Meet the Gods: Odin
“You teach best what you most need to learn.”
Reading that in Richard Bach’s 1977 book, “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah,” made me realize a long time ago we are all teachers and we are all students. The women I’ve circled with for nine years honor only the Goddess, so my work with gods has fallen by the wayside. That’s precisely why I volunteered to begin writing a column about gods. Each month I plan to research another one and present a small biography, hopefully leaving some links to additional information.
I am partially of German descent, so the first god I chose is Wodan, Woden or Wotan. He is known by many other names. In Norse mythology he is Odin, and it is from here that most information about him is known.
Odin was always a war god and he’s protected heroes. He is also associated with healing, death, royalty, knowledge, battle, poetry, sorcery and the runic alphabet. He is the husband of the goddess Frigg, with whom he wagering the outcome of exploits.
He is mentioned throughout recorded history. The Germanic peoples referred to him as a founding figure. He created the world by slaying Ymir, a primordial being; and he gives the gift of life to Ask and Embla, the first two humans.
At the end of the pre-Christian period, Odin was Scandinavia’s principal god.
As told in Old Norse texts, Odin ruled Midgard. He was a tall, old man with a long beard and one eye – the other he gave to receive wisdom. He wears a cloak and a broad hat, and carries a spear named Gungnir. He rides the eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, who can gallop through the air and over the sea. Traveling with him are the wolves Geri and Freki, and the ravens Huginn and Muninn who bring him information.
A relentless seeker of knowledge and wisdom, Odin was the great magician among the gods and sometimes traveled in disguise. The runes and poetry are both attributed to him.
The runes are more than letters, they are powerful symbols with which cosmic forces can be harnessed. Odin sought them not for language, but for their potent magic. To get them, he sacrificed himself, hanging himself from a branch of Yggdrasil, the great tree that grows out of the Well of Urd in the center of the Norse cosmos. In its upper branches is Asgard, one of the Nine Worlds. In Asgard is Valhalla, which is ruled by Odin.
Odin proceeded to pierce himself with his spear and then peered down into the well where, among the powerful beings, were the Norns who had shaped destiny by carving runes into Yggdrasil’s trunk. Forbidding any of the other gods to help him, he hung day and night as he sought the runes. On the ninth night, he saw the shapes and they revealed their secrets to him.
It is stated on the Norse Mythology for Smart People website, that according to the ancient poem “Hávamál,” “Equipped with the knowledge of how to wield the runes, he became one of the mightiest and most accomplished beings in the cosmos. He learned chants that enabled him to heal emotional and bodily wounds, to bind his enemies and render their weapons worthless, to free himself from constraints, to put out fires, to expose and banish practitioners of malevolent magic, to protect his friends in battle, to wake the dead, to win and keep a lover, and to perform many other feats like these.”
He masters the art of communicating with the dead to gain their knowledge and to have as many warriors as possible on his side when he must face the wolf Fenrir, even though he knows he is doomed to die in that battle. Odin appears after his death as a leader of the wild hunt, a procession of ghosts across the winter sky.
Places are named after him; so is Wednesday (“Woden’s day”).
For more information about Odin online, you might consider beginning here:
Merry part. And merry meet again.