The Norse Creation Myth

Another guest post to expand your imagination and appreciation of how universal archetypes have fired the human mind in all places and times – and inspired survival and the will to prosper. As you imagine the characters and settings, can you see correlations between your own cultural ‘belief origins’ story and those presented here?

**Note: for further fascinating reading on Norse beliefs and their subsequent influence before and during the 1st century, see the link in the comments below.



Odin, from Old Norse Óðinn, is the Allfather of the Norse gods and the ruler of Asgard. (Illustration: Victor Villalobos, Wikimedia Commons)

Odin, from Old Norse Óðinn, is the Allfather of the Norse gods and the ruler of Asgard. (Illustration: Victor Villalobos, Wikimedia Commons)

A Guest Post by Thor Lanesskog

In the Middle Ages, including the Viking Age (c. 800 – c. 1100 AD), Scandinavians followed Norse religion, and according to the creation myth, there was nothing in the beginning. The only thing that filled the universe was Cold and Heat.
On one side, to the north, was Nivlheim, with frost and fog. On the other side, in the south, was Muspelheim, a sea of ​​raging flames guarded by Surt. Between them there was nothing, except for a huge abyss, Ginnungagap. Here, in this vast nothingness – between light and darkness – all life was created, in the meeting between ice and fire. Slowly, the ice started to melt – and shaped by the cold, but awakened by the heat, a strange creature arose – a huge troll. The troll was a hermaphrodite, and its name was Yme.
Where the ice melted, the drops formed another creature – a giant cow; Audhumbla. The milk flowed like rivers from her big teats, and this is how Yme found food. Audhumbla immediately began to lick the salty, frosty stones that lay all around her and the giant. Up from one of the stones the cow suddenly licked some long hair, and the next day a head and a face appeared. The third day the cow finally managed to lick off the entire body. It was a man, big and beautiful. Bure was his name – and from him descends the gods, the ones we know as Aesirs.
The giant Yme got children with himself. While he was asleep, he began to sweat, and suddenly, out from the left armpit grew a male and a female being. Yme’s legs mated and bore a son with six heads; Thrudgelmir, father of Bergelme. This is the start of the frost giants; Jotner – a mythological race that lives in Jotunheimen, one of the nine worlds of Norse cosmology.
The different creatures mated and got children. Odin is the son of the Jotner Bestla and Bure’s son Bor. It became increasingly more frost giants, and they only created disorder and chaos. One day, Odin and his brothers Vilje and Ve made an uprising against Yme and his family. The fierce battle was won by Odin and his brothers. They killed the giant and a tidal wave of blood washed over the Aesirs’ enemies and drowned them all, except the Jotner Bergelme and his wife. From this Jotner pair, who fled into the mist and hid, derives all subsequent generations of frost giants. Also Audhumla – the first cow – must have been washed over the edge, because after this carnage no one has seen or heard anything about her.
The Aesirs dragged the dead Yme to the midst of the Ginnungagap and placed him as a lid over the abyss. His blood was transformed to sea, and his meat to land. The bones became mountains and cliffs. The teeth and shattered bone fragments became stones and scree, while his hair trees and grass. The gods threw his brain mass high up in the air, and clouds were created. The skull was used as a firmament. The gods caught sparks from Muspelheim and attached them to the skull so we got sun, moon and stars.

Small worms crawled out of Yme’s corpse. These were the origins of the dwarfs who lived in underground caves and grottoes. The Aesirs chose four of them to support the firmament and to guard the four corners. These dwarfs are named Østre (Eastern), Vestre (Western), Nordre (Northern) and Søndre (Southern).

Still Honoring Thor
Thor (Scandinavian languages; Tor, Old Norse; Þórr) is one of the most important gods in Norse mythology. He is Odin’s eldest son and his mother is the personified earth, Fjörgyn. Thor ruled the weather, particularly thunderstorms, and it was said that both thunder and lightning were created while he rode in a chariot pulled by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstrkjerra, while he struck with his hammer, Mjölnir. He was also the god of harvest and war. Thursday (“Thor’s day”), and many Scandinavian places and persons are named after him.
According to Scandinavian folklore, Thursday was a day when hidden powers were especially close to the human world. Many kind of work could not be done on Thursday, for example spinning. On Thursdays, people could get in touch with the supernatural and thus increase human powers.
To this day we still honor Thor with a weekday, which shows that Norse mythology is an important part of the western world’s cultural heritage.

Thor Lanesskog is the editor of ThorNews where you can read more about Norwegian and Scandinavian culture.

Sources: Hoftun 2002; Hoftun 2004

Many thanks for sharing, Thor! 

Readers, please note that along with current news on food, sports, travel and cultural happenings, there is also much more content on the Vikings in this subsection of the fascinating ThorNews site.  – weaver


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