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The Primeval Age

"There was no sand,
no sea,
nor cool wave,
earth did not exist,
nor heaven above."
(The Voluspa)

1. Chaos. The world Tree

 The world in which we live is not eternal. It has had a beginning and shall have an end. Time itself had a morning. Then, there was nothing - but Space existed, an enormous empty abyss - Ginnungagap. And a trinity of forces existed, which entered into Ginnungagap and acted there: the Cold, the Heat, and the Creative Wisdom.

  They rose out of springs of unknown origin. North of Ginnungagap, the cold spring Hvergelmir originated and enveloped the space in that direction with frosty mists. This district was therefore called Niflheim (Fog-world). South of Ginnungagap, the warm spring originated, which afterward became known as Urd's Well. Between them, in the midst of Ginnungagap, originated the spring of Creative Wisdom, of which it is said, that its depth is such, that even Odin's thought cannot fathom it. Afterwards, this spring became known as Mimir's Well.

  Out of Hvergelmir, fog-shrouded waves of cold surged into Ginnungagap and there encountered the warm billows from the south. Through their strife and blending arose the material elements, of which the first world was formed.

  In the abyss of Space, where the fountain of Creative Wisdom originated, lay the seed of Yggdrasil, the World-Tree. It sprouted and sent roots through the springs of the three forces, and countless, intertwined root-threads became the framework on which the underworld rests. During long ages of the world, the Tree's trunk grew ever higher and extended branches, one above the other, on which the various worlds, as they were created, found their support. To mankind's eyes, Yggdrasil is invisible. It is also called Mimir's Tree.

2. The Primal Beings.

  The Creative force from the spring of wisdom penetrated the material elements and from their fermentation arose a living being, the primal cow, Audhumbla. She nourished herself on the germs of life that existed in the material elements and liberated from these solid compounds a divine life-form concealed within them. When Audhumbla licked the rime-frost and the salt, a man's shape emerged gradually out of the hard ground, as if loosened by her tongue. He was beautiful to behold and of enormous size. A divine spirit dwelt within him, and he became the progenitor of the gods which rule and protect mankind's world until the end of this age. This, the oldest of the epoch's gods, was named Buri and became father to Bor and grandfather to Odin and his brothers.
  But, in the primordial world, there arose another creature: the enormous giant Ymir. Poison drops flung out by Hvergelmir's cold waves, gathered, grew, and formed him. With four mouths he sucked four milkstreams from Audhumbla's udders. They nourished him with germs of life of different types, which made him the father of different races, grown from different limbs of his body. Thus, from under his left arm grew a man and a maid (Mimir and Bestla), from whom came a handsome race, friendly to the gods; but his feet conceived with one another the father of the destructive frost-giants, Thrudgelmir, a monster with three heads. Thrudgelmir fathered - like his father, without a woman - the son Bergelmir.

  Among the noble beings that originated from Ymir, the most distinguished are the wise Mimir and his sister Bestla, and the three dises of fate: the sisters Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld.

3. The Underworld. Bur's Sons. The Primeval Artists. Odin's Self-Sacrifice.

  The underworld is the oldest part of Creation and was inhabited and adorned, long before the earth was established as a dwelling for the race of man, and even before Asgard was inhabited by the Aesir gods.

  The underworld consists of two very different regions, separated by a high range of mountains with steep walls. The mountain-range is called Nidafjoll (Nida Mountains). North of it lies the gloomy, cold, boggy, and mist-enveloped Niflhel, were Niflheim formerly was found in Chaos. Upon a mountain plateau, the fountain called Hvergelmir, from which many rivers flow toward the north and the south, can be found once again.

  South of the Nida-mountains extends a land of indescribable splendor with flowering fields and groves, never ravaged by frost and winter. This land is divided into two realms, Mimir's realm and the realm of the dises of Fate. Mimir's realm is situated over the former Ginnungagap around the fountain of Creative Wisdom, whose warder and watchman Mimir was.

  The other realm is situated around the warm fountain, and it has as its guardians the three Norns, or dises of fate, Urd and her sisters. Together, Mimir's and Urd's realms are known as Hel. The underworld thus consists of Hel and Niflhel.

