Yggdrasil – Yew, not Ash Tree


written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

In my specific belief system it is uncontested that Yggdrasil is a yew tree and not the ash tree that is only once mentioned in the Völuspa of the Edda, although the descriptions of Yggdrasil clearly are not those of the ash tree.

In the light of the persisting Wotan cult we mostly read that Ygg, “the terrible”, is another name for Wotan and drasil is the Old Norse word for horse.
This has been linked to the Wild Hunt, led by Wotan. Alas, originally it was Frau Holle (Hulda, Frigg) who led the nightly Wild Hunt before Wotan replaced her.

Another attempt at a translation is “terrible tree” (Gallowtree), also linking this to Wotan hanging himself from the world tree for nine days and nights in order to receive the runes.
The hanged Wotan is also known as Hangatyr. Why would Wotan’s name be “Hanging Tyr”? Here we have more proof for Wotan replacing all the old (high) Gods and his cult establishing him as some sort of almighty Allfather figure.

On top of this, Wotan’s tree is the ash, his spear Gungnir made of this wood as well. Since Wotan had replaced our old chief God(s) it is not surprising that certain elements were modified.

Sahsnotas Irminsul

Hangatyr, Týr-Irmin who hung himself from the world tree

The term Gallowtree is not so far-fetched, considering that the yew tree is linked to death (and rebirth), basically the circle of life. The Elder Futhark rune Eiwaz/Eo and the Anglo-Saxon rune Yr symbolize this tree. There is no rune symbolizing the ash tree.

A more reliable translation for “Yggdrasil” would hence either be Yewhorse or Yewpillar. The Old Norse yggja and Germanic igwja are words for the yew.
Drasill could as well be a form of the indo-Germanic syllable –dher, meaning pillar, support.

Another name for Yggdrasil is Irminsul, Irmin’s pillar. Irmin is another name of our original chief God Sahsnotas (Saxnot-Týr).

Irminsul my old poster

From “Drasill’s” Mouth – Accounts of the Nature of Yggdrasil in the Eddas and other Lore

In modern translations of Gylfaginning 17 (Edda) the word barr has been mistranslated as leaves. Barr means conifer.

Throughout the Edda it is emphasized that the world tree is an evergreen tree. The ash is not evergreen but the coniferous yew is. Even in the Norwegian Rune Song it is said of the Eiwaz/Eo rune: “Yr is the most evergreen tree”.

In Gylfaginning 16 it is mentioned that intoxicating honeydew (mead) is dripping from the world tree. The ash tree has many wonderful healing properties, it does not have one single component that is intoxicating though.
The yew tree on the other hand does. Its poison Taxin has an equally intoxicating and hallucinatory effect similar to LSD.


The Walknut, originally not a symbol of Wotan, (just as the line of Wal and the Wal-küren were once not of this God either) is representative of the world tree (nine worlds). What tree does this remind you of, a yew perhaps?

In Fjölswid 13 we are asked, “Tell me the conifer’s name whose branches are encompassing all lands?”

The rune Eiwaz is also known as Iwaz and the Old High German word iwa means everlasting, eternal. As eternal as the “evergreen” leaves of the yew tree and as everlasting as the circle of life.


The God Ull lives in Ydal (Yew Valley) and his bow and arrow are made of yew, just like Skadi’s are. Even in Iceland Yggdrasil was associated with bow and arrow. Bows and arrows were traditionally made out of yew due to its near indestructible, robust quality. Europe and especially Germany was “the land of yew”.

The Yule tree has traditionally been a conifer tree and where I live it was traditionally a yew tree up until the 19th century. The Yule tree is symbolic of the world tree Yggdrasil. I am not sure about you, but I have never heard of anyone having put up an ash tree for Yule…

Now, this might be coincidence or over-interpretation, but it always struck me as funny that when you turn around Thunar’s hammer Mjölnir, it resembles a tree, or yew tree more accurately. Mjölnir is the sustainer of the world tree and ultimately the multiverse. Since most of our ancestors were not Viking raiders but farmers it is obvious why they depended on the hammer which brought on rain and hence growth of crops. Thus hammer and tree are connected.

