The plains of Ida: Valhalla and Yggdrasil
In Asgard the Æsir built an immense fortress, in the midst of which
lay the Plains of Ida. Here they erected two splendid halls: Gladsheim,
which contained high seats for Odin and the twelve peers among the Æsir;
and Vingolf, which had high seats for Frigg and the goddesses. Round
about Lidskjalf, whence Odin surveys the universe, rose the hall Valaskjalf,
roofed with a silver roof. The chief of the halls of Asgard, however, was
Valhalla, the banquet hall of the Æsir. Here Odin held high festival not only
for the Æsir, but for all the translated heroes (einherjar), brave warriors who
after death came into his presence. In Valhalla there were 640 portals,
through each of which, 960 warriors might march in abreast.
Between heaven and earth the Æsir constructed a bridge called
Bifrost, or the Rainbow. The ruddy hue of the bridge is the light of a fire that
burns without ceasing to prevent the Giants from crossing over it. Bifrost is
of all bridges the most splendid and the strongest, and yet at last it will fall
asunder, when the end of all things shall have come.
Besides Odin, there were twelve of the Æsir who were held to be
chief deities of the universe; among themselves they had apportioned rule
over all things, and each day they held counsel about what events should
come to pass. Odin was their lord; he was supreme, mightiest of the gods,
the preserver of all things, and therefore he was called All-Father. In Gladsheim, where stood
the high seats of the gods, they took counsel together. As rulers of the
universe the gods bore the titles regin or rogn, governors; bond or hopt,
binding or uniting powers; and year, the holy ones. Their high seats were
also called judgment seats (rokstólar). The gods or Æsir were designated
as white, bright, shining, holy, mighty; as war-gods (sigtívar) or battle-gods
(valtívar). They loved the race of men, protected men against Giants,
Dwarfs, and Dark-Elves, and upheld righteousness and justice.
When the gods held their solemn assemblies, to which came all the
Æsir, they resorted to the ash Yggdrasil, the tree of the universe. Here was
their principal sanctuary. The ash Yggdrasil spread its branches abroad
over the whole world. It had three roots: one among the Æsir, another
among the Rime-Thursar, a third in the depths of Niflheim. Beside the root
in Niflheim there was a fearsome well, Vergelmir; there lay a dreadful
serpent, Nidhogg, which, together with a great number of other serpents,
gnawed without respite at the root of the tree, threatening to destroy it.
Beside the root that rested with the Rime-Thursar there was also a well,
which belonged to a Giant, the wise Mimir; in it lay hidden the highest
wisdom, and from it Mimir drank each day. Beside the third root, which
stretched out to the Æsir, there was also a well, called Urd’s Well. It was
here that the gods held their assembly. Among the branches of the ash
many animals had their resort; there were a sagacious eagle, a hawk, four
stags, and the little squirrel Ratatosk, which continually ran up and down
bearing evil communications between the eagle and Nidhogg.
Peter Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1926, pp. 5-7.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson. Norræna Society, London-New York. 1906.
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