  Centered over the underworld, the earth plate rests on Yggdrasil's branches, but it took a long time before it became a world hospitable for mankind. There, for ages, dwelt Ymir and the multi-headed children of his feet. It was a world filled with wild and misshapen giant-beings.

  While this took place on the earth's surface, the oldest gods dwelt peacefully and happily, in the underworld's eternally green kingdom, together with Mimir, the dises of fate, and other members of the same noble giant family. Buri's son, Bor, married Mimir's sister, Bestla, who bore him three sons. The oldest of these three is Odin, also known by many other names. He became the progenitor of the Aesir tribe of gods. The second is the gentle Hoenir, also known by the name Ve. The third is Lodur, "the blazing," who is also called Vili. Hoenir and Lodur became the progenitors of the tribe of gods called Vanir.

 The liquid contained in the well of Creative Wisdom, imbued with power and knowledge, is the most precious and most delightful in all Creation. Mimir, its guardian, drank this mead every morning, and became endowed with creative power and profound wisdom. He fathered seven sons, who enjoyed the same drink and became, like their father and in their father's service, creative powers personified, Nature's architects, and great smiths, who forge grass and herbs and wonderful ornaments of fire or gold or other materials.

 It was determined by Fate, that Odin and his descendants should not remain in the underworld; they were destined to rule the worlds above. Odin climbed up into the world-tree in order to view from this height the realms that he had been allotted, and he saw how the misshapen Ymir and the gruesome offspring of his feet occupied the earth-plate. Odin was still young and inexperienced, and he knew that by his own power he would not be able to rid the earth of these monsters and fulfill the other duties, which awaited him as the governor of worlds. One drink out of the fountain of wisdom could aid him in this; but Mimir, the fountain's profound guardian, refused him the drink, until he had proven himself worthy through self-sacrifice. Then Odin sacrificed himself for his life's work:

"Wounded I hung on a wind-swept tree
For nine long nights,
Pierced by a spear, pledged to Odin,
Offered, myself to myself"
                                                             (The Havamal)

 Gazing downward, he pleaded through tears for the strength he lacked, and listened to the rune-song, which reached him from the deep, until he fell, powerless, down from Yggdrasil's crown. Then Mimir gave him the long-desired drink and taught him nine miraculously potent songs. Odin's powers developed bountifully thereafter; he became great in knowledge and creative might.

4. The Destruction of the Frost-Giants. The Outpost by Hvergelmir.

 Now Odin knew he was able to accomplish the work he had in mind: to liberate the earth from the primal giants. His brothers Hoenir and Lodur joined him in this undertaking. They slew Ymir by opening the arteries in his neck. A river of blood surged from the wound; it grew into an ocean in which the evil and malformed offspring of the primal giants drowned.

 Yet these monsters, the frost-giants, were not destroyed. Death obliterates nothing. Their souls survived and descended to the underworld. There, in Niflhel, north of the Nida Mountains, they found a land which suited them with its darkness, its frosty mists, and its putrid bogs. There they built a hall and, as time passed, became dangerous neighbors of Mimir's realm. To the race of frost-giants belong the spirits of disease. They too dwell in Niflhel. Among them are tramar (evil wights): Morn (agony of the soul), Topi (insanity), Opi (convulsive crying), and Otholi (restless anxiety).

  As protection against the frost-giants, the gods and Mimir established a sentry post by the Hvergelmir fountain, on the border of Niflhel. To man the outpost, they chose the elf Ivaldi and his three sons, as they had sworn oaths of allegiance to the gods. Ivaldi's sons were brave warriors and skilled artists, who received training from Mimir himself in the secrets of the smith's art. One of the three, Volund, was a particularly remarkable artisan, comparable to Sindri himself, the best smith among Mimir's sons. Volund's brothers were named Egil and Slagfinn. They were splendid archers and skiers.

5. The Creation of the World Continues.

 Out of the ocean of blood which covered the earth, Odin and his brothers lifted the lands that lay beneath. In the center, a land called Midgard appeared. On the borders of the earth plate, a land was raised, the northern and eastern parts of which were named Jotunheim. Between Midgard and Jotunheim lies a broad chasm, where the billows of blood gathered and formed an expansive sea around Midgard on all sides.

