YGGDRASIL, the great World Ash, stood at the centre of the universe, its branches spreading wide to cover all the nine worlds while three great roots delve deep beneath the ground. The first root dipped into the inspirational waters of Mimir's spring - it was here that Heimdall rested his horn. The second root lay in the Well of Urd, where the Norns dwelt, weaving the fates of mankind and tending to the needs of the tree.

The third root fell into the dark waters of Hvergelmir, where the dragon Nidghogg tore at corpses and gnawed unceasingly at the tree.Four stags nibbled hungrily at the tree's green buds, while goats tore at the bark. High in the branches an eagle sat with a hawk perched upon his brow. Between the eagle and the dragon a squirrel named Ratatosk scurried up and down the Ash all day conveying insults from one to the other.

Odin was wisest of all the gods, but to obtain his wisdom he had to make a great sacrifice. Journeying down amongst the roots of Yggdrasil, he sought and found Mimir's Well, the source of all knowledge, and there he asked to take a draught of the well's potent waters.

Mimir, who knew the power of the well, demanded an eye in return for granting Odin's request. Without a moment's hesitation, Odin plucked one eye from its socket and gave it gladly in exchange for the precious liquid. He drank deeply from Mimir's Well and received the wisdom he sought. That same time he reached up into the tree and broke off a branch which he fashioned into the spear Gungnir. It was with this spear that Odin chose to wound himself as he hung from the World Tree for nine nights and nine days. Suspended from the sacred tree he stared down into the deep waters.

Self-wounded and self-sacrificed he reached down, his tortured hand groping blindly in the dim light. Finally with a shout of triumph he grasped the great secret that he had longed for, the wisdom of the runes. He drew back in relief and joy, the knowledge was his at last.

Because of his experience upon Yggdrasil he came to be known as the lord of the gallows and the god of hanged men.

Yggdrasil comes from Old Norse and probably means Uggr's horse. Uggr was a name for Odin and drasill means horse. Pronounced Ig-dra-sil.

© copyright Clive Barrett 2012