Talk:Norse cosmology

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Needs an introduction[edit]

This page needs an introduction. Just thought I'd say that, cos I haven't time to work out what it should say. - IMSoP 00:07, 24 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Contradictory information[edit]

Some of the Wikipedia's work on Norsh cosmolgy (such as the article Norse Mythology) prvide contradicting information regarding the position of the nine worlds. The Mythology article tells they are flat, located at the same level, where this article believes them to be on three distinct levels. Sources on this subject are also contradicting. Is there anyone who can give a definite answer regarding the 3d representation of Yggdrasil and the Nine worlds? Thanks. -- Redge 10:15, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The original sources are very unclear and, some would say, contradictory on this point. The theory presented in this article is just an interpretation - a somewhat fanciful one, if you ask me, but with a certain beauty to it. Haukurth 02:01, 28 May 2005 (UTC)
Wikipedia should be documenting what historians believe, and be pointing out differences when they exist. It isn't the job of the article to judge which interpretation is correct, but to instead just offer the interpretation. Does a group of historians (that aren't a bunch of cooks ;)) believe the Norse beleived the the Nine Worlds to be circular and on several levels? If so, then this article is fine, but it should also address the fact that others believe the Nine worlds to be flat and on the same plane. I don't know anything about Norse mythology, so I'm not going to edit the article. I just thought I'd chime in with my advice.--John Lynch 05:00, 18 July 2005 (UTC)
Unfortunately, there are almost *no* scholarly analyses of the 'Nine Worlds' concept as far as cosmological arrangements are concerned. Aside from that, my comments are covered by what Haukur says here. Slainté, P.MacUidhir (t) (c) 07:54, 27 November 2005 (UTC)

Normally, I go by what's in the Usborne books, but I had no idea! Sweetfreek 00:56, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)

This article cites "present research", but provides no clue as to where that research is to be found. RandomCritic 20:11, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

I just removed that paragraph, I haven't ever seen this speculation in a good source (or a bad one, for that matter). Haukur 20:19, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

What on earth (or should that be heaven) is meant by "the vibrant aggression of life"? Is that a very poor translation from Icelandic, or perhaps American "English"?

Salvation/damnation? Wrong![edit]

I edited the contrast between Asgard/Hel to read "heroic dead" vs. "ordinary dead"; that seems much more consistent with Norse beliefs than "salvation" (there was no terrible fate to be saved from) and "damnation" (the real place of punishment was reserved for heinous evil-doers, according to the Eddas).

I also described Hel as an "underworld" rather than a "hell" as most people use the word; some descriptions in the Eddas (as in Baldrs draumar) describe the place as neutral or even pleasurable for the dead.

--Ingeborg S. Nordén 00:56, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

Where is this... information... from?[edit]

Interpreting the primary sources for Norse mythology (of which there are very, very few) is quite difficult, given the fact that all of them were written by Christians with varying degrees of agenda to revise the old stories to make them fit new world-views (or, in the case of Snorri, pet theories), the fact that some information is contradictory across sources, the fact that the Norse were obsessed with applying ever-more-devious kennings to people, places, and things, and above all given the Norse fascination with ellipsis in narrative and exposition. In consequence -- and this is particularly true when summarizing the Norse cosmology -- painstaking care is called for to present the information with direct citation to the primary source it is from, and to avoid over-interpreting or misionterpreting that source information.

I hate to say it, but the requisite care was not taken in drafting this page.

First, the "oppositions" presented in the World/Counterworld pairs simply don't work. The only one for which there is evidence in the texts is Muspell/Niflheim. The rest are require attenuated leaps of the imagination and distortions of the evidence in the texts -- all to promote no cognizable benefit. There is no reason to feel a need to divide the worlds into opposing pairs. Moreover, it is more or less clear from the texts that Niflheim and Hel are the same place (or that Hel is contained within Niflheim), and that Niðavellir is a region within Niflheim and not a home of the drvergr. The "opposing principles" section needs to be scrapped entirely.

Second, the 3-D mapping of the worlds is not only without support in the sources (which do not provide sufficient information to construct a 3-D mapping) -- worse than that, the mapping flatly contravenes much of the information that is provided in the texts. This section needs to be replaced with a careful presentation of the data from each text regarding the ash and the nine worlds (such as it is), with at most an effort to synthesize the data (without going beyond what is available).

Third, the particular nine worlds selected as the nine worlds is not justifiable. To be sure, there is no authoritative list os worlds in any Norse source, so the identity of the nine worlds is necessarily a matter for speculation (a fact the article conspicuously fails to make clear). There are a lot of place names out there, a very few actually identified as "worlds," but most not. I would suggest that there is no reason to believe that it is possible for a modern scholar to construct a list of the worlds, and to the contrary reason to believe that constructing an accurate list is impossible: indeed, there is no reason to believe that all nine worlds are referenced anywhere in the corpus of sources, let alone that the "worlds" that are referenced are all necessarily among the famous nine.