  The drowned primal giants did not all share the same deformities. These had diminished with each successive generation. Among Bergelmir's children and his grandchildren, some were even found who were well formed and less wild than their fathers. Odin showed compassion toward these younger giants and allowed them to save themselves from the waves upon the coasts of Jotunheim, where they and their descendants dwelt thereafter. One of them was the giant-maid Gullveig. She found friendship among the goddesses. Another was the giant-lad Loki, whom Odin found likeable, as he was handsome, clever, quick, and cheerful. The gods, however, did not suspect what dangerous friends Gullveig and Loki were.

  Ymir's limbs became the building materials for the advancing creation of the world. But first, many industrious hands were needed. So the oldest high-holy gods, and Mimir, as well as the other architects of Nature, gathered in council. They sat on their judgement seats and deliberated over the building plan and the acquisition of many excellent workers. It was agreed that Mimir, with the assistance of the fire-being Surt (also called Durin) should give life to a band of dark-elves and dwarves who would assist with the work; Mimir would be their master. And so it was done. In Ymir's blood and limbs were found the seeds of life from which Mimir and Surt, with their creative art, produced the industrious races of dwarves and the dark-elves. Mimir created the dwarves; Surt created the dark-elves, who therefore are called his sons.

  The Ida-plains in the underworld now bustled with lively activity. Gods and primeval artists, dwarves and dark-elves built forges and crafted the tools required to accomplish their task, as well as the works of art and ornaments with which to adorn Creation. In counsel, the gods and the architects of Nature agreed that a heaven should arch itself above all the world, and that beneath it, day and night, sun and moon should travel in a fixed order, along determined courses, in order to measure time and divide it into periods of rest and activity. The vault of heaven was made of Ymir's skull, and the storm clouds that drift beneath it, of his brain.

  Mimir had a daughter, Night, of dark complexion, but with beautiful features and a gracious heart, worthy of her destiny, which was to become the mother of gods. To Delling, the elf of dawn's first blush, who rules the eastern portion of Mimir's realm, she bore the son Day, who became progenitor of the light elves. For Night and Day, the primeval artists made chariots, since the powers had decided in council that Mimir's dark daughter and her luminous, fair son should alternately journey through the underworld's eastern horse-doors, up into the heavens, and return through those in the west, where Billing, the lord of the sunset glow, had his land allotted. Day’s chariot is inlaid with precious stones. His horse is named Skinfaxi (Shining mane). Night's horse is named Hrimfaxi (Frost-mane). By day, Hrimfaxi grazes on the grass of the underworld fields, which are strewn with honeydew that falls from Yggdrasil's lowest branches, rich in leaves. Thus, during his journey, he works up a froth which, when it falls from his mouth in the morning, becomes a nourishing dew that fertilizes the valleys of earth.

  With Lodur, Night had two beautiful children, Moon and Sun (Mani and Sol), and the council resolved that they should travel across the heaven in chariots made of fire and gold, crafted in the underworld-smithies, in order to illuminate the world. The primeval artists invented ingenious devices to protect the sun-goddess from the chariot's radiant beams and to cool the horses that draw it. The sun-dis' protection consists of a shield, called Svalin, fastened to the chariot. If it fell away, the sun-dis would burn and the chariot would fall from its path, crash to earth, and ignite it. A device that blows cool air over the horses is attached to their tack, beneath their withers. The horses are named Arvak (Early-waker) and Allsvid (Very-swift). On Arvak's ears and on Allsvid's hooves, the architects of Nature carved beneficial runes.

  The powers formed the mountains of earth from Ymir’s skeleton. Of his flesh, which was saturated with Audhumbla's nourishing fluids, they resolved to make a fertile soil and spread it over Midgard's bare stone tract.

