Laerda / Yggdrasill / The World Tree

Laerad or Yggdrasill, the World Tree

Its branches spread out over all the worlds and extend across the sky. Three of the tree's roots support it and reach very far indeed. One is among the Aesir,the second among the frost-giants, where Ginnungagap once was. The third extends over Niflheim, which is the source of all that is cold and grim. It was created many ages before the Earth was formed. Under that root is the spring Hvergelmir in the midst of Niflheim , and Nidhogg gnaws the bottom of this root. From this spring flow the rivers Svol, Gunnthra, Fjorm, Fimbulthul, Slidr and Hrid, Sylg and Ylg, Vid, Leiptr, and Gjoll, which is next to Hel's gates.

Under the root that reaches towards Jotunheim is Mimir's well, which has wisdom and intelligence contained in it. Mimir the wise is the master of this well. He is full of learning because he drinks from this well from the Gjallarhorn. Allfather went there and asked for a single drink from the well, but He did not get one until He pledged His eye. In Voluspa it is said: "I know it all, inn, where You left Your eye, in that renowned Well of Mimir. Mimir drinks mead every morning from Valfather's pledge. Know you yet, or what?"

The tree's third root extends to heaven, and beneath that root is the holiest well, called Weird's well. There the Gods hold their court. Every day the Aesir ride there up over Bifrost, which is known as the Ases' bridge... There stands there one beautiful hall under Yggdrasil by the Well, and out of this hall come three maidens whose names are Weird, Verdandi and Skuld. These maidens shape men's lives, and are called the Norns. They take water from the Well each day and with it the mud that lies round the Well and pour it up over the tree so that its branches may not rot or decay. And this water is so holy that all things that come into that Well go as white as the skin that lies around the inside of an eggshell. Two birds feed in Weird's Well. They are called swans, and from them come all the birds known by that name. From the Holy Tree drenched with white mud come the dews that fall in the valleys. It stands forever green over Weird's Well.

But Yggdrasil suffers more hardship than people know. Four stags run in the branches and feed on the foliage. Their names are Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, and Durathror. And there are so many snakes in Hvergelmir with Nidhogg that no tongue can number them all. Nidhogg is a terrible serpent; in Hvergelmir, which is the worst place to be, he torments the bodies of the dead.

[from the Prose Edda]