One would expect the star lore of the ancient Norse to be at least equally rich as that of the other ancient nations. And certainly, this must be the case, if anything, because this land had spawned the notorious seamen known as Vikings, who relied on stars for navigation. However, we know surprisingly little of this star lore nowadays. Some say that this is because the original astronomical terms gave way to the Greek and Latin since the early middle ages. The others claim that the oral tradition (written down only in the late middle ages) does not contain any references to the stars. But is this really the case? Perhaps the Nordic myths are simply not being read with proper understanding?
The story of Ymir
In Norse mythology, Ymir (read as E-mir, Ya-mir, Yo-mir) was the primordial being. Ymir was a giant from whose body gods created the universe. He was born from the venom that dripped from the icy rivers called Élivágar, in the grassless void called Ginnungagap. The Poetic Eda of the 13th century gives us a description of that world. There was no sea, no heavens, nor earth when Ymir lived. Just a grassless yawning gap.
The Prose Edda, written down in the same period, adds that together with Ymir a primeval cow was born. Auðumbla was her name, and she fed Ymir with her milk. The Giant Ymir then created the first male and female from the pits of his arms. Their names were Ask and Embla, the Nordic equivalent of Adam and Eve. Audumbla also licked down the ice that entrapped Buri, the first god.
Ymir suckles from the cow Auðumbla while she licks the ice from Búri. A painting by Nicolai Abildgaard (1790) inspired by the Prose Edda narrative, Wikipedia Commons
The astral symbolics of this myth is clear. The great gaping void Ginnungagap represents the space. The icy rivers of Élivágar are the Milky Way, the Auðumbla cow is the constellation of Taurus. Ymir is Orion, and the couple that was born from his armpits is the constellation of Gemini. Here is an illustration of this picture in the stars:
Orion and Ymir
There is another giveaway that Ymir is Orion – it is from his body that gods fashioned the universe. The same is true for Orpheus, Dionysus, Osiris and many other Indo-European deities, all representations of Orion. As Eda claims: his flesh formed the earth, and his blood created the ocean. His bones became the hills and his hair trees… Finally, the sons of men came to this new world.
Also, most of the Indo-European myths see Orion as a guide of souls. This is because Indo-European myths often see the Milky Way as a river or a road. It is the path through which the souls are traveling between the realms of the living and dead. This “road of the souls” was Helvegen to the Norse. And if this “road” was the Milky way, the role of Psychopomp (guide of the souls) relates to Ymir. It is Orion that stands at the “beginning” of the Milky Way.
But even though these parallels seem obvious, this is probably the only place where you can read about it. I cannot claim this for sure as I do not speak any of the Scandinavian languages. However, my Google search labeled “Orion – Ymir” yielded zero results. (?) I did learn that in some local dialects the name for Orion’s belt was ”Fiskikarlar” – fishermen. But this is the terminology of fishermen, not the Edda. At the same time, the Wikipedia article on Ymir mentions that scholars relate him to the god Tuisto. But since the word Tuesday comes from Tuisto, he is obviously (?) related to the planet Mars.
In any case, this was just an introduction to the more interesting things ahead. I was curious about the etymology of the name Ymir, but it seems that there is no official theory. This made me research on my own. And I found something very interesting in the most unexpected place – India!
Ymir and Vedic Yama
The Vedic god Yama, one of the gods of the earliest Vedic pantheon, had epithets Yamarāja, and Imra! It seems that I was not the first to draw the parallel Ymir-Imra. The Wikipedia states:
W. Meid linked the names Yama (reconstructed in PIE as *yemos) and the name of the primeval Norse frost giant Ymir, reconstructed in Proto-Germanic as *jumijaz, possibly from PIE root yem “twin”. However, Ymir is not a twin, although he shares with Yama the characteristics of being primeval and mortal.
Well, sure, Ymir is not a twin… But he did create twins from his armpits! We also saw how Gemini constellation looks as if it is spawning out of the armpit of Orion. Moreover, Yama is also the guardian of the dead. And both Yama and Ymir were primordial beings.