6. The World-Mill.

 For that purpose, as well as others, the primeval artists erected an enormous mill called Grotti. It is also called "the mill of skerries," and "the mill of storms." Its scaffolding rests in the underworld on the Nida Mountains around the fountain Hvergelmir, which is the source of all of the worlds' waters: those of the underworld, as well as of earth and heaven. From Hvergelmir the waters come, and return hither, after completing a cycle. The channel through which they run, from the bottom of the sea into the underworld, maintains a constant connection between Hvergelmir and the sea. Beneath this channel, the millstones are positioned on a framework so that the eye of the moving stone stands over the center of the fountain. Thus, the water surges through the eye of the millstone to and from Hvergelmir. Ebb tide occurs in the sea when the water rushes down through the eye of the millstone; flood tide occurs when the waters rush up again through the same opening. The revolving millstone gives rise to the Maelstrom, feared by sailors, which is a whirlpool in the ocean, that swiftly sucks in ships and drags them down into the deep, and sometimes hurls them back out.

  Nine giantesses, who walk along the edge of the earth, turn Grotti's moving millstone, pushing the mill's enormous handle before them.

  Ymir's limbs were placed on this mill and ground up. The type of meal thus produced was soil and sand which the sea has transferred ever since to the coasts of Midgard, and deposited in the bays and on the beaches, which eventually became green fields. From Ymir's flesh was created the oldest layer of soil, that which covered Midgard's stone foundation when Odin and his brothers raised it from Ymir's blood. This soil is fertile, since it was derived from Audhumbla's milk, and thus Midgard came to be covered with vegetation. This occurred when the sun-dis drove in her chariot up into the newly created heavens for the first time, and enveloped the earth with beneficial rays of light. Then herbs sprouted out of the soil and, by degrees, the earth acquired forests and the green garb of flowering fields, so that it could eventually be inhabited by mankind. Since it is the dwelling for our race, Midgard is called the "hall," and the "house," built for us by Bor's sons:

"They who created
glorious Midgard.
The sun shone from the south,
on the stones of the hall;
then the ground grew
green with herbs.  "
                                               (The Voluspa)

  The gods appointed two from their circle as keepers of the Mill: the Vana-god Frey, lord of harvests, the protector of fertility; and Lodur, "the blazing." On Frey’s behalf, his servants Byggvir and Beyla manage the grist. Lodur oversees the regular motion of the mill, and beneath him stand the nine giantesses who push the mill-handle before them. For this reason, Lodur is also called Mundilfori (He who conducts the mill-handle).

  After Ymir’s flesh had been transformed to soil, Thrudgelmir’s and then Bergelmir’s body was subjected to the same treatment. It is Bergelmir’s limbs, which are being ground on the world-mill today. One of the oldest members of the younger race of giants, the deeply wise Vafthrudnir, declared in a contest of wisdom that he had with Odin, that he remembered when Bergelmir was laid on the mill - it was his oldest memory, for he could not remember Thrudgelmir or Ymir. Of them, he had only been told.

  The mill also serves another purpose. With the mill-handle, not only the millstone, but also the vault of heaven turns around. Lodur, Mani and Sol’s father, oversees the revolution of the firmament.

  The world-mill also fulfills another, very important, purpose. It is the source of the holy friction-fire, endowed with mysterious power. Fire had previously been known ever since the beginning, but there are many types of fire, and the purest and most excellent did not arise until Grotti’s stones scraped against one another. Before then, the pure fire had been concealed in the elements, unseen by the eyes of the gods, but now was summoned forth by the rubbing motion.

  With and within it, a god was miraculously born, who is the personal representative of the holy fire, "the whitest," the most radiant of the gods, Heimdall. He was born in the form of the most beautiful child. His destiny as a child and a young man shall be related below. He is called the son of nine mothers, because the nine giantesses who work the world-mill brought him forth by their labor at the mill-handle, which consequently was the world’s first fire-auger.

7. The Creation of the World Concluded.

 It was determined that Odin and his descendants, the Aesir, should possess a realm and dwellings in the uppermost branches of Yggdrasil, while the Vanir would continue to inhabit the underworld. This decision had its basis in the different dispositions of the two divine races. Odin was born with a warlike mind and a desire to accomplish active, adventurous, and strength-exerting deeds. He passed on this temperament to his descendants, who all, even the gentle Baldur, were born to be gods of war and victory, for the day might come when the world would be threatened by the powers of destruction. To ensure the safety of the world, it was necessary to establish a watch of heroic gods, ready for battle, in Yggdrasil's lofty crown, with a view of every direction from which danger might be expected. Therefore the powers decided to establish the foundations of a new world, high in Yggdrasil, far above the path that Mani (the moon) travels in his journey through Space. Accordingly, this world was created and called Asgard after its inhabitants.

