How did you know? (Ask Me About Odin)

bf1bd9711584dcad574acdedcaff88b6“How did you know Odin wanted to marry you?” is a question I get quite a lot.  Often it’s asked because people are trying to figure out what a particular god they’re involved with wants from them; other times it’s simple curiosity–which is understandable, even these days when every other blog I look at seems to have a godspouse behind it.  (I sometimes fool myself into thinking that means there are a lot of us, but in actuality we are still a rarity within the whole pagan demographic. What it really means, perhaps, is that I need to branch out and read a more diverse selection of blogs. )

It isn’t Wednesday, obviously, but I don’t think I’ll be confining the “Ask Me About Odin” posts to Wednesdays any longer, just dropping them in whenever I have the time and inclination to answer one.

I was 35 years old.  My daughter was a teenager and I was in a marriage that was okay at times but felt emotionally abusive at times too.  I had been more or less a Wiccanesque pagan since the age of thirteen, but hadn’t really had close relationships with any particular gods, except that for my entire life, for as long as I could remember, I’d had the sense that someone was watching over me, that some unseen Person was walking along with me and shaping my path and my life’s experiences.  I first encountered Him consciously at the age of eight when I met the Wild Hunter—the ancient, raw, savage Power that I discovered hiding behind the mask of Santa Claus that Christmas—and from that moment I knew He was there and had always been there with me.

As time went on, I had names for Him, but none that anyone else would have recognized, and He assumed a few different masks, but none that anyone other than me would have been able to put a name to.  He left me some really big clues about His identity as time went on, all of which I only grasped the meaning of in retrospect (such as, at my wedding to my ex, the DJ playing “Ride of the Valkyries” instead of the piece my ex and I had selected, “Ave Maria,” for my wedding march).

But it wasn’t until I was 35, and my daughter mostly grown, that He chose to fully unmask Himself.  I had expected my life to go on as always: work, family, tolerating my husband’s lectures and general dissatisfaction with everything I did, etc., but then two things happened: I developed fibromyalgia (which seems to be linked to the chronic fatigue my ex and I had both suffered years before), and a god claimed me.  I was in the bookstore with my ex when a book cover called to me from across the room.  I went and picked it up; it was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, an author I had never heard of before, but the mention of a coming storm in the blurb was compelling; it spoke to me on a deep level somehow.  I bought it and took it home, read it, and suddenly had a name to put to the Power who had stalked me throughout my entire life, and who now wanted a central place in it.

Type “godspouse” into Google now and you’ll probably come up with a couple of dozen blogs at least (as I mentioned before), but at the time it was a virtually unknown practice, and I had certainly never heard of the concept beyond the marriage-lwa of Vodoun.  But Odin made it very clear to me in a short period of time that He wanted me to be His wife.   How did He let me know? How was I so sure?  Even though our marriage may have seemed sudden to an outside observer, His courting of me had been a long, gradual, organic process, which I could only look back on and understand after the fact.  There were dreams, and a bizarre variety of omens and portents (odd comments both from people I knew but was not close to–such as a college professor–and from strangers, significant music playing on the radio in perfect timing to answer questions or concerns I had, crows always following me when they were not that common in my area (due to West Nile virus)…probably a hundred other little things I journaled about at the time, some of which might not have seemed significant to anyone else than me.  I did not have anyone do a divination for me because there were no spirit workers offering such services at that time.  But even if it were all happening to me right now, I would avoid asking for divination because whether they mean to be or not, people are unavoidably biased (due to their own filters) in the answers they give regarding this issue, and they often unwittingly give an answer that is more about status and their own desires than the messages they are getting from the gods. This is why I will not perform such divinations myself; I am not holding myself up as being any better.

So, the short answer to the question “How did you know?” is that I was in love and I felt my love returned; it felt deep and true and real, more real than any relationship I had ever had with a human in my life, and really with all of the other signs I was getting and had gotten all through the years that was enough for me; there was no need to look for validation from other people.  (I have gotten plenty of it through the years, but I have never looked for it.) I had already developed romantic feelings towards Him in His other guises that He’d assumed throughout my life, and at this point, faced with a clearer view of the magnificence of all that He is than I’d ever been granted before, I could do nothing but say yes.  Of course, that “yes” demanded that I completely overhaul my entire life, which I think is why He waited until my daughter was almost grown.  It involved my separating from (and eventually divorcing) my then-husband, who could not understand the reality or importance to me of what I was experiencing, but in the end this was  probably in his best interests, as asking him to compete for my attention with a god would just not have been fair.

