Call for Testers!

We’ve been tweaking the World-Tree collection website over the last few weeks, trying to create a platform that’s as straightforward and user-friendly as possible.

But before we launch into full-scale collection mode, we are looking for some kind individuals to test the website at www.worldtreeproject.org – either by adding an item or two, or by browsing the site and giving us your feedback.

At the moment, we have a restricted range of items on the site – a few dozen items, a growing collection of material migrated from the Orkney Project website, and some sample exhibits demonstrating on a small scale what we hope to be able to do with the much broader range of materials we collect from individuals, institutions and organisations.

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A sample exhibit on ‘Vikings in the 21st-Century’

If you’d be willing to act as a tester for the website, please contact us at worldtreeproject@ucc.ie, or just jump right in and have a go at playing with the site.

We’re looking for feedback on the following:

  1. How easy is it to contribute an item? Did you encounter any difficulties?
  2. What was your experience of navigating around the site? Could we make it clearer?
  3. What works well on the website? What does not work?
  4. What features would help you to use the site in the way that you want to?
  5. Is there a resource you would really like to see us develop on the site? If so – let us know!

We’d be extremely grateful for your help!

Tom and Roderick

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What’s that world-tree? Unidentified images

We are currently testing the collection module at www.worldtreeproject.org, and have not yet put out a public call for contributions to the digital archive (though keep an eye out for the call soon!)

But we’ve already come across several images that we are unable to identify or locate. One of them is pictured here:

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It clearly depicts an image of the World-Tree as depicted in the Poetic Edda and elaborated on by Snorri. We can see the four harts feeding on Yggdrasill, the  Norns spinning out fates at the bottom of the image, and the squirrel Ratatosr delivering messages from the serpent Níðhöggr and the hawk perched on an eagle in the upper branches of the tree.

Beyond this, we know very little about the image, including what form the original takes (textile or painting?), where it is located, when the original was produced, and who took the image.

Whilst the majority of the items that we collect on the project will be identifiable (and correctly identified by contributors), we are certainly going to be presented with items such as this which are unknown to the researchers on the project, raising the question of how to find out the information and to catalogue these images.

We are hoping that we can also draw on the wisdom of the crowd to help us to identify most of these “John Does” and assign them their correct place. For this reason, we will be putting out a call on Twitter and Facebook every time we come across something unusual. We’ll also be keeping an exhibit of unknown items on the website – so pop in now and again to see if there’s anything that you can identify… or just to revel in the weird and wonderful items that come in to the project.

And if you can help us to identify this particular image, we’ll ensure your name is immortalised in skaldic verse.*

*Or a mention on the homepage, at the very least…

Designing the World-Tree Logo

The logo for the World-Tree Project (used here and on our collection website www.worldtreeproject.org) features a tree whose roots and branches interlock to form a complete sphere. The graphic designer who produced the logo for us – Anne-Kathrin Schoerner – had a brief to produce a logo that was unique; that expressed the project aims; and that gestured towards the artwork of the period represented by the project.

Representing Yggdrasill (or the World-Tree) is by no means an easy feat. One of the earliest images of the tree (dating to the Viking Age itself) is the central image on the tapestries discovered at Överhogdal church in the early twentieth century (and long believed to be medieval productions). This image formed the basis of the trademarked logo used by Överhogdal parish.

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Another well-known image of the World-Tree appears in the late seventeenth-century Icelandic manuscript, AM 738 4to, at fol. 43r. This image is probably based on Snorri’s account of Yggdrasill in his Prose Edda, and incorporates several details: including some of the inhabitants of the World-Tree, including the serpent Níðhöggr, who gnaws at the roots of the tree.63cedaa2118419dad40ccf73c5362fd7

In more recent times, Yggdrasill has been represented in a myriad of different ways, from the naturalistic (as an ordinary tree above a well) to the schematic. Finnur Magnússon’s illustration in his Eddalæren og dens Oprindelse was one of the first of countless attempts to reconcile the World-Tree with the details of the Norse cosmos: a schema that doesn’t lend itself to visual representation. Pictured alongside it is another recent attempt (by Wolfgang Werner) to bring together the imagery surrounding Yggdrasill in somewhat bewildering detail.

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We wanted to do something very different with the World-Tree logo – to get back to the simpler design of something like the tree on the Överhogdal tapestry, but one that also made reference to the intricacy of the World-Tree as a concept. For this reason, the designer avoided a completely symmetrical logo, opting instead for meandering branches and complex interlace that brings to mind Viking-Age artwork. The idea of the World-Tree is not suggested by size or by extraneous detail, but by the fact that the roots and branches join together to form a complete circle. The logo is simple enough to be identifiable at a distance, but also suggests the complexity of the world encompassed by Yggdrasill.

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We think that the logo is an excellent representation of what we hope to achieve through this project: to connect the many branches of engagement with the vikings into a single living archive. Let us know what you think!