The Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology

The Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology

(Read the article on one page)

Modern heathenism has been fascinated by the concept of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology and readily provides the names of these worlds and their meanings. Academics are equally guilty. Whereas this is a good practice from a psycho-analytical point of view, we should remember that this has little to do with what our ancestors understood by the concept.

Only three passages mention the Nine Worlds and they are Voluspa 2, Vafthrudnismal 43 and Gylfaginning 34. One more passage briefly skims the concept, and that is Skirnismal 35.

Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. "Odin and the Völva" (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.

Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. "Odin and the Völva" (1895) by Lorenz Frølich. ( Public Domain )

Let’s look at the relevant fragments.

Of Nine Worlds, I Remember

Voluspa 2

Níu man ek heima, níu íviðjur, mjötvið mæran fyr mold neðan.

‘Of nine worlds, I remember, nine giantesses, the famous Mjötvið, beneath the earth.’


Vafthrudnismal 43

Níu kom ek heima fyr Níflhel neðan; hinig deyja ór helju halir.

‘Nine worlds I traveled beneath in Niflhel, where die the heroes from Hel.’


Gylfaginning 34

Hel kastaði hann í Niflheim ok gaf henni vald yfir níu heimum.

‘[Odin] cast Hel in Niflheim and gave her power over nine worlds.’


Skirnismal 35

Hrímgrímnir heitir þurs, er þik hafa skal fyr nágrindr neðan; þar þér vílmegir á viðarrótum geitahland gefi; æðri drykkju fá þú aldregi.

‘Hrimgrimnir is called the Thurs who will own you beneath in Nagrind. There villains at the tree’s roots will give you goat piss. Another drink you will never fetch.’

In each case, the “nine worlds” are under the earth. And in three out of four times, these “worlds” are related to the Underworld, at one time Niflhel and Hel, at another time Niflheim. Lastly it is related to Nagrind, which is Valhalla’s main gate, but Valhalla is a place of the dead, too. And it is certainly depicted below the earth. Hel, Niflhel and Niflheim are interchangeably used in the sources. Originally, Valhalla may have been situated in Hel. Ellis-Davidson certainly argues so.

A depiction of valkyries encountering the god Heimdallr as they carry a dead man to Valhalla (1906) by Lorenz Frølich.

A depiction of valkyries encountering the god Heimdallr as they carry a dead man to Valhalla (1906) by Lorenz Frølich. ( Public Domain )

Especially the quote from Gylfaginning seems to identify the nine worlds with the realm of the dead. The line can just as well be translated as “he cast Hel into Niflheim and gave her power over the nine worlds.” Niflheim and the nine worlds then cover one and the same domain. The goddess Hel traditionally governs the dead. Even Balder arrives in her halls when he is slain.

Hel (1889) by Johannes Gehrts, pictured here with her hound Garmr.

Hel (1889) by Johannes Gehrts, pictured here with her hound Garmr. ( Public Domain )

Hel corresponds to Vrouw Holle or Frau Holle from Dutch and German folk tales. In her legend, two girls reach her world by jumping into a well. She lives underground, and this is where the girls find her. The well may be reminiscent of Urd’s Well at Yggdrasil’s roots.


In Norse mythology, the wells, the roots and the different worlds constitute one complex motif. The nine worlds somehow exist below Yggdrasil. This is explicitly the case in Voluspa 2 where Mjötvid is mentioned. This is an alternative name for Yggdrasil. It is implicitly the case in Grimnismal 35 ( á viðarrótum ).

Yggdrasil, the immense mythical tree that connects the nine worlds in Norse cosmology.

Yggdrasil, the immense mythical tree that connects the nine worlds in Norse cosmology. ( CC BY 2.0 )

Two passages from the Edda’s describe these roots in some detail. These are Grimnismal 31 and Gylfaginning 15. The passages run almost parallel.


This is a free preview of an exclusive article from Ancient Origins PREMIUM.

To enjoy the rest of this article please join us there . When you subscribe, you get immediate and full access to all Premium articles , free eBooks, webinars by expert guests, discounts for online stores, and much more!

Top Image: Mural, 1907. Heimdallr brings forth the gifts of the gods to the humans ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

By Vincent Ongkowidjojo


Yggdrasil-World Cosmic Tree is actually our solar system with all our planets,..with Band of asteroids, Kuiper Belt,..even with those big bodies till now not discovered,.. More on my web:
Yggdrasil is also what is depicted on Senmut astronomical map (cca 1400 B.C.),..on Lady Tai funneral banner (168 B.C.) too,...

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

King Leonidas by David Baldo
Mythologically descended from the hero Herakles, the Agiad dynasty of ancient Sparta reigned alongside the Eurypontids almost since the beginning of the city-state. When war was on the borders of their land, and that of their neighboring city-states, it was to the current Heraklean descendent that those city-states turned.

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

Mammoth in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair.
In Sivershchina, close to the village of Mizyn in Ukraine is one of the oldest and most unique settlements of humans – and it was discovered in a parking lot. The now well-known archaeological site, known plainly as the Mizyn parking lot, dates back 18-20 thousand years.

Ancient Places

The highly-decorated tomb is built in a distinctive ‘L’ shape
A mysterious ancient tomb with “unusual and rare” wall paintings has been discovered in Egypt. Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told BBC reporters the discovery of a 4,400-year-old tomb found during excavation work in Giza’s western cemetery “likely belonged to Hetpet, a priestess to Hathor, the goddess of fertility, who assisted women in childbirth.”

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article