G is for Ginnungagap

Ginnungagap is the bottomless abyss that was all there was prior to the beginning of the cosmos, and into which the cosmos will collapse once again during Ragnarok, the “Twilight of the Gods,” only to be reborn as the cycle completes itself. As the Eddic poem Völuspá, “The Insight of the Seeress,” describes the time before the cosmos existed:

That was the age when nothing was;
There was no sand, nor sea, nor cool waves,
No earth nor sky nor grass there,
Only Ginnungagap.[1]

This chaos of perfect silence and darkness lay between the homeland of elemental fire, Muspelheim, and the homeland of elemental ice, Niflheim.

–from Norse Mythology for Smart People by Daniel McCoy

Once there was nothing but fire and ice. As the flames and frost drifted towards one another, meeting finally at Ginnungagap, the ice began to melt. From the drops the first creature, the giant Ymir, arose. From Ymir’s sweat more giants were born, and from the frost arose a cow named Audhumbla.

Audhumbla licked the ice and uncovered Buri, the first of the Aesir. Buri had a son, Bor, who married the giant Bestla, and they had three half-god, half-giant sons, Odin, Vili, and Ve. The three brothers slew Ymir and created the cosmos from his body.

The gods eventually created the first two humans, Ask and Embla, and built a wall around the place they created for them, Midgard, in order to protect them from the giants.

The giants in Norse mythology are always to be feared. The gods took many precautions to keep the giants from crossing into Asgard and Midgard. But they failed.

Eventually, the giants defeated the gods at Ragnarok and dragged the cosmos back to Ginnungagap. Ragnarok is not only the coming end of the world; it was the end of the world in the past. Out of Ginnungagap, the cosmos arose and will rise again. And the cycle of Norse mythology continues.

[1] The Poetic Edda. Völuspá, stanza 3. Translation by Daniel McCoy. The original Old Norse text is as follows:

Ár var alda,
þar er ekki var,
var-a sandr né sær
né svalar unnir;
jörð fannsk æva
né upphiminn,
gap var ginnunga
en gras hvergi.

Image credit: Daniel McCoy, Ginnungagap.

5 responses to “G is for Ginnungagap”

  1. Your “G” word is an “I” word for me with my science geekiness. The “I” word is the Implicit Order, coined by physicist David Bohm. The Implicit potential is that wordless place where everything starts but nothing is explicit (like just before the Big Bang when our universe first expanded).

    The only think I can think of about Ragnarok is hunky Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor in the movie of the same name!

    See you in class,


  2. See I’m not the only one that watch marvel movies.

  3. You are in good company when it comes to Marvel movies. And that’s one reason for learning more about the Norse mythology so many of the heroes are based on.

  4. […] post, G is for Ginnungagap, and the previous day’s, F is for Freyr, introduced giants and the fear of the end of the […]

  5. […] At the end of the battle, the cosmos collapsed, returning to Ginnungagap. […]

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