  The Vanir, the tribe of the gentle Hoenir, are also like their father and have his inclination for peaceful activity. Their calling is to maintain the regular fixed course of the world’s events; the Aesir’s calling is to defend it against enemies. Therein lies the proper distinction between the duties of these two god-tribes. Therefore, it is the Vanir who attend to the revolution of the firmament and regulate the flow of the tides, and who divide the course of time by evenly distributing the phases of the moon, as well as night and day, throughout the year. It is the Vanir who look after the success of the crops and promote annual growth, and it is they who, with the bonds of love, unite man and woman and ensure that the chain of generations continually acquires new links. But when a powerful action is needed to protect and defend, then the Aesir come forth. However, the Vanir too show heroic courage when it is demanded of them.

  Seeing that they ought to have a place to live from which they could oversee and defend the world, the Aesir applied themselves to creating the lofty Asgard as well as a safe conduit between it and the underworld. For this reason, the primeval artists built the bridge Bifrost that stretches in a great arch from the north to the south through Space and can be seen even today. It is commonly called "the Milky Way".

 One end of the Bifrost bridge lies on the northern edge of the underworld; the other on the southern edge. From its well-fortified and entrenched bridgeheads, inscribed with runes of protection, Bifrost passes by the edge of the earth, and outside of it, up to Yggdrasil’s crown, where Asgard's land rests with its golden groves. Up here, the primeval artists built the enormously large and splendid hall, Valhall, for Odin, as well as extensive and wondrous castles for the other Aesir. In Valhall, there is a watchtower, Hlidskjalf, from where the Aesir have a view over Midgard and Jotunheim; but only over the outskirts of the underworld, because the underworld is much larger than the earth and extends out from under it, on all sides, into Space. For this reason, the perimeter of the underworld lies beneath the open heavens. It is along this perimeter that the Vanir and the Elves (Alfar) reside; the Vanir along the western side, and the Elves along the eastern. The underworld is also called Jormungrund (the great foundation), since it is greater than the earth, which, when viewed from Hlidskjalf, only obscures Jormungrund’s middlemost part. Odin receives news of what takes place in the hidden portion of the underworld from his wise ravens Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who fly over Jormungrund every day.

  The Bifrost bridge is necessary for the gods. Of course, they own horses that can swim through the sea of air, which is thus called "the bay of the gods," but a horse does not swim as fast as it runs, and the sea of air is immensely broad, and its currents strong. Therefore, the gods take advantage of this remarkable bridge daily.

  Spreading over Asgard, Yggdrasil’s topmost branches, rich with leaves and visible only to the gods, are laden with fruit, whose attributes will be described later. Still higher is the place in the cosmos where all the waters of the heaven gather, those that evaporate from sea and lake, as well as from Yggdrasil’s crown. Here, the waters become saturated with a substance called vafur or "black terror-gleam." This substance gives the thunderclouds their dark metallic color. It can be ignited and then becomes the quick flickering zig-zag flames that find their mark with conscious certainty. The place where the vafur-laden waters gather is called Eikthyrnir, "oak-thorn," or "oak-stinger," since thunderbolts which originate from there often strike Midgard’s oaks. From Eikthyrnir, a river with vafur-evaporating waves flows and forms a defensive moat around Asgard. When the vafur-mist above the river ignites, it resembles a raging firestorm. Across the river, a drawbridge leads to Asgard’s wondrous gate, one of the masterworks of the primeval artists.

  At the apex of the world-tree abides the gold-glittering cock Gullinkambi, a sign of the vigilance of the Aesir and evidence of the security of the world. It is believed that the cocks crow chases demons away.

