Yawning Void

Ginnungagap

Ginnungagap, in Norse cosmology, was the empty space that existed between the fires of Muspelheim and the ice of Niflheim. The gods used the body of the tyrannical giant Ymir to create new realms within the massive void.

Top Questions

  • Was the Ginnungagap one of the Nine Realms?

    The Ginnungagap wasn’t one of the Nine Realms; rather, it was the emptiness between the realms of Muspelheim and Niflheim, eventually filled with the body of Ymir.

  • What did Odin make out of the giant Ymir to fill Ginnungagap?

    Odin and his brothers made new realms out of the giant Ymir to fill the yawning void: his flesh became the earth, his blood the sea, and his bones became mountains.

Overview

In the early days of creation, the “yawning void” known as Ginnungagap dominated the cosmos. The Norse envisioned Ginnungagap as an abyss of pure nothingness situated between Muspelheim, the elemental realm of fire, and Niflheim, the elemental realm of ice. The rest of the cosmos was formed by the first gods, who filled Ginnungagap with the dismembered body of Ymir, the first giant.

Etymology

The Old Norse word gap holds the same meaning as the English word—an empty space between objects, a hole, abyss, or void. Ginnunga is somewhat more difficult to translate, though is generally interpreted as “gaping” or “yawning.” Another possibility is that the name utilized the prefix ginn-, a term used by the Norse to indicate things that were holy or magical. According to this theory, Ginnungagap may have meant something like “the magically-charged gap." This definition supported the interpretation that, despite its emptiness, Ginnungagap possessed the creative potential for the worlds that eventually filled it.[1]

Mythology

When the cosmos was young, the void of Ginnungagap dominated creation. On either side of the void were Muspelheim and Niflheim, worlds of fire and ice respectively. As time wore on, the fires of Muspelheim began to melt the ice of Niflheim. The ensuing vapors coalesced into Ymir, the first of the giants, and the melting ice revealed Audumla, a cow who nursed Ymir and fed on salty blocks of ice.

By licking the salt rimes, Audumla exposed Buri, the first of the Aesir deities who had been frozen in Niflheim’s glaciers. Buri’s children slew Ymir, a cruel and tyrannical giant, and used his dismembered corpse to build new realms within Ginnungagap’s massive void:

“They took Ymir and bore him into the middle of the Yawning Void, and made of him the earth: of his blood the sea and the waters; the land was made of his flesh, and the crags of his bones; gravel and stones they fashioned from his teeth and his grinders and from those bones that were broken . . . Of the blood, which ran and welled forth freely out of his wounds, they made the sea . . . They took his skull also, and made of it the heaven, and set it up over the earth with four corners; and under each corner they set a dwarf: the names of these are East, West, North, and South. Then they took the glowing embers and sparks that burst forth and had been cast out of Múspellheim, and set them in the midst of the Yawning Void, in the heaven, both above and below, to illumine heaven and earth.”[2]

Pop Culture

Ginnungagap is not commonly remembered in Norse mythology. In the Marvel Universe, Ginnungagap was posited as the void that preceded all creation, though it is rarely mentioned.