The Norse God Odin is one of the most enigmatic and complicated Gods in North mythology. He is the ruler of a kingdom called Asgard, a seeker of wisdom and has little regard for convention and law. Odin is the God of war and poetry. The translation of his name is Master of Ecstasy or the furious depending on the translator.
He is associated with the dead, shamanism, wisdom, war, poetry, magic and sovereignty. Popular, modern culture portrays Odin as muscular, the commander of the battlefield and an honorable ruler. Odin is not concerned with the average warrior. He only gives his blessing to those he feels are worthy such as the Germanic heroes including the Volsung and Starkaor families.
Odin has an extremely close affiliation to warrior shamans and berserkers. The fighting techniques of these people are based on a unification with ferocious totem animals including bears and wolves. He is considered the master of these beasts. Odin is concerned with the frenzy of a chaotic battle, rather than the outcome or ensuing conflict. He is the ruler of the Aesir Gods and founded numerous royal lines. The Germanic people had a three tier social hierarchy. Odin is in the first or ruler tier. Odin ruled with cunning, magic, deviousness and inscrutability. This established him as the preferred helper and God for the outlaws and those society had banished. Women and men from all social statures also favored Odin for his competence, creativity and intelligence.
Odin would use any means necessary to overcome any limitations. He was ruthless and relentless is his mission for more magical knowledge, power and wisdom. He is known for a single piercing eye with the other eye socket empty. He once sacrificed himself by hanging on the Yggdrasil world tree for nine nights and days.
He took no nourishment and understood the runes by the end. Runes are an ancient German alphabet that have been charged with magic. Some of the greatest secrets of all time were said to be found in the German alphabet. Odin boasted he had grown wise, was led to the words and led to the works. He challenged one of the wisest giants due to his competitiveness. He wanted to establish who had the most learning and knowledge. He won then returned to Asgard after claiming his prize.
Of all the Gods, Odin and Freya are considered the two greatest shamans. There is documentation for Odin’s shamanic spirit journeys. The records of the Ynglinga Saga show Odin traveled to distant lands by himself. Baldur’s Dreams is an Eddic poem depicting Odin riding to Sleipnir on a horse with eight legs to speak to a dead seeress regarding his son. Odin is accompanied by spirits including the valkyries, the wolves Freki and Geri and the ravens Munin and Hugin. When Odin discovered the runes, he went through the same rebirth and ritual death as the shamans. The other type of Germanic shamanism is called seidr. The main practitioners were also Freya and Odin. Traditional Germanic society dictated if a man engaged in seidr, he would give up the male gender role. This brought scorn upon any man who took this path.
When Odin practiced seidr, he did not escape the taunting. Odin was exiled because he was deemed to have assumed the work of a woman. This was said to have brought scandal to the Gods. The northern, pre-Christian Europeans perceived Odin practicing the seidr as unmanly. They believed this made it impossible for him to act as an honorable man. Odin was also involved with composing poetry. He stole the ability to write persuasive and beautiful poetry from the giants. He dispenses this ability to the people he has deemed as worthy. The Roman writers referred to Odin as Mercury, the figure guiding the deceased to a new realm for the dead and eventually back to the living realm. This shows Odin was associated even more closely with death than war or he would have been referred to as Mars.
Odin rules Valhalla, the most prestigious place for the dead. At the end of each battle, he combed the battlefield with the valkyries to choose which slain warriors would be carried to Valhalla. Enemy armies, nobles and royalty presented Odin with human sacrifices. This was generally accomplished with either a noose or a spear. The most common means of securing his favor for an upcoming battle was to throw a spear at the foe. When the foe was sacrificed, Odin owns ye all was heard throughout the battlefield. Odin was a master of necromancy. This is a magical means of communicating and raising the dead. In addition to Odin’s desire to learn the wisdom and knowledge of the dead, he wanted the best possible warriors for his battle with Fenrir the wolf during Ragnarok. This was despite his knowledge of his impending death during the battle.
Odin is also known as the Allfather or the father of the Gods. He has been listed as the divine ancestor for numerous northern European families. He is also considered a Vanir God and an Aesir God. One of the very first frost giants was his mother Bestla. Odin has been identified as the breath of life by an old Norse poem. The Vikings considered Odin to be a divine force felt in the thunder. This was a divine and sacred inspiration responsible for many different undertakings. Many of them were especially decisive and rarefied for the lives of the Vikings. This may be the reason Odin is the chief of all the Gods. He ruled the realms of life the common people saw as an aspect of their lives.
The Norse believed their Gods were a vital force responsible for holding the cosmos together. Odin was most most vital of all the vital forces, the Allfather and the breath of life. The role Odin played in creating the world was greater than any of the other Gods. He brought enchantment, ecstasy, clarity and insight to life to make it worth living.