Excitement is boiling. Here comes Arbor Day. That celestial holiday got me pondering what the Vikings thought about trees. Voila: today’s lesson is about the Vikings’ sacred tree Yggdrasil. What? You say you have never heard of Yggdrasil? Well, listen my children, and you shall hear of the midnight tree called Yggdrasil.
The Yggdrasil tree is the pillar of Viking theology. It was so big it not only held up, but also connected all the elements of the universe. The Yggdrasil was like the Dark Matter that our modern-day astronomer theologists believe in. Yiggy, as his friends called him, was Norse for Odin’s Horse. Yiggy’s top branches reached somewhere far above the rainbow where only Elon Musk could fly.
His roots went all the way into the underworld land of the dead. Yiggy was quite the tree. He was a veritable eco-system with a Dragon named Nidhogg and a bunch of snakes at the bottom, and an enchanted eagle at the top. There was also a pesky squirrel named Drill-Tooth who ran up and down the trunk causing mischief by repeating insults from the Dragon and the eagle to keep things stirred up.
Odin was the King of the Viking Gods who hung out with the other lesser gods in a party treehouse called Asgard at the top of Yiggy. Yiggy’s roots dipped into the bottomless Well of Urd. Three bodacious goddesses called Norns were lounging around, deciding humanity’s fate. The Norns would cut Runes into Yiggy’s bark which dictated what would happen on Earth. This aggravated Odin because he couldn’t read the Runes. Odin cyphered that if he hung himself from a branch of Yiggy, stabbed himself with a spear, and stared into the Well of Urd he would come to understand Runes. After spending nine days hanging around, Odin had a moment of clarity. Eureka, he understood the Runes! But knowing the future does not always lead to safe and restful sleep.
With Runic knowledge comes the Viking’s version of the end of the world — Ragnarok, in which the gods and man come to a bad end. If the Vikings are right, this is what is in store for us. The Norns bring on the world’s worst cold weather — The Great Winter, which lasts three years. Famine and pestilence stalk the land. Cannibalism becomes the new fad diet.
The Two Big Bad Wolves Hati and Skoll, who have been chasing the moon and sun like a dog chasing a car, finally succeed in their quest. They chow down on all celestial bodies, including the stars. The sky turns black and empty. Even Yiggy starts to shake. Another giant wolf named Fenrir breaks his chain and runs wild on the land chomping hapless humans.
Remember Cecil the Sea Sick Sea Serpent? His evil twin, the giant sea serpent Jormungand, rises like the Kraken from the ocean depths and swamps the land.
The waves break loose the good ship Naglfar — the Nail Ship. The Nail Ship is so named because it is constructed of dead humans’ fingernails and toenails. Not sure what the Vikings were smoking when they came up with this, but you can probably buy it in California. The crew of the Nail Ship is a rowdy bunch of giants, led by Captain Loki, who start acting like drunken homicidal psychopathic sailors on extended shore leave. Fenrir the wolf is so big his upper jaw touches the sky as he eats everyone in his path. Jormungand spews venom all over the world, poisoning everything. Sort of like Putin in Ukraine or the former guy on Fox.
About this time, the sky cracks open, plopping a bunch of Fire Giants onto the Earth, ready to duke it out with Odin and
The Viking Gods versus the Fire Giants. Odin gets eaten by Fenrir the wolf. Odin’s son Vidar goes ballistic and shoves his magic shoe into Fenrir’s mouth. While Fenrir is choking on the shoe, Vidar cuts Fenrir’s throat. Fenrir then expires. Thor and Jormungand get into it, resulting in the deaths of both of them. What is left of the world then collapses into the ocean, leaving nothing behind but a giant pool of dirty, bloody, reeking water.
So, what have we learned today? The Vikings were much weirder than we give them credit for. There is a new movie coming out at the end of April called “The Northman” which is supposed to be historically accurate.
Go see the movie if this column has not turned you off to Vikings. If someone yells Ragnarok in a movie theater, hurry up and finish your popcorn, as time is about up.
Reading Runes is fundamental. Ragnarok and Roll is here to stay.