So, I’ve been wanting to do this “Deep Waters” discussion of the Well of Wyrd and the three wells that compose this concept for a little while. I feel like I don’t often see many discussions on the Wells, though this could very well be due to the community circles that I run in. There will be three posts, one for each well. I hope they’re interesting reading.
Be advised that while these posts will include some references, there will also be some UPG (unverified personal gnosis). I will note this when it is present. I really don’t want anyone to confuse my UPG for concrete fact.
Hvergelmir: The Seething Cauldron
Hvergelmir is to be found in Nifleheim, beneath the roots of Yggdrasil. It is believed that all waters, all streams and rivers, are birthed from Hvergelmir. The waters of the well seethe and boil because the dragon Nidhogg and a great number of serpents churn the water.
Hvergelmir is attested to in the Poetic Edda, in Grímnismál
Eikthyrnir, the hart on the hall that stands
eateth off Lærath’s limbs;
drops from his horns in Hvergelmir fall,
thence wend all the waters their way.
Eikthyrnir the hart (a kind of deer) stands atop of Valhalla. It would be possible to interpret these drops falling from his horns into Hvergelmir as being part and parcel of the origin of the waters. Valhalla would seem to be positioned somewhere above Hvergelmir, if these waters are able to fall from Eikthyrnir’s horns into the well. Whenever one starts to delve into things like this within the mythology, you’re left asking questions… when was Valhalla built, that the hart standing atop it contributes to the well where all waters originate?
Something I would like to think on: Knowing that the sons of Borr made the word of the body of Ymir, and his blood gave us oceans and rivers, could this well be potentially interpreted as the killing wound within the body of the giant?
The Prose Edda mentions Hvergelmir four times within Gylfaginning. The Prose Edda is where we learn that Hvergelmir is located within Nifleheim beneath the roots of Yggdrasil, the names of some of the rivers coming forth from it, that there are at least 26 rivers, another mention of Eikthyrnir, and that Nidhogg resides within the waters and spends some of his leisure time tormenting the dead (my words).
It truly isn’t much to go off of, but it situates the well within the world and presents us with some beings which interact with it. With such a minor mention, you may be asking yourself why I’m interested in this or what value I may see in it.
That is where my UPG comes into play. This being said, warning, up ahead there is UPG. These are my own thoughts and opinions, formulated by what I have read. I do not require anyone to adhere to these thoughts and opinions and indeed encourage you to form your own. If you agree with me, you’re not wrong. If you disagree with me, you’re not wrong. We just have different opinions. The following is probably not for you if you are not mystically inclined.
Because Hvergelmir is situated within Nifleheim, I see it shrouded in mists. I do not see it as what one might think of as a well — that is, something man made, with stone surrounding it that one might draw water out of. Instead, I see it as more of a natural underground spring, like the one from Mexico which I chose as the featured image for this post. The visibility would be very poor, but you’d be able to hear the churning of the water. There would be a distinct, reptile, smell accompanied with the sound of rushing water. I imagine the water giving off heat, feeding the mists around it. The water falling from the horns of Eikthyrnir mimic precipitation, which is (to me) a primal source of water upon the Earth as well. Rains feed the rivers and streams, the water deep within the Earth, and so the liquid falling from Eikthyrnir horns feeds Hvergelmir.
These are primordial waters, and they aren’t to be trusted to be “safe”. Instead, they should be approached with caution and respect. I noted above that I would like to spend time thinking about whether or not this well could be interpreted within my UPG as the killing wound to Ymir, which caused his blood to rush forth and give waters to the world. I find that I like this thought, as it brings the creation of the world back into the naming of the things within it. And besides, it is easy to imagine this primordial, dark, place as the site of the fatal wound Borr’s sons struck upon the body of Ymir.
When I spend time thinking on Hvergelmir, it brings up emotions that cannot be controlled. Aspects of the self that are ingrained and unchangeable. Things that happened so long ago that they are beyond memory. This would be a place to confront the root of my depression and other mental illnesses, the things which gnaw upon me and torment me in my life, as Nidhogg gnaws on the roots of Yggdrasil and torments the bodies of the deceased. It would benefit me to spend more time in meditation with Hvergelmir.
How would I do that? Or, rather, how would you do that if you wanted to try something I have done?
Gather “primal” water. If you’re lucky enough to live next to a natural spring, or a natural well, then you’re set. If not, I would gather some precipitation. We used snow melt because of the season, but you could use rain or hail stones. Take your gathered water to a space where you feel comfortable conducting a ritual or meditation. Give offerings to the gods and local wights for watching over you and aiding you in your ritual/meditation. Focus on the water you have collected and let it guide you down, down to the waters of Hvergelmir. Imagine what it looks like, what it smells like, what it sounds like. Go cautiously. What is present in the waters for you? What does Nidhogg do? I mentioned above that I feel a great correlation with my mental illness and being able to confront it in this way. There was some relief in understanding that there were things that were outside my control, and that my greater focus should be on patching the damage that was done instead of seeking out what could not be changed… but that is another discussion. When you are done contemplating what the waters mean to you, ease yourself out of the meditation/ritual. Give thanks to the gods and wights for their assistance again, and wrap it up in a way that is most comfortable for you. I always suggest grounding before and after any type of work.
Please also note that I’m not suggesting you go and be buddy buddy with Nidhogg, play fetch with him, or anything like that. I’m not even suggesting that you interact with him in the slightest, only that you observe. I am certain someone is out there who will say “Nidhogg is my pal!” and that may work for them, but he is a being that I would consider Dangerous with a capital D. Not because he is evil or anything like, but instead because he is a primordial being closely tied with the waters of Hvergelmir and the gnawing of the roots of Yggdrasil. It is my belief that interacting with a being like this, while unprepared for what that could bring about, could be very detrimental to your mental health. Do not pass Go if you are not experienced. Do not collect $200 for the “cool factor” of interacting with such a being. Be careful with yourself when you reach out to different beings and different energies within the worlds. If you have interacted with him with no problems, then just imaging me sitting here with my thumb up — and also realize that your experiences (like mine!) are not going to be universal.
I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who uses my very loosely described meditation, or any other thoughts on Hvergelmir.
The texts I use are:
The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee Hollander
The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, Snorri Sturlson