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December 16, 2019 2 min read

The poetic Edda Grímnismál in the first person of Odin tells us “Huginn and Muninn fly each day over the spacious earth. I fear for Huginn, that he come not back, yet more anxious am I for Muninn.” Huginn and Muninn are a pair of ravens that fly all over the world, Midgard, and bring information to Odin. Although they appear as common ravens, Odin has given them magical powers and they are able to travel around Midgard in a day. They also have the ability to understand and speak in the language of men. They are wise and don’t just observe, they give counsel to Odin and even advise him. In battle Huginn and Muninn inform Odin of his enemy’s movements and help him guide and heal his horse, Slepnir.

Huginn in Old Norse means "thought" and Muninn means "memory" or "mind”, both words being associated with wisdom. Ravens are, in fact, one of the smartest animals. For example, they imitate wolves to attract them to carcasses that are difficult to break open. Ravens and wolves have a special relationship. When wolves finish eating, they leave the leftovers for the ravens. Ravens even play with wolves, sometimes mischievously by taunting with food or mocking them. With this in mind, you can understand why the wise God Odin chose both ravens and wolves as companions.

The importance of the Raven to the Norse and Vikings is found in images on golden amulets, helmet plates, and shoulder brooches, dating all the way back to the fifth century. They appear on the Oserberg Tapestry, which was discovered onboard a ninth-century Viking funeral ship. Artefacts of ravens have been discovered all over Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and even England. Huginn and Muninn's role as Odin's messengers is seen on the Norse raven banner and general raven symbolism by the ancient Germanic peoples. Many believe their fylgja or hamingja is a raven. A fylgja is a supernatural being or spirit guide which accompanies a person and may appear in dreams or shamanic like states. A hamingja is similar, but is ever present from birth and at death migrates to a family member.

Other cultures from Tibet to Greece have also seen the raven as a messenger for the gods. Celtic goddesses of warfare (such as the Morrigan) often took the form of ravens during battles. The Chinese believed ravens caused bad weather in the forests to warn people that the gods were going to pass by. And native American tribes worshipped the raven as a deity. The Norse and Vikings sought out Huginn and Muninn for guidance and wearing amulets would be a constant reminder of the importance of these ravens.

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