This was the primary crossroads of my life: giving myself utterly to a god, and a god whose path is characterized by sudden, sweeping change, paradoxes, and the continual stalking of oneself in search of power and knowledge.  I have not for one moment regretted this decision, even though it made my life extremely difficult for the first few years of adjusting to being without my ex-husband’s income and without having a physical man around the house to do the hard work and lifting, and especially adjusting to being without a car.  And this adjustment period happened at the same time my fibro (which I got diagnosed with within a year or two afterwards) was getting worse.  However, if I had just gone on with my mediocre marriage and not taken this step, I would never have ended up living with my now-partner (who I met online at a pagan discussion board, where we started discussing gods), would never have had the luxury of the time and energy I have been able to devote both to my spiritual life and to my crafting (since my ex was very jealous of my time, especially if I wanted to do anything that didn’t involve him), and would never have moved from Philadelphia to Eugene, Oregon, which is such a gorgeous and wonderful place to be with its abundance of happy nature spirits.  My vows of sacred marriage to Odin have been the turning point in my life where I finally began to live it for myself (and for Him), rather than for what the other people in my life had expected.

Did Odin inspire the Santa Claus legend? (Ask Me About Odin)

I’ve been meaning to get back to the “Ask Me About Odin” questions, since I have a few of them saved up.  I spent most of November writing a book (which I am now about 40,000 words into–probably about halfway through the first draft) at the same time as I was trying to keep my little Etsy business going.  Sadly, this didn’t leave a lot of time for blogging.  Things are still crazy-busy around here (now, after really awesome sales throughout the month of November, I need to work on getting some inventory back in my shop again, plus I am taking two online courses–more about that in another post, perhaps).  But this landed in my inbox this morning and I figured, why not write a little something seasonal today?

I keep hearing from different sources that Odin is the inspiration for Santa Claus, but I hear the same thing about Thor too. Which, if either, is it?

As some long-time readers of this blog are probably aware, I learn heavily towards the “Yes, Odin inspired Santa!” side of this question, but that’s at least partly because my first memory of Him, when I was eight years old, involved seeing Him as Santa Claus (okay, a somewhat sinister version of Santa Claus) leading the Wild Hunt.  There is a lot of evidence that Odin’s role as Wild Hunter may have either directly or indirectly fed into the Santa myth, as the Germanic tribal peoples as well as the pagan Scandinavians believed the Wild Hunt swept through the skies in order to drive away the evil spirits of winter, thus ensuring fertility for the following year’s crops.  Yup, you heard me right: as scary as the Wild Hunt is, they’re essentially the good guys.  And if that idea doesn’t frighten you, it should.  This is the true gift the Wild Hunt and Odin (and thus Santa Claus, if you believe they’re one and the same) bring to us at Yule, and our ancestors knew it.  When They’re doing Their job correctly, you never even have to find out what They saved you from.

the_wild_hunt_by_lyekka-d6vrnw1

There is also a fair amount of evidence that our current Santa myth may have been at least partly influenced by Thor, who is thought to spend the winter slaying as many hostile frost giants as possible–“hostile” meaning those who are a direct threat either to Asgard (home of the Northern gods) or to mankind.  Thor rides through the skies in a chariot pulled by two goats (which are at least horned ruminants, if not quite reindeer), His color is red (unlike Odin’s which is blar, a Norse word usually translated as blue/black or grey, the color of death), and He is known for being somewhat more jolly of temperament than His father; all of these facts undoubtedly played into our current Santa myth.  I have also heard some bids for Freyr as Santa, probably because of His lordship of the elves paralleling Santa’s army of elven toy makers.

Thor_by_ronchironna

Thor_by_ronchironna

When you get right down to it, none of the Scandinavian gods match up with Santa in every detail, probably because Santa is (in my belief, anyway) more of an amalgam of various gods and spirits, as well as one Christian saint–although I do believe any of the three gods mentioned above (and probably Others as well) can wear the Santa “mask” when They see fit.

So, where is the evidence connecting Odin with Santa, specifically?  Well, the trail I myself followed (at the age of eight, roughly) is this: Santa as he is so widely known today—the Santa of greeting cards and shopping malls, the jolly old fat elf in his red suit trimmed in white fur—is a fairly recent invention, only going back to the late 1800s, when a Harper’s Weekly cover and a Coca Cola ad popularized his current appearance.  Before that, when his lore was first brought to this country by Dutch immigrants, he had been depicted as an old, bearded Dutch sailor with a pipe, a green winter coat, and a wide-brimmed hat (bearing, for me, echoes of Odin’s famous floppy-brimmed hat).  This Dutch version of Santa was known as Sinterklaas, and he traveled across the world to visit boys and girls on a white horse instead of in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer.  He was attended by a servant known as Black Peter or Zwart Piet, who scouted out the area and prepared the way for his arrival, and also did the dirty work of delivering the presents and punishing any naughty children by beating them with a switch.