8. The Peace Compact. The Treasures of the Gods.

 Adorned with vegetation, the new creation, Midgard, was now in the height of its beauty and a sight that pleased even the eyes of the gods. The powers of Jotunheim, who afflict the earth with frost and drought, with whirlwinds and floods, restrained themselves and left Midgard in peace, since they were not strong enough to dare attack the creation of the gods. The giant race, who had saved themselves on the coasts of Jotunheim out of Ymir’s ocean of blood, were still few in numbers and treated kindly by the gods. Nothing interrupted the regular workings of the world. Seasons followed one another in their prescribed time. The world-mill stood upright on its moorings. The soil that it ground was generously blended with gold, and it revolved with songs that brought blessings. In this epoch, the polestar shone directly overhead, and the vault of heaven did not have the oblique position it later acquired.

  To establish world peace, it was decided that all beings should form a compact and give the Aesir hostages. From Vanaheim, the Vana-god Njord was sent as a hostage to Asgard. He was accepted into the Aesir family and has lived among them ever since, although he often visits his native hall, Noatun, situated on the other side of the Western Sea on a strand where swans sing. Odin married Njord's sister Frigg. Mimir's daughter, Night, is Njord and Frigg's mother.

  With Mimir, Odin exchanged a pledge of mutual friendship that would never be broken. He demanded and received oaths of allegiance from the Elves, over whom Ivaldi and his sons ruled as chieftains. Even Jotunheim sent hostages: Gullveig, the giant-maid, and Loki, the giant youth. Both found sojourn in Asgard. There Gullveig was taken up into Frigg's royal household. For the clever and quick-thinking Loki, who was a cunning liar and feigned the greatest willingness to serve, Odin felt such friendship that he blended his blood with Loki's and promised never to drink mead unless it was offered to them both. Likewise, Jotunheim received hostages from Asgard. With a beautiful giantess, friendly to the gods (there were such women in Jotunheim), Odin fathered a son, Tyr, who later became the god of warriors. His mother was the wife of the giant Hymir, and Odin let the youth remain a foster son in Hymir's court. Later, when Odin fathered a son, Thor, with Frigg, he also allowed him to be raised in Jotunheim. Thor's foster parents were the giant Vingnir and his wife Hlora.

9. The Friendship of Thor and Egil. The Ivaldi Family

 Because Egil was the finest of all archers, he was also called Orvandil ("Arrow-tender"). Thor, who often visited the borderlands in order to keep an eye on the giants, was Egil's good friend and stayed with him on such visits. When Egil made forays on the Elivogar and on the giant coasts, alone or with his elves, Groa was accustomed to stay at Thor's home Thrudvang. Svithjod the great, the country where these brothers lived, was rich in gold. Its northernmost rivers flowed on beds of golden sand. The brothers' father, Ivaldi, was the first ruler of the great Svithjod, of which Sweden is the southernmost part. North of them, Ivaldi ruled a tribe of ski-runners, the Skrid-Finns. For this reason, he is also called the King of the Finns. He was a mighty drinker and as skillful with the spear as Egil was with the bow.

  In this Age of Peace, Mimir's sons and the Elves forged wonderful treasures for the use and the defense of the gods. Everything that they needed or desired, from golden jewelry and weapons to household articles, was forged in the smithies of Mimir's sons or those of the sons of Ivaldi. The Age of Peace was a Golden Age for the gods. Hardly a child was born to the Aesir or the Vanir that did not receive a precious treasure or a useful work of art from Mimir's or Ivaldi's sons. From them, Thor, Odin and Frigg's strongest son, probably received the chariot in which he drives among the thunderclouds, and a belt of strength that he wrapped around his waist; and, from them, Baldur, Odin and Frigg's most beloved son, likely received the ship Hringhorni. Among the Vanir, it was permissible for brother and sister to marry. With his sister, the Vana-god Njord fathered two children. His son Frey became the god of harvests, and his daughter, Freyja, the most beautiful of all the goddesses, became the goddess of love and fertility. From Mimir's sons, Frey received a gift and from Ivaldi's sons another, which will be discussed later. For Freyja, four underworld artists forged the most beautiful of feminine adornments, the necklace Brisingamen. For Njord, they forged the best of all battle-axes. Several goddesses and dises received falcon- and swan-guises, and Heimdall a battle-trumpet that can be heard throughout the entire world. But for safekeeping, Mimir concealed it in the World-Tree's deepest shadows, where it will remain until the day he foresaw, when it will be needed. Remarkable among these treasures was a golden chess board with which the gods played in the Age of Peace. The chess board could play itself, and move its own pieces. But the most important of the gifts to the gods from the primeval smiths was the apples of rejuvenation, "the Aesir's remedy against old age," which were entrusted to Idunn, Ivaldi's daughter, who had been admitted into Asgard, for only in her keeping do the apples possess this power.

