The next well in my little discussion is Mimisbrunnr, or Mimir’s Well. Again, we find it attested to in both the Poetic and Prose Eddas.
Tom Hollander’s translation of the Poetic Edda, Voluspa:
“What seekest to know, why summon me?
Well know I, Ygg, where thy eye is hidden:
In the wonderous well of Mimir;
each morn Mimir his mead doth drink
out of Fjolnir’s pledge: know ye further,
My Penguin Classic’s copy of the Prose Edda says:
Under the root that goes to the frost giants is the Well of Mimir. Wisdom and intelligence are hidden there, and Mimir is the name of the well’s owner. He is full of wisdom because he drinks of the well from the Gjallarhorn. All-Father went there and asked for one drink from the well, but he did not get this until he gave one of his eyes as a pledge.
It seems that there is a general agreement that Mimir, the owner of the well, drinks from Gjallarhorn. The mention of him drinking from “Fjolnir’s Pledge” has the potential to be confusing. This is more than likely a kenning, referencing the water and Odin’s sacrifice of his eye for a drink. It can be tricky to track all of Odin’s names across the lore, and it can be equally difficult to keep up with kennings.
I have read some contention about what it is, exactly, that Heimdall has in the well. This really seems to depend on the translation, and considerations of dialect and concurrent linguistics – it may be that it is simply his horn, Gjallahorn, or it may be that he has made a similar sacrifice to Odin and has left behind his hearing or ear in order to attain some furthered perception. Carolyne Larrington’s translation of the Poetic Edda (1996, 2015 Oxford World’s Classics) seems to be the origin of this. I have not personally read this translation, but I find that particular interpretation interesting. From the excerpt available through Google books, her translation reads:
She knows that Heimdall’s hearing is hidden
under the radiant, sacred, tree;
she sees pouring down, the muddy torrent
from the wager of Father of the Slain; do you
understand yet, or what more?
This is also a great example of feeling out different translations. You may find that one resonates or makes more sense to you than others. I use Hollander’s, but I am also aware that there have been some criticisms of that particular translation due to some choices Hollander made in order to smooth the poetic flow, as it were. Feel it out. Read several translations. It can’t hurt you.
Moving on from that, I am going to go into my UPG. Again, this is Unverified Personal Gnosis, and as such, is not written in stone. You are not required to adhere to it, and you are certainly not wrong if you do or don’t.
My mind associates Mimisbrunnr more with the present, and personal memory. It is, to me, living and active knowledge that can be obtained and learned in the moment. For me, Mimisbrunnr is “what is” instead of “what was” or “what will be”. It makes sense in my mind for Odin to seek knowledge from Mimisbrunnr, because it is important to know about what is currently happening in order to make plans and anticipate the future. I also mentioned personal memory. What I mean by this is memory that can easily be drawn on, memories that you have formed yourself, and have not been twisted and weathered by time. Personal memory would be, for me, learning to knit as opposed to learning to walk – one I can actually recall the process of, and the other I cannot. I only have stories from others and the evidence of the present that it happened.
I also feel a lot of potential in Mimisbrunnr. For me, this would be the “student’s well” where one would go in order to approach a new subject that they’re wanting to learn about. This can bridge the gap between “what is”, to “what was”, but we must remember that all waters spring forth from Hvergelsmir. The past informs the present, what was informs what is and is not beyond the knowledge of now.
This well is less gloomy than the other. It appears to me more manmade, with smooth gray stones that the dark, deep water laps at. It is sheltered from the sun by the great root of Yggdrasil. It is not warm there, but the water does not freeze – it is far too deep. I most often imagine Mimir’s head as being like the mouth of a fountain, drinking mouthfuls of the deep water while at the same time allowing it to flow back. Some of the stones around the edge of the well are worn smooth by the presence of the All-Father, from the times that he has come to consult with Mimir. Peering into the well, one might be able to make out Odin’s eye – gray and unseeing while strangely omniscient all at once, peering back up out of the waters. I see Heimdall’s horn sitting upon a smooth stone ledge, the waters dripping over it and from it as they do Mimir’s mouth. To me, this is more peaceful than Hvergelsmir – but I can tell you as a seeming lifelong student, there is always a price for knowledge!