Odin (Othin) (leader of the possessed, frenzy) In Norse mythology, one-eyed chief of the Aesir gods; god of wisdom and war; son of Bor and the giantess Bestla; brother of Vili and Ve (or Hoenir and Lodur); married to Frigga; father of Thor (Tyr) and Baldur. Odin was called Voden, Woden, Wotan, Wuotan, or Votan in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon mythologies. The Prose Edda describes Odin as the god who “governs all things.” Odin was the wisest of the gods, and all the other deities came to him for advice. He drew his wisdom from the well of the giant Mimir. Odin gave up one of his eyes to Mimir as a pawn to gain wisdom and was sometimes portrayed as a one-eyed old man. Occasionally, however, he appears as a heroic man with a spear and shield. In Valhalla and Vingolf Odin gave elaborate banquets, but he only drank wine, which was all he needed to sustain himself. The meat served to the god was given to his wolves, Freki and Geri (the greedy one). Odin had two ravens called Hugin (thought) and Munin (mind) that perched on his shoulders. Every day they flew forth throughout the universe and brought news home to the god. Odin was often called God of Ravens. From his throne Hlithskjalf in Valaskkalf, the god could see everything pass before him. His horse was Sleipnir, an eight-footed animal; his spear was called Gungnir and could hit anything aimed at; and on his arm he wore a precious ring, Draupner, from which dropped eight other rings every nine nights. It is believed that part of Odin’s worship consisted of human sacrifices. It was believed that the god once hung on a gallows, wounded with the thrust of a spear, and thus gained wisdom. Some of his worshippers were hung on gallows in the same manner. Odin was called God of Hanged Men or Lord of the Gallows because of this. He would tell one of his ravens to fly to the hanged man, or he would go himself to talk to the man. An 11th-century account by Adam of Bremen tells of a sacrificial grove near a temple at Uppsala where human bodies hung from the branches of the sacred trees. Among the many kennings for the god are Ygg (the awful), Gagnrad (he who determines victories), Herjan (god of battles), Veratyr (lord of men), Har (the high one), Jafnhar (even as high), Thridi (third), Bileyg (one with evasive eyes), Baleyg (one with flaming eyes), Bolverk (the worker of misfortune, applied to Odin’s role in granting or not granting victory to his followers), Sigfather (the father of battle or of victory), Gaut (the creator), and Tveggi (the twofold).
Odin appears as Wotan in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and is portrayed in Arthur Rackham’s illustrations for Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
Taken from the Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
The All-Father; Glory Bearer; The Raven Lord; Master of the Gallows
Also known as: Odhinn; Wotan; Woden; Old One Eye
Odin is the leader of the Aesir spirits, the Lord of Asgard. Devotion to Odin once spread across the entire Germanic and Norse world. Spirit of war, wisdom, and death, Odin is lord of ecstasy, shamanism, and esoteric wisdom. He is a patron of poetry, magic, and the heroic dead.
The word god (in German, Gott) may derive from one of Odin’s epithets.
He may be a deified hero and ancestor. Myths—for instance the Volsung Saga, source material for Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle—describe Odin as the ancestor of heroes. He is the progenitor of royal families. England’s Saxon kings claimed descent from him.
Odin loves women, knowledge, and hospitality. He is a spiritual seeker himself. His thirst for occult wisdom is endless. He willingly traded one of his eyes for a mouthful of water from the Well of Wisdom and Knowledge.
Freya is described as his first teacher. She taught him charms and spell-casting, but ultimately his quest for occult wisdom is solitary. Freya whispered to him of the runes, lost in the misty realm of the Vanir. Determined to apprehend, comprehend, and master them, Odin pierced himself and then hung for nine days and nights in shamanic ritual on the World Tree. He died a shamanic death in order to be reborn as the rune-master. The Tarot card The Hanged Man may depict this ritual, not a literal hanging.
Odin’s curiosity has no bounds and he refuses to be constrained by boundaries of any kind. Following Balder’s death, Odin went to live among the Saami. He refuses to be bound by gender restrictions. Odin is curious and respectful toward what was traditionally considered women’s magic. He is not ashamed to learn from women.
• Freya taught seior to Odin, although men historically did not practice this style of prophesy, considered a woman’s art.
• When Odin gathers herbs and roots for healing, he dresses as a woman.
Odin seems to genuinely enjoy Loki’s company. He is a trickster, too. Although acknowledged as the All-Father and head of the pantheon, Odin was never the most beloved spirit, not by a long shot. Freyr, Freya, Frigg, and especially Thor were the spirits adored by the masses. Odin was favored by a specialized crowd: he is the patron of occultists, shamans, and poets (skalds).
