At this point, I’m going to go with you’ve gotten enough going for you that you’ve started on a basic level. You know how to make offerings and sacrifices on your altar, you have a basic idea of some of who the Gods and Goddesses are. You even know a bit about how to approach and what Heathenism is all about.
You’re ready to go a bit deeper. Now to get into the Cosmology, the Beings, and to know the Gods and Goddesses just a little bit better. That’s what’s coming up next. 🙂
But the journey of a million miles starts with a step. That first step is to realize that our world is not the only world. Okay, yes, we have nine planets in our solar system (well…we used to. Blessings of Hel upon you Pluto). But in Norse and Germanic cosmology, there are Nine Realms or Worlds.
The Nine worlds are bound together by what we call The World Tree, Yggdrasil. It is one of the oldest things in the universe, and the Nine Worlds, as well as the Well of Wyrd, are nestled in it’s branches or its roots. Nidhoggr is a dragon that devours the roots of Yggdrasil as it grows, as well as the dead that Hel sees a need to punish. At the top is an eagle, and running up and down between them is a squirrel, Ratatoskr.
Earth is one of these realms. We call it Midgard. Midgard translates into “Middle Earth” and this is because our world is in the middle of the other Nine worlds. And yes, I know, it’s really inventive. “That place in the middle.” 😛
Midgard was formed from the body of Ymir, the first frost giant, when Odin and his brothers Vili and Vi slew him. They then took the corpse and formed the world as we know it, using the parts of the Giant’s body to make the sky, clouds, earth, and seas.
Midgard, however, was not the first realm, and I’ll get to how Midgard came to be here in a moment, along with how we humans came about. The first thing to exist was the Ginnungagap which means pretty much…”Mighty Gap.”
Yeah, we have a thing for simple names.
In the Ginnungagap there was nothing. A void. There then arose the first two realms, Niflheim and Muspelheim. Niflheim lies to the north, and is is a realm of mist and ice and fog, home to the Frost Jotun. In the south is Muspelheim, and it is a realm of smoke and fire, home to the Fire Jotun, and ruled by Surtr.
Next are the three Realms of the Gods. Asgard, home to the Aesir. Vanaheim, home of the Vanir. And Helheim, home of the dead. These three realms were about before Midgard, and are home to our Gods and our Ancestors. Odin is the ruler of Asgard, and Hel is the ruler of Helheim. The ruler of Vanaheim is not known, beyond some conjectures, but the Vanir tend to stay out of the affairs of Midgard.
Next is Jotunheim, the home of the Jotuns or Giants. Some Jotun here are Frost giants, other are Jotuns of different sorts. the Jotuns tend to be what we would consider “primal” beings. Just as humans are made up primarily of the element we know as Carbon, so too the Jotuns are made up of things like Fire, Ice, Storm, Rock, etc, or at least tend to have a high concentration of them added in. Frost seems to be the most common though, and the first being to exist was an Ice Jotun named Ymir, who I’ll talk to about more in a moment.
Following that is Alfheim and Svartalfheim. These translates as the Home of the Alf/Elves and Home of the Dark (blue/black) Elves. Freyr rules over Alfheim. Alfs and Svartalfs are nature spirits who fall into several different catagories. They’re what inspired the Elves in the Lord of the Rings, and like those elves, there are wood elves, high elves, mountain elves, and so forth. Dark Elves are related to the Dwarfs, who also dwell in either Svartalfheim or their own home world Nidavellir (Dark fields). There is some confusion about which one the Svartalfheim is connected too.
And these are the Nine Worlds.