Besides, Yama has some clear parallels with Orion. He has two dogs with four legs and wide nostrils guarding the road to his abode (hellhounds). And he is riding a buffalo. Again, we see some clear astronomical images. “Buffalo” is Taurus. The two dogs are Canis Minor and Canis Major constellations – the faithful hounds of Orion the hunter.
As we see, there is so much more than the name that connects Yama and Ymir. To me at least, the connection is obvious. Even the word “Gemini” comes from the same Indo-European corpus since this is precisely what “Yama” means in Sanskrit.
I also believe that I can explain historically how this idea traveled from India to Scandinavia. But first, we need to know that Yama also exists in the Avesta, the ancient holy scripture of Zoroastrians. Whether the idea had followed the path Iran-India or India-Iran is difficult to say. What is certain is that this whole region was once inhabited by the people known as Aryans. Zoroastrian creation myth begins like this – The first beings that supreme deity Ahura Mazda created were Gayōmart, the living mortal, and a primordial bull Gavaevodata. The living dmortal and the primordial bull…Does it sound familiar?
The dating of the myth
Now, we can also use astronomy to date these myths. In my article ASTRONOMY WAS PRACTICED FOR MORE THAN 40000 YEARS – A DEFINITE PROOF I explained this in more detail. But here is a quick run through the facts: We are currently living in the age of Pisces, as this is the constellation in which the Sun rises on the spring equinox. However, from roughly 2,000BC to our era, the Sun was rising in Aries. From 4,000-2,000BC it was in Taurus, and from 6,000-4,000BC it was in Gemini.
It is clear that these myths, centered around the bull relate to a period between 4,000-2,000BC. But they also include some of the layers of the previous star lore – when Sun was in Gemini. The creation of the world began with the divine twins (Adam and Eve) instead of the primordial bull. Perhaps the original layers of Yama myth come from here. And quite amazingly, we may still be using the original name of this constellation.
Star-lore of two consecutive ages is usually mixed up like this. In the more recent history – Moses, whose arrival marks the Aries era, talks about the Golden calf (Taurus). Also, Christianity (Pisces) included many symbols and saints of the Aries era. (Moses with ram’s horns)
But since one of our main characters is the bull, our timeframe for this story is 4,000-2,000BC. I believe that the later date is of more importance. Tthis is the time when the Saraswati river dried out, and the great civilizations of that region had disappeared. Some tribes may have migrated towards the Mediterranean. In the process, they pushed other tribes from their homeland. These migrations resulted in the bronze age phenomenon of “sea peoples”.
By following this logic I will make another bold assumption. What if even the name of the great poet Homer, (2nd millennium BC), was a Greek version of Yomir – meaning Orion (or a twin)? Its Greek etymology is unknown. Also, Hesiod’s Chaos is nothing else but the Ginnungagap of the Norse, while the bull was a central figure of the Orphic rites of the Thracians.
But according to the myth, Orpheus had established a Dionysian cult. In this cult, the central animal was the ram (Aries). Since our Norse myth revolves around the bull, we must assume that it belongs to the oral tradition of a tribe that had migrated to Scandinavia before 2,000BC.
I am well aware that my theories may sound very exaggerated to some, but how else to explain all the similarities between the Norse and the Vedic religion?
To name a few Æsir, the most important group of Nordic gods relates to Sanskrit Asura, (hence also Assyria). The name of goddess Frigg (Freya, Friya) means “love” or “beloved one” while in Sanskrit priyā means “dear woman”. And even Edda sounds like Vedas. Also, there is no known etymology of the word “Scandinavia”, while in India Skanda is the god of war. It would be an appropriate name for the land ruled by the Aryan warrior cast?
Can we really attribute all these similarities to mere coincidences or banalize them to a common Indo-European heritage? Or can we try to explain where and when this heritage originated? Perhaps the genius of our ancestors encoded their history in the everlasting language of the stars, a language so easy to comprehend if only we were willing to listen carefully to the verses that they sang for us.