Questions about Odhinn

Due to a recent conversation on a secret, closed group I belong to it spurred some questions.

Odhinn, by the time of the Anglo Saxon Conversions to Christianity, had the reputation of being treacherous, deceitful, oath breaking, etc.  I think that this, in part, is why the conversion of Anglo Saxon England went easier than Sweden for instance.

He was a God of War.  He required blood.  Lots of it.  He required the triple death in many cases but He was perfectly satisfied to accept blood.  In fact I believe it intoxicated him, much as the Mead of Inspiration did.

So let’s examine this.  Odhinn hung on the tree, sacrificed himself to himself, in search of enlightenment.  That tells me pretty plainly that he is a God in search of not only wisdom, but the evolution that comes from wisdom properly assimilated.

My personal experience, my personal gnosis, of Odhinn, is that he NEVER lies.  He also never tells the whole truth either.  His reputation for treachery, I believe, comes from this very thing.  It allows peoples’ personal biases to to color what they hear, often to their disappointment and peril.  I myself have been guilty of this on occasion.  My gnosis regarding this has made me evaluate most things in my life in this light.  Is it re-affirming personal biases?  Is it beguiling me because it’s what I want to hear?  Am I ignoring signals and evidence I should really be taking into consideration?  This has changed my outlook on life in ways you can’t imagine.  Is my life happier for this?  NO.  But it’s healthier in many ways.

So my questions to you are these:

  1.  How do you think Odhinn approaches His people in the current era?  We don’t sacrifice people to Him any more.  If He gets blood it’s because we give our own.  How does He get our attention now?
  2. How do you think he has changed over the millennia?
  3. Do you think he has evolved?  Is He more, or less treacherous?
  4. Why do you think he has gained such a position of supremacy?
  5. I have added a question – why do you think people are worshipping the Gods more than the wights and ancestors?


Please, take as much space as you need to answer these questions, or make a blog post of your own and link back for me to read.


4 responses

  1. Odin seem like he will fulfill a place of spiritual emptiness inside, at least for most folks. Odin has direction for many aspects of our lives, whether we believe in the Old Norse Gods or not – he is an “All-Father”, A God that represents the purpose we’ve taken in our lives, the direction we want to go, and in the questions that we still have yet to answer – and Odin has many answers to the directions our life may take, although we are mostly are still in the dark about them. My pledged Kindred had a discussion about that the other night – how “fickle” he is.

    Many of us, myself most especially, associate with the land wights. My wife knows this. I’ve always felt a connection with the land, and especially with the sea (when I’m near it and can experience it). To me, our connection with this round clump of rock and water we call Earth, is the most important thing to the human races’s future, as much as it was to our ancestors. The spiritual connection that we feel to our ancestral homeland is not only spiritual, but genetically linked to us as well. To me, we ARE the Earth – we are it’s caretakers, and need to respect and honor the other species that we share this planet with.

    I, for example, am still learning more in depth about the Norse Gods, and what they represent, and I have one that I would like to explore more. One that I feel more associated with. While I’m working with this entity, I only hope that I can easily still easily recognize and work the All-Father, to more fully understand his sacrifice for us and recognize when his influence affects my life and my spirituality in my daily life.

  2. Even though I am not a Heathen and don’t know much about Odin, the questions you raise are of a somewhat generic kind in polytheistic theology and can more or less apply to many other traditions and Gods. I have previously reflected on similar topics and I always find it important to do so, while at the same time believing that priests (properly trained and with proper experience) are most fit for answering these concerns. In any case, here are some of my thoughts:
    1. I find the notion of a major God “approaching” people problematic, if “calling” is meant by that. It seems satisfying to be requested for service by a God, but I doubt that such a thing really takes place. You know how we sometimes are reluctant to ask a favor of others for fear of rejection? It’s rather low for a God to stoop, especially a major one (as opposed to a local hero or ancestor), and risk rejection. Calling takes place, in my view, by the mediation of ancestors. But the question remains, how can a major God be served? I would say only a community can do it, because that’s how it was historically. In the mean time, I guess Odin and other major Gods are being served within their pantheon and ethnic sphere by heroes, ancestors, spirits, minor Gods, etc etc.

