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‘Burning ice, biting flame; that is how life began…’

What did the Vikings Believe?

Norse mythology tells us that the world as we know it began with the joining of the fires from Muspell, in the south,with the frozen cold ice of Niflheim from the north. These two primordial forces were originally separated by the great expanse of emptiness known of the Ginnungagap but when the heat of the south met the cold of the north water began to melt from the ice, these water droplets created a mighty giant, known as Ymir, the forefather of Frost Giants and he was evil from the beginning.

The ice from Niflheim continued to melt and from the life giving water came Audumla, the cow. Audumla fed off the ice, and whilst licking the salty blocks of ice, the body of a man began to appear. Within three days this man of ice was freed and he was called Buri, the grandfather of Odin, the Allfather of the Gods of Asgard.

However, although there was life, there was no land, no sky, nothing between the fiery world of Muspell, home to Black Surt and his fiery sword who already was awaiting Ragnarok and the frozen wastes of Nifheim, so where did the world come from?

From the body of a Giant…

The Viking sagas then tell us that Odin, along with his brothers Villi and Ve did not have much love for the Giants and went on to kill the first of the Frost Giants. The Gods then dragged Ymir’s body out into the middle of Ginnungagap and began to form his body:

“They shaped the earth from Ymir’s flesh and mountains from his unbroken bones; from his teeth and jaws and the fragments of his shattered bones they made the rocks, boulders and stones”

The myth continues that the brothers broke up the skull of the giant to create the four corners of the sky and placed four dwarves to hold up each section. The Dwarves were named, North, South, East and West. Sparks and embers from Muspell were taken and placed high in the sky, becoming the sun, moon and stars, each given their proper place.

Next, the nine worlds, that sit in the great world tree, Yggdrasill, were created from the dismembered Giant, his eyebrows were used to form Midgard and Night and Day, two giants were tasked with travelling around the world in their chariots.

Quotes taken from The Penguin Book of Norse Myths – Gods of the Vikings, 2011