The Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil - The triple trinity
Many shamanic cultures of the world divide the universe in three different planes or worlds, which are connected by a world axis (or something similar to it). In many of this cosmologies there is also a cosmic snake or dragon playing an important part. We will also find this tripartite in the nordic mythology which is passed unto us. Unfortunately the only names still known are found in the nordic culture. How they where called in the south is not known to us anymore. Since shamanism got almost completely extinguished, the lack of knowledge must be filled somehow. It is very hard for todays revived Shamanisms in Europe to find a clear structure. On one hand it is not necessary to have such structures, as they tend to cause unflexibility and they hold the danger of dogmatism and narrow minded fanaticism, which doesn't really suit shamanistic thoughts. On the other hand this vacuum with its suction is the cause, a beginner or interested person finds it very hard, if not impossible, to find an orientation in the Supermarket of Spiritualism or at least to experience some verification because of the alternative models or paradigms, which are attracted from everywhere.
Those who start working with runes or those interested in runic shamanism or runic magic, sooner or later are confronted with the cosmology of our ancestors, even if only for academical reasons. At this point I want to give an overview of the Nine Worlds and what shamanic or mythological aspects can be experienced within them. Each one of this Nine Worlds can be experienced by shamanic techniques, described elsewhere on my Website. This by itself already subjectifies the described material and I want to remind you, that these shamanic worlds are perceived individually different.
The Nine Heavens above Asgard
In the Gylfaginning there is said to be nine further heavens, which are above Asgard. These are:
Vindlblain: Darkwind and Hregg-Mimir, Storm-Mimir
Asgard - the first of the three upper worlds
Asgard is located on an island in the river Hvergelmir, which has its source in Niflheim under the three roots of Yggdrasil. This river is also the source of eleven big rivers. The first root of Yggdrasil lies embodied in Asgard, underneath it the spring of fate has its source (the Urd-spring). The Urd-spring is guarded by the three Nornes (Urd, Verdandi and Skuld), which have only one eye altogether. Asgard is guarded by thick walls that protect from the burning flames of the river. It is the home of the Æsir. In Asgard there is one root of Yggdrasil. Asgard can only be entered by a single gate. In the middle of Asgard is the Valaskjaff, the Thingplace of the gods, the celebrationhall of the fallen warriors (the Einherjer), Valhalla and the great plane Vigrid, where the Einherjer are having their daily fights and where Ragnarök is going to take place. There are two regions spread over Asgard and Midgardh: Gladsheim and Vingolf. The livingplaces of the gods and goddesses. The rainbowbridge Bifrost connects Midgardh and Asgard, the bridge is built from of air and water and is guarded by fire on its edges. In Asgard it is statically anchored at a place named Himminbjorg (Guardian of the Heaven), Heimdalls Tower. In Midgardh Bifrost is constantly changing its position. It takes the help of a Valkyre or a great amount of strong will to be able to cross Bifrost.
Vanaheim - the second of the three upper worlds
Vanaheim is the Home of the Vanir (or Asynjor), the gods of fertility. Vanaheim is a place of water, of shamans (the seiðman and siðkona), of peace, of healing, of harvest, of wealth and of death. Vanaheim lies in the west.
Alfheim (Ljosalfheim) - the third of the three upper worlds
The world of light, of fertility and of air. From Alfheim the energy flows down to the gods of Midgardh.
Midgardh - the first of the three middle worlds
Middle-earth lies in the excat middle of all worlds, all the other ones can be reached from there. A gigantic ocean surrounds Middle-earth and within this ocean lives Iormungand, the serpent of the world that bites itself in its tail (she is a daughter of Loki).
Jotunheim - the second of the three middle worlds
The big fortress of the giants is called Utgard (Outerworld). It lies in the mountains east of Midgardh or on the other side of the ocean, which is surrounding middle-earth. In Jotunheim live the Thursen, Etins and the giants. They are descendants of Ymirand and represent the power of the primeval chaos - meaning wisdom and destruction simultaneously. The icegiants and the rockgiants are constantly trying to destroy the structures of the world. Under the second root of Yggdrasil, which is located in Jotunheim, lies the source of the spring of Mimir, whose water is the origin of deep wisdom. Wotan himself sacrificed an eye to drink from this water. Mimirs head is guarding this place.
Nidavellier - the third of the three middle worlds
The dark habitat, which lies in the north. The Black-elfs and Black-dwarfs live there in caves and other abysses. They posess the wisdom and the magic of creating and manifesting thoughts. Same as the Light-elfs they make jewellery and magic weapons.
Svartalfheim - the first of the three lower worlds
It is not really known where Svartalfheim can be located exactly. It may be located underneath Nidavellier, which actually puts it to Midgardh. The secret of the deep earth and the primordial cold are hidden here. The mystical blacksmiths and treasurecaves are found here in Svartalfheim.
Niflheim - the second of the three lower worlds
The world of the dead, a meagre place of cold. From Midgardh it is a ride of nine days to reach the howling bridge Gjallarbru, that leads over the bordering river Gjoll. Modgud is guarding this bridge. There is a connection with Muspellheim, which is guarded by the firegiant Surt. Niflheim and Muspellheim are the primeval frost and the primeval spark, which are separated by the abyss of Ginnungagap. The third root of Yggdrasil lies embodied in Niflheim. Underneath it lies the source of the river Hvergelmir.
Hel - the third of the three lower worlds
Behind the howling bridge is the palace of Hel. You can see Hel and Niflheim as one world, wheras Muspellheim would be the ninth world. This is a place of cleansing. Everybody who dies comes to Hel first. For an individual amount of time - just as needed - the deceased is staying at Hel, before he goes on or gets incarnated. Even the Valkyres have to take the chosen heroes to Hel, that there can be judged over them. The ones who where abandoned by their guardian spirits (thieves, breaker of an oath or other similar crooks) are sended to Niflheim to get their punishment. There is an even worse place there: Nastrand, that is where the real bad crooks are taken care of. Nidhogg is gnawing at the bodies of the condemned. Good appetite! Hel is very individual in perception. Mrs. Holle (a variant name of Hel) is the godess, who resides in this region. Snow is falling when she is shaking out her beddings. To reach Hel, the river Gjoll must be crossed. A wide and icy bridge (Gjallarbru) is making the crossing possible.
Yggdrasil - the dreadfull horse, the Worldyew or axis mundi
Yggdrasil's roots lie in Asgard, Jotunheim and Niflheim. She is the world axis which connects all the Nine Worlds with each other. At Hvergelmir's spring, the third root, snakes and Nidhog, stags and goats are gnawing at the leaves. Ratatosk, the squirrel is constantly delivering insults between Nidhogg and the eagle who lives in the crown of the tree. The three Nornes Destiny (Urd), Beeing (Skuld) and Necessity (Verdandi) are taking care of the worldyew. Odin was hanging from the Worldtree nine days and nine nights to achive his knowledge of the the runes and his shamanic initiation.