Sinterklaas_by_Nhaar

Sinterklaas_by_Nhaar

Sinterklaas was, in turn, based on Saint Nicholas, a 3rd century saint with a penchant for miracle-working and secret gift-giving.  On December 6th, his feast day, Dutch children left carrots and oats in their shoes by the fireplace as an offering to Saint Nicholas’ horse, and in the morning they would find the carrots and oats replaced by candy and presents.  St. Nicholas made quite the impressive figure sitting astride his white horse, with his high bishop’s miter and fur-trimmed red robes; and yet sometimes, instead of the bright cherry-red we would associate with Santa Claus, his robes were depicted as a darker, blood red, or purple, or blue.

stnicholas-serbian-fresco

And, the reasoning goes, St. Nicholas was in turn based on Odin–or was, at least, the saint who replaced him in Scandinavian countries during the Christianization of Europe.  Picture Him as a lean, robust silver-bearded figure in dark blue and grey, His cloak flying out behind Him as He rides, His floppy-brimmed hat pulled down to cover His missing eye, the one remaining eye burning like a blue supernova.  Of course, instead of a white horse, He rides a grey eight-legged horse, Sleipnir (whose eight leggedness perhaps fed into the idea that Santa’s sleigh was pulled by eight reindeer), and instead of Black Peter, He is of course accompanied by his two ravens and two great wolves.  We can keep the elves in the story (after all, there are plenty of elves and fae in the Wild Hunt), and we can add in a hoard of ghostly warriors on ghostly mounts, a slew of other indescribable monstrous creatures, a bevy of ghostly woman clad in white (the Valkyries, or corpse goddesses), and a pack of red-eyed black hounds. yipping and baying as they race along after the wolves through the storm-torn winter skies.

The Wild Hunt

Quite the picture, isn’t it?  Merry Christmas!

A few links to check out for more information/entertainment on this topic:

Irrefutable Proof that Santa is Odin

Odin Claus

Wikipedia’s Santa Claus article

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping (a story by yours truly)

Odin, Balder and Loki [Ask Me About Odin]

Recently, I was asked about a comment I had made in another post, related to Balder’s death: that it was not an act of treachery on the part of Loki, but rather an act of loyalty, in which He helped His brother perform an abhorrent but needful task, the sacrifice of His beloved son as a substitute for Himself as sacred king.  I was asked whether this idea was something that had some basis in the surviving lore, or whether it was information Odin had imparted to me directly.

In answer to that question, this was Told to me by Odin, but it is a UPG widely held among many of His people, as well as many of Loki’s.  (And perhaps Balder’s as well, though I have not encountered many devotees of His.)  Although there is no direct support in the Scandinavian lore for this interpretation, one must always keep in mind that most of these tales were only committed to writing after the Christian conversion, so there was a great tendency to cast Balder as a Christ figure and Loki as a demonic one.  Interestingly, the Danish version of this tale as set down by Saxo Grammaticus portrays Balder less as a Scandinavian Christ and more as spoiled young man who got into trouble by stealing someone else’s girl.  The real Balder, as I perceive Him, was certainly not perfect, but He knowingly and willingly made the decision to die in His father’s stead to fulfill a debt to the land, the debt that a sacred king is traditionally called to pay in appeasement when certain offenses against the land have taken place.  In the mythos of sacred kingship, the blood of the king’s son is thought to be an acceptable substitute for the king’s own blood, and that blood–the blood of a sacred and royal line–must always soak into the soil, as it did when Balder was slain.    There is, perhaps, a weak echo of this tradition within the Norse world in the tale of King Aun of Sweden, who sacrificed one of his sons to Odin every ten years until he had only one remaining, at which point the Swedes made him stop.  The motif of the sacrifice of a chieftain’s son is also found throughout the Old Testament.

This query was sent my way on Monday or Tuesday, so it seems timely that Heather just posted a bit of UPG from someone on Silenthouse on Tumblr about Loki, Odin, Balder, and “the myth of the two-man con”–the perception that somehow Odin and Loki tricked Balder into His death.  Although I don’t perceive this drama as playing out again every year, nor do I tie it to the Summer Solstice in my own practice, I am strongly in agreement with the spirit of this post.

And so, since it seems many do associate Balder’s death with today, the longest day of the year, I have chosen today to post my own fictional version of the tale.  It began as a simple story about Odin’s work with plant spirits and morphed, as I was writing it, into something much darker:  the story of a terrible wyrd, an offence committed and set right, the debt a sacred king owes to his land, and a young god who, although not a Christ figure, is a hero in the truest sense of the word.  You can read it here.

Questions from readers?

A while back, when I mentioned here that I would be taking a short break from writing new posts in order to prepare for my renewal of vows ritual (which took place this past Tuesday, on May Day Eve), I also mentioned that when I returned to active blogging I’d be opening myself up to questions from my readers, as many other bloggers have done.  I’ve been encouraging readers to Ask Me About Odin for several months now (and you are still welcome to send in your questions about Him specifically: wodandis@gmail.com), but now I would like to widen that a bit and invite you to send ask me anything you’d like to know about myself, my practice, etc.

Some examples of things you can ask about, for example:

- my spiritual background

- oracular seidhr

- hearth witchery

- godspousery

- sacred queenship

- my group of Disir known as “the Queens”

- my other Disir and ancestors

- Making as a spiritual path

- hand spinning and the fiber arts

- the other gods I honor (principally, Bestla, Gunnlod, Bragi, Loki, Thor, Frigga, and Idunna; for Poseidon questions I will send you over to my partner, Jolene)

- and, of course, as always, Odin.  (I am going to keep making Ask Me About Odin posts, incidentally, but they may not take place each and every Wednesday.)

