According to myth, Odin discovered the runes while hanging upon the world-tree, Yggdrasil. You don’t have to be Asatru or Heathen to recognise that your understanding of the runes will be significantly enhanced by knowledge of their associated cosmology (creation myth). Some people will want to work with deities, elves, dwarves, and the myriad of other creatures inhabiting Yggdrasil to help their rune work, while others won’t. My personal experience was that my rune readings worked before I started to explore the Northern tradition, but more advanced practices did require me to develop an understanding, and a personal relationship, with the World Tree and its denizens (and my readings are more confident and detailed).
Traditionally, there are nine worlds on Yggdrasil, but there is no definitive map and the worlds are permeable and mutable. If you compare the chapters from the books listed below, you will notice that there are subtle differences in the structure of the world tree, depending on the preferences of the author. For those of you who have studied qabalah, it is worthwhile looking at the Tree of Life glyph and then going out and finding a really big, old, gnarled Yew tree – that will help explain some of the difference between the qabalistic world tree and Yggdrasil.
Many books on runes say very little about the world tree, which make the works below even more special:
Click here to buy Galdrbok: Practical Heathen Runecraft, Shamanism and Magic from Amazon
Includes a detailed examination of the realms and beings of Yggdrasil. Johnson and Wallis make a case for there being seven worlds, with Nifelheim (ice/mist home) and Muspelheim (fire home) being realms rather than worlds (I think of them as places of force, but not form). Other authors concur that you cannot journey to Nifelheim and Muspelheim and so this argument has a lot to commend it. As well as a chapter devoted to the tree and its denizens, Galdrbok includes a guided trance journey through the tree.
You should repeatedly explore or ‘visit’ each world in turn in order to get to know the territory, establish allies, face enemies (such as shades), perform magic, and so on… (Chapter 6)
Click here to buy Taking Up the Runes: A Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic from Amazon
Paxson provides factual information about the original source materials we use to inform our understanding of the nine worlds as well as modern day psychological interpretations.
I prefer to visualise the way to the Otherworld as leading off at right angles to all dimensions we know. We seek the road by going within, but once there, the direction in which we follow it is ‘away’ into nonordinary reality. (Part 1: Ehwaz and Perthro)
Click here to order Odin’s Gateways: A Practical Guide to the Wisdom of the Runes, Through Galdr, Sigils and Casting from Amazon
Odin’s Gateway provides an exploration of the nine-worlds focused on their inhabitents – their nature, literature and myths associated with them.
Click here to order Power and Principles of the Runes from Amazon
Power and Principles (which is a revised version of the 2000 Principles),contains a brief introduction to the nine-worlds of Northern Mythology set in the context of a nine-world divination. I find this to be a very helpful reference and Aswynn states that the nine world diagram in Principles is an improvement on those featured in her earlier works. She also provides a diagram for a nine-worlds casting cloth as well as a pathworking to Hella’s realm (for those not familiar with the nine-worlds, Hella’s realm (Hel) is an ‘underworld’ but it is a resting place for the dead, not to be confused with the similar sounding Christian Hell.)