Happy Tyr’s Day!
I want it to be very clear here that as an atheist I do not believe in the literal god Odin. However, I believe the values and aspirations of the Norse/Germanic people are expressed in the stories they tell about their gods. Mythology, if nothing else, is mostly stories that have moral and ethical lessons to them. Things to meditate on and learn the values presented. In all mythology the values of the people who created the mythology are evident.
Odin has always fascinated me. Sure most people look at Thor and think what a cool God. But Thor is a pure warrior with very little magic. Odin on the other hand not only has magic but the magic that is often reserved for women. He has foresight. It is this foresight that drives him to do what he does. He either is trying to prevent what he sees from happening or trying to delay it. He is both a warrior and a mage.
In simple terms, Odin is a conservative in that he tries to conserve the nine worlds as they are and prevent their end. He likes the current state of things and wants to keep it intact. Ragnarok isn’t the end of existence so much as it is a complete change of existence and that is what he is trying to avoid.
To this end, he wanders the world as a solitary person looking for wisdom, power, and knowledge to forestall Ragnarok. He is so dedicated, that he loses an eye, hangs on a tree upside down for nine days, etc. He makes extraordinary sacrifices to conserve what is. To protect what is his own.
In leadership, Odin is different from most chief gods in that he seems to be more of a chairman of the board than a king. He listens to the other gods, tries to build concensus, and then enforces the decision they all made together. In this last part, he acts more like a king. He makes sure ‘the will of the gods’ as a whole is respected and honored.
He has his flaws. He doesn’t seem to think of the possibility that at times his actions might be bringing about the ends he is trying to avoid. The whole story of Fenrir illustrates this point. He foresees his end in the fangs of Fenrir so he tries to take action to diminish Fenrir’s power. In so doing, he actually creates Fenrir’s motivation to destroy him. It also has an incredible cost that could have been avoided -Tyr’s hand is lost. If he rather befriended Fenrir, the outcome might have been very different.
Of course, for me, the image of the wandering god both warrior and wizard is the theme of this blog so it is fitting I talk about him first.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.