In this same vein, I should mention that I have changed the name of my PaganSquare blog over at the Witches & Pagans site; it is now “Threads: Musings from a godwife and heathen artisan.”  The intro text is:  “A twisting (and sometimes twisted) exploration of godspousery, seership, hearth witchery, and the mysteries of traditional femininity.”

I made this change (with the kind approval of editor-in-chief Anne Newkirk Niven) because I haven’t felt moved to write specifically about Frigga for quite some time now, and have become more comfortable, during the past six months or so, writing more directly about my path, including some of its more personal aspects.  This change will enable me to post more actively and less self-consciously over there, since so much of what I end up posting has been about my path with Odin and/or being a godspouse anyway, and will help me interweave the content of that blog more effectively with this one.

So, send me your questions (email me: wodandis@gmail.com)! I might answer them here, or I may answer them over at Threads!

Odin and herbs [Ask Me About Odin]

“What herbs are associated with Odin?”

A couple of people asked this, separately, a while back, so an answer is well overdue!  (I know I said I was taking a break on posting, but my fingers are itchy, and this post was almost finished anyway!)

The Norse myths don’t really mention any sort of connection between Odin and herbs (unless you count the mistletoe that figures into the tale of Balder’s death) but the 10th century 2nd Merseburg Charm (written in Old High German) draws a connection between the continental Germanic Wodan and healing (in it, Wodan is shown healing the leg of Balder’s horse after a number of other deities try to do so and fail), and the more famous 11th century Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Galdor shows Woden banishing poison by invoking “nine glory twigs,” which are associated with the nine herbs described in the remainder of the text.

From my own perspective, Odin is a master of both herbal medicine and herbal magic, both of which arts He learned at the knee of His Mother, Bestla.  A frost giantess, Bestla gets only the briefest of mentions in the Poetic Edda (as the mother of Odin and His brothers, the sister of Mimir, daughter of a giant named Bolthorn, and wife of the Aesir grand patriarch Borr, Odin’s father), but She began making Herself known to me a few years after my Marriage to Odin and has approached selected others here and there since then.  She is not quite as outgoing as many of the Jotnar have become in recent years–as Asgard’s Queen Mother, it seems to be Her position that She has no need to be–but when She does make Her presence known in your life, the impact is both powerful and unmistakable.  She is, in my UPG (obligatory disclaimer), a mistress of the twin arts of both healing and poisoning, and although She taught Her eldest son much of what She knows, there are still some dark corners of this very dark art that She has kept to Herself, in reserve.  (Although I suspect She has also whispered a few of Her secrets to Odin’s Etin-wife Gunnlod, brewer and guardian of the Holy Mead.)  What Odin did learn from His Mother, however, He learned very, very well–enough so that He could easily reconstruct the crushed leg of a horse by binding “bone to bone, blood to blood, joints to joints” (the arts of binding and unbinding being, after all, among His premier talents), enough so that He could even restore a kind of life to the severed head of His uncle, Mimir.  Of course, whether He did these things with the help of herbs or solely through operational seidhr is unknown, but He certainly did learn from Bestla how a single herb can often be either a poison or a remedy, and since Odin’s skill at taking life is almost universally acknowledged, crediting Him as a healer as well is not much of a stretch.  (To paraphrase a common tenet of witchcraft, “he that can harm, can heal.”)

Herbs–and poisonous/psychoactive herbs in particular–have always fascinated me, but it has only been in recent years that I’ve had the time, freedom, and disposable income to follow up on this interest.  My day job (which, as I recently mentioned, is at an herb company) has certainly helped, not only in giving me the opportunity to study herbs on company time (in the interest of better customer service), but also in helping me to build a substantial home herbal cabinet at a deep discount and sometimes for free.  In the meantime, I also began my own Nine Herbs garden in 2010 (and am starting a new one at our current residence this year) and began experimenting with making a number of herbal concoctions in the kitchen, from Nine Herbs oil to lavender spinning wheel wax to Odin candles (containing mugwort, Amanita muscaria, and other goodies).

To return to the original question, probably the first herbs most Pagans or Heathens would think about in connection with Odin are the Nine Herbs from the Anglo-Saxon charm.  The trouble is, matching up some of the Anglo-Saxon names given in the charm with the names of plants in modern English poses a bit of a challenge.

According to the book Pagan Christmas, by Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebelling (which I highly recommend, by the way), they are as follows:

mugwort (“oldest of all herbs”)
plaintain (“mother of herbs”)
stone root (“drives away evil”) – stinkweed or pennycress)
wormwood (“venom-loather”)
chamomile
wergulu (maybe chicory)
apple
chervil
fennel

(phrases in quotations above are from the Anglo-Saxon herb charm, 11th c.)

