by M.Alan Kazlev
The pre-Christian Teutonic cosmology of the Yggdrasil Tree defines the various worlds (there being nine in all) on the basis of vertical, existential, and horizontal parameters
(the following account is based on Kvelduf Gundarsson, Teutonic Magic, (Llewellyn, 1990, pp. 1-6)).
The vertical dimension has the world of the Gods (Asgardhr - equivalent to the Kabbalistic Atzilut and Beriah) above, the underworld (Hel, from which presumably we get the Christian term) below, and the Earth plane (Midgardhr) in the middle.
Copyright Robert N. St.Clair
University of Louisville
There is also a transitional world between Asgardhr and Midgardhr, where the energies of the former are transmitted to the latter world. This realm is called Alfheimr (world of the Elves), and is characterised by the higher aspects of light and air (equivalent perhaps to the occult conception of the Etheric planes). In this world, the highest energies of the human world mix with the lowest energies of the Gods.
Beneath Midgardhr (the physical world) is a corresponding region intermediate to Midgardr and Hel, called Svart-Alfheim (world of the black elves). In this region are found the mysteries of earthly manifestation, represented by the dwarves.
In addition to this vertical continuum of being is the horizontal dimension. This is defined by boundaries. The ocean separates the human world (Midgardhr) from the outer worlds (Utgardhr) around it, while Midgardhr (literally the "middle enclosure") is itself distinguished from the inner world of the Gods (Asgardhr). This cosmology is modelled on the neolithic farmstead (gardhr) which divides the inner social space (innangardhs) from the uncontrolled, unknown, dangerous outer space (utangardhs). Obviously this is in turn symbolic of the Jungian model of the psyche; the safe secure ego or conscious self in the middle, and the vast, dark, unknown unconscious without.
In this cosmology there are four utangardhs (outer worlds) around and beyond the middle or earth world (midgardhr). Each corresponds to a particular elemental nature, and is inhabited by particular races of beings.
To the east is the world of Jotunheimr, inhabited by various races of giants. This is characterised by the element air, and so is a frosty rocky world lashed by violent winds and storms.
To the west is the more benevolent world of Vanaheimr, associated with the element water, and inhabited by the Vanir, gods of fertility, riches, and joy.
In the north is Niflheimr, the world of primal ice, and to the south is Muspellheimr, the world of primal fire. The inhabitants of these worlds would be totally destructive, due to their pure elemental nature, if released into the innangards or inner worlds.