Midgard

Midgard (an anglicised form of Old Norse Miðgarðr; Old English Middangeard, Swedish/Danish Midgård, Old Saxon Middilgard, Old High German Mittilagart, Gothic Midjun-gards; literally “middle yard”) is the name for Earth inhabited by and known to humans in Norse cosmology, and specifically one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology.

Midgard
Cosmos of the nine worlds

Midgard is a realm in Norse religion. It is one of the Nine Worlds of North Mythology—the only one that is completely visible to mankind (the others may intersect with this visible realm but are mostly invisible). Pictured as placed somewhere in the middle of Yggdrasil, Midgard is between the land of Niflheim—the land of ice—to the north and Muspelheim—the land of fire—to the south. Midgard is surrounded by a world of water, or ocean, that is impassable. The ocean is inhabited by the great sea serpent Jörmungandr (Miðgarðsormr), who is so huge that he encircles the world entirely, grasping his own tail. The concept is similar to that of the Ouroboros. Midgard was also connected to Asgard, the home of the gods, by the Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, guarded by Heimdallr.

In Norse mythology, Miðgarðr became applied to the wall around the world that the gods constructed from the eyebrows of the giant Ymir as a defense against the Jotuns who lived in Jotunheim, east of Manheimr, the “home of men”, a word used to refer to the entire world. The gods slew the giant Aurgelmir (Ymir) (the first created being) and put his body into the central void of the universe, creating the world out of his body: his flesh constituting the land, his blood the oceans, his bones the mountains, his teeth the cliffs, his hairs the trees, and his brains the clouds. Aurgelmir’s skull was held by four dwarfs, Nordri, Sudri, Austri, and Vestri, who represent the four points on the compass and became the dome of heaven. The sun, moon, and stars were said to be scattered sparks in the skull.

According to the Eddas, Midgard will be destroyed at Ragnarök, the battle at the end of the world. Jörmungandr will arise from the ocean, poisoning the land and sea with his venom and causing the sea to rear up and lash against the land. The final battle will take place on the plane of Vígríðr, following which Midgard and almost all life on it will be destroyed, with the earth sinking into the sea, only to rise again, fertile and green when the cycle repeats and the creation begins again.

Although most surviving instances of the word refer to spiritual matters, it was also used in more mundane situations, as in the Viking Age runestone poem from the inscription from Fyrby:

Iak væit Hastæin
þa Holmstæin brøðr,
mænnr rynasta
a Miðgarði,
sattu stæin
ok stafa marga
æftiR Frøystæin,
faður sinn.
I know Hásteinn
Holmsteinns brother,
the most rune-skilled
men in Middle Earth,
placed a stone
and many letters
in memory of Freysteinn,
their father.
Midgard
Midgard Runestone Fryby