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Cherish the Ash

A PropheticTree (part 2)

I took lots of photos of the ash tree bark and chose the tiles I would use, which included some recycled floor tiles that have been in a dark corner of my garden for years and some of my own hand-made stoneware tiles.


I studied photos of Viking standing stones from Scandinavia and I wanted to copy the style of the naive pictures that were carved into the stones. (Not difficult for me as my style is already quite naive!)

I drew a picture of the 3 roots of Yggdrasill:

drawing of the roots
drawing of the roots

and mosaiced the design onto the side of the tree:


The first root leads to Asgard, the realm of the Norse Gods. Under the well of Urd live the three Norns – “Fate” (Urd), “Being” (Skuld) and “Necessity” (Verdandi). They nourish Yggdrasil by sprinkling wet clay and water around the roots:

The three Norns

The second root leads to Jotunheim, realm of the frost giants, under which the bubbling spring of Mimir lies. Wise Mimir’s head was cut off by the Vanir and Odin set it here. To gain knowledge, Odin gives one of his own eyes for a sip from the spring. Here also lies Heimdall’s horn for the time when he needs it at Ragmarok. Heimdall is the watchman of the Gods, and a son of 9 sisters:

Mimir’s head (left) and Heimdall’s horn (curling around Odin’s eye)

I made Odin’s eye by fusing glass in my microwave kiln.

Odin's Eye
Odin’s Eye

And the third root delves down into the realm of Niflheim where the spring of Hvergelmir lies and the dragon Nidhogg. Nidhogg rips open corpses, and with many other serpents he gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasill:

The dragon Nidhogg

I used a deep copper gold stoneware tile that I made several years ago for the roots.

The Runes

Having sought scholarIy advice from several professors in Nordic studies, I decided to use the “Elder Futhark” runic language for the inscription. This language would have been used from the 2nd century AD to about the 8th Century AD after which the Younger Futhark was developed. The runes mean “Unna Yggdrasill” which roughly translated is Old Norse for “Cherish the Ash“. I have used a bit of artistic licence in using the Elder Futhark, as Old Norse actually corresponds with the Younger Futhark. However I found the Younger Futhark alphabet  more difficult to use as it is shortened and not all the letters have a corresponding rune; several letters are shared with one rune. The Elder Futhark language corresponds with Proto-Norse and Proto-Germanic which is an older language than Old Norse but not much different, and as some of the Norse myths are passed down from an older time I felt that perhaps I wasn’t serving it too much injustice!

As if carved into the bark, the runes are made by leaving spaces within the tiles and then grouted with red coloured grout.  Originally the carved runes on Viking standing stones were painted with a red pigment.

You read the runes from a clockwise direction and tilt your head so they are like this:

Unna (Cherish)
Unna (Cherish)
Yggdrasill (the Ash)
Yggdrasill (the Ash)

The Stags

The 4 stags, “Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr and Durathror are nourished by eating Yggdrasill’s new leaves.




I used some more of my tiles I had made several years ago; an earthy green stoneware tile with rusty edges and patches. It was perfect to describe the lichen on the tree. And a brown green stoneware tile with a slight shine on the surface that I used as part of the bark:


The Grafitti

It’s interesting to think that the inscriptions on the Viking Age old standing stones were a form of graffiti.  Many of them were memorials raised in memory of the deceased and often with the name or initials of the rune master. The drawings depicted Viking myths.

On my ash tree trunk there is a bit of bark that has been stripped off, that probably seared off when it was cut down, and the fresh wood has been inscribed with some modern graffiti ……  and just as the inscriptions of the standing stones would have had – the artists initials!


Come back soon and see the final part of  Yggdrasill – the top of the sculpture!


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