10. The Creation of Man.

  Odin, Hoenir (Ve), and Lodur (Villi) came to Midgard, the glorious world that they had created, and wandered there. There was much to see and rejoice in, but something was still missing, living creatures that could enjoy Midgard like a well-furnished home, and give praise to those who had granted them this world. The gods walked along the shore of the northern sea, where it extends south to encircle Aurvangaland ("The Land of Clayey Plains," the southernmost portion of the Scandinavian peninsula). On the beach, they found two trees and decided to reshape them into their own image and transform them into sentient beings. One tree was called Ask, the other Embla. The gods added four 'elements' to the two that were already present in the trees, which were: the earthly matter of which they were formed, and the formative vegetative force.  First Lodur loosened them from their bond with the earth and granted them the ability to move of their own volition. He transformed their cold sap into warm blood and remolded them into the image of the gods. Next, Hoenir provided them human egos with consciousness and will. Odin then gave them the noblest gift, the spirit. Thus the first human pair was created, Ask, the man, and Embla, the woman.
  Beautiful to behold, but naked and shy, they stood before the gods. Odin removed his splendid garments and dressed Ask and Embla in them. They felt pride, when they were clothed.

"Two wooden stakes stood on the plain,
on them I hung my clothes"
                                                            (The Havamal)

  What happened in the creation of the first human pair recurs to a certain degree in the creation of each human being. Both of these trees had sprouted from seeds that fell to earth from Yggdrasill, the World-Ash. With each of their descendants, the circumstances are the same. The fundamental material from which every human embryo grows first blooms and develops into fruit on the branches of the Ash that overshadows the world. Thus Yggdrasill is known as "the provider of men." When the fruit ripens, it falls into Fensalir ("the Hall of Muddy Water"), Hoenir's land and the birthplace of his daughter Frigg. The fruits do not lie unnoticed there. Hoenir's birds, the storks, after which he is called "long-legged" and "king of the marsh," take them and fly with them to women who long to be soothed by the hands of babies. Lodur, the ruler of the blazing fire and master of the fire-augur, kindles them in the mother's womb and there gives them what he first gave Ask and Embla: the ability to move, warm blood, and the form of the gods. Hoenir provides them the soul, and Odin the spirit.

 Yet Hoenir does not provide souls of his own choosing. Countless souls wait to be selected for birth into temporal life and for mothers to be selected for them. The choice rests with Urd, the dis of fate, who has many subordinate norns who perform this service for her, as those who expect to be mothers are many and the waiting souls of the unborn are legion. Some of these norns are of the Aesir race, others stem from Elves, and others still are daughters of Dvalin, Mimir's son. Hoenir sends each child's soul to the mother that the norn has chosen. Thus every man enters the world as a fruit from the world-tree transformed by a threefold divine power and chosen by Urd for the womb it receives, which in turn, determines its position in life and the fate it must live out. Urd too provides each child with an unseen guardian spirit, a subordinate norn called a fylga or a hamingja, who remains with it for life.

  Soon, Ask and Embla had children and their descendants multiplied in the fertile Aurvangaland. They did not know how to use fire. They had no grain to sow. They did not understand how to refine ore from the earth, nor how to forge it. They knew nothing of laws or the organization of society. They honored no gods other than the three who created their parents, Ask and Embla. In the beginning, they did not need laws, because they were kind and just. But they were easily misled and, in time, an evil temptress appeared among them. In order to cultivate and strengthen their capacity for good and to educate them and bind them to the gods with sacred ties, the gods resolved to send them a guide and a teacher.

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