Hermann, Pernille, Stephen A. Mitchell, and Jens Peter Schjødt, eds., with Amber J. Rose. 2017. Old Norse Mythology—Comparative Perspectives. Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature 3. Cambridge, MA: Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_HermannP_etal_eds.Old_Norse_Mythology.2017.
The Temple, the Tree, and the Well: A Topos or Cosmic Symbolism at Cultic Sites in Pre-Christian Northern Europe?
Scholion 138 provides further information concerning the area near of the temple:
Scholion 139 describes the temple building and its surroundings in more detail:
In 4, 27, the cultic activities are described in more detail as well as the ritual places where the sacrifices took place:
In examining Adam’s account of the Uppsala sanctuary, including the scholia, one readily forms the impression that the cultic site was comprised of several ritual places and cultic elements. In addition to the temple building itself and the holy grove, where the sacrificial objects were hung, a specific holy tree and a spring are mentioned. During the springtime, Adam informs us, the pagans made their human sacrifices. An additional note (scholion 139) states that the shrine (delubrum) stands on level ground, surrounded by mountains (montes). In my opinion it is not impossible that Adam had, in fact, heard about the royal funeral mounds situated in Old Uppsala when he describes these “mountains” as located close to the sanctuary (see Sundqvist 2016: 436).
Theory and methods
This building seems to be identical with “the gold-bright Valhǫll” mentioned in the eddic poem Grímnismál in stanzas 8 and 23: 
Valhǫll víð of þrumir (Grímnismál st. 8)
(Glaðsheimr a fifth is called,
there gold-bright Valhǫll
rises peacefully, seen from afar)
Fimm hundruð dura oc um fiórom togom,
svá hygg ec at Valhǫllo vera (Grímnismál st. 23)
(Five hundred doors and forty
I think there are in Valhǫll)
The number of doors indicates that it is large and therefore can be seen from afar. As does the Uppsala temple, this house has seats for the deities. Óðinn has the high-seat there, and the einherjar (slain human heroes) can drink their fill there every day. According to chapter 36 of Gylfaginning and stanza 36 of Grímnismál, which is in fact quoted in Snorri’s text, the valkyries (valkyrjur) serve ale to the einherjar there.
- er blíð regin silfri þǫcþo sali; Valasciálf heitir (where the cheerful Powers roofed the hall with silver; Valasciálf it is called) (st. 6)
- þars en gullbiarta Valhǫll víð of þrumir (there gold-bright Valhǫll rises peacefully) (st. 8)
- Breiðablic (the far-shining one) (st. 12)
- Glitnir (the shining one) (st. 15)
Perhaps these recurrent features and correspondences indicate an “ideal state”, the existence of a “common model”, and/or a cosmic symbolism of the ceremonial buildings in Uppsala and other late Iron Age cultic sites of Scandinavia (see also Sundqvist 2016: 205–19).
The tree and the well
From this description, it seems as if one of the tree’s roots reached down towards Mímis brunnr (Mímir’s well), where Óðinn deposited his eye in order to drink of the knowledge that the well contained, while a second root was located among the gods at Urðar brunnr (Urðr’s well), and a third root ran down to the well called Hvergelmir. Even if Snorri meant to describe three different wells, these three springs are usually interpreted today as different names for one and the same mental image, that is, the cosmic well (see, e.g., Simek 2006: 167). It is worth noting that the tree and well are mentioned in eddic lays as being related to each other: in Vǫluspá, for example, it is said that the tree Yggdrasill is always green and stands beside the well of Urðr.
