Yggdrasil l’arbre de vie dans la mythologie nordique

Yggdrasil: the Tree of Life in Norse Mythology

Yggdrasil is the tree of life, or the world tree , in Norse mythology . The huge ash tree which has three roots connects the nine worlds and controls them. Often mentioned in historical texts and in Viking history, Yggdrasil is the focal point of Scandinavian religion. But what is it really and what is it for?

What is the sacred tree Yggdrasil?

What does Yggdrasil look like?

Yggdrasil is a huge ash tree with three roots whose name would mean "horse of Odin", in reference to the sacrifice of the god to discover the secret of the runes. Indeed, the Scandinavian imagination has it that Odin was hung from his root as he would have been from a horse.

Yggdrasil took root in the body of Ymir , the very first giant killed by Odin and his brothers before the worlds were created. After the creation of Midgard by the first gods, the tree grew up to the sky , which shelters since the realm of the gods. Its heights are covered with snow, as are the highest mountains. Its foliage is eternally green and the dew slips from its leaves. This is in any case what the poem Völuspa reports. Just as he reports that the tree experiences frequent and violent winds. Of course, it was impossible in the minds of the Scandinavians for Yggdrasil, the tree of life, to die one day. Otherwise the whole world would be destroyed with him. During Ragnarök, the sacred tree will be partially affected but will ultimately be the source of new life.

Why is Yggdrasil represented by an ash tree?

Ash Yggdrasil

The sacred tree Yggdrasil is mainly represented by an ash tree in Viking and then modern culture. And for good reason, the ash tree is a symbol of longevity , since it is expected to live to be 200 years old . The oldest would have reached more than 470 years today. Ash wood is also firm , and is an ideal material for the manufacture of weapons, such as shields for example. And, according to the Scandinavian tradition, it would have real medicinal virtues .

The nine worlds sheltered by Yggdrasil

The 9 Viking Worlds

Yggdrasil is the tree of life on which rests the nine kingdoms of Norse mythology : Asgard, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Midgard, Jötunheim, Svartalfheim, Niflheim, Muspelheim and Helheim. According to certain texts, there would still exist other kingdoms, such as Nidavellir for example, the world of the dwarves. According to other writings, the kingdoms of Helheim and Niflheim would in fact be one. Anyway, to date, none of the known ancient sources reveal how these nine worlds are arranged around Yggdrasil. No "map", in any case, has so far been discovered. So inevitably, certain contradictions apply. Nevertheless, diagrams made from clues found in some sources tend to give an approximate image of the place of the nine worlds in Yggdrasil.

Thus, Midgard, the world of humans, would be located at the very center of Yggdrasil . Around him but further from the trunk, Jötunheim (the world of the ice giants) and Svartalfheim (the world of the dark elves). The celestial sphere, located above the tree, would be made up of Asgard (the world of the Ases gods), Vanaheim (the world of the Vanir gods) and Alfheim (the world of the elves). The terrestrial sphere, located under the sacred tree, would house Helheim (the world of the dead), Muspellheim (the world of fire) and Nifheim (the world of ice).

Where do the three roots of Yggdrasil come from?

Yggdrasil Roots

Each of the three roots of the sacred tree leads to three worlds: Asgard, Midgard and Niflheim. The first root comes straight from the Hvergelmir spring , located in Niflheim. The latter is guarded by Nidhögg , a terrible dragon that gnaws the root of Yggdrasil. The second root starts from Mimir , a fountain located in Jötunheim . This contains the source of all wisdom and is guarded by a giant. Finally, the third root begins at the Well of Urd in Asgard. The latter is guarded by three Norns , women weaving the destiny of Men and Gods.

Yggdrasil, host to many characters from mythology

Animals on Yggdrasil

In addition to housing the nine worlds and those who inhabit them, the sacred tree Yggdrasil is also host to other characters. There are first five stags : Sain, Duneyr, Durathor, Dvalin and Eikthymir. The first four feed on the foliage located at the bottom of the tree, while the last grazes on the twigs. At the top of the ash tree is the Heidrun goat . As well as Ratatosk, a squirrel who never stops running in all directions and sows a fight between the snake Nidhögg and the eagle Vidofnir. Then a falcon , named Vedrfölnir.

The presence of all these animals and their activities truly represent the mortality of the tree of life, and therefore, with it, the mortality of the cosmos it shelters.

Yggdrasil and its link to the number nine

It is impossible for Yggdrasil to be evoked without the number nine, which is sacred in Norse mythology . Highlights and legends around the great sacred ash tree and the Gods always relate to the number nine. Odin , for example, was hanged for 9 days and 9 nights on a root of Yggdrasil to acquire his wisdom. For his part, the god Frey had to wait 9 days before being able to consummate his marriage with the goddess Gerd. Hermod rides 9 nights to reach the realm of the dead and free his brother Balder. The couple Njörd and Skadi decided to live 9 nights at sea and 9 nights in the mountains . During Ragnarök, Thor took 9 steps before collapsing, dead from the venom of the serpent Jörmungandr. After Ragnarök, there are only 9 deities left. Finally, every 9 years, the Swedes gathered in a temple in Uppsala for a 9-day celebration .

Where to find Yggdrasil?

Yggdrasil in real life

If the legendary tree is of course not reachable, it is however possible to approach a replica. Or what one could interpret as such.

The sacred tree of Uppsala , located in northern Sweden in the 11th century, was the very first to recall the tree of life Yggdrasil. This huge ash tree (or If according to some) was not far from a well too. It was tall, with large evergreen branches, in winter as in summer. Unfortunately, no chance today of falling on the sacred tree by making a detour via Uppsala, since it no longer exists.

On the other hand, other large ash trees still exist in Europe. One can be found in Vence , in the south of France. Another in Bouvante , in Drôme.

Regarding the Ifs? The Yew of Fortingall, Scotland , is estimated to be between 2000 and 5000 years old. Which makes it one of the oldest trees in Europe. Protected by a small wall today, it can nevertheless be seen easily and continue to live for many centuries to come. Another Yew thousands of years old is also found at Llangernyw , Wales .

Why get a tree of life tattoo?

Tree of life tattoos

Today, the sacred Yggdrasil tree is strongly present in the world of tattooing and is among the most popular among lovers of Nordic culture. It represents both the force of life, youth and regeneration . In some Scandinavian traditions, it also represents immortality , and of course knowledge and knowledge .

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