College folklore and mythology is such a cool classs enjoying very much.
And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food: the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden.
Hebrew Bible. Genesis 2:9–10
“Duality is at the heart of mythology and the basic structure of myth” (Strauss, 1968). In the beginning there was duality, a central theme throughout Mythology, in this there is the birth of chaos and order, the creation myth. And in the beginning if there was darkness/void
(Chaos), there was a need for light and order. Duality lies in the greatest stories ever told; the battle of good vs. evil, the romantic love and hate, heaven and hell, nature’s sky and earth, fire and water, mind and matter etc. Another central theme of duality in mythology is of twins. My focus is of the two trees of mythology, The Tree of Life (World Tree) and The Tree of Knowledge (Good & Evil).
“No one remembers the trees”, (Witt, 2009 English 280) but I do, I spent a lot of my childhood reading under Belle Isle Willow Trees and a lot of spare time taking pictures of all kinds of trees, somewhere along the way I picked up the idea of trees having souls, were probably once humans maybe even ancestors and having stories and powers and knowledge, if only they could talk, I remember the trees and too are they remembered in mythology. The trees in mythology have prominent roles and are symbols of opposition (duality), and of wisdom, the source of life and a ladder between worlds.
I first heard of the trees from the near eastern stories, the Garden of Eden, in Genesis of the bible, but it is in Norse Mythology of the World Tree called Yggdrasill where my imagination really comes to life. I believe it is in this myth, where the tree of life and the tree of knowledge is one in the same. In Norse Mythology, Yggdrasill created the first human named Ask (Ash) and also in Norse creation story, the earth was also created and the tree acted as an axis connecting the three realms; earth with the heavens and with hell, also connecting the nine worlds. In short it created life and shields the knowledge of good and evil.
The myth is of an immense Ash Tree (World Tree), being formed from the death of a God who of which was created when fire and ice met, and his name was Ymir. Ymir was killed by his grandson or great-grand son name Odin who created the world and World Tree from Ymir dead body.Odin used Ymir’s blood to create the sea, his flesh for the earth, his skull for the sky, his bones the mountain, his hair the trees. The branches of this tree, the tree of life covered the world and supported the universe, the roots go deep down into the underworld and beneath is a spring, the source of wisdom (knowledge of good and evil), it’s trunk above the ground, and it’s branches stretching toward the heavens. The tree worked as an axis through the earth and the realms above and below it. It nourished the Gods, humans and animals connecting all living things and all phases of existence, thus connecting all nine worlds of the Norse cosmology, and is extremely relevant to the cosmos. In this myth the earth is represented as a circle of land surrounded by water and in the center is the massive Ash Tree (World Tree).(4).
In the nine worlds there were three levels; the upper level, Asgard (Aesi the land of the Gods), Alfheim (elves), Vanaheim (Vanir), the middle level; Midgard (earth/men), Jotenheim (giants), Svartalfaheim (dark elves) and Nrthavellir (dwarves) and finally the lower level; Muspelheim (fire, a bright, flaming, hot world in the southern region), and Nifheim (the dead/lowest level).
It is Odin who is now the head God. He is the chief divinity and father of all the Gods in the Norse pantheon and is also called Alfadir. His consort and wife Frigg who is queen of the heavens and mother of Balder (most gentle & loved God) doomed to die, Hoder (blind, there Gods had imperfections) and Hermod (very brave), Bragi (wisdom & poetry). Odin also fathered Thor (second to Odin, thunder & lighting) and with a giant goddess he fathered Vadir*. Odin throne sits at the top of the World Tree where he rules and watch over the nine worlds and he lives in Valhallan where all the fallen warriors and heroes are taken. This God of Gods, Odin was known as wild and filled with fury, he was a fierce God whom required human sacrifice. In Norse mythology they made human sacrifice by hangings in trees,* again the source of life and death. Odin was also God of magic, inspiration, battle and the dead. He had had a never ending search or quest for knowledge and is said in this myth to have had two ravens perched upon both his shoulders, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (memory). Yes Odin was a brutal God known to be wild, he was in fact the God of war and also of poetry (great example of duality). In Norse myth he is said to have traded one of his very own eyes to the God Mimir who guards the spring to take one drink from the world tree spring, the enchanted waters which given him wisdom and fore-sight. This is one example of the Gods sharing the same things, fate as humans, he had to pay his fair sort-to-speak. All the Gods everyone was subject to the Norns, the three Goddesses who cared for the springs known as the Fate Maiden who carried the inescapable destiny of death. He once hung himself upside down and fasted for nine days to receive eighteen powerful charms for protection, success in battle and love-making, healing and mastery over natural events. It is said that of all the gifts he had given to his children an arrow that never missed its target etc., it is the gift of writing that was the greatest gift. This Ash/World Tree of life is powerfully linked throughout Norse mythology and the duality it holds showing connection to all that is life and living.
The Norse myth holds evidence of Germanic and Scandinavian which is rich but fragmented. It is pre-Christian dating back in Iceland 1000 A.D, with its Germanic roots going back 1st century B.C... It developed out German mythology an because of the Scandinavian mix it was than translated and altered by medieval Christian historians, so the original pagan belief in religion, their attitudes and practices in short culture cannot be determined here clearly. The stories here in Norse mythology illustrate an important belief of pantheon, it didn’t allow for omnipotence (just one God). The Gods suffers the same fate as the human’s even share in personalilities, the field of battle and most importantly fate. Reflective of the Gods, humans was supposed to know their destiny, their fate and stand up to it, and face it with courage and dignity. Norse mythology is birth and death and rebirth in time and consciousness by Sacred Geometry (5). Sacred Geometry is “The Golden Ratio” which creates the lesson of life/living about duality, the Gods and the Goddess as well as the human DNA experience. The Golden Ratio symbolizes to me the Tree of Life with its rebirth attributes in time and consciousness. This Golden Ratio represents the same quality as in the tree of life not having longer life but a whole other life.
These myths were adapted from the environment, the agricultural culture and taken up into the very aggressive Viking age their stories deeply rooted in creation and destruction, life and death with emphasis on death which is all fate, doomed to die and know it. Yet these characters are vast and full and we are drawn to them over and over again, Gods who die, worlds destroyed and rebuilt the battles, real battles, hard combat against giants, and monsters. There are elves, dwarves and trickster as well in the form of magicians. These Norse myth are full of brutal stories reflective of a brutal environment (nature as well) suffering freezing winters, accustomed to warfare and insecurity, full and restless traveling long times at sea, warriors who raided widely in search of new land, they were a brutal people, with brutal Gods, they are the original “Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes” Gods and Goddess. These Norse myths are very similar to the works
of the Chaos Theory, in which it includes the final battle like judgment day, destruction and new creation.
These Norse myths were told and retold in literature like fairytales, prose and poetry the 8th century and late 12th century composed a lot of these works. The deities/gods varied somewhat from the early Germanic and Scandinavian Viking age. Within the literature you find stories of Vikings and water battle like The Odyssey, Robin Hood, Thor, Sleeping Beauty, Clash of the Titans, Chronicles of Narnia series and one of my favorite trilogies The Lord of the Rings (who certainly did not forget the trees).
In Norse mythology the tree, the World Tree created life yet did not possess the power to sustain it, it is the fate of all to face the Norns, yet held the power of the “Golden Ratio” life’s transition. Within the Tree’s shielding roots, the spring of knowledge the source of good and evil a great representation of the two trees in mythology.