"Yawning abyss", "Gap of ginnungs." In Norse cosmology, the primordial void that existed before the creation of the cosmos. It is mentioned in Völuspá:
- Of old was the age when Ymir lived;
- Sea nor cool waves nor sand there were;
- Earth had not been, nor heaven above,
- But a yawning gap, and grass nowhere.
- — Bellows trans.
Snorri Sturluson expands upon this. He says that in the beginning, before the worlds of men and gods existed, the spring Hvergelmir, deep in the frozen wastes of Niflheimr, gave rise to eleven rivers known as the Élivágar. The poison from these rivers turned to ice, and the drizzling rain which arose from it froze into frost, which spilled into the Ginnungagap. There it mingled with the hot air coming from Múspell and began to melt. And from those drops of poison life emerged:
The streams called Ice-waves, those which were so long come from the fountain-heads that the yeasty venom upon them had hardened like the slag that runs out of the fire, — these then became ice; and when the ice halted and ceased to run, then it froze over above. But the drizzling rain that rose from the venom congealed to rime, and the rime increased, frost over frost, each over the other, even into Ginnungagap, the Yawning Void. [...] Ginnungagap, which faced toward the northern quarter, became filled with heaviness, and masses of ice and rime, and from within, drizzling rain and gusts; but the southern part of the Yawning Void was lighted by those sparks and glowing masses which flew out of Múspellheim. [...] Just as cold arose out of Niflheim, and all terrible things, so also all that looked toward Múspellheim became hot and glowing; but Ginnungagap was as mild as windless air, and when the breath of heat met the rime, so that it melted and dripped, life was quickened from the yeast-drops, by the power of that which sent the heat, and became a man's form. And that man is named Ymir, but the Rime-Giants call him Aurgelmir.
This Aurgelmir, better known as Ymir, was killed by the sons Borr, who took the giant's body to the middle of Ginnungagap and made of him the earth, the sky, the seas, etc. They then took the glowing embers and sparks that burst forth and had been cast out of Múspell, and set them in the midst of Ginnungagap, in the heaven, both above and below, to illumine heaven and earth.
Snorri later says that one of the roots of Yggdrasil stands among the Rime-Giants,
in that place where aforetime was the Yawning Void.
- Gylfaginning, 5, 8, 15.
- Völuspá, 3.