Whereas, the nine herbs I settled on in 201o when I set up my own Nine Herbs garden were:

1)     Chamomile (regarded as an herb that represents Asgard, home of the Northern gods, by many in the Northern Tradition)

2)     Crab-apple (the apple being a common symbol of the underworld as well as eternal life in several European traditions)

3)     Fennel (a common ingredient in Northern European baking)

4)     Plantain (a skin-healing herb with very phallic flowers)

5)     Stinging Nettle (which can cause a painful sting that is reminiscent of the rune Algiz, and also ironically an effective folk treatment for rheumatism and arthritis)

6)     Mugwort (known as an aid to divination and prophetic dreaming, and one of the primary herbs associated with Odin, in my personal experience as well as that of many others)

7)     Wormwood (used to make the infamous drink absinthe; contains the hallucinogenic phyto-chemical thujone)

8)     Sweet cicely (one of the herbs commonly used to flavor the Scandinavian liquor called Aquavit, which in the experience of many Odinists is one of His favorite drinks)

9)     Corn salad (the winter lettuce known as “rampion” in the fairy tale Rapunzel; its theft from the witches garden by the heroine’s mother is the reason for her imprisonment in the tower)

In the final analysis, I’m sure there are as many different interpretations of the Nine Herbs as there are individual Odinists (and/or Northern Tradition spirit workers), so all I can suggest is my own modus operandi: do your own research, use your own intuition, and ask Him (though it wouldn’t surprise me at all if He gives everyone who asks a slightly different answer).

In addition to the Nine Herbs, here are some of the herbs that have stuck out for me (and others) as being particularly associated with Him:

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) – a very beautiful and very deadly blue-purple flower; also known in Germany as Odin’s hat or storm hat

Fly Agaric mushroom (Amanita muscara) – the infamous white-flecked red mushroom also known as “raven’s bread”); one of the stories of this particular fungus’ origin has it that it sprang forth from Sleipnir’s spittle where it hit the ground as Odin rode Him during the Wild Hunt

Yew – I believe that this is the “needle-ash” referred to as Yggdrasil in Voluspa, but the tree is for me also very strongly redolent of both Odin and His Mother, Bestla.  All parts of this tree are deadly poison, except for the arils of its berries (which I have tasted, by the way; be very careful if you try them though, as the seeds ARE poisonous), yet it is currently being used as an anti-cancer medication–a perfect example of the close and symbiotic relationship between poison and remedy.

Mistletoe –  in Scandinavia mistletoe sprigs were used as “wishing rods” and were thought to open treasure boxes.  A protective barrier against witches and sorcerers and a key to vitality and good luck, but also a vehicle for witches’ flight, especially when found growing in birch trees.  Called “witches’ broom” in the vernacular.

Ivy – I know most people would think of Dionysos first with this one, but ivy is a very English plant as well, and there is a connection with Woden through the wild man/Green Man, and as a “snake spirit” plant and an intoxicating herb).

Juniper – in Germany, one of the folk names for this plant is wodansgerte.  Protective and has been used as a “life rod” (one of a number of plants traditionally used for ritual beating of women and virgins to encourage fertility).   The berries, also known as weiheichen (holy berries) have been used as a substitute for frankincense in the North.  Heals rheumatism, asthma, pain in the chest or side, sleepiness, depression, and lunacy.  An ingredient in beer, schnapps, and gin.  Used in protective amulets.

Rye (used for brewing a special Christmas beer, Wodelbeers (Wodan)

Poppy – cultivated in southern and northern Germanic regions from very ancient times, fields of poppy were  called “Odin’s ground” (Odainsackr) and seen as sacred healing sites where Odin performed haling wonders.  Poppy juice was believed to ward off demons; poppy seeds are a traditional food of witches and the dead.  Also associated with fertility and prophecy as well as prosperity.  Poppy seeds must be sown on Christmas Eve, three days before that, or on a Wednesday.

Mugwort – I need to mention this one again because it is so very significant as an herb for Him, with the bonus of being inexpensive, non-toxic, and widely available.  Mugwort also has a very special place in my heart as one of my own particular allies from the green world.  Also called felon herb, naughty man, old man, and old Uncle Harry (Harr).  Promotes fertility and the transition of souls from the other worlds to earth and vice versa.  Was used both as a childbirth aid and in graves, and burned on bonfires for the dead.  A boundary plant that grows by roadsides.  Protection, love and sex magick.  Traditionally used to season the St. Martin’s Day goose to call Wodan’s attention to the sacrifice and induce Him to hear and fulfill the wishes of those making it. (St. Martin’s Day is November 11th, on the evening of which St. Martin can be seen, in Germany, riding a white horse through the sky.  Farmers finish their year’s work on this day and make an offering to St. Martin—clearly Wodan—of cheese, wool, bread, or flax, also leaving hay or oats in front of their house for his horse.)

Clover (trifolium) – through its associations with sorcery, astral travel and flight, shamanic initiation, and the fact that the plant spreads so easily, making it a “world wanderer.”

Plantain – used in witches’ incense as well as smudging incense to ward against witches. Had to be dug up with a tool other than iron.  Wards off worms, fevers, and evil spirits; protects against love charms; wins lawsuits.

And that should be enough to get anyone started on their own personal herbal cabinet for Him!

Books for learning about Odin [Ask Me About Odin]

Spiritwize asked: “I’m wondering what books you recommend to folks that want to learn more about Odin? While lore, historical stuff, etc. is my primary target I’d be interested to know what other works you recommend in regards to Odin.”