Although an authoritative list of the nine worlds is likely impossible, I think it is possible to demonstrate, based on the available data, to demonstrate that some of the putative worlds selected in the article were not among the nine. For a start, Hel was not a different place from Niflheim. And the candidacy of several of the others hang from very slender pegs indeed. Basically, in place of this section what is called for is a presentation of the evidence for each world's candidacy among the nine, rather than a blithe conclusion that this is the authoritative list.

Another blatant piece of misinformation the article propagates: the same statement in Gylfaginning that proides us our best information as to the "layout" of Yggdrasil (and which is ignored in the article), which provides that one of Yggdrasil's roots was among the Aesir (which would put Asgard at its roots), one among the Rime-Giants (whose homeworld goes un-named, but is specified as being where the Ginnungagap formerly was), and one in Niflheim, would seem to establish that the home-world of the Rime-Giants was not, as is asserted in the article, Niflheim, but rather some other place (almost certainly Jotunheim).

Frankly, this article comes the closest of any wiki article I have seen to being pure misinformation masquerading as fact. It should most likely be rewritten from scratch, and until that happens, it should be flagged as completely untrustworthy (but as a wiki no0b, I don't feel qualified to do that and don't really know how). I note that the content of this article is as a matter of fact being propagated across the internet as "fact."

I can help rewrite it, but before I start I'd like to talk some of the above through with other persons knowledgeable about the Elder and Younger Edda, Ynglinga Saga, Gesta Danorum, Volsunga Saga, and Hrolf kraki's saga (which I take to be pretty well the only available sources). Maybe it will be possible to divide the research tasks among a few interested people?

Anyone out there? I replied to you. See below.

Xaosdog 07:41, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

Yes, the article presents speculation as fact as I noted quite some time ago [1] We should probably just reduce this to a single paragraph stub saying essentially "there are nine worlds - but we don't have a lot of details about the particulars" until someone feels like writing a proper article. You sound like a knowledgeable sort so pleace feel free to dig in. Haukur 17:37, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
I like the reduction to a stub. I think the surgical excision approach was the right way to go.
So, as far as going forward is concerned, I think the first step is to put together both in the original language and in trustworthy English translation, EVERY reference in ALL of the sources to the layout of the Norse cosmology, to other worlds, to otherworldly places, and to travel among the worlds.
As I said above, I take the sources to be the Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda, the first chunk of Heimskringla (Ynglinga Saga, and really only the beginning of that), the Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus, Volsunga Saga, and Hrold kraki's Saga. Excising everything relevant from Ynglinga Saga will not be very time-consuming, nor will it be difficult to do the same for the other two sagas. Prose Edda can be separated into its three parts, of which Gylfaginning is surely the most important, and thereby rendered manageable. Poetic Edda is tougher, having numerous important, difficult poems. I have never read all of the Gesta Danorum (although I own a copy in English), and I am not really clear on how scattered all the relevant information would be in there.
I'm willing to put some work into this, but if someone diligent can volunteer to help it's all a lot more likely to get done. In particular, someone who knows Latin well enough to find the right original language in some e-text Latin version of the Gesta Danorum and is willing to read through that work and make note of references to the cosmology would be a very welcome partner in this endeavor! With that, and maybe one other person besides myself with at least passing familiarity with Old Norse (for all the other sources), I think putting together a DEFINITIVE corpus of raw data can be accomplished reasonably painlessly.
With the raw data all compiled, I (or anyone else interested) can probably quite easily put together an article that accurately describes what the sources tell us about the nine worlds and their layout, with descriptions of candidate members of the famous "nine" and a judicious assessment of the strength of each one's candidacy.
Anyone with me on this?Xaosdog 04:56, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Haukur! I just read your article on Lodhurr. What you did there -- that's what needs to be done for the cosmology. No more and no less than exactly what you did there. I'll take the Prose Edda, Heimskringla, Volsungasaga and Hrolf krakis Saga if you'll take the Poetic Edda and Gesta Danorum! What do you say? Is there any way we can get in touch on this over email? Xaosdog 05:12, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

The first reference is to this: ^ Davidson, Hilda R. Ellis (1988). Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Cletic Religions. p. 171.

Shouldn't that be Celtic? When I went to edit it, the system wouldn't let me see the list of references. (talk) 03:32, 30 January 2013 (UTC)NotWillDecker

Erased picture[edit]

who erased the graphical picture of the relations between the realms?. there should be a graåhical representation, like there is a graphical menu on the "sephirot entry".

