“A single name have I never had since first among men I fared.”
Grimnismol (from the poetic Edda)
Odin is a multi-faceted God. As the Allfather (Alföðr) we should expect nothing less. Not only is he ruler of Asgard, but he is all things to all humankind and in many ways we are a reflection of
his complexity. Many can see traits of Odin in themselves and this is why many are drawn to him.
It may seem contradictory to be both a God of War (Sigtýr) and of Magical Songs (Faðr galdr). However Odin learned from the things he experienced. It is his relentless long solitary quests across the Cosmos, away from Asgard that we can learn from. Odin was not concerned with justice, fairness or human laws and customs. He sought out knowledge and wisdom. His journey
is one of self-discovery and independence.
Although esteemed by the Kings and Jarls (Norse chiefs), Odin was also the God of Outlaws. The Norse did not use police to enforce their laws, but like many ancient societies it was up to the people to enforce them. Leaders and legal assemblies had no problem getting their people to enforce laws that were based on social normality that people were expected to live by. Instead of arresting and executing a person guilty of crimes, the Norse declared them an outlaw. They no longer had rights and their property was confiscated. Honour-based revenge killings were commonplace and seen as just.
Why was Odin the God of Outlaws? Many outlaws were exceptionally strong-willed warriors, who liked to challenge what was considered the norm. Many were free thinkers and on more than one occasion, Odin himself was declared an outlaw by the Æsir (Gods and Goddesses of Asgard).
His quest was for knowledge, wisdom and magic. For example, after hanging himself on the ancient World Tree Yggdrasil for nine days and nights, Odin learned nine mighty spells. He shared his new found wisdom as the Teacher of Gods (Haptasnytrir) and as Lord of the Earth (Foldardróttinn).
Whilst wandering the Cosmos and Earth he used many names and disguises to different tribes and that is why similarities can be seen between Odin and Gods of other cultures. The Gylfiginning tells us “….with all the branches of languages in the world, each nation finds it necessary to adopt his name to their language for invocation and prayers for themselves, but some events giving rise to these names have taken place in his travels and have been made the subject of stories…”
Odin was known in Old English as Wōden. Wednesday is from Old English (Wōdnesdæg) and literally means Wōden’s day. The Romans identified Odin as Mercury. In many countries, Wednesday is named Mecredi (in French) or similar meaning Day of Mercury.
Therefore, Odin is not just a God of the Vikings and Norse, but the Allfather and although known to many by another name, his true identity is known by the wise.
Written by Andy Gibbons
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