I was going to do a follow-up music post for this week’s installment, but then received this question and thought I’d go with it instead, since I did promise to put a list of source materials up on this site and haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. (It has been a rough year for me so far health-wise; my doctor changed my fibro meds and I’m still adjusting to that, as well as dealing with side effects.) Since Spiritwize asked about lore and historical books, we’ll start there and then drill down to a few more UPG-heavy selections.

Disclaimer: I am not a lore scholar, and I’m not trying to provide a comprehensive list of sources with this post, just the most important-to-me ones that occur to me, off the top of my head, while I’m writing it. I’m also intentionally not including books that focus more specifically on northern tradition magic or shamanism, runes, or seidhr–although many of these would certainly be helpful in reaching an understanding of Odin! In all honesty, what I have found, regarding Him, is that the more I read, the more I want to know, so I am always looking for new sources and new insights. However, I also always reach a point when I know it’s time to stop reading and simply ask Him.

All of that said, here are some of the best places to start, in my opinion, and some of the books I’ve personally found most helpful.

These first few sources comprise the bulk of what Heathens confidently refer to as “The Lore,” but as you’ll see, that confidence may be somewhat misplaced.

Poetic Edda – This consists of a number of bits of Icelandic poetry from various sources that were pieced together to form the 13th century manuscript known as the Codex Regius (the King’s Book). There are many, many translations of it available, some of them for free online, and I’ve read several, but the two I own in book form are by Hollander and Larrington. The language of the Hollander version is more lyrical, while the Larrington is considered to be a more accurate translation. Barring the ability to do a translation of your own (which requires more knowledge of Old Norse than I’ve thus far had the discipline to acquire), I’ve found it to be a worthwhile exercise to compare different translations of a passage that especially interests you; I’ve done this with the Mead of Poetry segment of the Havamal (“the words of the High One,” aka Odin), for example, and have reached some surprising insights in this way.

Prose Edda - This is a manuscript written by Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic chieftain, skald and historian, during the first half of the 13th century. It was actually written primarily to impress the young king of Norway with Snorri’s skaldic prowess, secondarily to instruct young poets in the old poetic forms and techniques (which were going out of vogue at the time, due to competition from new forms and new literary traditions from overseas), and thirdly because the tales of the old gods of the north fascinated Snorri and he wanted to preserve them–or some of them, anyway. However, he was a Christian as well as being extremely creative with some of his retellings (his version of the Mead of Poetry tale, for example, differs widely from the one in the Havamal and is thought by some scholars to be one of his most imaginative efforts), so he should be read with a grain of salt and not given the “holy book” status some Heathens tend to give him. As with the Poetic Edda, there are many translations available, some of them free.

Heimskringla - a collection of sagas relating the history of the kings of Norway, also attributed to Snorri (who found kings and kingship an endlessly fascinating topic; this may be why so many of the stories he included in his Edda pertain to Odin). Special attention should be paid to the saga of the Ynglings, the oldest Norwegian royal family, which traced its ancestry back to Odin and Freyr; there is an extensive section in this saga about Odin, including His laws, personality, and powers (most notably, shapeshifting, faring forth, and operational seidhr (also known as soul manipulation, an art which He was, according to Snorri, “the first to master, as well as the most accomplished at”.) Heimskringla also includes appearances by and references to Odin in various of the other  sagas, including His post-conversion dinnertime call on Olaf Tryggvason.

Gesta Danorum, by Saxo Grammaticus – This history of the kings of Denmark actually predates Snorri’s Edda somewhat, as it it thought to have been written in the early 13th century. It is a collection of 16 books, the first eight of which deal with mythology and the Scandinavian pantheon, but this is not a source many Heathens are fond of as Saxo offers a vastly different (and usually unfavorable) interpretation of both the characters of the gods Themselves and many of people’s favorite myths, notably the death of Balder. Still, as his work does predate Snorri’s, Saxo should not be lightly dismissed.

There are a number of other Icelandic sagas in which Odin makes an appearance or plays an important role, including the Saga of the Volsungs (in which He is the progenitor of the dynasty and also appears at strategic intervals to give aid to the protagonists), Gautrek’s Saga (featuring the Odinic hero Starkad and his unintentional sacrifice to Odin of his best friend, King Vikar), and the saga named for everyone’s favorite curmudgeon, Egil Skallagrimson, the classic Odinic anti-hero famous for his nithing pole curse against the Norwegian king and queen.

Moving along to modern scholarly interpretations of “the lore,” (which often take a multi-disciplinary approach, looking not only at the original literary sources but also considering how factors such as place names, linguistics, historical evidence, folklore, and archaeology either support or detract from that evidence) here are some of the most helpful ones I’ve found:

The Lost Gods of England by Brian Branston offers a comprehensive look at what we know of the worship of Woden in England, where (going by the evidence of place names) His cult may have been more widespread and influential than in Scandinavia.  (I could not find this available for sale; check your local university library.)

