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The cosmology of Norse mythology has "nine homeworlds" or "nine realms", unified by the world tree Yggdrasil. Mapping the nine worlds escapes precision because the Poetic Edda often alludes vaguely. The Norse creation myth tells how everything came into existence in the gap between fire and ice, and how the gods shaped the homeworld of humans.

Yggdrasil

Yggdrasil in painting

The Yggdrasil connecting the nine realms

The ash tree known as Yggdrasil was the axis of the universe, connecting all the Nine Realms via its branches. Nothing was recorded of its origins. It was populated by specific creatures: an omniscient eagle that was perched atop the tree, flapping its wings constantly to provide wind to the Realms; a hawk, Veðrfölnir, was positioned between the eagle's eyes. A vile dragon, Niðhǫggr, along with a multitude of unnamed serpents, gnawed continuously at Yggdrasil's roots. A giant squirrel, Ratatoskr, ran up and down the tree ferrying insults between the eagle and the dragon. Four stags—Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór—also lived in the branches.

Description and distribution

Three roots drink the waters of the home-worlds, one in the home-world of the gods (Asgard), the Æsir, one in the homeworld of the giants (Jötunheimr), the Jötunns, and one in the home-world of the dead (Niflheim).

  • The root in the Æsir home-world taps the sacred wellspring of fate, the Well of Urðr. The tree is protected and tended by the Norns, who live near it. Each day, they water it with pure water and whiten it with clay from the spring to preserve it. The water falls down to the earth as dew. As the Yggdrasil is a cosmic formation rather than a physical tree, it is unknown if the fact the Norns water the tree is metaphorical or literal.
  • Beneath the root in the world of the frost giants (Jötunns) is the spring of Mimir, whose waters contain wisdom and understanding.

According to the Norse religion Asatru, the realms are distributed in the following order:

The three worlds above the earth, in heaven:

1. Álfheimr (Alfheim)
2. Asgard (Ásgarðr)
3. Muspelheim (Múspellsheimr or Muspell)


The three worlds on earth:

4. Jötunheimr (Jotunheim)
5. Midgard (Miðgarðr)
6. Vanaheimr (Vanaheim)


The three worlds below the earth, in underworld:

7. Svartálfaheim (Svartalfheim)
8. Niðavellir
9. Niflheim (Niflheimr)

The Nine Realms

Álfheimr

Home of the Light Elves.

Asgard

Home of the gods (The Æsir). The Bifröst (The Rainbow Bridge), which originates in Asgard, allows the Asgardians to travel to Midgard and is possible that it allows them to travel to the other seven realms as well.

Jötunheimr

Home of the frost giants (Jötunns).

Midgard

Home of the humans also known as mortals. Midgard is located in the center of the nine worlds. It is connected to Asgard through the Bifröst.

Muspelheim

Home of the fire giants and demons.

Niðavellir

Home of the dwarves.

Niflheim

Home of the dishonored dead.

Svartálfaheim

Home of the Dark Elves.

Vanaheimr

Home of the Vanir.

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