The Norroena SocietyInfluential Authors Lore Publications Research Sedian TraditionTHE PURPOSE OF MIMIR’S GROVE IN THE REGENERATION OF THE WORLD




Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Volume 1 by Viktor Rydberg IV.


We now know the purpose of Ódáinsakur, Mimir's land and Mimir's grove in the world-plan of our mythology. We know who the inhabitants of the grove are, and why they, though dwellers in the lower world, must be living persons, who did not come there through the gate of death. They must be living persons of flesh and blood, since the human race of the regenerated earth must be the same.

> [LIF AND LEIFTHRASIL, remembering that Lif and Leifthrasir when they enter their asylum, Mimir's grove, are physically and spiritually uncorrupted persons. 2. That during their stay in Mimir's grove they are protected against: (a) Spiritual degradation. (b) Physical degradation. (c) Against everything threatening their very existence.]

Still the purpose of Mimir's land is not limited to being a protection for the fathers of the future world against moral and physical corruption, through this epoch of the world, and a seminary where Baldur educates them in virtue and piety. 

The grove protects, as we have seen, the ásmegir during Ragnarok, whose flames do not penetrate therein. Thus the grove, and the land in which it is situated, exist after the flames of Ragnarok are extinguished. 

Was it thought that the grove after the regeneration was to continue in the lower world and there stand uninhabited, abandoned, desolate, and without a purpose in the future existence of gods, men, and things? 

The last moments of the existence of the crust of the old earth are described as a chaotic condition in which all elements are confused with each other. 

The sea rises, overflows the earth sinking beneath its billows, and the crests of its waves aspire to heaven itself (cp. Völuspá 58:2 - sígur fold í mar, with Völuspá in skamma 14:1-3 - Haf gengurhríðum við himin sjálfan, líður lönd yfir). 

The atmosphere, usurped by the sea, disappears, as it were (loft bilar- Völuspá in skamma 14:4). Its snow and winds (Völuspá in skamma14:5-6 - snjóar og snarir vindar) are blended with water and fire, and form with them heated vapors, which "play" against the vault of heaven (Völuspá 58:7-8 - leikur hár hiti við himin sjálfan).

One of the reasons why the fancy has made all the forces and elements of nature thus contend and blend was doubtless to furnish a sufficiently good cause for the dissolution and disappearance of the burnt crust of the earth. At all events, the earth is gone when the rage of the elements is subdued, and thus it is not impediment to the act of regeneration which takes its beginning beneath the waves.

This act of regeneration consists in the rising from the depths of the sea of a new earth, which on its very rising possesses living beings and is clothed in green. The fact that it, while yet below the sea, could be a home for beings which need air in order to breathe and exist, is not necessarily to be regarded as a miracle in mythology. 

Our ancestors only needed to have seen an air-bubble rise to the surface of the water in order to draw the conclusion that air can be found under the water without mixing with it, but with the power of pushing water away while it rises to the surface. Like the old earth ,the earth rising from the sea has the necessary atmosphere around it. Under all circumstances, the seeress in Völuspá 60 sees after Ragnarok –

... upp koma                                                                   
öðru sinni
jörð úr ægi
iðja græna.       

(Translation …come up a second time earth out of the sea iðjagreen.)

The earth risen from the deep has mountains and cascades, which, from their fountains in the fells, hasten to the sea. The waterfalls contain fishes, and above them soars the eagle seeking its prey (Völuspá 60:5-8). 

The eagle cannot be a survivor of the beings of the old earth. It cannot have endured in an atmosphere full of fire and steam, nor is there any reason why the mythology should spare the eagle among all the creatures of the old earth. It is, therefore, of the same origin as the mountains, the cascades, and the imperishable vegetation which suddenly came to the surface. 

The earth risen from the sea also contains human beings, namely, Lif and Leifthrasir, and their offspring. 

Mythology did not need to have recourse to any hocus-pocus to get them there. The earth risen from the sea had been the lower world before it came out of the deep, and a paradise-region in the lower world had for centuries been the abode of Lif and Leifthrasir.

It is more than unnecessary to imagine that the lower world with this Paradise ( not in Christian sense but as realm of bliss as it was in the golden age ) was duplicated by another with a similar Paradise, and that the living creatures on the former were by some magic manipulation transferred to the latter. Mythology has its miracles, but it also has its logic. As its object is to be trusted, it tries to be as probable and consistent with its premises as possible. It resorts to miracles and magic only when it is necessary, not otherwise.

Among the mountains which rise on the new earth are found those which are called Niða fjöll (Völuspá 67), Nidi's mountains. The very name Niði suggests the lower world. It means the "lower one." Among the abodes of Hades, mentioned in Völuspá, there is also a hall of gold on Nidi's plains (á Niða völlum - Völuspá 37), and from Sólarljóð (56) we learn - a statement confirmed by much older records - that Nidi is identical with Mimir (see No. 87).

Thus, Nidi's mountains are situated on Mimir's fields.

Völuspá's seeress discovers on the rejuvenated earth Nidhogg, the corpse-eating demon of the lower world, flying, with dead bodies under his wings, away from the rocks, where he from time immemorial had had his abode, and from which he carried his prey to Nastrond (Völuspá 38-39). There are no more dead bodies to be had for him, and his task is done. 