    2 & 3. It is impossible to know and, may I add, unnecessary to know, even for priests. The essence of polytheism is not theological investigation and characterization but rather the correct practice and dedicated continuity of ancestral tradition, rituals and veneration. Sometimes, out of love for the Gods, we may unawares engage with them with more familiarity than would be desirable, in the same way that we would, for example, with the favorite character in our favorite novel series. And perhaps we inquire conversely, which probably matters more: suppose Odin himself ask questions 2 & 3 (or similar ones) about the Germanic peoples!

    4. There must be an answer for it in mythology. The Greeks know how Zeus came to the ascendency of power. In the absence of a mythological reason, historical investigations can be made, but these aren’t necessary and can sometimes go in the wrong direction. But as a general rule, certain Gods rise to supremacy through war or some great distinguishing deed (mythological reason), through a universality of popular worship (historical reason 1) or through an influential priesthood (historical reason 2).

    5. There are two reasons I can think of, one positive and one negative. For the former, they are interested in major Gods because they love and admire them through mythology, and because there aren’t local heroes or Deities that provide an alternative. The negative reason would be that people think too highly of themselves and are ambitious– I am thinking particularly of those who call themselves high priests or even worse, as if by royal decree, sons or daughters or spouses of Gods, which is as much as to say, they are demi-Gods… My site states that I worship Zeus, but all what I do is an occasional prayer towards an oak tree near my home (I can’t do more because I am a crypto-polytheist); if I were to become a high priest one day it would need to be by the approval of a community and (more importantly) through an approval of other learned priests. And to become a Demi-God (if such a thing were possible) is the decision of the Gods after death, not during life. It’s concerning that some people (if not many) desperately wish to relive mythology as individuals, but are not active enough for the establishment of community.

  3. I wanted to answer this a few days ago, but several misfortunes distracted me.

    I can’t remember any myth where Odin actually lies to someone. Duplicity is a different thing, some of that is found in his dealings with jotnar. He never lied to them though, he exploited exact words or was wronged by them first. As for Odin’s favored(kings or warriors usually), people tend to have expectations that are unwarranted. Just because you have favor from a god does not mean you will get whatever you want, and death comes regardless of that as well. A lot of the idea of Odin turning on his favorites(like Sigmund) that gets played up is because of false expectations on the part of moderns. Sigmund accepted that it was his dying day and that Odin let him fight for as long as he did. Erik the Victorious devoted himself to Odin, which effectively meant a promise to be in Odin’s hird(what the einherjar basically are). Erik knew his life would be short because Odin calls his men whenever he wants to. Many tend to forget about the idea of wyrd, or the various factors(family spirits, norns, hamingja) that help shape a life, and blame everything on Odin alone(usually him and not some other god).

    1. There is plenty of war today, even if Odin is not named by those waging them. Whether he has anything to do with any of them, we can only guess. There will be quite a bit of conflict in the future as well. As long as there is life there will be struggle. I expect that more in the future will call on Odin’s favor for victory. But war is not all there is to Odin. Traders, outcasts, travelers, poets, knowledge seekers, all those have reason to gain his favor even today. He can still send omens or dreams to get people’s attention if he wants it. Odin wanders in many forms as well, so he may have approached many people at different times for his own reasons, even up to today. I often wonder if the heathen revival has to do with him. It has been going on in stages since the 19th century, like something repressed returning.

    2-3. Within the past few centuries, I have no idea. Who knows how long that would be to a god. The stories about him describe how he gains and loses things, learns, and interacts with others. Whether changed in character because of that is hard to say.

