From Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers

Jump to: navigation, search
Odin, the chief of the Norse gods, accompanied by his two wolves and two ravens; 19th century chromolithographic trade card advertising Liebig Beef Extract, artist unknown

Odin, also known as Wotan or Woden, is the Norse god of wisdom and battle, whose name means fury or excitation. The husband of Frigga and the father of Thor and Loki, he is the leader of the Aesir, the group of gods that came after the nature-based Vanir. He and his two brothers, Vili and Ve (also known as Hoenir and Lodur) are sons of Bestla, daughter of Bolthorn; and Borr, son of Buri. One of Odin's titles is "All-Father"; but not all of the Norse deities are his descendants or even related to him by blood. More likely, the term refers to Odin's role as a creator-god, for he and his brothers are said to have created our world from the body of Ymir, a primal giant they had killed. They also created humans from two trees they found washed up on a beach shortly afterward. In his warrior aspect, Odin commands the Valkyries, female spirits who appear as terrifying hags riding through the air on huge wolves to rig battles as Odin desires, or who weave the guts of battle-slain men on their looms. Norse poetry emphasizes Odin's connections with rulership, war, battle, victory, the hunt, and death because the poets' primary audience consisted of noblemen who earned a living by fighting, hunting, and killing people.

In another of Odin's aspects, he is associated with wisdom, shamanism, magic, poetry, trickery, and prophecy. There are many stories in which, as "The Wanderer," he goes out of his way to seek knowledge. He sacrifices one eye for a drink from the Well of Wisdom; he drills into a mountain and changes shape to access the mead of inspiration; and in Runatal, a section of the Havamal in the poetic Edda, he hangs for nine nights from Yggdrasil, the World Tree, while pierced by his own spear, in order to learn the meanings of the runes and gain power over the nine worlds. In most stories, Odin is far from benevolent and forthright. His ultimate motive may be good, for he is keeping Ragnarok, the destruction of the present universe, from occurring too soon, yet he tends to use devious tactics along the way: traveling in disguise, making misleading promises, and working magic when his ordinary tricks fail.

Odin is generally depicted as a fierce one-eyed warrior accompanied by two wolves and two ravens. The wolves are the male and female pair Geri and Freki (whose names are interpreted as "greedy" and "gluttonous"), whom Odin created to be his guardians and companions during his lonely travels. The ravens are Huginn and Muninn (both names refer to "thought"), whom Odin first created to search out prey for Geri and Freki, and who then became his own far-seeing spies. He sends them out at dawn to circle the world and they report back to him at breakfast-time, whispering everything they have seen into his ears. Odin's day of the week is Wednesday ("Woden's Day") and he is called upon for aid in magical spells for communication, verbal skills, messages, trickery, gambling luck, speech, and broadcasting -- traits he has in common with the Greek god Hermes and the Roman god Mercury, whose day this also is. In several contemporary Neo-Pagan traditions, he is the god who presides over divination by means of the runes. A branch of modern Neo-Paganism devoted to his veneration is known as Odinism.


This page is brought to you by the AIRR Tech Team:

  • Authors: Ingeborg Svea Norden and Lara Rivera
  • Contributor: cat yronwode
  • Image: Unknown Trade Card Artist for Leibig Beef Extract provided by Reverend James

See Also


Personal tools