No book or course on Norse Mythology 101 would be complete without beginning with Yggdrasil, as the Nordic Tree of Life and Worlds remains at the foundation of the “Soul Map” of the Northern peoples. For one who has truly studied the Northern Mythos, the stages of psychological growth are obvious.
In the beginning of Nordic Cosmology there was the Void. Within the Void perhaps the Great Tree existed waiting, or perhaps it came into being when the World of Fire, Muspelheim, collided with the World of Ice and Mists, Niflheim. At any rate, after the collision of these two opposing worlds, fire melted the ice and the conditions for life arose. At this very beginning was Yggdrasil, Audhumbla (the Divine Cow), and Aurelgimr, also called Ymir. His name translates roughly to the Roarer or the Mud Roarer [Kvelhaug, Maria. Seed of Yggdrasil]. Thus the Norse Cosmology contains within itself the Big Bang and the theory of Sound Vibration as a source of the creation of ongoing life, shaping and reshaping itself.
From this first human-like being, the Giants arose from the movement of his thighs and from under his armpits. The Giants populated the world as it was. Of note were Bor and Bestla, whose son Buri sired Voden, Vili, and Ve, who were the three God-brothers who acted to create the rest of the Nine Worlds. They slew Ymir. From Ymir’s corpse they formed the worlds. Ymir’s blood became the Waters, his bones the Earth, his brains the Clouds, his skull the Dome of Heaven. The Sun and Moon were put into their places, and to further lighten the sky at night, the God-brothers took sparks from Muspelheim’s fires and set them in the sky as Stars.
The three God-brothers were wandering one day, admiring Their handiwork and exploring the Worlds They had created, when They came upon two trees, an Ash and an Elm. From these trees They gave rise to humanity. Voden blew in the Divine Breath of his Holy Spirit. Vili gave Will, Mind, and Perception. Ve provided the movement of the blood, circulation, the communication of the five senses, further offering to humans the gift of sensuality. It is through Ve’s gift of the five senses that Vili’s gift of the Will and Mind interpret via Perception, and Voden’s gift of frenzied inspiration motivates humans to act within the world. This is like the three parts of ourselves that modern psychology calls physical, emotional, and intellectual.
The Great Tree Yggdrasil, whose name means “Horse of the Terrible One,” acquired that name when Voden sacrificed Himself to Himself upon the Tree for an ordeal of nine days and nine nights and thereby gained the Runes. It is said in the Voluspa that the Norns, the three great giantesses from Niflheim, scored the Runes on the Roots of the Tree to govern the Wyrd of the beings dwelling within the Nine Worlds. For Odin, this was a journey to the Root of the Tree where the World of the Dead, Helheim, is located. He journeyed toward Death in order to obtain the life enhancing powers of the Runes, which among other things are tools enhancing life in the hands of a Rune master.
Odin’s journey to obtain the Runes was a sacrifice of his ego self in order to actualize his ascended self. After Odin’s sacrifice, the fear of death had no more power over him. This is something that students of Northern Mythology 101 can learn from. The fairy tales remaining to us are actually teaching tales that came from our Ancestors in order to guide their Descendants. I can imagine these stories told during the long winter nights in the far North around a community fire. Our Ancestors were very much in harmony with Nature. Yggdrasil unites humanity with Trees, as humans were first made from trees, and the concept of having a Tree within us connects us also to the Nine Worlds like our spine is connected to the seven chakras taught in Kundalini yoga. Our personal power is our power in the world; we are beings of energy even as are the Gods and the Elements. In order to truly KNOW ourselves as such, we, like Odin, will visit the Root of the Tree and ascend to its mighty branches many times during our lifetime.