Odin altars (Ask Me About Odin)
Since I didn’t actually get around to answering any of these in December (because my plans for that month differed widely from those of my Husband), I’ve decided to make “Ask Me About Odin” a permanent feature here on my blog, and as an ongoing devotional exercise I’m going to endeavor to answer a new question each Wednesday. At this point, I still have the ones left over from December to get through, and hopefully you’ll send me some more (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask Me About Odin”), but if I run out of questions I guess I’ll just have to make some up, or share some of my Odin-related musings–which will hopefully prove to be inspired or inspiring at least to a degree.
With this in mind, here is our first question:
“I am currently at university and am struggling with ways to set up an altar. I don’t have much room and the desk is a rather odd shape too. I have two framed pictures of Odin and a drinking horn for Him too but I feel like this isn’t enough for Him. I’m not allowed candles, incense, anything that needs to be alight or could catch fire basically.”
This is a tough situation to be in, but not insurmountable by any means. First off, you have an advantage over many of us. “What’s that?” you might ask. Well, take a moment to reflect on your first few words: “I am currently at university.” Just by virtue of your current life situation, you are in a position to show your dedication to Odin not through the collection of pretty tchotchkes (if you’ll pardon my Yiddish) but through action: namely, through mindfully devoting yourself to your studies as an act of devotion to Him. Since scholarship, learning, language, and the seeking of wisdom all come under Odin’s sphere of influence, He will appreciate this much more than a pretty dark blue altar cloth or a raven-shaped incense burner. But even more than that, the Germanic gods are gods of action, of putting your money where your mouth is, and you’ll be demonstrating to Him your awareness that a life (or a few years, or however long a period) of service to Him will involve doing, making plans and then following through with them despite any inconvenient obstacles that might pop up, willingly (and even joyfully) making the sacrifices needed to obtain the goals you’ve set for yourself. You (and/or your parents) have planned and sacrificed for years now for your college education. Your family is counting on you, and probably generations of your ancestors are, too! You are there not only to listen to slightly boring lectures but to actively win knowledge, to seek wisdom, and at this stage of your life the best gift you can give Odin (who is, among other things, the god who gave an eye to Mimir’s Well in pursuit of the very same ideals) is to do your best to show Him that you honor the sacrifices others have made for you, and that you in turn are willing to make the sacrifices you must make (such as not having an ideal altar set-up) in order to get that hard-won education.
This is the important thing, the meat of the matter; all of the other details are just gravy. However, if you’d like to enhance your sacred space for Him, I’d suggest a few functional additions, such as a set of runes; one you make for yourself is best, but if you have no crafting skills you can also purchase a set (handmade by someone else if at all possible; check out Etsy.com for possibilities!) and consecrate it yourself by making a paste of red ochre and a few drops of your own blood, drawn from your finger using a sterile diabetic lancet. (You can purchase a box of these in most drug stores.) You might also consider adding a pretty blank book, which you can use to write letters or notes to Him, or even snippets of poetry if you have a talent for that. If your heart is set on lights, get a string of white or blue holiday lights at a dollar store and string those above your shrine; we did this one year for Yule, and liked the effect so much that we left them up all year round. And although you may not be able to burn incense, you can probably find a small electric potpourri pot at the same dollar store; add some water, plug it in, and you will be able to simmer sacred herbs such as mugwort or juniper for Him without creating a fire hazard or getting into trouble with your dorm.
Lack of room is a challenge, but think of it as a creative one! I have used a single shelf in a book case as my Odin shrine in the past, and am currently using the top of a book case. (We live in a very small duplex apartment.) If you are able to hang things from your walls, one way to expand your available space is to add small decorative shelves or display boxes above whatever space you have set aside for your altar. I am using little display boxes of this type for my new shrine to the Queens, which I plan to post photos of here on the blog in a few days. (Stay tuned and you’ll see!) I didn’t use a drill or screwdriver to mount them, just a hammer and a set of simple picture hooks. You can then use the boxes to display any small treasures (aka tchotchkes) you collect for Him.
I hope this helps!