Crossing Bifrost – The Norse World: Yggdrasil – The World Tree

Happy Saturn’s Day

Today I want to look at the universe from the perspective of Norse Mythology.  Basically, the Norse and Germanic people looked at the universe as one big tree.  I will get into the creation myths of the Norse people later.  Mostly this post is about the world as they understood it; basically, how they thought it was.

Yggdrasil is the central tree of the entire cosmos.  It is a living ash tree and considered as such to be very holy.  Ash being very sacred to pagans.  It is an immense tree that either connects the nine worlds or each part of the tree is the nine worlds depending on the viewpoint.  I can see the theological debates in the Norse people starting with this one.

The tree itself is where everything happens when it comes to the gods and their dealings with other immortals and mortals.   The tree is supported by three immense roots that are each connected and thus fed by three major springs.

The god Odin claims in the mythology to remember when the world tree was small and young. It is also the tree he hung from for nine days to gain knowledge of the runes to aid him in his fight during Ragnarök. Based on how it is described in the ancient sources I would say I would lean toward the idea the world tree connects the nine worlds and probably serves as their skeleton that holds them together. When you also consider that the Bifrost Bridge itself connects the tree to other worlds like Asgard you begin to see this notion as well.

The notion of sacred trees is very strong in a lot of mythology. The idea of a Tree of Life is pretty much central to the three Abrahamic Religions.  Trees that provide life figure prominently in many other mythologies from Ancient Middle Eastern religions to China to Hinduism. The idea of sacred trees is very universal. It is no surprise here to me that the Tree of Life is literally the tree of all life.

For my purposes at this point it is important to establish that the Norse people believed that by traveling the tree one could travel between the nine world.  You could also do this by traveling the Bifrost Bridge, but mostly you see gods and goddesses travel the branches and roots of the tree from one realm to another.  Each of these nine realms or worlds was home to different races and each had a different nature.  as we further look at the Norse World we will look at each of these in detail later.

From a literature perspective, this notion of a world tree still plays prominently. In fantasy, Tolkien’s elves live in such trees and his mythology starts with two trees. This idea of sacred trees is central many other stories. I have used it myself as part of a story involving a dryad, although you can no longer read it.  My point is that this notion of old, living trees being the source of life and central to humanities existence is very human.

I imagine the source of such mythology is when a child asks how long a certain large tree in their life has been there.  Grandmother looks at the child and tells them that she can’t remember a time it was never there. She then tells the story of how she asked the same question of her grandmother and got the same answer. It doesn’t take much to start to believe the tree has always been there and always will be.

In the end, it is said that Yggdrasil will hide the last two survivors of Ragnarök and it and those two survivors will be the seeds of a new world and a new time. The tree lives on no matter what the end of the world scenario plays out as being.

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Odin’s Eye – Why I Am a Pagan (and What I Mean by That)

Happy Thor’s Day

Introduction:

I suppose a definition is in order.  Pagan can be used as both a noun and an adjective and has multiple definitions and means which may or may not apply to everyone who calls themselves a pagan.  Pagan or paganism can imply some, most or all of the following:

  1. One observing a polytheistic belief system
  2. A member of spiritual, cultural or religious community that worships nature – neopagan
  3. One who is not a Christian, Jew or Muslim (negative)
  4. Irreligious or hedonistic person
  5. Uncivilized

See the source image

None of these definitions really work for me I would prefer to understand it with my own definition that kind of reflects a broader definition of pagan:

One who defines their own spirituality and comes to understand that spirituality from the world around them.

Yep, that is me.  I mean I don’t really have any belief in special revelation anymore but I do believe that people might have some sound ideas about how the divine works but that is the natural revelation of reason not the divine doing something directly to reveal themselves.

Faith:

When you faith basically consists of believing there is something or someone out there but you don’t believe that we will ever know who or they are.  When you believe that the only real means we have to engage the world is yourself, then you begin to have faith only in yourself. to do the things you need to do. If I am going to come to understand the divine reality, then it is going to have to be me that does it. It doesn’t mean that conversation, reading and the opinions of others are not part of that. What it means is like I know that I am the only responsible moral agent for what I do, I also am the only real moral agent in what I believe. The reality is that for every human being there is a faith in something.

Religion:

I don’t completely dismiss religion, I just know what it really is.  It men and women’s collective opinions about the divine.  I don’t dismiss sacred writing as they might have so accurate observations about what god may be like, I just know they are all the works of men and women and the divine probably has little to do with it. There is a kind of natural revelation as people talk, discuss and write about god but that is all it is. For me the jury is still out of what value religion actually has and it isn’t coming back  with an innocent verdict. One thing is for sure for me is that all of that is nothing more than a few more voices in the whole of the discussion for me now.

Theology:

The thing about theology based on natural revelation is that verification of what you discover using reason is not always possible.  You start sentences about the divine with ‘If,,,” a lot.  The one thing being a pagan means is a lack of being dogmatic about what you believe. Your theology is very open to change and the changes can be quite dynamic. You are open to these changes and in fact I feel a good pagan should embrace them and meditate and think on them.  It’s a journey of discovery not a place to make a last stand and die on a hill that may not be worth anything in the end.

Spirituality:

This means a great deal of spirituality as a pagan for me is to be open and relaxed.  My deist pagan self tells me that I can be open to let the god of the universe; if they exist, to reveal themselves to me in the world around me.  My humanist pagan self can see the ‘divine spark’ in each human being and let that tell me a little about the divine as well.  My spirituality is based more on living the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru than it is rituals and creeds.  They simply represent a good code to live by in my opinion and ultimately it is my spirituality and no one else’s so I have to guide me to truth as much as possible accepting the guidance of others when it fits. I am The Grey Wayfarer and that is an identity I want to keep the rest of my life.

Conclusion:

We are coming on the pagan celebrations of Yule.  Part of my spirituality is the celebration of holidays and some of the divine being revealed in them as I celebrate them.  Mostly through the concepts of family and values such as hope and joy. This brings us to the end of the year.  What a year it has been!!!  Good, bad and ugly it has been a year I will not soon forget. I want to keep walking though, I believe that the best things are still yet to be discovered are around the next bend in the path, over the next hill or across the next valley of life.   So I commit myself to the journey.

So I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!