The idea of Mimir catches the imagination as he is described as the disembodied head of an extremely intelligent being. He exists in a place at the base of the world where the wise, including Odin himself, travel to consult him and gain his wisdom.
It is little surprise that Mimir has become a pop-culture favorite, even appearing in the recent Norse-Myth set God of War game.
But what do we really know about the Mimir of Norse mythology? Read on to find out.
Mimir – Wise Giant
While the etymological roots of the name Mimir are not obvious, most linguists agree that the name means to think, recall, reflect, or worry over something, which seems an appropriate name for a god associated with deep thought and wisdom.
But was Mimir really a god?
As we will see shortly, Mimir is best known for being the wise counselor of Odin. For this reason, many scholars believe that Mimir is the unnamed brother of Bestla, who teaches Odin nine magical songs.
Bestla is the jotunn mother of Odin, Vili, and Ve. That would make Mimir Odin’s uncle, but also a jotunn himself. This makes sense since Mimir’s home is also said to be in Niflheim, the world of the frost giants. Also, at Ragnarok it is said that the sons of Mimir “are at play while fate burns”. While these sons are not mentioned anywhere else, it would make sense that they are running amok in the dying world.
Finally, kennings for Mimir include “Odin’s friend”, reasserting his close connection with the god, and jotunn are sometimes called “mischievous Mimir”.
Mimir in Asgard
But while Mimir was probably a jotunn, he seems to have been a dweller in Asgard at some point in his life. This is perhaps not so surprising, as he is not the only giant to have found himself a place among the Aesir. Loki had a brotherhood pact with Odin that meant that he was also able to dwell in Asgard. Perhaps Odin had a similar relationship with Mimir. Besides, many of the Aesir had jotunn blood. Odin was half jotunn, and Thor three quarters!
Regardless of the specific arrangement, Mimir seems to have been in Asgard at the time of the Aesir-Vanir war, since when the war was over, Mimir was one of the hostages sent to Vanaheim as part of the peace agreement.
The Vanir gods sent their “best men” to Asgard, including the god of seas and wealth Njord and his son, the fertility deity Freyr. They were also joined by Freya, the goddess of love and beauty.
The Aesir sent the charismatic Hoenir to Vanaheim to act as a new leader for them, and Mimir was sent as his advisor.
But the Vanir soon realized that Hoenir could only make sound decisions and give good advice with the help of Mimir, and they began to become very suspicious of him. In the end, they chopped off his head and sent it to Asgard.
The Head of Mimir
When Odin received Mimir’s head, he did not want to lose the guidance of his intelligent friend. So, the god embalmed the head with herbs so that it would not rot, and then he spoke a charm over the head, reanimating it.
From that time onward, Odin “kept” the head to give him counsel and reveal secrets. But this does not seem to mean that he kept the head on him at all times, though the story is sometimes interpreted that way.
This is because Mimir’s head also seems to have dwelled at the well Mimisbrunnr, located in Niflheim, the land of the frost giants. This land is located at the base of Yggdrasil underneath its roots, and Mimir’s well is one of the three that nourish the tree. This is why Yggdrasil is also sometimes referred to as Mimameidr and Hoddmimis holt.
The Well of Mimir
Odin certainly visited Mimir at his well, as it is believed that Odin agreed to pluck out his own eye as payment for drinking from this well of wisdom.
However, it is also possible that Odin and Mimir used the eye of the god to create the well of wisdom. Mimir is also described as drinking mead every morning from the “father of the Slain’s (Odin’s) wager. This could imply that it was Odin’s eye that imbued the well with special properties, and that it was the water from this well that maintained the life of Mimir’s head.
Interestingly, Mimir drinks from the well using a horn known as Gjallarhorn, which is the same horn that Heimdall uses to alert the gods of the coming of Ragnarok. Also, when Heimdall raises the alarm, Odin goes to Mimir for advice and counsel. It is possible that Odin takes the horn with him to feed water from the well to Mimir to animate the head and get its counsel. So, it also seems possible that whenever Odin visits Mimir’s, he must first give it some of the water to animate it.
Who Was Mimir
Many questions remain about Mimir, but he is certainly one of the most interesting beings in Norse mythology. What do you think of Mimir’s mythology?