    4. If you mean the high esteem the Germanic peoples held him in, I think this is because the ancients had an oral culture that valued poetry and the spoken word, valued warfare, and valued the type of shamanic practices associated with Odin. At least some(our dominant sources) thought of him as the chief of the gods. Even if he is the ruler, the myths do not show him as an absolute ruler over the other gods. At one point (if we take Gesta Danorum seriously) Ullr took things over while Odin left. I think that Thor was regarded by more people as being the most important in the past. In several sources chieftains had images of Thor carved on their high seats, and his hammer as a symbol was ubiquitous. Thor homologues like Perun, Perkunas, Taru, or Ukko(or Thor Karl or Oku Thor) were worshiped as chief gods by surrounding peoples with IE origins or influence. Zeus, Tarhunna, Jupiter, and Indra fall into this category as well. Sky gods associated with thunder, lightning, rain, often with a hammer or axe, warriors that fought some kind of serpent. The Germanic peoples seem to be the odd ones out. We don’t know if Odin was at all times regarded as the most important, but from the archaeological evidence he is shown to be important to the warriors and nobles. That alone might explain his high position.

    One thing I can point to about Odin is how similar he is to the Vedic god Rudra. There are a lot of examples I can bring up. Rudra’s worship has evolved down many different lines today, but I am mainly thinking of the archaic evidence. Rudra like Odin has auspicious and terrible aspects. Both are wild, uncontrollable, and dangerous, but also wise, beneficial, and holders of secret knowledge. Both are associated with what is liminal, outside of civilization and terrible as well as with averting ills, healing, and bringing victory. Rudra was considered the highest god by his ascetic and consecrated warrior followers. His dedicated followers go looking for knowledge or power, even if they have to become outsiders to human society to get it. Odin among the Germanic peoples was the same, and like Rudra he was the patron of the tribe’s consecrated warriors and youths. Rudra(or his variants, though Prajapati, Skanda, Surya and Vishnu also rose in importance) edged out Indra over time as the most important god in many places even in ancient times. There is much more to it, but I decided to shorten this. My basic point is that Odin and Thor have a similar dynamic between them to Rudra and Indra(and both rose to importance over the thunder god), and I think this is something more archaic than both cultures.

    From the myth we have of creation, Odin would be the most important simply because he was around before most gods or any other beings. He sets everything in order after causing most of the primordial jotnar’s deaths. He gives the first humans his gift of spirit(in Norse the same word as what his name derives from). He is the ancestor of many important lineages, and the literal father of many gods.

    5. Thinking born of religious ideas heavily influenced by Christianity and modernism is part of the reason. There is also the fact that many who get into heathenry do so with only a glance at commonly known sources. Or even just summaries derived from those popular sources. Land wights and elves don’t have a big role in the myths that most know. Those factors lead to a focus on the big name gods, or even just one of those gods(often Odin). The host of minor divinities and spirits all around don’t have names, forms, or stories familiar to most of us. There are a few that have some folklore about them in certain locales, but those are often not well known. Therefore many starting out don’t bother with them or are not even aware of them.

    Westerners in general don’t come from backgrounds where land wights, ancestors, nature spirits, elves, fairies, genii, and etc. are believed in, let alone worshiped. I had to carefully explain to someone I know that I was not joking about believing in them. I was actually just talking about ancestors, the other person derisively said “who cares they’re dead”. Many think of worship only as something directed at a god in a religious structure like a church or temple, not in a field or forest. They also tend to think of worshiping a god as connected to getting into some afterlife. I have seen that many substitute Valhalla for the vague idea of heaven that has seeped into the brain from exposure to popular Christianity(even if only light exposure). There have been posts on social media I have seen go around about getting to Valhalla for dying of cancer, or how some child who died was received there by Odin. No one associates land wights or ancestors with getting into “heaven”.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I see many important points about what you have posted and I’m going to have to look into the mythology of Rudra more.

      Your points regarding ancestor and land wight/fairy/genii belief and worship is spot on, I have noticed the same but wasn’t sure if I was over thinking it. This is one of my focuses for the coming year, to develop a strong ancestral devotion practice as well as a more structured wight devotional practice.

      As soon as I hit send I’m going to think of more to add to this but I might just make it a separate post. Thank you!

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