In the midst of Asgard, where the gods dwelt, was Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil was the tree of life.
It was an eternal green Ash tree, its branches stretched out over the worlds.
It was under this tree the gods held their meetings and held court.
The Eagle, the Serpent and the Squirrel
At the very top of the tree an eagle resided. By the roots of the tree the serpent named Nidhogg lingered.
The eagle and the serpent were enemies. They simple could not tolerate each other. A squirrel named Ratatosk kept busy running up and down the tree. Ratatosk took pleasure in keeping the hostility alive.
Every time Nidhogg uttered a curse or an insult about the eagle, Ratatosk would hurry to up to the top of the tree and inform the eagle what Nidhogg had said. The eagle was equally rude in his comments about Nidhogg. Ratatosk just loved to gossip, which was the reason why the eagle and the serpent remained constant foes.
Among the branches of Yggdrasil, four stags had found their home. The stags represented beauty and harmony.
Odin Hung himself in Yggdrasil
Odin was the chief god in Norse mythology. At one time Odin hung himself in Yggdrasil. For nine days he hung in the tree. Odin made this self sacrifice to gain power over the runes and all their secrets.
Yggdrasil had three roots:
The First Root of Yggrasil
The first root went to Asgard, the home of the gods. By this root was a well named Urd’s Well. This was where the gods held daily assemblies.
It was at Urd’s Well the three Norns lived. Their names were Urd (fate), Skuld (present) and Verdani (future). The three Norns were the goddesses of fate. They spent much of their time spinning the threads of life, deciding the fate of every human and every god. Whenever a child was born, the Norns spun the fate of the child in their threads.
Every morning the three Norns would start the day by placing a rooster at the top of the tree. The crow of the rooster would work as a wake-up call for all humans and gods. Every day the Norns would also fetch water from Urd’s Well and pour it over Yggdrasil. The water from the well was of vital importance to keep the tree green and healthy.
In Viking times it was quite common to serve a woman who had just given birth to a child some porridge. They called this porridge: Norn-porridge. The Vikings believed the Norns were nearby whenever a child was born. The porridge was considered an offering to the Norns. They hoped the porridge would please the Norns and secure good health for mother and child.
The Second Root of Yggdrasil: Mimir’s Well
The second root went to Jotunheim, land of the giants and trolls. By this root was Mimir’s Well. Mimir was the wisest of all living beings.
Odin sacrificed an eye for the rare privilege to have a drink from this well, thus gaining its wisdom. That is how Odin became the one-eyed god.
The Murder of Mimir
In Norse mythology there is also another older family of gods. They were called the Vanir. The Vanir had a reputation of being masters of sorcery. The Aesir and the Vanir had been at war with each other.
To end the fighting, the two branches of gods decided to exchange hostages. The Aesir sent Honir and Mimir to the Vanir. In exchange the Vanir gave Njord and the twins, Freyr and Freyja to the Aesir.
The Vanir made Honir their chief. As time passed they grew quite upset with Honir. It seemed he could not make a decision on his own, but relied on Mimir to provide the answers. In a rage the Vanir beheaded Mimir and sent his head rolling into Asgard.
Odin was devastated. He took the head of Mimir and anointed it with special herbs. He also recited spells. Miraculously the head of Mimir was restored back to life and became the talking head. Odin kept the head. He would consult the head of Mimir whenever a difficult problem arose.
The Third Root of Yggradsil
The third root went to Niflheim. This was the place where Hel ruled her gruesome Underworld. Hel was the daughter of the despiteful Loki. Anyone who died of old age or disease was sent to Hel. It was a dark and gloomy place.
Nidhogg gnawed on this root. Nidhogg was also known to suck the blood out of the dead bodies. The well by this root was named Hvergelmir.