B is for Blindi (Pagan Blog Project)

Since I’ve already written at length about Odin in His guise of Bolverk (the face He wears in the Mead of Poetry myth cycle), and have at least touched on Bruni and Bjorn (both referring to His bear persona), for this post I decided to focus on a different B name: Blindi.  This name quite obviously means “blind,” and in fact there are several of His names which have to do with His eyesight, such as Tviblindi (“twice blind”), Bileygr (“feeble-eyed.” or possibly “one-eyed”), and Baleygr (“blazing eye”)–although the latter may have more to do with His gimlet gaze than with the loss of eyesight.

Odin’s sacrifice of an eye to Mimir’s Well is one of His most famous myths, second in familiarity only to His ordeal on the Tree.  In Snorri’s version of the tale, as well as in the Havamal section of the Poetic Edda, the transaction is a literal one: Odin wanted to drink from the Well guarded by Mimir in Jotunheim (twin to the Well of Wyrd in Asgard, and according to some views, the very same Well, which is so real and so fundamental to reality that a version of it appears in all worlds, just as with the World Tree itself) and the price named by the Well’s guardian was one of His eyes.  Not to be deterred, Odin obligingly, and without flinching, ripped an eye from His own head (no one can say which one, and last time I checked He wasn’t telling)  and handed it over.  In return, He received His prize: a deep draught from the Well of Memory (Mimir)–basically, the accumulated consciousness and wisdom of all People, from all races—divine and mortal—throughout all time.  What is more, Mimir then cast the severed eye into the Well, where it—according to some—continues to see, and somehow continues to transmit information back to the One who once wore it.

First of all, let me assure you that removing His own eye from His head is not something I would put past Odin even for a second; I could totally see Him doing it.  After all, this is the same god who hanged Himself from the World Tree (ever thereafter known as Yggdrasil—the “steed of Ygg,” aka Odin) for nine nights, after wounding Himself fatally with His own spear.  Pain does not stop Him from achieving an end He has in sight, and while many of His human followers might (justifiably) accuse Him of harshness at times, there is nothing He would put any of us through that He would not (or has not already) done to Himself. That said, I’m not sure how literally we should take this particular myth.  (In fact, mythic literalism is something I really need to devote a post of its own to one of these days, though I’m sure it will rear its ugly head many times during this series.)  For one thing, there is no agreement among either Odinists or anyone else as to which eye was involved. Odin has appeared in my visions (and everyone else’s that I’ve been privy to), sporting either a missing left eye, a missing right eye, or having both eyes present and accounted for–and this is apt to change from one Odin-sighting (if you’ll forgive the pun) tot he next. For another thing, the tale itself seems to be less of a literal recounting of something Odin did and more of a Mystery—something to ponder in search of a deeper understanding of His divine nature, as well as a clue to assist guide those of us who would follow and emulate Him.

Now, when I say “emulate,” I am not recommending that anyone—devotion to Odin notwithstanding—remove one of their eyes, either as a devotional act or in search of enlightenment.  This would be less likely to result in wisdom than massive blood loss, the risk of infection, and possible death (due to the eye’s very close proximity to the brain).  We are not gods, and attempting to emulate Them too closely can be dangerous just as a general principle.  However, if we assume that the story is symbolic rather than literal, why is it that so many of His devotees (myself included) have experienced eye pain, eye surgery, vision changes, and even sometimes blindness in one eye? And why is this such a common trend that it may as well be one of His calling cards?  Is this a sign that the myth is to be taken literally, or does it mean something else entirely?

What if this is not the story of a literal trade, and not even merely a symbolic demonstration of how wise Odin is, or how much of His own blood He is willing to shed in pursuit of that wisdom, but is instead a warning: when you seek vision and understanding greater than that normally allotted to a mortal (or even to a god; the scale changes here, but the principle remains the same) you will pay a price, and that price is the loss of vision (focus, concentration, perspective) in the “ordinary” world, the world of consensus reality.  Almost every devotee of Odin intends, in some way, to extend ourselves beyond our natural reach, to transgress upon territory beyond that which was given to us by the circumstances of our birth and the life we have built since then—in other words, our orlog, what we and those around us have laid down for us up until now.  Like Odin Himself, we mean to push the limits of what we dare to become and achieve, and to leave the expectations and limitations placed on us by others behind us in the dust.   And so, as we stand at the threshold of this journey into the unknown, we are issued a warning. This warning is sometimes translated into literal terms: eye pain, or changes in physical vision that mirror the changes taking place within. To part the veil, to see that which is invisible to all of those around us (the gods, the dead, nature spirits, the threads of wyrd), requires a bit of a trade-off: some of what the “ordinary” people around us can see quite clearly, can keep track of almost effortlessly (fashion trends, water cooler gossip, the latest news from the Tabloids) no longer makes any sense to us, and thus fades from our view.  The deeper we journey into the Mysteries, the more true this becomes. And in turn, we fade from the view of many of those around us; they often simply do not see us, as we no longer fit in with consensus reality; we become fuzzy around the edges, like an image seen through water.