Whether the last line of Völuspá has reference to Nidhogg or not, when it speaks of some one "who must sink," cannot be determined. Müllenhoff (Deutsche Alt.) assumes this to be the case, and he is probably right; but as the text has hún (she) not hann (he) [nú munhún sökkvast], and as I, in this work, do not base anything even on the most probable text emendation, this question is set aside, and the more so, since Völuspá's description of the regenerated earth under all circumstances shows that Nidhogg has nothing there to do but to fly thence and disappear.

The existence of Nidi's mountains on the new earth confirms the fact that it is identical with Mimir's former lower world, and that Lif and Leifthrasir did not need to move from one world to another in order to get to the daylight of their final destination. Völuspá gives one more proof of this. In their youth, free from care, the Aesir played with a wonderful tafl game.1 But they had it only í árdaga, in the earliest time (Völuspá 8, 61). 

Afterwards, they must in some way or other have lost it. The Icelandic sagas of the Middle Ages have remembered this tafl game, and there we learn, partly that its wonderful character consisted in the fact that it could itself take part in the game and move the pieces, and partly that it was preserved in the lower world, and that Gudmund-Mimir was in the habit of playing tafl (Fornaldarsögur: Saga Heiðreks konungs ins vitra ch. 6; Hervarar saga ok Heiðrekskonungs ch. 5; Sörla saga sterka ch. 4; Egils saga einhenda ok Ásmundar berserkjabana chs. 12, 13, 15; In the last passages, the game is mentioned in connection with another subterranean treasure, the horn.2 )

If, now, the mythology had no special reason for bringing the taflgame from the lower world before Ragnarok, then they naturally should be found on the risen earth, if the latter was Mimir's domain before. Völuspá 61 also relates that they were found in its grass: 

Þar munu eftir
gullnar töflur
í grasi finnast.

(Translation: There, once again, will the wonderous golden tablemenbe found in the grass.)

Thus: the tafl game was refound in the grass, in the meadows of the renewed earth, having from the earliest time been preserved in Mimir's realm. Lif and Leifthrasir are found after Ragnarok on the earth of the regenerated world, having had their abode there in Mimir's domain for a long time. Nidi's mountains, and Nidhogg with them, have been raised out of the sea, together with the rejuvenated earth, since these mountains are located in Mimir's realm. The earth of the new era -- the era of virtue and bliss -- although concealed, has existed through thousands of years below the sin-stained earth, as the kernel within the shell. Remark: Völuspá 60 calls the earth rising from the sea iðja græna:

Sér hún upp koma
öðru sinni
jörð úr ægi
iðja græna.

( Translation: She sees come up A second time Earth out of the sea iðja green.)

The common interpretation is iðjagræna, "the ever green" or "very green," and this harmonizes well with the idea preserved in the sagas mentioned above, where it was stated that the winter was not able to devastate Gudmund-Mimir's domain. 

Thus the idea contained in the expression óskorið ax Haddingjalands1 (see Nos. 72, 73) recurs in Völuspá's statement that the fields unsown yield harvests in the new earth. Meanwhile the composition iðja-græna has a perfectly abnormal appearance, and awakens suspicion. Müllenhoff (Deutsche Alt.) reads iðja, græna, and translates "the fresh, the green." As a conjecture, and without basing anything on the assumption, I may be permitted to present the possibility that iðja is an old genitive plural of iða, an eddying body of water. Iða has originally had a j in the stem (it is related to ið and iði), and this j must also have been heard in the inflections. 

From various metaphors in the old skalds, we learn that they conceived the fountains of the lower world as roaring and in commotion (e.g., Óðreris alda þýtr in Einar Skalaglamm and Boðnarbára tér vaxa in the same skald).2 If the conjecture is as correct as it seems probable, then the new earth is characterized as "the green earth of the eddying fountains," and the fountains are those famous three which water the roots of the world-tree.3


1 An ancient Northern European board game, dated before 400 AD, usually played by two players on a checkered board of various size. The game pieces consisted of the tablemen or pawns, generally 24 in number, and a single king. The player with the king had half the number of men as his opponent. The king was placed in the center, surrounded by his men. These were surrounded by the men of the opposing side. All pieces moved in solid straight lines (like the rook in chess) and pieces were captured by surrounding them on two sides. The king could not participate in captures. The game was won when either the king was surrounded by the enemy or reached the edge of the board. 2 Ch. 12 " In order to save my life, I should go to the underworld and retrieve three precious things: a cloak that will not burn in fire, a horn that can never be emptied by drinking from it, and a tafl game that plays by itself, when someone challenges it."

1 "uncut corn ear of the Hadding land." Guðrúnakviða II, 22 2 "Odhrerir's wave roars," "Bodn's wave begins to swell," Skáldskaparmál 3, Faulkes edition; 10 Jónsson, ed. 3 Ursula Dronkealso translates Idavellir as the "Eddying plains", but failing to see the Ida-plains as a part of the present underworld, relates iða fem. "eddy" "to the cyclical ebb and flow of the world (and its gods), a perpetually returning cosmos." Poetic Edda Vol. II, pg. 118 commentary to Völuspá 7/2.