Mimir was the wisest of the gods of the Aesir tribe. He was a giant and was the god of knowledge, wisdom, prophecy and communication. Mimir was guardian of a sacred well beneath the roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree, which was the source of his secret knowledge and wisdom.
The principal Norse gods were descended from the race of giants who were the first inhabitants of the universe. The oldest and most powerful Aesir god was Odin.
Odin visited Mimir and sacrificed an eye to take a drink from his well to gain his wisdom. During a war between the Aesir and the Vanir gods, Mimir was taken hostage by the Vanir. They decapitated him and sent his head back to the Aesir. However Odin preserved Mimir’s head with herbs and it continued to provide him with wisdom and advice.
The world tree
Yggdrasil was the immense ash tree which formed the axis of the worlds of the universe and supported the whole cosmos.
The heart of Yggdrasil was Midgard, the world of the humans. The branches of the tree extended into the heavens and the roots stretched down to the underworlds.
Yggdrasil literally means ‘Odin’s horse’, as it was from this tree that Odin hanged himself (‘riding’ it) for nine days and nights to learn the mysteries of the runes.
Various animals lived in the tree, including an eagle (whose wings made the winds) and the serpent or dragon Nidhogg. The realm of Nidhogg, with its three wells, was both dangerous and rewarding. Wisdom flowed from Mimir’s well, while the well of fate determined the span of human life and the well of poison fed the rivers of Hel.
Our own beautiful representation of Yggdrasil, designed for us by Kate Bowen of Taylor McKenzie, can be seen above.
The marque includes representations of just two of the animals who lived in the tree: the eagle and the dragon.
If you are interested in reading more about Norse mythology, here is a small selection of further reading …
Ragnarok: the End of the Gods, A S Byatt
Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings, Kevin Crossley-Holland
Please let us know if you have any interesting reading recommendations – we would love to hear about them.