How the Vikings thought the world was made.
Listening to the Norse creation myths makes me think of the vastness of the universe, the many people that have lived and died before me and the people that lived on some vast wilderness in Iceland or Norway that looked up to the sky and pondered the meaning of his existence in the face of such a seeming uncaring world.
The myths tell of a vast nothingness from which a lump of land called Niflheim appeared, made up of a giant lump of ice. To the south of Niflheim lay a land of fire known as Muspellsheim, from which endless fires emerged. From the poison of the ice comes the first person, a giant known as Ymir.
This giant fell asleep, and because he was near to the fire of Muspellsheim he started to sweat, from which emerged men and women, while the block of ice from near where he was born saw the appearance of a giant cow, which he used to feed himself milk.
This giant cow licked a lump of ice, from which Buri was born. Buri had a son named Bor who himself had a child with the woman that emerged from Ymir. They then had three sons: Odin, Vili and Ve.
They then killed Ymir (very Freudian) as well as the other giants that came from him. As there was alot of blood after his slaying, Bor was able to use it to fashion the oceans, while his flesh became the continents of the earth and his hair became forests.
Later other gods came to join Odin, Vili and Ve, and helped to create Asgard, a series of mansions above the earth. They then decided to populate the earth, starting out with dwarves formed from the grubs of his dead body. Meanwhile men and women were formed from trees.
After death it was believed you would head to a giant frozen wasteland. In addition there are different planes of existence, which were connected by a giant tree known as Yggdrasil. At the highest level was a giant chicken, which would alert the giants if they were liable to come under attack.
There were also evil demons looking to destroy Yggdrasil. It was also believed that the earth would not last forever, and that a violent final battle would destroy everyone on earth.
I may have got much of the story wrong, but the wisdom and power inherent in these tales is something worth learning today, even if they are unlikely to be interpreted literally by many contemporary readers. Much of our fantasy literature is influenced by the Norse tales, and films such as Thor are influenced by these legendary tales.
The universe is truly vast, and all we can do is try and make sense of our place in it. The beautiful stories told in the Norse epics have much to tell us of impermanence, the nature of existence and the chaos inherent to our lives.