Odin had too many associations with death to be truly beloved. He was once offered large-scale animal and human sacrifices. As Master of the Gallows, his sacrificial victims were hung from tree branches. Odin as war lord sponsors elite shamanic warriors: berserkers and wolf shirts, not rank-and-file soldiers.
Half the battlefield’s dead spend eternity in his hall, Valhalla. (The other half live with Freya.) Odin’s dead warriors will fight under his command at the apocalyptic battle of Ragnarok. He may choose which soldiers die on the battlefield specifically in order to induct them into his private ghost army.
Odin is the Divine Rider. He rides where he will, all over Earth but also over the Milky Way and through the sky, often leading a procession of spirits, ghosts, heroes, and heroines. His passing is signaled by storms and powerful winds. This parade of spirits is known as the Wild Hunt. Odin is the primary Wild Hunter. Sometimes he leads the Wild Hunt alone; sometimes with a female co-leader. In the guise of Chief Hunter, Odin was sometimes identified with the devil in Christian medieval Europe.
Odin bestows wealth and success, when he chooses. He will help find missing treasure. He can heal virtually any disorder or illness—again, if he chooses. Odin is extremely generous to those he loves and considers his friends, but terrible, merciless and vindictive toward his enemies.
Odin adores poets and writers and so, appropriately, he inspires many novelists:
• Mr. Odwin is pivotal in Douglas Adams’ 1988, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
• A mastermind called Wednesday stars in Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel, American Gods.
• Old One-Eye tutors the heroine of Joanne Harris’ 2008 novel, Runemarks.
Favored people: Travelers, traders, warriors, occultists, shamans, poets, writers, those who capture his fancy
Manifestation: Master of disguise and infiltration, Odin wanders Earth incognito dressed as a shabby, dusty traveler. Those who are gracious to him are rewarded. He answers to many names: allegedly over one hundred seventy for his many paths and identities. Odin is a one-eyed bearded, white-haired man, dressed in a wide-brimmed traveler’s hat that hides his missing eye. Alternatively, he wears dusty traveler’s clothes and a black hooded cloak. The clue to his identity tends to be that missing eye, although it is not always immediately apparent. He may travel in the form of a bird.
Iconography: Tarot images of the Magi cian and Hanged Man are used to represent Odin.
Attributes: Magic wand, traveler’s staff, a noose, Gungnir is the name of the dwarf-crafted Spear of Odin, which never misses its mark and always returns to him.
Consort: Frigg is his official wife, but Odin is a sensualist who loves women. He is associated with many female spirits, even Saint Lucy.
Day: Wednesday (Woden’s Day)
Numbers: 3, 9
Birds: Ravens—Odin’s own ravens, Hugin and Munin, “Thought” and “Memory,” fly all over Earth each morning, returning with news, gossip, and secrets to whisper in his ear. Ravens are resolutely diurnal birds: a raven’s cry at night signals the approach of the Wild Hunt.
Animals: Wolves, snakes, bear, horses
Mount: Sleipnir, his magical eight-legged stallion has teeth engraved with runes.
Hall: Odin has three residences. The most famous is his hall Valhalla.
Runes: Ansuz and Gar are among the runes associated with Odin.
Plant: Many plants associated with Odin have psychoactive and/or potentially dangerous properties. These are but a few:
• Amanita muscaria, which allegedly appears wherever his horse’s froth touches Earth
• Elecampane (Inula helenium), also known as Elfwort
• Juniper (German folk name: Wotan’s Rod)
• Monkshood (Aconitum napellus), also known as: Odin’s hat
• Wotan’s Herb (Heliotropium europaeum)
Time: In Iceland, the twelve days of Christmas are called Odin’s Yule Host.
Offerings: Odin eats only sacred meat: there’s little that’s material that you can give him, perhaps unique and powerful occult tools or something that you’ve handcrafted. He adores poetry and a good story. He has a tendency to set people on quests but he’ll tell you. What Odin really craves is knowledge: tell him something he doesn’t know.
See also: Aesir; Angerboda; Balder, Berchta, Dwarf; Freya; Freyr; Frigg; Gaude, Frau; Hel; Herta; Hulda; Loki; Mercury; Mimir; Norns; Rosmerta; Sinnann; Thor; Valkyries; Vanir; Wacholder, Frau; Wild Hunt; and the Glossary entries for Rune and Shaman
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.
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