Norse cosmology in the beginning

The world as it originally was according to Norse mythology.

In Norse mythology, Ginnungagap ("yawning abyss") was the vast, primordial void that existed prior to the creation of the manifest universe,[1] corresponding (both in etymology and in meaning) to the Greek notion of Chaos.[2] An alternative etymology, linking the ginn- prefix in Ginnungagap with that found in terms with a sacral meaning, such as ginn-heilagr, ginn-regin (both referring to the gods) and ginn-runa (referring to the runes), interprets Ginnungagap as signifying a "magical (and creative) power-filled space".[3]

In the northern part of Ginnungagap lay the intense cold of Niflheim, and to the southern part lay the equally intense heat of Muspelheim. The cosmogonic process began when the effulgence of the two met in the middle of Ginnungagap.

Around 1600, several Icelandic and Scandinavian cartographers applied the name to parts of the Arctic Ocean. 17th century Icelandic bishop Guðbrandur Thorlaksson, for example, used the name Ginnungegap to refer to a narrow body of water, possibly the Davis Strait, separating the southern tip of Greenland from Estotelandia, pars America extrema, probably Baffin Island. [4]

See also


  1. Simek (1995:132); German: "Ginnungagap ist [...] der Name des kosmischen Urraums vor der Erschaffung der Welt"
  2. Old Norse gína like English yawn are from Common Germanic *gainôjan, in turn from an Indo-European root *ghen-, whence also Greek χάος "gaping void" and χαίνω "to gape". Old Norse gap "chasm" is cognate with English to gape, perhaps from an (unrecorded) Old English *gapian. Cognate is Sanskrit jabh- "to gape", as it were from a Prot-Indo-European *g'ebh-.
  3. De Vries (1977:167); cf. also Dillmann (1998:118-123).
  4. Seaver, Kirsten "Maps, Myths and Men" Stanford University Press (2004) pp247-253


  • Dillmann, F. X. (1998). "Ginnungagap" in: Beck, H., Steuer, H. & Timpe, D. (Eds.) Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, Volume 12. Berlin: de Gruyter. ISBN: 3-11-016227-X.
  • de Vries, Jan (1977). Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Leiden: Brill. 
  • Simek, Rudolf (1995). Lexicon der germanischen Mythology. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner. ISBN 3-20-36802-1. 
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Ginnungagap. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
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