Giant vs. Jotunn[edit]

I called them jotnar and it was changed to giant. I know its a more familiar name for the jotnar, but it was linked for further explanation and is technically more correct than the term "giant", which is a Greek invention.Lars951 20:54, 23 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree. This is an article on Norse cosmology. There is so much unnecessary confusion, especially with alien concepts that come from non-Norse cultures. Staying as close to the Norse sources as possible is helpful. --Haldrik 13:56, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

Translation of "-garðr"[edit]

Miðgarðr is translated in the article as 'Middle Townwall'. "Townwall" here is pretty absurd - at the time the Old Norse mythology was believed in, there were no towns in Scandinavia. "Garðr" often means "fence" of some sort - though not always - but I don't think it could mean "townwall" without the word for "town" being added. The reason I haven't removed it already is that I don't know what exactly the correct translation would be, but I hope someone can supply a more appropriate translation. --Barend 23:25, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

I changed the translation from "townwall" to "enclosure", which is actually a pretty good approximation of the Old Norse term garðr. --Haldrik 16:22, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

Court works too, so does yard (but not as well). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:21, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

Translation of "heim"[edit]

I have twice corrected the translation of "heim" to "home". In this context, it means "world". This is the translation used in both the English language translations of Alvíssmál which may be found linked to in the article on edda. The translation to "heim" is not only Original Research, but wrong.--Barend 14:26, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

The article needs to discuss the meaning of the term heimr. Old Norse already has another term for "world", veröld, and it doesnt mean the same thing as heimr. --Haldrik 16:21, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

There is nothing strange about a language having two terms for the same concept. "heimr" in many contexts simply means "world", and to say that it's "literal" meaning is always "home" is incorrect. See for instance the introduction to Ynglinga saga - "kringla heimsins" etc. I would also like you to give references for your edits about the term "heimr". You also need to provide a reference for your translation of Völuspá, and the others. All translations linked to from the article Völuspá give the translation as "world". As long as you don't provide a reference for the translation you have given, it appears to be your own translation, thus original research, and should be removed.--Barend 16:34, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Translations arent original research as long as words and phrases can be confirmed. Translations need to be suitable for close reading, to refer to the words being discussed. In other articles citing ancient texts, editors have debated specific terms in an ad hoc translation before reaching a consensus version. Regarding heimr, I compared several dictionaries (including Old Icelandic). It seems heimr can refer to someones house when used adverbially, thus going "home", but usually refers to a land where a people live, or the inhabited world generally: Zoega has "a place of abode". My main problem with the translation 'world', is the Nine of them arent really separate universes with a separate sun, moon, stars, etc. They are aspects of 'this world'. Niflheim is an aspect of the arctic north. Muspell is an aspect of the hot south. Snorri identifies Ásgarðr with a place in Asia. And so on. In this sense they arent precisely 'worlds', but lands where the Vættir dwell. --Haldrik 21:01, 14 November 2007 (UTC)


  • heimr, m. place of abode, region.
  • Þrúð-heimr, m. ‘the strong abode’, the habitation of Thor. [Not 'world' of Thor.]
  • munar-heimr, m. home of happiness.
  • myrk-heimr, m. home of darkness.
  • nifl-heimr, m. the dark home, the abode of the dead.

American Heritage Dictionary

  • Niflheim, ETYMOLOGY: Old Norse niflheimr : nifl-, mist, dark + heimr, home.

Online Etymological Dictionary

  • heimr, "residence, world," heima "home". (entry 'home')
  • heimr, lit. "abode". (entry 'world')

'The municipality was named after the old farm Glemmen (Norse Glymheimar), since the first church was built on its ground. The first element is probably the old name of a brook, the last element is the plural form of heimr 'home, homestead, farm'. (Dag Jukvam / Statistics Norway (1999). "Historisk oversikt over endringer i kommune- og fylkesinndelingen".)

Geirr Bassi Haraldsson. The Old Norse Name. Studia Marklandica I. Olney, MD: Markland Medieval Militia. 1977. pp. 11, 249, 374.

  • Heimlaug, The first element Heim- is from OW.Norse heimr "home".

University of Texas, Linguistic Research Center, Old Norse

  • heimr region, land.

Old Norse for Beginners - by Haukur Þorgeirsson and Óskar Guðlaugsson

  • heimr home, homeland, world.

