Norse 101, Part 3
Happy Friday again! Time for another Norse 101 post. Ready? This week, I’ll talk a little bit about the different realms in the Norse universe, as well as some of these realms’ more famous residents. The words in bold are listed below for pronunciation. Let’s begin.
There are Nine Realms in Norse mythology. Each of these worlds has a place on the world tree, Yggdrasil. At the top, among the branches, is Asgard. This is the home of the Aesir Gods and Goddesses, like Thor, Odin, and Frigg. The Aesir are associated with the concepts of culture and civilization. Also located in Asgard is Valhalla, where Odin’s pick of the warriors who died gloriously in battle will spend their afterlife. These folks are called Einherjar, and spend their days sparring, training, and feasting.
Next is Vanaheim, where the Vanic Gods and Goddesses live. Freyr, Freyja, and Njord are Vanic deities. They’re mostly associated with magic and agriculture, and the domesticated side of nature. Vanaheim is said to be naturally beautiful, with forests and nature spirits abound.
Alfheim is the realm of the Light-Elves. There’s a story that Alfheim was given to Freyr to rule when He was a little baby. He was gifted a realm to rule because He was teething! Alfheim is home to the elves and fae, and they are seen as lesser-known or minor gods of nature that help us with magick, arts, or musical inspiration.
Svartalfheim is home to the Dark Elves. It’s said that the Light Elves and Dark Elves were once the same, but the Dark Elves split away. Some folks say that they’re the troublemakers, the goblins, and not exactly friendly.
Welcome to Midgard, home to humans, and located right smack dab in the middle of the Tree. Midgard literally means ‘middle-earth,’ and is connected to Asgard by the rainbow bridge called Bifrost. Completely encircling Midgard is the Midgard Serpent named Jormungandr, who is so big that He completely circles the Earth and holds His tail in His mouth. Jorm is a child of Loki and Angrboda, so some people aren’t too keen on Him. But His presence around Earth protects us here. That’s one reason why Odin placed Jorm there. The other reason is just that He’s so darn big! Where else would He fit?
Jotunheim is the realm of the Giants, or Jotnar. Typically, the Jotnar are viewed as the bad guys. The enemies of the Aesir in the lore. The Jotnar are the untamed forces of nature that can sometimes be destructive to civilization. Fire can warm your home, but it can also burn down a forest, right? Right. Some of the Jotnar are accepted by the Aesir, like Loki, Skadi, and Sunna and Mani (the sun and moon deities). Some of the Gods even take lovers who are giantesses. Thor had two sons with Jarnsaxa, and Odin had a fling with a lovely giantess named Gunnlod. And this is where He procured the Mead of Poetry to share with mankind. There is also a special place in Jotunheim called the Iron Wood, or Jarnvidr. This is where Loki, Angrboda, Fenrir, Hel, and Jormungandr are from. The residents of Iron Wood are powerful in magick and shape-shifting.
Nidavellir is home to the Dwarves. They’re the master craftsmen of the Nine Worlds. They made many of the tools used by the Gods. Thor’s hammer, his wife Sif’s golden hair, Odin’s spear, and Freyr’s ship were all made by the dwarves.
Helheim, ruled by Loki’s daughter Hel, is the realm of the dead, human and deity alike, who didn’t die in battle. These are people who died of old age or natural causes. Helheim isn’t a bad place, like the Biblical Hell is. It’s just a realm for the non-heroes of the world. One resident of Helheim is the God, Baldr. He’s one of Odin’s sons, beloved by all, but murdered. There are a few different versions of the story, one involving Loki, another not mentioning Him at all. But, Baldr is in Helheim, according to the lore.
Niflheim, if you recall from last week’s post, is the land of fog, mist, and ice. It’s one of the realms where creation started. It’s also a home to the dishonored dead. The truly bad people, like murderers, thieves, and the like will spend a little “time-out” here in Niflheim to reflect on their deeds.
Last is Muspelheim, the land of fire. Remember from last week that this is also a realm from the creation. It’s where the sun sparked to life. Muspelheim is the land of fire-giants and ruled by Surt. In lore, He’s the uber-enemy of the Gods who is to bring all creation to a fiery end. Not to fret, though. After everything is destroyed, there are survivors, and creation begins anew.
This week’s pronunciations:
There are other areas in Yggdrasil, like springs and wells, as well as other beings that reside in its branches. I’ll discuss them in my next post where I give a brief introduction to the more well-known beings in the Norse cosmology. So, I’ll see you again next Freyja’s Day, my lovelies!