"I know an ash-tree
known as Yggdrasil
a tall tree and sacred
besprent with white clay
thence comes the dews
that fall on the dales
it stands ever green
over Urð's spring"
Norse tradition depicts the entire world as a tree of prodigious dimensions supporting the universe. An ash tree, its leaves always green, was the Yggdrasil. It is the Ever Green, the Mighty Ash, the support of the World, the foundation of life, eternal life and immortality.
According to Norse myth, in the beginning there was only Allfather, an invisible god who had always been, and the abyss known as the Ginnungagap, a void, a place of nothingness. From the abyss, the Allfather created the mighty ash tree . Yggdrasil links and shelters the all worlds. These worlds exist on three different planes, each level is penetrated by one of the three roots of Yggdrasil. The first root is in Niflheim, Yggdrasil's second in Jotunheim, and its third in Asgård.
On the first plane, there are two worlds. To the north lies Niflheim, the realm of cold and darkness. Here exists the well Hvergelmir, supplying the water for twelve great rivers. Time is measured in the gurgling laughter of this well. An icey mist from the well forms an eternally frozen river that flows into the Ginnungagap and fills it with ice. To the south lies the realm of fire, Muspelheim, whose burning embers drift into the Ginnungagap. Muspelheim is ruled by the god Surt, wielding a flaming sword.
Four worlds exist on the second plane. Jotunheim the land of the giants, Nidavellir the land of the dwarves, Svartalfheim the land of the dark elves and Midgård the land of mortals. These worlds were created by Odin from pieces of the body of the Ymir. Ymir was a great giant Odin and his two brothers Vili and Vehad had slain in battle. The giant's unbroken bones became the mountains and his blood became the seas. Ymir's broken bones and teeth became cliffs, rocks, and stones. The eyebrows of the giant became a barrier against the uninhabitable surroundings. The four dwarves Austri, Nordri, Sudri, and Westri held Ymir's skull high above to form the sky and the brains of the giant became the clouds. Odin ground Ymir's flesh in a the great mill around which the universe rotated, and it became the dirt. Maggots that had infested Ymir's corpse were transformed by Odin into dwarves and elves.
The third plane posesses three worlds. Alfheim the land of the light elves, Vanaheim the land of the Vanir , and Asgård is the home of the Aesir gods. The Vanir are the fertility gods whose powers are connected to those of the wind and sea. Within Asgård lies Valhalla only accessable by Bifrost, the magical bridge that appears to mortals as a rainbow . Bifrost is guarded by the god Heimdall.
At the base of Yggdrasil's trunk there are three wells. The first well, called Hvergelmir, contains the dragon Nidhug, the "dead biter", who gnaws away at the third root of the mighty ash. The second well, Urdar, is the well of fate. The three Norns, Skuld (Guilt), Verdandi (Necessity), and Urd (Fate) guard it through-out eternity. The Norns water Yggdrasil with the waters of Urdar every day in order to keep the tree healthy and green. Drops falling from the lower branches of the tree become honey. The Norns also weave vast webs of an spontanious haphazard design, as if the final outcomes of their weavings are unknown to them. The final well is Mimir's Well, the well of wisdom. It is guarded by the wisest of the Aesir, Mimir. Odin gave one of his eyes as payment for a drink from Mimir's Well.
Amoung the foliage of Yggdrasil, wanders four stags, Dain, Duneyr, Durathor, and Dvalin, who became the four winds. They try to nibble off the new buds of the great ash but are continually thwarted by the care of the Norns.
At the very top of Yggdrasil is perched a golden eagle. The Eagle continually battles Nidhug, it's swarn enemy. The victories of the Eagle give us day, it's losses to the great serpant give us night. Upon the beak of this eagle sits the hawk Vedfolnir. It is Vedfolnir's task to stand vigilant and report all that happens on these three levels.
Also living on the branches of Yggdrasil is Ratatosk the squirrel and Heidrun the goat. Ratatosk scampers up and down the trunk of the mighty ash, exchanging malicious gossip and lies between the eagle and Nidhug in the hopes that they will fight each other. Heidrun gave the milk which Odin's warriors drank for nourishment.
The branches of Yggdrasil encompass the universe and drop the dews of fate and wisdom upon mankind. The tree will stand sturdily during the final cosmic wars triggered by the wickedness of men, when they and the gods will perish in fearful combat and the earth will be devastated. But when the wars are over the gentle gods Lif and Lifdrasir will emerge from the branches of Yggdrasil to create a new and better world...again.