Sitting atop Bivrost, the Northern Lights bridge, is the mighty Heimdall. The powerful God, whose mission it is to guard both Åsgård, the land of the Gods, and Midgård, the land of men. He was also, according to the Medieval poem Rígsþula, the father of mankind on earth. He is often referred to as the deity of light as he is called the “white God”, and “the one with golden teeth” in other old poems. Heimdall is also described as a fierce warrior, and some of his other nick-names include “the spear-magnificent man” and “the enemy of Loki”, the half-giant God who causes chaos within the assembly of the Gods.
An old story, retold by the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, describes how Loki and Heimdall both engaged into a violent fight to obtain a magical jewel called Brisingamen, which once belonged to the beautiful Freyja, the Goddess of love and fertility. This necklace, whose name means “shining jewel/necklace” in Old Norse-Icelandic has been interpreted by some to symbolize the Aurora, which would be logical as Heimdall is also said, in Snorri’s writing, to reside near the Northern Lights in his home of Himinbjorg, the “heavenly castle”. There, Heimdall watches the world of men, and that of the underground giants, the Jotnar.
Heimdall also knows, as per several ancient prophecies, that his arch-enemy Loki will one day come out of his underground prison and, together with his giant kin and their supernatural fire, climb the Bivrost, burning it to cinders in the process. Heimdall then is said to be prepared to grip his trusted Gjallarhorn, “the resounding horn” which lies under the root of the world-tree Yggdrasil and sound the alarm for the final battle of Ragnarok…
- (1) Larrington, Carolyne. (1996). The Poetic Edda. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics.
- (2) Snorri Sturluson. (1987). Edda (Anthony Faulkes Trans.). London: J.M. Dent.
- (I) Nilas Asplund (1907). Heimdall. Mural painting. Göteborg: University of Göteborg.