The Cult of Othin by H.M. Chadwick is a little outdated (having been written in 1899), but it does provide a helpful introduction to the god and His lore.  (Available online for free!)

Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, by H.R. Ellis Davidson offers comprehensive multi-disciplinary information on the worship of Odin (and other gods in the pantheon) from the Migration Era through the Viking Age.

Lady with a Mead Cup: Ritual Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tene to the Viking Era  by Michael J. Enright focuses on the role of Odin as warlord/king and how that shaped the dynamic between the king as ring-giver and his queen as lady of sovereignty in England and Scandinavia. It also lays out the author’s theory that Odin originated not as a storm giant but as a god of kingship in Roman Gaul during the 2nd century.

The One Eyed God: Odin and the Indo-Germanic Mannerbunde by Kris Kershaw is a doctoral dissertation attempting to trace both the worship of Odin and the tradition of the Wild Hunt back to what the author considers to be their Indo-European genesis. I didn’t agree with every conclusion reached in this book, but the parallels drawn between Odin and other Indo-European gods are fascinating, and there is extensive and detailed information on Odin’s cult among the very earliest Germanic tribes. This is a book not easily found in libraries and expensive to buy, but well-worth it. (In fact, while writing this, I’m realizing it may be time to reread my own copy!)

The Threefold Initiation of Woden by Eric Wodening is a very short book (only a little more than a chapbook), but I like his premise that Odin’s three primary initiations consisted of His sacrifice to the Well of Mimir, His ordeal on the Tree, and His betrayal of Gunnlod to gain the Mead.  (I could not find this online anywhere–sorry!)

Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Masking of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown is not a book on Odin per-se; it is about Snorri Sturluson, the violent world of 12th-13th century Iceland in which he lived, and his process of transforming the source material available at the time into his Edda. The heart of the book is a gripping saga-like tale of Snorri and his family, but there are also fascinating insights into Snorri’s obsession with Odin in particular, as well as some very entertaining snippets on Tolkein and C.S. Lewis (especially the debt the former owed to the northern lore, and how Odin became Gandalf), and a very readable account of how Snorri’s work led directly to the survival of the Icelandic texts.

And now, a few UPG-based and fiction books…and of course, mentioning fiction has me wanting to do a post just on Odin (and reflections of Odin) in novels and movies…

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is the book (featuring Mr. Wednesday) that opened the door for Odin to re-enter my life ten years ago.

Whisperings of Woden by Galina Krasskova is, to my knowledge, the first “Odin devotional” in print.

Diana L. Paxson’s Wodan’s Children trilogy is an imaginative retelling of the Saga of the Volsungs, with an emphasis on the characters of Brunnhild and Gundrun,both of whom came to have very special personal relationships with the god.

And last but not least, there are my two books: Odhroerir and Water from the Well, both of which consist of short stories and poetry written by me for and about my Beloved.  The second book in particular presents viewpoints (those of Bestla and Gunnlod, in particular) that are not often considered in either Northern Tradition Pagan or mainstream Heathen circles.  They have both been out for a few years now, so I intend to begin posting quite a bit of material from them for free here on this blog.  I don’t often insert plugs for them here, but if you can afford it and you appreciate what I’m doing here on the blog, a great way to show your appreciation would be to invest in a print copy of one or both books.

And that should be more than enough to get you started!

Odin-themed music [Ask Me About Odin]

Lily Rose asked: “I would love to hear about the Odin-themed music you listen to, because I’ve had a hard time finding anything.” (or words very close to that effect)

Because I am currently all talked out due to the bloggageddon that’s been taking place in various corners of the internet this week, I decided this question might make for another nice change of pace.  (I will probably be posting my own response to said blogageddon this weekend.)

I mentioned in my post about my daily devotions for Odin that one of the things I do is listen to music that’s (for me) evocative of Him in some way, and/or music that puts me in a liminal headspace during my bus ride and walk to work.  My office is located in the West Eugene wetlands, and my stop lets me off right at the entrance to the bike path running along Amazon Creek, so it is not only a scenic walk but one that allows me to visit with the wights there on a twice-daily basis, and sometimes I also use it as an opportunity for a bit of pathwalking (walking in another world while moving physically through this one).

My favorite selections do change from time to time (just as with Odin artwork), and one of my newer discoveries (courtesy of Jolene) is this one, which I listened to at least ten times a day for a few days last week. I liked it the first time I heard it, and it just keeps on getting better since then.

I’m going to save the more personally-relevant songs for a follow-up post (maybe next week!), but here are a few of my perennial favorites for simply evoking His presence (and/or various aspects of it) more intensely. This first one is an actual Odin invocation:

Odin as Wanderer:

King of Asgard:

Deathbringer:

Lord of the Valkyries:

The Wild Hunt:

Bolverk:

(I actually have separate playlists for both Bolverk and the Wild Hunt)

And finally, a couple of my more personal selections; a few lines from the first one have been part of my email signature for years now (if you’ve ever gotten email from me you may be able to pick out the lines):

Of course, this leaves out so many great songs that now I really do want to do a follow-up post with more of the personal selections.  Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite Odin images? [Ask Me About Odin?]

