|Date:||August 5, 2014|
For the Germanic peoples, space as it is encountered and perceived in the created worlds of men and other beings, exists, to any significant degree only as a location or container for the occurrence of action…whether of individual men, of men acting in consort or in opposition, of men and monsters, or whatever. In all cases, immediate actions are discontinuous and separable deriving power and structure from the past.
From a modern perspective, concepts like religion and accompanying ideas like cosmology, morality, and holiness are universal and world encompassing. If there is divinity, it is generally seen as either omnipresent, or beyond this world. Morality is universally applicable, and determined through this perceived divinity and a personalized individual relationship between it and those who believe in it. This was not the case in heathen Scandinavia or central and western Europe, where the model for their cosmological, cultural, and political systems were intimately bound to the immediate geographical and social terrain. In general, the heathen Europeans recognized space, societies, and action as belonging within identified boundaries. Religion and concepts of holiness would have also been tied to physical and social locality. In many ways, these systems correlated with geographic enclosures, represented as physical plots. The common word used to designate these plots appears as Old Norse garðr, Old English geard, and even modern English yard. The original meaning of the word was ‘wall or hedge’, and it evolved to indicate an enclosure, plot of ground or space in relation to that wall.
The cosmological places retained in Norse literature such as Ásgarðr, Miðgarðr, Útgarðr can easily be understood in relation to the walls (either symbolically or literally) that distinguish their contained space from ‘other’ space. Asgard is the enclosure that contains the collective Æsir. Midgard (middle enclosure) most simply means the enclosure that contains the inhabited world. Utgard, specifically referring to Eddic poetry, could refer to the outer enclosure surrounding Midgard. While these mythological spaces may have been universally recognized to some degree, they would not have been the cosmological centerpiece of the heathen Scandinavians, and they certainly would not have been the foundation of their religious worldview. Aside from concerns regarding Christianization of the literature, the preserved mythology does not accurately represent the layout of the heathen cosmology when taken at face value for numerous reasons. Firstly, skalds shaped poetry to fit their specific agenda and target audience (most often an aristocratic court). Many poems that we have preserved are as much or more of a social commentary as they are a reflection of religious belief. Secondly, the mythology that we have only represents a fraction of the body of mythos that would have existed among heathen peoples. Icelandic poetry primarily represents Icelandic cosmology, shaped through the eyes of the skald who presents it. It does not necessarily represent, for example, Vendil, Trondheim, Wessex or Jutish myth. While concepts of Asgard, Midgard, and Utgard existed in some form among these people, they are only a fraction of what would have been in the background of heathen religious focus. Individual groups would have been focused on a more specific, more locally relevant microcosm.
 – See Rood, 2011.
 – Bauschatz, 1982.
 – Ibid.
 – Oxford English Dictionary, 1989.
 – Due to the variety of languages and forms that many of the names and terms covered in this paper appear in, I have decided to present them in the form that their sources provide, and then I will often standardize them in an Anglicized version. This is only for the sake of consistency in this paper, and the reader should always be aware of the variation that words and names appear in.