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For the drone/ambient band, see Ginnungagap (band).

In Norse mythology, Ginnungagap ("gaping[1] abyss", "yawning void") is the primordial void, mentioned in the Gylfaginning, the Eddaic text recording Norse cosmogony.

Creation myth[edit]

Ginnungagap appears as the primordial void in the Norse creation account, the Gylfaginning states:

Ginnungagap, the Yawning Void ... which faced toward the northern quarter, became filled with heaviness, and masses of ice and rime, and from within, drizzling rain and gusts; but the southern part of the Yawning Void was lighted by those sparks and glowing masses which flew out of Múspellheim[2]

In the northern part of Ginnungagap lay the intense cold of Niflheim, and to the southern part lay the equally intense heat of Muspelheim. The cosmogonic process began when the effulgence of the two met in the middle of Ginnungagap.

Geographic rationalization[edit]

Scandinavian cartographers from the early 15th century attempted to localise or identify Ginnungagap as a real geographic location from which the creation myth derived. A fragment from a 15th-century (pre-Columbus) Old Norse encyclopedic text entitled Gripla (‘‘Little Compendium’’) places Ginnungagap between Greenland and Vinland:

Now is to be told what lies opposite Greenland, out from the bay, which was before named: Furdustrandir hight a land; there are so strong frosts that it is not habitable, so far as one knows; south from thence is Helluland, which is called Skrellingsland; from thence it is not far to Vinland the Good, which some think goes out from Africa; between Vinland and Greenland is Ginnungagap, which flows from the sea called Mare oceanum, and surrounds the whole earth.[3]

Later the 17th century Icelandic bishop Guðbrandur Thorlaksson, also used the name Ginnungegap to refer to a narrow body of water, possibly the Davis Strait, separating the southern tip of Greenland from Estotelandia, pars America extrema, probably Baffin Island.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ an alternative etymology lings the ginn- prefix in with that found in terms with a sacral meaning, such as ginn-heilagr, ginn-regin (both referring to the gods) and ginn-runa (referring to the runes), thus interpreting Ginnungagap as signifying a "magical (and creative) power-filled space". >De Vries (1977:167); cf. also Dillmann (1998:118-123).
  2. ^ The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, 1916, p. 17.
  3. ^ Gripla, Codex No. 115 translated in The Norse Discovery of America, A.M Reeves, N.L. Beamish and R.B. Anderson, 1906, p. 238.
  4. ^ Seaver, Kirsten "Maps, Myths and Men" Stanford University Press (2004) pp. 247-253.


  • Dillmann, F. X. (1998). "Ginnungagap" in: Beck, H., Steuer, H. & Timpe, D. (Eds.) Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, Volume 12. Berlin: de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016227-X.
  • de Vries, Jan (1977). Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Leiden: Brill. 
  • Simek, Rudolf (1995). Lexicon der germanischen Mythology. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner. ISBN 3-520-36802-1. 

External links[edit]

  • Guðbrandur Thorlaksson's 1606 map of the North Atlantic [1]