European mythology has at its core a metaphor for the inner world of psyche and the Self that starts with a tree. As Egypt’s mythological worldview was shaped by the contrast of desert and riverside, Europe’s worldview is all about trees, the dark under them, the sky over them. Wood is one of the five fundamental substances of physical reality: fire, water, air, earth and wood. The first man, Ask, was carved from an ash tree, his wife, Embla, from an elm. The World Tree, Yggdrasil, the mother of all ash trees, grows at the core of each human being, a vital mythological metaphor for The Self as defined by Carl Jung.

Students of mythology in general and northern-European in particular have spent generations trying to image Yggdrasil accurately. The precious tree was carved on Viking longships, drinking cups and church doors. The curling, interweaving branches and roots of Yggdrasil are iconic in Celtic and European mythology, yet exactly how Valhalla, the frost giants’ home and Midgard fit into those twining branches is still a curiosity curiously unresolved.

An important fact about the Yggdrasil-metaphor is that the rainbow is the bridge to Valhalla and to Yggdrasil’s worlds. Only gods and heroes can ride across that bridge. The gods ride across it daily to hold court. The secret to the rainbow is that it is a point-of-view phenomenon. You and I may stand shoulder to shoulder in the rain, but we cannot see the exact same rainbow. Oh, of course the difference is slight. That is not my point. They will not be, indeed, cannot be the exact same rainbow. A rainbow is a function of the angle between the Sun, your pupils and the water droplets in the air. My rainbow is not your rainbow. If you and I look at a photograph of a rainbow, sure. Then we see the exact same rainbow, but at one remove, an interpretation of a rainbow, not an actual rainbow. A rainbow is a metaphor of unique perception, the unique point-of-view of the unique individual’s self-awareness.

This rainbow bridge is the only way to get to Yggdrasil. The world tree, then, is within you. Your roots are the triple roots, and Herverlgmir, the “Boiling Spring,” is the lifeblood flowing within the many rivers of your inner world, carrying the furies, the energies and the joy of your living self.

Once the template of the rainbow metaphor places Yggdrasil properly at the inner core of every human being, the other fractal parts of the World-Tree metaphor fall into place.

 A Giant Cowlick

Older than, and ancestor to, the Yggdrasil story is the far-northern metaphor of Ymir, the giant created from primordial fire and ice, licked into shape by Audhumla, the Cosmic Cow. The current generation of gods—Odin and his kin—conquered Ymir and built the world from his body, notably, the heavens from his skull and clouds from his brains. His blood flows in the waters of the world; his teeth and bone are the rocks and mountains of the Earth. Even more notably, his eyelashes (sometimes translated as “eyebrows,”) are set around Midgard, the world of Man, as a protecting wall.

Why is that notable? Like the rainbow, it is a metaphor for the unique worldview of individual perception. The world “surrounded by eyelashes” and bound by the eyebrows is your visual field. Look around at the edges of your peripheral vision. What do you see there? Your eyelashes. Thus Midgard, the world built around the World Tree Yggdrasil, the world built out of the body of the giant Ymir (who knew how to grow an adult human body from a string of molecules,) is the world you live in, the inner and the outer divided by a line of eye lashes. The unique consciousness between your eyebrows is the ruler and “King Of The Gods.” You. Every single one of you.

Advertisements