hár baðmr, ausinn hvítaauri;
þaðan koma dǫggvar, þærs í dala falla,
stendr æ yfir, grœnn, Urðar brunni. (Vǫluspá st. 19)
(I know that an ash-tree,
stands called Yggdrasill,
a high tree, soaked
with shining loam;
from there come the dews
which falls in the valleys,
ever green, it stands over
According to Hávamál, Urðr’s well was situated besides the “High-One’s hall”, i.e. Valhǫll:
Urðar brunni at;
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Háva hǫllo at, Háva hǫllo í;
heyrða ec segia svá: (Hávamál st. 111)
(It is time to declaim from the sage’s high-seat,
at Urðr’s well;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
at the High One’s hall, in the
High One’s hall;
thus I heard them speak:)
These similarities between Uppsala and the mythical traditions have, as mentioned above, been taken by some scholars in the past as indications that Adam based his account on myth and confused it with reality (e.g., Bruun and Finnur Jónsson 1909; Alkarp 1997).  Thus, they argue that Adam’s account cannot be taken seriously. In opposition to this view, I think that Adam’s description is reliable. The existence of trees and wells is very common to Germanic sacred sites. In the ecclesiastical polemics against pagan customs the expression arbor et fons “tree and spring” seems to announce a pagan cultic place. It appears in normative documents and letters from the sixth century to the capitularia in the age of Charlemagne (see, e.g., Boudriot 1928: 34–35, 38–40; Homann 1976; Nilsson 1992; Sundqvist 2016). A document from the council of Tours in 567 CE reports how recently converted people, who still perform pagan ritual actions, should be treated and punished. Some of them worshipped mountains, trees and wells (“…ut, quoscumque in hac fatuitate persistere viderint vel ad nescio quas petras aut arbores aut ad fontes” (Concilium Turonense p. 133)). In a letter from Gregory I to Queen Brunhilde in 597, the pope states that the pagan cult of trees does not exist any longer (“ut […] cultores arborum non existant” (Registrum Epistolarum 2: 3, 7));  however a Langobardic law, compiled during King Liutprand’s reign in 727, perscribes fines for those who worshipped trees and wells (“Simili modo et qui ad arbore, quam rustici sanctiuum uocant, atque ad fontanas adorauerit” (Liutprandi Leges, Anni 15, ch. 84, in Leges Langobardorum p. 139)).  At Concilium Germanicarum, led by Saint Boniface in the year 743, basic Carolingian mission strategies were worked out, including regulations against pagan customs. Some of these regulations were presented in the text Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum (Index of Superstitions and Pagan Practices). In this text, we read about prohibited customs related to trees and wells, in, for instance, chapter 6, “De sacris silvarum, quae nimidas vocant” and chapter 11, “De fontibus sacrificiorum” (Indiculus Superstitionum et Paganiarum pp. 222–23; see also Fontes Historiae Religionis Germanicae pp. 42–43). These regulations indicate that a pagan cult of trees and wells was still widespread in Carolingian areas in the first half of the eighth century. In Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae (769 CE) as well, the cult of wells and trees was forbidden. Sacrifices at groves in a heathen fashion and the custom of making meals in honor of the demons were also rejected (“Si quis ad fonts aut arbores vel lucos votum fecerit aut aliquit more gentilium obtulerit et ad honorem daemonum commederet” (Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae p. 69)).
Rudolf’s text is built on older narratives, and is thus not a direct or primary source; moreover, there seem to be secondary elements in it, such as the explanation of the name Irminsul (Palm 1948: 86–88; see however Springer 2000). The information Rudolf relates about Irminsul being a big tree trunk or pillar appears, however, to be reliable, since the name Irmin-sul (ON *jǫrmun– + súla) means “large pillar”.  Widukind, who was a monk in Corvey during the tenth century, has a slightly different version. He records in his chronicle Rerum gestarum Saxonicarum (ca. 967) that a cultic image made as a pillar was devoted to the god Irmin (“effigie columpnarum […] Hirmin […] dicitur” Rerum Gestarum Saxonicarum pp. 20–21, 21n3).  The information that Irmin was a god or forefather is considered uncertain (cf. Simek 2006: 175). In my opinion, it is more likely that Irminsul refers to “a great pillar or tree trunk” than to “the pillar of the god Irmin”, since the name suggests this. In either case, Irminsul was an important cultic object at the chief sanctuary of the Saxons, and most likely it included some kind of cosmic symbolism (see e.g. Simek 2006: 175–76; Maier 2000; Sundqvist 2016: 252–57).
West Slavic sanctuaries
Similar information about this temple is reported in other sources (Herbordi Vita Ottonis 3, 22–23; Ebonis Vita Ottonis 3, 18; Vita Prieflingensis 3, 11). As at Uppsala, Stettin was also a site for rulers. The palace was situated on the mountain of Triglav (Slupecki 1993: 267). Perhaps cosmic symbolism, including the ceremonial building, the tree, and the well, also played an ideological role in Stettin.