the meat he gets to his wolves. Just as the meat is significant symbolically, so is the drink.


In the surviving lore, Odin takes three drinks:


  1. As young man, Odin got a drink from Mimir, an old man.
  2. As a mature man, he got a drink from Gunnlod, a woman.
  3. As an old man, Odin got a drink from a boy.


The circle comes around again.


The drinks represent stages in a man’s life and the transfer of knowledge. As a young man, an older man instructs him. Odin first takes up runes. Mimir is his lifelong counselor, advising him at the beginning and end of time. If Mimir is Odin’s mother’s brother, this explains Tacitus assertion that in Germanic custom, the relationship of men and their mother’s brothers was held sacred among those tribes (Germania 9).



I. As a Young Man, Odin gets a drink from Mimir’s well

(Hávamál 138-144)


He hung on the “windy tree” for nine nights

He ate nor bread or drank any water

He was wounded with a spear.

A sacrifice, Odin to himself.

Odin’s submissive position and his being pierced with a spear are obvious sexual symbols.

He hangs on the Tree, probably inversely.

Odin’s one eye is in the well indicates a reverse (eyes are normally on the face)

Heimdall’s ear in the water indicates a reverse

Odin peers down into the fountain “which lies where Ginnungagp once was” and draws up the runes.

Mimir taught him 18 rune songs (9 x 2)

Mimir is Bestla’s brother (Hávamál 143)

After this drink, Odin began to “become wise, to grow, to blossom, etc”

It must be after this event that he participated in the slaying of Ymir and crafting the world from the giant’s corpse.

Ymir was dissected and reshaped (man = cosmos)

Ymir is the first sacrifice, all sacrifice represents creation


Obviously, this represents Mimir’s well.



II. The Second Drink as a Mature Man

(Hávamál 13, 14; 104-110)


The sacred water of Mimir’s well is known as Oðrerir ‘the soul-stirrer” the “rouser of wod”

This mead falls into the hands of the fire giants in the south.

The mead of poetry is hidden in “Surts sökkdalir” (Surt’s sunken dales) to the south [corresponding to the southernmost well, or its deepest roots.]

Surt lives in the fiery south.

The sun and moon were forged in this realm.

Surt-Durinn is the father of dwarves, including Mjodvitnir (the mead-wolf) also known as Fjalar.

Surt-Durinn is possibly another name for Lodurr, Odin’s brother.

After breaking with Mimir (Motsognir), Durinn-Surt fled to the deep south.

The fire giants are skilled in visual allusions (heat mirages, feverish hallucinations)

Utgard-Loki is another name for Fjalar, Surt’s son, also Suttung.

His servants are wildfire, old age, and thought

He causes earthquakes with his snoring.

Loki causes earthquakes with his writhing.

Loki cuts/ burns away Sif’s hair (a lava flow)

Loki looses his top which becomes deadly (a volcano blast)

In Utgard, Thor takes three drinks from a horn which is really the sea, and it noticeably lowers.

Ivaldi carries the mead here and drops of his son Volund as an apprentice

As reward, Fjalar was wedding his daughter to Ivaldi.

Odin arrived in the guise of the expected bridegroom (a visual allusion, ironically)

Odin weds Gunnlod and gets the mead [Lady with the Mead Cup]

 Bragi may be the product of their union.


Odin betrays her, he breaks the marriage oath. For this he is their eternal enemy.

Odin escapes (after a fight in which he kills Gunnlod’s brother).

Odin enters as a snake and leaves as an eagle, representing the animals at the root and the top of the tree.

The snake in the cave is an obvious sexual symbol.

Odin spits the mead into three vats (i.e. the three wells)


This represents Urd’s well: female, hot, and southerly


III. As an Old Man, Odin accepts a drink from a young boy

(Introduction to Grímnismál)


 The story is filled with giant-imagery

This represents Hvergelmir: male, cold, and northerly


Grímnismál says:


King Hraudung had two sons, one named Agnar, the other Geirröd. Agnar was ten, and Geirröd eight winters old. They both rowed out in a boat, with their hooks and lines, to catch small fish; but the wind drove them out to sea. In the darkness of the night they were wrecked on the shore, and went up into the country, where they found a cottager, with whom they stayed through the winter. The cottager’s wife brought up Agnar, and the cottager, Geirröd, and gave him good advice. In the spring the man got them a ship; but when he and his wife accompanied them to the strand, the man talked apart with Geirröd. They had a fair wind, and reached their father´s place. Geirröd was at the ship’s prow: he sprang on shore, but pushed the ship out, saying, “Go where an evil spirit may get thee.” The vessel was driven out to sea, but Geirröd went up to the town, where he was well received; but his father was dead. Geirröd was then taken for king, and became a famous man.

The next verse makes it clear that the cottagers were Odin and his wife Frigg, who each had their favorite. Frigg arranged it so that Odin’s favorite captured Odin himself and place him in chains.


 “He was clad in a blue cloak, and was named Grimnir, and would say no more concerning himself, although he was questioned. The king ordered him to be tortured to make him confess, and to be set between two fires; and there he sat for eight nights. King Geirröd had a son ten years old, whom he named Agnar, after his brother. Agnar went to Grimnir and gave him a full horn to drink from, saying that the king did wrong in causing him to be tortured, though innocent. Grimnir drank from it. The fire had then so approached him that his cloak was burnt; whereupon he said: -


1. Fire! thou art hot,
and much too great;
flame! let us separate.
My garment is singed,
although I lift it up,
my cloak is scorched before it.

Eight nights have I sat
between fires here,
and to me no one
food has offered,

save only Agnar,
the son of Geirröd,
who alone shall rule
over the land of the Goths.


 This episode is associated with the Einherjar in the poem.

50. Svidur and Svidrir (names of Ivaldi)
I was at Sökkmimir´s (The Sunken-Mimir; Surt’s) called,
and beguiled that ancient Jötun,
when of Midvitnir´s (Fjalar’s)
renowned son (Gunnlod’s brother)
I was the sole destroyer.

51. Drunken art thou, Geirröd,
thou hast drunk too much,
thou art greatly by mead beguiled.
Much didst thou lose,
when thou wast
of my help bereft,
of all the Einherjar´s
and Odin´s favour.

[Odin and the Einherjar will battle Surt at Ragnarok]

52. Many things I told thee,
but thou hast few remembered:
thy friends mislead thee.
My friend’s sword
lying I see,
with blood all dripping.

53. The fallen by the sword
Ygg shall now have;
thy life is now run out:
Wroth with thee are the Disir:
Odin thou now shalt see:
draw near to me if thou canst.

King Geirröd was sitting with his sword lying across his knees, half drawn from the scabbard, but on finding that it was Odin, he rose for the purpose of removing him from the fires, when the sword slipt from his hand with the hilt downwards; and the king having stumbled, the sword pierced him through and killed him. Odin then vanished, and Agnar was king for a long time after.


The father of the boy being pierced by a sword is a kind of sexual symbol as well. This is the inverse of the first drink. Now Odin imbibes knowledge from a young man, while Odin himself is in his dotage.


Eight seems to be associated with the giants (several examples in Thrymskvida).

The drink itself is “cool”

Geirrod is a famous giant’s name.

Thor battled Geirrod and his daughters.

Saxo gives him 3 daughters.

Thor pierced Geirrod with a thrown  piece of molten slag (the raw material of a sword)


"Three roots stand on three ways beneath the Tree"
click on each image for more
[Germanic Mythology]