Perhaps this is the secret behind Odin’s mastery of disguises: because He does not fit into the consensus reality even of most other immortal beings—the gods and giants, alfar and dwarves—it is a simple matter for Him to bend their gaze, to make them see Him as He wishes to be seen, or not at all.  But we’ll talk more about that a bit later in the year, when we get to G.

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8 thoughts on “B is for Blindi (Pagan Blog Project)

  1. The last time I saw Odin in a dream it was His right eye that was covered and His left blue eye that glinted as He said ‘It is time.” For what He didn’t elaborate but gave me a mysterious smile before He disappeared. I”ve had problems the last 7 years with what is called ocular migraines which occur ramdomly where one of my eyes will develop flashy blinding lights that dissipate in about half an hour. My doctor said it wasn’t retinal detachment at least. But its still bothersome and I can’t help but wonder if its a side effect of being involved with the Gods.

  2. Your posts are very interesting! I have to admit to knowing absolutely nothing about Norse gods, but your posts are very educational ^_^

  3. Reblogged this on Hammer and Cross and commented:
    “However, if we assume that the story is symbolic rather than literal, why is it that so many of His devotees (myself included) have experienced eye pain, eye surgery, vision changes, and even sometimes blindness in one eye? And why is this such a common trend that it may as well be one of His calling cards?”

    I’m not one of Wodan’s devotees but I, too, have experienced pains of the eye just about every time I honor Him specifically, be it an offering, prayer, or some other working.
    The story of Wodan sacrificing his eye was one of the two first pieces of the lore I read, the other one being the theth of Dunner’s hammer, and at the time, and even still to this day, I thought it was powerful that He cared about his people enough that he gave part of himself so he could drink from the Well of Knowledge so that His people could benefit from His knowledge and experiences.
    Being someone who is mostly blind and being something of a spirit worker who lives much of my life in a very liminal space, I have a ton of respect for the wanWandering Wizard who hung himself on the World Tree.
    But more than that I think that out of all the guises and sides of Wodan I tend to see Him and understand Him the most in this one…. Not to say that I understand Him much of all or know Him all that much personally outside of the very few experiences I have had.
    “However, if we assume that the story is symbolic rather than literal, why is it that so many of His devotees (myself included) have experienced eye pain, eye surgery, vision changes, and even sometimes blindness in one eye? And why is this such a common trend that it may as well be one of His calling cards?”

    I’m not one of Wodan’s devotees but I, too, have experienced pains of the eye just about every time I honor Him specifically, be it an offering, prayer, or some other working.
    The story of Wodan sacrificing his eye was one of the two first pieces of the lore I read, the other one being the theth of Dunner’s hammer, and at the time, and even still to this day, I thought it was powerful that He cared about his people enough that he gave part of himself so he could drink from the Well of Knowledge so that His people could benefit from His knowledge and experiences.
    Being someone who is mostly blind and being something of a spirit worker who lives much of my life in a very liminal space, I have a ton of respect for the wanWandering Wizard who hung himself on the World Tree.
    But more than that I think that out of all the guises and sides of Wodan I tend to see Him and understand Him the most in this one…. Not to say that I understand Him much of all or know Him all that much personally outside of the very few experiences I have had.

  4. I am somewhat intrigued by your blog, however, I am not quite sure the extent to which you believe in Odin: is it figurative, and therefore the gods of all mythology and religion, are essentially translations of one another in different cultures?
    It seems you believe Odin is real, and I concur if your opinion is that myth and its symbols are inextricably woven into the consciousness of mankind, so that their dreams and fantasies are the mechanisms that determine our balances and imbalances psychologically.

    • No, I emphatically do NOT believe the gods are figurative or symbolic, Odin in particular; I am a hard polytheist and a seeress, and I interact with Them much as I interact with mortal people; They are real individuals, just as real–or more so–as you and I. Did you read this post, or anything else on my blog, or even just my bio page or FAQ, before posting this comment? I’m guessing not. How many people do YOU know of who would willingly throw away their entire life for someone not real?

      I’m not sure why it always comes to this–probably a failure of imagination. Why is it that people can’t divorce the idea of the myths from the gods Themselves in their minds, so that if you do not believe every myth–recorded after the advent of Christianity, in most cases–is literally true, you are accused of not believing in the gods? Why is it that one cannot discuss the deeper meanings of a myth cycle without someone assuming that you’re saying the gods Themselves are only figurative? Nowhere–NO. WHERE.–did I write that Odin Himself–the fact of His being–was figurative. But He is a god, and so the recorded legends having to do with Him may not always be literal, and even when they are, they contain lessons and Mysteries for us to examine and learn from. If I say a myth may not be literal, that is NOT the same thing at all as saying the god Himself is not real; the gods grow and change and evolve even as we do.