--Haldrik 22:37, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Alright, it seems, a number of dictionaries and etymological entries arent distinguishing between heima "home, homestead" and heimr "homeland, world", and grouping all of these meanings under one lemma heimr. While heimr gets rendered as "abode, residence, habitation, region, land", the best approximation is probably "homeland". In addition, heimr can mean "world", probably an enlargement of the sense of "homeland".--Haldrik 02:19, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

Yes - it can mean "world" or "home", "homeland". The etymology is probably from "home" originally, but that doesn't affect its literal meaning. I would strongly suggest that a translation is original research when it differs from most established translations, and, as I stated above, your translation of "heimr" as "homeland" in these passages does so.--Barend 13:34, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

In articles about the ancient world, only the original texts are authoritative. Scholars address and debate the original texts, not the translations, usually analyzing one word or phrase at a time, in its historical context. Translations are only a convenience. Ideally, the casual reader is fluent in the ancient language and can follow the academic nuances, but of course most readers arent. Thus ad hoc translations are necessary to efficiently communicate the sense of the scholarship. Repeatedly quoting a ancient text several times, according to different translations because each version has a word or two here-or-there that conforms to the scholarship, isnt feasible. One translation that conveys the current scholarly concensus is best. This translation will continue to be updated as scholars continue to refine their understanding of each word.

Also, English translations of Norse texts seem to be especially poor for academic use. Even the better translations are somewhat free and often dont represent the actual Norse terms closely, and I would characterize the majority of translations as 'wild' having little or no relation to the actual text. Because the Norse texts are often poetry, translators feel a need to make the translation sound pretty in English, and happily sacrifice accuracy for esthetics, often choosing an English word or phrase because of its metre while having little connection to the actual Norse word or phrase.

Come to think of it, I was just reading how the scholars of Beowulf have the exact same problem. One was commenting how generation after generation of new scholars get frustrated with the lack of an existing accurate translation into Modern English, set out to write their own, only to discover how a literal translation "drains the life blood out of it", abandon the quest for a careful translation, and write a freer more esthetic equivalent. In the opinion of this scholar, a precisely accurate translation of Beowulf continues to not exist in Modern English - a situation this scholar now thinks is good! Esthetics is important, but an encyclopedia on the *meaning* of ancient words and phrases must have a translation that is as accurate as possible, even if it sacrifices esthetics. An ad hoc updatable translation is necessary.

Re: "Yes - it can mean "world" or "home", "homeland". The etymology is probably from "home" originally, but that doesn't affect its literal meaning." By the way, literal meaning isnt the same thing as actual meaning. Literal meaning refers to the concrete derivation of the word, the actual meaning is often an extension away from the literal meaning. For example, the Old Norse word veröld literally means an "age of man", that is, an era of humanity, even tho by extension it normally means "world". In the article section on níu heimar, Im comfortable with the connection between heima and heimr being noted, and the derivation from the meaning "home", but clarifying, in usage heimr usually means "homeland" or "world". --Haldrik 16:15, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

The world of Nidavellir?[edit]

As for the idea that the dwarves-world is called Nidavellir, is this a common concept held by scholars, or is it just someone's speculation? And if this comes from some legitimate source, which one is it? I ask because there's barely anything in the Eddas that supports this interpretation. Nidavellir is only mentioned as the place in which the mansion of Sindri is located, along with Okolnir being the place where the mansion of the giant Brimir is. If Okolnir is not the name of the giants-world (that would be Jotunheim), then I don't see why Nidavellir would be the dwarves-world, rather than just a valley, as its name indicates. Moreover, the Prose Edda already mentions a name for the dwarves-world, and it's Svartalfheim, not Nidavellir. (talk) 18:39, 11 October 2015 (UTC)

Inangard and utangard[edit]

Why aren't these included in the cosmology?

-- (talk) 14:21, 15 June 2017 (UTC) References:

[1] Hastrup, Kirsten. 1985. Culture and History in Medieval Iceland: an Anthropological Analysis of Structure and Change. p. 143.

[2] Ibid. p. 136-139.

[3] Kershaw, Kris. 2000. The One-eyed God: Odin and the (Indo-)Germanic Männerbünde.

[4] Kure, Henning. 2003. In the Beginning Was the Scream: Conceptual Thought in the Old Norse Myth of Creation. In Scandinavia and Christian Europe in the Middle Ages: Papers of the 12th International Saga Conference. Edited by Rudolf Simek and Judith Meurer. p. 311-319.

  • Because "innangarðr" and "utangarðr" has nothing to do with Norse cosmology, the subject of this article, but were only terms for describing mental states, geography, behaviour etc as being "within bounds/enclosure/norms" or "outside bounds/enclosure/norms". - Tom | Thomas.W talk 15:58, 15 June 2017 (UTC)

Is there no reference to Midgard and behavior? Is the "Middle Path" strictly a Chinese concept?-- (talk) 15:01, 16 June 2017 (UTC)

  • ??? What has Chinese concepts got to do with Norse cosmology? - Tom | Thomas.W talk 16:29, 16 June 2017 (UTC)

This is what.

Nāgārjuna (1986). Kalupahana, David, ed. The philosophy of the middle way = Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0887061486.