Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology

Norse Cosmology contains ‘nine homeworlds’ (Níu Heimar in Old Norse) in which all beings inhabit.  These worlds are centered on the World Tree, Yggdrasil, which lies at the centre of the cosmos.  Each of these Nine Worlds is the homeland of various classes of beings that are part of Norse and Germanic mythology.  Travel between the worlds are described in myths, where gods and other beings sometimes interact directly with humans.

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Although the Nine Worlds are mentioned in the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, descriptions are vague and could have been influenced by later Christian cosmology.  The relationships between the worlds is still uncertain, for example, between Hel, Helheim, Niflhel, and Niflheim.  Below is a reconstruction:

Upper level
Asgard / Ásgarðr / Aesir – Land of the Aesir Gods and Goddesses
Vanaheim / Vanaheimr / Vanir – Land of the Vanir Gods and Goddesses
Alfheim / Álfheimr / Álfar – Land of the Light Elves

Middle Level / Middle Earth
Midgard / Miðgarðr / Menn – Land of Humanity
Jotunheim / Jötunheimr / Jötnar – Land of the Giants
Svartalfheim / Svartálfaheimr / Dvergar – Land of the Dark Elves
(Nidavellir –Land of the Dwarves)

Lower Level
Muspelheim / Muspellsheimr – Primordial Land of Fire
Niflheim / Niflheimr – Primordial place of Ice and Fog, Land of the Dead
(Hel / Helheimr / Náir – Land of the Dead, Home of the Goddess Hel)

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Asgard / Ásgarðr / Aesir – Land of the Aesir Gods and Goddesses
High in the sky lies Asgard, home to the Aesir, the sky gods.  Asgard was also the home of Odin’s Valhalla and Freya’s Fólkvangr, where brave Viking warriors would go after death.  Home of Urdarbrunnr, the Well of Fate, guarded by the Norns.

Vanaheim / Vanaheimr / Vanir – Land of the Vanir Gods and Goddesses
A mysterious place, home of the Vanir earth gods.  Home of Njord, Freya and Freyr, who came to live in Asgard after the Aesir-Vanir war.

Alfheim / Álfheimr / Álfar – Land of the Light Elves
Next to Asgard in the heavens was Alfheim, home to beautiful elves, the gods of nature and fertility.  Alfheim was ruled by Freyr.

Midgard / Miðgarðr / Menn – Land of Humanity
Home of mankind, also known as ‘middle earth’.  Midgard was connected to Asgard by Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge.

Jotunheim / Jötunheimr / Jötnar – Land of the Giants
Home of the jotuns (giants), enemies of the Aesir.  Jotunheim was mostly rocks, wilderness and dense forests.  Loki came from Jotunheim, later to live in Asgard.  Home of Mímisbrunnr, the Well of Wisdom, guarded by Mimir.

Svartalfheim / Svartálfaheimr / Dvergar – Land of the Dark Elves
Deep in the underground lived the hideous dark elves, known to cause trouble to humans such as causing nightmares.  They could not be touched by the sun, otherwise they would turn to stone.

Nidavellir –Land of the Dwarves
Similar to Svartalfheim was Nidavellir, where dwarves lived in caves underground.  Ruled by Hreidmar, the dwarves were masters of craftsmanship and gave presents to the Aesir, such as Thor’s hammer and Odin’s spear.  Could be the same as Svartalfheim.

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Muspelheim / Muspellsheimr – Primordial Land of Fire
Muspelheim was a burning hot place created in the far south.  It was home to the fire giants, fire demons, and the giant Surt, enemy to the Aesir.

Niflheim / Niflheimr – Primordial place of Ice and Fog, Land of the Dead
The lowest of the Nine Worlds, this land of ice and mist was located in the northern region of Ginnungagap.  The oldest of three wells, Hvergelmir (‘Roaring Kettle’), was located here, which was the source of all cold rivers and the origin of all living things.

Hel / Helheimr / Náir – Land of the Dead, Home of the Goddess Hel
Home of the Goddess Hel, daughter of Loki.  When humans were not accepted to Valhalla or Fólkvangr, they came to Hel’s hall Elivdnir.  Could be the same as Niflheim.

Next: Runes

Pantheon – Yggdrasil
Ancient History – Nine Worlds
Wiki – Norse Mythology
Wiki – Norse Cosmology
Viking Mythology – Nine Worlds

© A Year And A Day (2013)

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