Mysterious Nine Worlds Of Yggdrasil – The Sacred Tree Of Life In Norse Mythology

A. Sutherland - - Norse myths and legends give us elaborate descriptions of the Nine Worlds, located in the roots and branches of Yggdrasil, a gigantic Universal World Tree.

Mysterious Nine Worlds Of Yggdrasil – The Sacred Tree Of Life In Norse Mythology

Yggdrasil and its nine worlds. Credit: Adobe Stock - Ko_Te

The roots of Yggdrasil have their beginnings in the interior of the Earth. There the kingdom of giants and the land of the dead are located.

Mysterious Nine Worlds Of Yggdrasil – The Sacred Tree Of Life In Norse Mythology

The Tree of Life was believed to be the center of the Universe- Let us explore its mysterious worlds. Credit: Adobe Stock - ivanovevgeniy

Three of these worlds are above the Earth, and the most important is Asgard.

Asgard - The Abode Of Norse Gods


Asgard and Bifrost in Otto Schenk's interpretation of Wagner's drama Das Rheingold. Credit: Public Domain

This realm was beyond and above the human world so that it might have been in the sky; old myths confirm that only one road leads to Asgard – the rainbow (the Bifrost bridge), connecting Earth with Heaven. Asgard was the headquarters of the Aesir Gods, including OdinThorIdun, Balder, and many more.

Asgard has as many as 540 halls, and one of them (Valaskjalf ) belongs to Odin, the god of war and magic and the most complex figure of the Norse pantheon.

Muspelheim – The Land Of Primordial Fire And Flames

Mysterious Nine Worlds Of Yggdrasil – The Sacred Tree Of Life In Norse Mythology

Credit: Adobe Stock - ivanovevgeniy

It is the second world located "above" the Earth. Muspelheim is ruled by the evil fire god Surt or Surtur (Black). Sparks fly up to the sky from this realm, creating heavenly bodies. Surt, who guards the entrance to his world with a blazing sword, has burning hair and is covered in glowing lava. Surt's crucial role begins at the end of the world, according to a myth.

The fire giants and demons are believed to inhabit Muspelheim, but it can also be "a no man's land.

Alfheim – The Home Of The Light Elves


“Forest Sunrise” by Albert Bierstadt. Credit. Public Domain

The third world, located above the Earth, belongs to beautiful minor deities of nature and fertility.

The Light Elves are highly skilled in art and magic and are also believed to be guardian angels. They have magical powers, which give them abilities to both hinder and help humans.

One of the major gods, Freyr, who controls the weather on the planet Earth, also oversees the Alfheim world.

Midgard – The Home Of Humans Encircled By Evil Serpent

Mysterious Nine Worlds Of Yggdrasil – The Sacred Tree Of Life In Norse Mythology

Rune stone with Midgard serpent in Trelleborg, Sweden. Credit: Adobe Stock - Lars Gieger

The world of humans is called Midgard (or Mannheim) and is located precisely below Asgard. It is surrounded by vast oceans that cannot be passed and coiled by the Midgard Serpent, an evil, gigantic sea serpent, Jormungand, yet another child of Loki's trickster god. In Norse mythology, Jormungand is so big that it encircles the world, biting its tail.

During Ragnarok, the great thunder god Thor will finally kill monstrous Jormungand, but not before Jormungand can drop poison on Thor and kill him.

Vanaheim – The Home Of The Vanir Gods

Mysterious Nine Worlds Of Yggdrasil – The Sacred Tree Of Life In Norse Mythology

The beautiful home of the Vanir gods was called Vanaheim. Painting by Albert Bierstadt. Credit. Public Domain

It is the home of the Vanir, the Old Norse gods, the masters of sorcery and magic, who could also predict the future. The Vanir were related to the planet Earth, fertility, and wealth.

