Happy Saturn’s Day
From this point on I may jump around a bit when to comes to topic on Crossing Bifrost. Mostly now I just want to write on what topics interest me in Norse mythology. I am currently reading a book call The Viking Spirit by Daniel McCoy and I want to acknowledge his contributions to my knowledge on this topic. He is also connected to a website called Norse Mythology for Smart People which I can heartily recommend.
So with acknowledgements out of the way, let’s tackle Odin, The All Father.
Odin is the supreme God of the Norse Pantheon. He probably isn’t the most popular deity even back in the days of the Vikings. Thor probably has that honor and one of the observations I can make is that this is probably the notion that the stories related to Thor are very common man/warrior stories whereas Odin’s tales are one of a leader taking responsibility for his sphere of influence and doing what is necessary to get the job done. I got this feeling just reading them. I guess I can see McCoy’s observation that Odin probably appeals more to the aristocrat while Thor appeals to the soldier is probably dead on.
Odin takes a lot of different forms and take on a lot of different roles to get the job done. He is not just a king sitting on the throne like you see with a lot of pantheons. Odin gets his hands dirty. You see this probably most of all with him donning grey robes and wandering the world looking for the knowledge he needs to forestall Ragnarök. He isn’t afraid to engage in deception to make this happen either. In short, Odin can be the noble warrior god, but he is also a wizard of the first order who uses his brains as much as brawn. He is the smart and clever strategist of the gods and that is why he sits on the throne.
Odin’s accomplishments in the mythology are legion and his mentions in the texts are equally massive. I simply don’t have the space here to list them all. The most notable is his creation of the first two humans (Thus All-Father), His hanging on the world tree to gain knowledge of the runes, his sacrifice of his eye to gain even more knowledge. He leads the Wild Hunt and gains from the Valkyries half of those slain in battle. Mostly though you see his constant struggle to forestall the end of the world – Ragnarök.
His personality is a little shifty. We would probably say that Odin is shady as fuck at times. He engages in bets with his wife and can be quite deceptive. But other times, he is the only brave warrior standing between the world and complete destruction, so you have to give him his dues as the creator and protector of mankind. If he has a sphere of power it is war, ruling and knowledge. In all these he excels.
Personally, he has always appealed to me more than the other gods in the pantheon. His image of the Grey Wanderer I have of course borrowed for the main theme of this blog. His companions of the ravens and wolves and his sacrifice are his eye are part of this blog as well. I like the idea of a grey pilgrim walking the world in an endless quest for knowledge, and so I resonate with Odin.
It could also be said that I find creative ways to interpret the virtues. Odin does that too and I find his example far more pragmatic about this than say Thor. For instance, Truth is a part of the Nine Noble Virtues, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t lie to someone who I found had in the past been deceptive to me. In battle, deception is part of the game and strategy of war, so I am not afraid to use it. Odin is dangerous on a much higher level than Thor because Virtue can be interpreted in many different ways and he sees that. This is very unlike Thor who will just choose to rush in without thought and get his ass kicked, if he wasn’t protected by magical means. Odin is about the glory of victory; Thor is about the glory of battle. Yes, that is a fine line but it is a significant difference. Thor just wants to fight, Odin wants to win.
Popular culture when it comes to Odin seem to me more subtitle. I mean Marvel Kind of finally brought him out in a grand way with Thor, but over the last decades I have not seen many overt references, but rather his imagery is invoked far more than his actual name. Tolkien used his imagery when we think of Gandalf the Grey. Characters who sacrifice to gain knowledge are in his spirit and there are many of these. Ben Ken-obi, Yoda,of Star Wars, etc are like this too with their commitment to knowledge.
I suspect that I; the Grey Wayfarer, will walk in his metaphorical footsteps for some time to come.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.