      As for myths and symbols being woven into our consciousness–yes, I would concur with that, and such things are invariably seen through a cultural lens. But that does not negate the fact that the gods are real. I believe each culture has a similar niche which is filled by a god who may have characteristics in common with other gods who fill that particular niche in other cultures–and often, these roles overlap. Some people, of course, believe that the gods wear a mask appropriate to the culture, but that one god basically fills the same niche in a number of cultures; sometimes I play with that idea, although I will confess it hurts my head.

      I am guessing we are at very different places along the polytheist/humanist spectrum. If you read some of my other posts, you won’t find a whole lot of symbolism. In this series, I am playing with an exploration of my Beloved’s names; it is a very specific exercise. I don’t post disclaimers in my writing as a rule (such as “I am a hard polytheist and am playing with symbolic ideas in this post”) because that makes for stupid writing; I leave it to my readers to feel their way around who I am and what I’m talking about before they make assumptions, just as I would when visiting your online space.

      • If you are insulted I apologize, however, I do not appreciate being called ‘stupid’ by a person I don’t know for simply asking a question. I did read ‘that page’ and several of your posts, however, as with one who calls Almighty God his father, someone who calls Odin her husband is certainly a peculiarity to me and I simply desired confirmation and perhaps an inkling as to how the whole mechanics of being spoken to by a god works. Your choice of worship is not something I care enough about to insult, you are your own compass.

        You actually contradict yourself, first you are curt with me and insult my ‘lack of imagination’ (a dangerous thing to say to someone you think is attacking you); then you agree with me that ‘myths and symbols’ are ‘woven into consciousness’ which is actually what I was querying. Gods real or figurative, someone who finds them conducive conductors of consciousness, can’t be on too wrong a track? Better than Atheists?

        I personally have never been greeted by a god, I would (no sarcasm intended) be very much interested to know what manner of change they could bring to my life. I think the difference is I don’t need to have a god validate my life, I am pleased with my autonomy. But I am certainly jealous of those with strong faith, something I have not been capable of developing. My own contradiction.

        Finally, if you had read my blog before attacking me you would have discovered that my blog deals with dreams and their interpretation from a Jungian perspective, thus the reason for my question and interest in your thinking.

        Actually, being English I believe Odin would be an ancestor of mine, as we were ruled by Scandinavians, King Cnut giving us our days of the week and even influencing our language, maybe I am wrong about this, put me right if I am, I am not quite the ticket see.

        Apologies once more.

        • I’m not insulted; I don’t know you and thus have no reason to care what you think of me. However, this is my blog, so my choices were: 1) to ignore your comment and not approve it–which is what I would have done if it had been an outright attack–which shows that I didn’t really regard it as one, or 2) approve it and reply, in which case I was forced to make my position clear, since apparently it was not. I always prefer discussion where possible, even when I don’t agree, as it offers me potentially new ways of looking at things.

          I didn’t call you stupid; I said that I don’t insert disclaimers into my writing constantly because that makes for “stupid writing.” I’m an English lit grad, so writing well is important to me. I think you my have just seen the word stupid in my response and overreacted, not realizing that I was not applying that word to you. The “lack of imagination” comment was also not aimed at you–or not strictly, anyway. It was mostly aimed at a particular peeve I have with something I call mythic literalism: the reasoning (usually by hard polytheists) that because the gods are real, every myth told about Them must also be literally true. I seem more dimension in the myths than that; in my view, some of them may be literally true, while others are meant to point towards Mysteries, illustrate lessons, or perhaps even warnings. And sometimes they are both literally true and symbolic at the same time, because these are gods we’re dealing with. The fact that I experience the gods as real individuals does not, therefore, mean that I believe every story told about them is literal fact. I had seen this tendency among some of my co-religionists (especially heathens), and it IS a failure of imagination. I had not yet dreamt that a person coming from a humanist perspective might construe my viewing the myths in this way as meaning I have humanist tendencies too. It was frustrating to me to have the post–which I felt was pretty clearly written–misconstrued in the way you did, but I didn’t mean my frustration to come across as an insult to you, for which I apologize.

          I’m not going to get into the details of my interactions with Odin here because there are plenty of posts that go into that in depth on my blog, if you’re interested in reading them. I’m also not going to go into how the relationship has changed my life, because almost every post at least touches on that. But it is not a matter of needing a god to validate my life. I was in my mid-thirties, with a teenaged daughter, bachelor’s degree, and a pretty good job when Odin stepped in to change everything. I had a pretty validated life, and now I have a different one, equally valid, because that is what I chose. I don’t hold it up as being either better or worse intrinsically than other people’s choices, but it is my life so it’s what I blog about, since people seem to be interested in reading about it.

          Odin is the ancestor of the Anglo-Saxon kings as well as the royal line of Norway, so if you have royal blood you may well be correct in that. :) Not knowing my own ancestry is one of my greatest regrets. And I did take a look at your blog; it looks interesting. Everyone has their contradictions; I suppose the fact that I am able to see it both ways–the gods as cultural engines that shape consciousness, and the gods as real beings–is one of mine, but then I’m Odin’s; I believe “contrary” is actually one of His heiti, too.

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