In the beginning, the Aesir and Vanir were at war, but eventually, they realized this was meaningless because neither side could win. They made peace and decided to fight their true enemy – the giants. The Vanir gods – Niord (god of the sea and seafaring), Freya (goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, who also had powerful abilities to manipulate one's destiny), and Freyr (the patron of farming, weather, and, as phallic fertility) decided to live among the Aesir in Asgard.

Hoenir and Mimer, who represented the Aesir gods, moved as hostages to Vanaheim. In some myths, Mimer was beheaded by the Vanir because he refused to give them the secrets of the Aesir.

Jotunheim – Also Known As The World "Beyond The Fence"

The Realms Of Jötunheimr – The Home Of The Fearful Giants In Norse Mythology

Left: View from Knutshøi towards central Jotunheimen. Credit: Jack R. Johanson - CC BY-SA 3.0Right: Stormjätten jordskakaren (Storm giant, the Earthshaker) by John Bauer (1882 - 1918). Credit: Public Domain

It is one of the nine worlds inhabited by giants ("Jotuns") - Frost Giants, Ice Giants, Mountain Giants, and Storm Giants. The inhabitants of Jotunheim are described in myths as twenty to thirty feet tall, muscular with flesh and bone density three times that of humans.

From Asgard, the world of giants is separated by the river Ifing. It is a cold, mountainous world covered with deep forests. They are vulnerable to heat and thrive best in their environment.

According to ancient myths and legends, the first living being that walked the Earth was a Jotun called Ymir, and it was from him the world was created.
The fearful, superhuman giants living in Jotunheim were enemies of the Aesir gods and goddesses. These two races fought frequent battles. However, three Jotun giants managed to enter Asgard and were accepted. These three giants were Aegit, the trickster god Loki and Karl.

Svartalfheim (Nidavellir) - The Underground Home Of The Dwarves


Artist's representation of Svartalfheim. Source: Fair Use

This realm is known as the world of dwarves, who hate the sun and the light of any kind. If exposed to it, these beings turn immediately to stone.

They created corridors, never-ending passages, and tunnels in this underground world. They are excellent miners and highly skilled craftsmen who extract and store precious metals and stones, but they do not have a positive attitude towards humans, giving them nightmares and haunting the animals.

They are not pleasant to look at and are considered nothing but trouble.

Niflheim – Most Inhospitable World Within Yggdrasil

Mysterious Nine Worlds Of Yggdrasil – The Sacred Tree Of Life In Norse Mythology

Credit: Adobe Stock - liuzishan

Finally, there is Niflheim, the most inhospitable and darkest world of the densest mists and fogs. It was the first of the nine worlds created within Yggdrasil and located north of the great plain of Ginnungagap.

Niflheim was eventually given to the goddess Hela and became the land of the dead, additionally divided into nine regions.

In this world is located the well (or spring) of Hvergelmir ("bubbling" or "boiling spring") from whence all cold rivers, Elivagar, run. The third root of the World Tree, Yggdrasil, hangs over the poisonous vapor that rises from Hvergelmir.

A terrible, monstrous corp-eating dragon – Nithog (Nighug), guards the well. Hvergelmir is the origin of the living and where the living will, one day, return when they die.

According to the Eddas, a mysterious gate in this world opens into "the abode of death" – Helheim.

Helheim – The Abode Of The Dead

Image (painting) of Hel, daughter of Loki, from Norse Mythology, like described in Edda

Image (painting) of Hel, daughter of Loki, from Norse Mythology, as described in Edda. Image credit: Mkasahara - CC BY-SA 4.0

Deep down in Niflheim, beneath Yggdrasil's third root, there is Helheim (or Hel), a crowdy, icy and cold place full of spirits of those who did not die in battle but of diseases, suicide, or old age. Helheim is ruled by the Goddess Hel (or Hela), a daughter of Loki, a trickster god who enjoyed mischief and one of the principal deities in the Norse pantheon.

Updated on December 5, 2022

Written by – A. Sutherland Staff Writer

Copyright © All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of

Expand for references

Y. Grimes, The Norse Myths

N. Gaiman, Norse Mythology