In researching Norse mythology, and being entranced by astrophysics, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between these two subjects. Once I understood the mythology, these parallels became all the more apparent. This is merely my insertion of the knowledge into the mythology but the more I looked at the idea, the more it seemed to make sense.
It is rather far-fetched to believe the Norse had such intimate knowledge of how the universe was created but perhaps there is a possibility they had basic ideas about it much in the same way we had not so long ago — the very ideas that led to our current understanding of the beginnings of the universe.
I’m not saying this is what they believed or that this, is in any way or form, the ideas the Norse had. This is merely my observations regarding the concept of creation in Norse mythology and the parallels gleaned from studying it.
From Energy to Matter
In the beginning, before the Big Bang, there was nothing except energy. This is probably so, though we cannot say for certain just yet. This “void” or singularity can be thought of as the Ginnungagap in Norse mythology.
Muspelheim and Niflheim are suggested to have existed at around the same time of each other, which makes the idea of cosmogony in Norse mythology interesting. From what we currently accept as the “birth” of the universe — the event known also as the “Big Bang” — heat must have occurred first. The early universe was a hot and dense place and this can likely be attributed to Muspelheim.
Niflheim probably only existed milliseconds after this point, as a contrast of Muspelheim, being inflation. In the creation of Norse mythology, rivers flow from both Niflheim and Muspelheim. The rivers from Hvergelmir (a fountain in Niflheim) might be referring to dark energy which has a lower density compared to matter. Dark energy’s density remains pretty much the same across the universe, a likewise constant in the twelve rivers that continue to flow long after the creation of the nine worlds in Norse mythology.
As we know from particle physics, with enough energy and the right fluctuations, particles are created. From Muspelheim flowed rivers as well, ones of fire and poison which might be connected to the rapid creation and annihilation of particles in the first instances of the universe. The poison fire rivers from Muspelheim may have been the first matter created after the singularity — likely quarks. These rivers in the mythology are described as forming a solid mass, perhaps a reference to the forming of hadrons and later neutrons.
When the rivers of Niflheim met with those of Muspelheim, a layer of frost covered over the solid mass. This freezing of the mass may allude to the dramatic decrease of temperature and density after the creation event from the singularity.
From Matter to Galaxies
At this point in time, the early universe was essentially a quark-gluon plasma and it can be likened to Ymir, the primordial giant. Audumla, the cosmic cow who also existed at this point, may be associated with the forces — electromagnetic, weak, and strong — which provided the life-sustaining milk for Ymir.
Audumla is said to have nourished herself with the ice mass. Her licking of the ice and the warmth of her breath — possibly radiation from the forces — sculpted Buri in Norse mythology who may be associated with proton-electron recombination. Buri birthed Bor, or rather the neutralising of the universe.
It is said in the mythology that Ymir fell asleep shortly after being created and the heat of Muspelheim made him sweat. This sleep can be likened to the recombination event that made the early universe neutral. The sweat could be the falling density of the universe, and this resulted in the birth of Thrudgelmir and Bestla — helium and hydrogen respectively. Lithium was also created after this and can be likened to Mimir who was created by Ymir’s feet.
The giant Bor married with Bestla and from them were birthed Odin, Vili, and Ve. These three brothers — grandsons of Ymir and Buri — can be seen as quasars, the first stars, and the early galaxies.
From Galaxies to Life
Odin, Vili, and Ve rebelled and killed most of the giants, likely the way these early objects radiated energy that reionised the universe. These early objects in the universe began the process of making heavy elements from the light ones, in a way the sons of Bor killed the giants — hydrogen, helium, and lithium.
The blood of Ymir became the seas and this can be seen as the universe after reionisation which was once again plasma. Ymir’s body was thrown into the Ginnungagap and became Midgard. Midgard is practically referred to as Earth or as the middle of Earth. In this context, however, it can be seen as the universe in the change from the Dark Ages of creation into the next epoch.
Ymir’s skull became the sky that kept Muspelheim’s sparks from escaping, which may be the lessened density and temperature of the universe at that point. The low density allowed for the formation of more galaxies when matter collapsed, along with stars and quasars, and these could be the eyes of Ymir scattered across the universe. After this, the basic ingredients for life were created in the universe, leading to the formation of planets and other objects as well as organic material, which were perhaps Ymir’s teeth, brain, and hair.
More than probably, Norse mythology described the creation of terrestrial objects as observed by the early civilisation of the time, amended with influences from other cultures through the expansion of the people. My perspective of the creation above is merely a speculative view on how the mythology could possibly be adapted to our current understanding of how the universe came to be.
As with the early universe, the chronology of events within Norse mythology’s creation might have existed only after time did as a result of the singularity.
The views expressed here are not to be taken as any sort of fact or truth regarding Norse mythology, and are simply the result of an active imagination coupled with fascination and some burning desire to make more sense of matters.
The links in this speculative article are for educational purposes only, leading to Wikipedia pages on the subjects. They are not meant as citations to back up arguments made, as this article is purely speculative and for entertainment purposes only.