The Nine Worlds in Norse Mythology
Here is the list of the 9 worlds in Norse Mythology:
- Svartalfheim / Nidavellir
The 9 Viking Worlds
The cosmogony in northern mythology is a very interesting aspect. In the beginning, as in the Christian religion, everything was nothingness. Later on, worlds will be created. In this article we are going to discover who are these nine worlds that live or nourish the cosmic tree Yggdrasil.
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1 - The World of Niflheim
The kingdom of Niflheim is a place of ice. It is first of all composed of mist and fog, but also of darkness and gloom. This world is considered the darkest and coldest of all. This makes it an inhospitable and icy world. Yet it is here that the origin of the universe will be created.
The Niflheim has many other names:
It should not be confused with the Niflhel, which is only a part of the kingdom of the dead, the Helheim.
However, according to some, the Niflheim is the equivalent of the kingdom of the dead of old age and disease, the Helheim.
Location of Niflheim
This world is said to be north of Ginnungagap, the gaping void in old Norse. On the other side of this abyss lies the world of Musspelheim in the south. Niflheim lies under the third root of the world tree Yggdrasil.
In the centre of Niflheimr is Hvergelmir, the meeting of ice and lava. This place is where life begins but also where it ends. It is protected by the Nidhug dragon or snake which gnaws a root of the Yggdrasil ash tree (also called Nídhögg) depending on the version.
From here, the eleven rivers of Elivágar (the name of these rivers) start. From these rivers come out a poisonous smell in the form of frost. This frost coming into contact with the heat of the world of Musspelheim will form the giant Ymir and the cow Audhumla in the Ginnungagap.
This giant will be at the origin of the creation of the rest of the universe but we will linger on this aspect in future articles.
2 - The world of Muspelheim
Like its neighbour, the Niflheim, this fire world is a creative world of the Viking universe. It is a land of heat, lava and flames, sparks and burning soot.
The giant Surt
He is the head of this kingdom of fire. Surt rules the fire giants and the fire demons. He carries with him his flaming sword with which he will destroy the nine kingdoms of Yggdrasil in Ragnarok. He is the enemy of the Aesir and especially of the god Thor, who hates this race of giants.
The Muspelheim lies south of the Gunnningagap and will help in the formation of the giant Ymir and the cow Audhumla.
3 - The world of Asgard
Asgard is a fortress, home of the gods and goddesses of Norse mythology. It connects to the realm of men, the Midgard via the Bifrost Bridge. Asgard was created after Midgard by Odin, Vili and Ve, the sons of Borr. Odin being the ruler of all deities. The name Asgard, comes from Ásgarðr which means "pregnant with the Aesir".
It is in this place that Valhalla is located, the resting place after death for all the Einherjer who died in battle while attacking.
Idavoll is the name of the plain where the gods reign. On it are twelve temples for the twelve main gods of the Viking pantheon.
Here is the list of the temples associated with their god:
- Ýdalir - Ullr
- Álfheimr - Freyr
- Valaskjálf - Vali
- Sökkvabekkr - Sága
- Gladsheim - Odin
- Thrymheimr - Skadi
- Breidablik - Balder
- Himinbjörg - Heimdall
- Fólkvangr - Freyja
- Glitnir - Forseti
- Nóatún - Njörd
- Landvidi - Vidar
The Wall of Asgard
As explained at the beginning, Asgard is a stronghold of the Aesir gods. This fortress was rebuilt by a giant after the war with the Vanes.
According to the legend, the builder (who was actually a giant) would receive the moon, the sun and the goddess Freyja if he managed to build the wall in less than half a year. With the help of his horse Svaðilfari, he set to work.
It turned out that the duo was remarkably efficient, so that by the third day they had almost finished. The gods were displeased and asked Loki to find a ploy or a trick to make up for it.
Thus, Loki made a beautiful mare appear in front of the stallion Svaðilfari. Svaðilfari stopped working and chased the mare. The builder tried somehow to catch up with his horse but it was too late. The time was up and the wall was not finished.
The builder revealed his true nature as a giant and Thor, the god of thunder, killed him with his short hammer, the Mjollnir.
4 - The World of Midgard
Also known as Middle-earth, the Midgard is the realm of the humans. It lies beneath Asgard to which it is connected by the rainbow Bifrost which is itself protected by the god Heimdal.
Midgard is surrounded by an impassable ocean. It is inhabited by the Midgard Serpent, Jormungand. It is said to be so large that it can swallow the tip of its tail. It is this serpent that will destroy the world of mankind during Ragnarok, the end of the world according to the Vikings (in reality, it is also the beginning of a new era).
Creation of humans
It is the deities Odin, Vili and Vé who, from an ash tree trunk, will shape humans.
Genesis of the world of Midgard
It all begins with the death of the giant Ymir who is killed by Odin and his two brothers. These three brothers decide to create a new world. So they set to work.
From Ymir's eyelashes, they formed the wall that would protect the human world from the Jotuns of Jotunheim. With his flesh they made the earth, the oceans with his blood, the mountains with his bones and the cliffs with his teeth.
With his hair they made trees out of his hair and his brain out of the clouds.
This is how, according to Viking mythology, they made the world of humans.
5 - The world of Jotunheim
This is the world of the giants, also known as Jotuns. They are representatives of the chaotic forces and the first enemies of the Aesir.
This kingdom is a place of rocks and dense, wild forests. Everything is snow-covered and there are many rivers and seas. Most of the population lives near the coast, they live from fishing and hunting forest animals.
Jotunheim is separated from Asgard by the river Iving. This river has the particularity that it never freezes. This kingdom lies under the central root of the cosmic tree Yggdrasil. The Mimir Well of Wisdom is also located here. Mimir being a character from Norse mythology...
In Jotunheim is also the fortress of Utgard led by Utgardloki.
Jotunheim has many names including:
The latter literally meaning "land of giants"...
6 - The world of Vanaheim
We have very little information about this world. This is the home of the Vanesian gods. They represent fertility, knowledge, fertility, witchcraft, magic and are able to predict the future.
Vanaheimr means "home of the Vanes."
7 - The World of Alfheim
Alfheim is the residence of the light elves. They are considered minor gods of nature and fertility. They can bother humans or help them with their magical powers. They can therefore be considered as guardian angels.
These creatures of light are a source of inspiration for art and music.
Álfheim, as its name suggests, is the home of the elves ("elf world" in old Norse).
There are two other names for it which are:
8 - The World of Svartalfheim or Nidavellir
Depending on the version, there is either the world of Svartalfheim or the world of Nidavellir. Or both are the same world. The sources diverge and are not very clear about this.
This kingdom is considered to be the realm of the dark elves. In contrast to the light elves living in Alfheim...
This is the realm of dwarves. They live below ground, in caves and under rocks. They are very skillful creatures who are capable of many things in craftsmanship. For example, they have forged the ring of Drapnir or the Gungnir spear. At their head is King Hreidmar.
9 - The world of Helheim
Helheim is the realm of the dead. This includes the dead of old age or disease, the disgraced, the thieves and murderers. In short, all those who are not brave enough to go to Valhalla or Forlkvangr.
This world is ruled by the goddess Hel, daughter of the evil god Loki. It is a dark and sinister place where joy and good humour no longer exist.
Those who join this world will be part of the army that will fight the gods of Asgard during Ragnarok.
This country is at the very bottom of the universe. It is composed of Hel, the antechamber, and Niflhel, which is the precise place where the dead go and which is even darker.