Irminsul yule

Here you have it from the horses – or “drasill’s” – mouth, it is made very clear in lore what kind of tree Yggdrasil really is and always will be.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tailor von Schmitt de Martini
    Jun 05, 2016 @ 20:27:51

    Hello friend, looking at the manuscripts interpreted the “barr”, not as a specifically conifer , but as a reference the conifer needles leaves. I am building a hypothesis about the nature of Yggdrasil as another tree not as a yew and not as an ash tree. I hope to expose this in the coming months.



  2. Ingrid
    Mar 22, 2017 @ 00:20:33

    I agree and most things I have read place it as Yew as well. In one of those they also mentioned that Yew had psychotropic properties and was sat under for vision questing which may be one more reason to think so. The source was likely either Paul Beryl or Edred Thorsson.



  3. Ingrid
    Mar 22, 2017 @ 00:23:49

    …I see you mentioned that I just missed it. Good article, thank you.



  4. Dzan
    Sep 25, 2018 @ 00:13:11

    Another fact that heavily supports your proposition: the Yew also lives to be exceptionally old, into ancient age, growing for THOUSANDS of years if left to Nature. A Yew in Wales, (one of the oldest living trees known in the world), is 4 000 to 5 000 years old—growing to this day. Beyond the Iron Age, beyond transitions into the very beginnings of the Bronze Age. Literally growing through entire ages of humankind, keeping their life, their flesh amidst death and decay, watching creatures be born, live, age, die, rot, turn to dust…and even live through through the rise and falls of entire civilizations. These creatures, these trees can live (far) beyond entire empires, until they are nothing but ruin and rubble. All the while growing. All the while, In older times in richer, more fertile soil and environments, oxygen-rich air, they were even healthier, even more vigorous, robust, more ‘immortal’, likely living *beyond* several thousands of years. Different ages, a different world. Imagine this sage-like evergreen tree living 10 000 years…one of these elder ones alive in the ancient and prehistoric worlds… Imagine. Imagine what would fill the imaginations, the respect and awe they would garner.

    Beyond this, take into account its wizened appearance, literally physically looking ancient—yet intense green, potent, vibrant. These are trees that are like windows into time. Into past ages. Magical, mighty times. The Yew may have lived from a much more primordial world, a survivor of forgotten ages.

    Indeed, a symbol of immortality, rebirth, transformation, protection against evil, connecting to one’s ancestors… Indeed, inducing psychic abilities, wisdom, powerful visions.

    Indeed, fitting to be “Yggdrasil”.


    Liked by 1 person


  5. Ingrid
    Sep 25, 2018 @ 05:51:45

    Very interesting, I hope to see one of those ancient trees myself some day, I have not been outside of the US, west coast. If there are Yews here I haven’t found them but I hope to travel at some point. Wales in particular.



    • Dzan
      Sep 25, 2018 @ 13:05:35

      I lived many years on coast of the Canadian Far West (British Columbia), and I don’t recall every coming across one (then again, at the time, I wasn’t looking for them), but they would have been completely at home there with all the intense greenery and coniferous vegetation. There are some well-known Yews in various places. You’d have no shortage of fascinating locations to choose from.

      The Yew is also known to grow both “downward and upward” (like the rune), extending branches back down into the earth and then back up so that it makes around itself an entire weblike or winding, complex labyrinthine structure (and also hollows and passages) as it also grows outward. So, again, very much resembling what one would think as an ancient or primeval World Tree, axially attaching above and below, with the many shamanic connotations that come with it.

      I definitely agree that the Yew fits the description, esp. as you get into the strange details, and deserves the reverence it was (and is) given.



    • Dzan
      Sep 25, 2018 @ 13:32:13

      P.S. There’s a site which tracks “monumental trees” by country and species, gives location, map, etc. This might help you depending where you now live. Here’s known Yew trees in Germany (just as example): https://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/deu-europeanyew/



  6. Dzan
    Sep 26, 2018 @ 14:26:44

    Happy travels. 🙂



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