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Niel Price: The Children of Ash: Cosmology and the Viking Universe

The world tree Yggdrasil. Wägner, Wilhelm (1886).

The world tree Yggdrasil. Wägner, Wilhelm (1886).

Professor Neil Price delivers the first of three lectures (part II, part III) focusing on the fundamental role that narrative, storytelling and dramatization played in the mindset of the Viking Age (8th-11th centuries), occupying a crucial place not only in the cycles of life but particularly in the ritual responses to dying and the dead.

The World Tree (Yggdrasil or Mimer’s tree) was according to written sources (Eddas) the name of the tree forming the foundation of everything. At the end of its three roots a realm is found. The first goes to the world of men “Midgård” and the Gods (Asgard), the second to the giants residence “Jotunheim” and the third to the underworld called “Niflheim”.

Beneath each of these roots there is a well. And for first root we find the well “Urðarbrunnr” where the gods hold their things (meetings). The second well “Mimir” is the source of wisdom and knowledge and the third is the river “Hvergelmir”.

The three Norns Urd, Skuld and Verdandigatan live at the ash of Yggdrasil’s roots, beside Urðarbrunnr, where they fetch water and the white sand with which they provide Yggdrasil nurishmentto prevent its trunk and branches to wither.

The Cornell University provides compelling lectures, discussions, and performances featuring members of the Cornell University community and distinguished guests.

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