For a change of pace this week, I thought I’d share a small selection of my (currently) favorite images of my Husband.  My favorites do change from time to time as I continually see more deeply into His nature and discover new Faces of His.  One of these images was not even intended to represent Odin, but another god entirely, and a couple of them are either very nontraditional or barely feature Him at all, yet for me they touch on some part of Him, some reflection of the way He feels to me deep within my soul.

I have added a caption with the source of the image where I know the source.  (If you know the source of an uncaptioned image, please let me know!)  Beyond that, I don’t think I’m going to comment further on these, just let the artwork speak for itself.

odin with rune

All Father Art print by Lindowyn on Etsy

Odin by SirGrunt - DeviantArt

Odin by SirGrunt – DeviantArt

Oski

Oski by Raven Livingston

The Grey God Odin by mlpeters

The Grey God Odin by mlpeters

odinbrow

Odin by Andreibressan on DeviantArt

Wotan in the new Ring cycle from the Met

Wotan in the new Ring cycle from the Met 2010

Yggdrasil by Pixieface on DeviantArt

Yggdrasil by Pixieface on DeviantArt

Are by Court Ib on DeviantArt

Ares by Court Ib on DeviantArt

odin (1)

Wild Hunt by Larbesta

Wild Hunt by Larbesta

Odin by eternalsylence on DeviantArt

Odin by eternalsylence on DeviantArt

Wotan by Rickbw1 from DeviantArt

Wotan by Rickbw1 from DeviantArt

wotan_and_brunhild_by_andrekosslick on DeviantArt

wotan_and_brunhild_by_andrekosslick on DeviantArt

Odin__s_Throne_by_BurningBrushGallery on DeviantArt

Odin__s_Throne_by_BurningBrushGallery on DeviantArt

ODIN_by_odingraphics

ODIN_by_odingraphics

What are some of YOUR favorites?

Also, as a reminder: I am still accepting “Ask Me About Odin” questions to be answered on my blog as part of this series.  Please see this page for details!

Which Eye did Odin sacrifice to Mimir’s Well? [Ask Me About Odin]

odinbrowAlthough I haven’t been asked this question in a while now, I remember a time several years back when it was a topic of raging controversy (second, perhaps, only to “What did Odin whisper to the dead Balder on His funeral bier?”), and I still see it resurface from time to time. Odin’s women, especially, seem to have firm and unshakable opinions on the matter. Freya Aswynn believes it to be His right eye, since the right eye is associated with the left side of the brain, meaning that He would have sacrificed linear, logical thinking for His more creative, mystical side. I have heard that Diana Paxson favors the left-eye argument, Odin’s left eye corresponding to His creative, mystical, spatially oriented side—meaning that this side is in Mimir’s Well, or the Well of Wyrd, where it continues to see on its owner’s behalf, using the vision into Wyrd thus gained to plot Odin’s long-term strategy to defeat the forces that will range against Himself and His kin at Ragnarok.

Both of these arguments have their respective merits, and therein lies the problem. In an attempt to shed some light on this burning issue, I have asked Odin Himself, and the reply I received was: “Which of My eyes did I sacrifice? Why, whichever one I damn please, of course.”

While He can be frustratingly cryptic much of the time, once in a while Odin chooses to cut through the bullshit and speak plainly. Believe it or not, this is one of those times.

In my own inner sight, as well as on occasions when He has been horsed for me and the image He wishes to project of Himself overlays the physical form of the horse, I have seen my Beloved with the left eye missing, the right eye missing, and with both eyes very much present and accounted for. These variations did not seem to be determined by whether I was interacting, at that moment, with a younger or older version of Odin, or with His pre-Well or post-Well self; instead, it was solely determined by how He wished to portray Himself at that time. This underscores a basic fact about Odin’s nature that many people seem to forget: He is not human. In our realm, He presents as a spirit, with varying degrees of ability to manifest in our physical plane depending on who is aiding Him and the energies He is able to draw upon.

In His own realm, and most of the other non-earthly realms, He has much greater agency as well as a certain physicality, but nothing in the non-earthly worlds is solid and fixed in the same sense as reality as we know it. This is the reason why, in the myth of Balder’s death, Balder could have been returned to life if only everyone living could have been made to agree that this should be the case. Even in the Otherworld version of Midgard, consensus reality is a fluid thing, open to being shaped by…well, by consensus. In Asgard, the realm of Odin, which lies at the very top of the World Tree, reality is very much Odin’s to shape and mold, not simply because He is King there, but because His is simply the most powerful, influential and creative mind present, and thus the most persuasive influence on the “consensus reality” that determines the shape of things. Reality is not quite Odin’s plaything there only because His influence is counterbalanced by that of the Norns, Whose responsibility it is to see that all of the worlds within the province of the Well and the Tree remain in a relative state of balance. However, the Norns don’t much care whether Odin decides that a table will be black or white on a particular day, whether He Himself manifests to His followers as a handsome young man or a grandfatherly older one, or whether His left eye, His right eye, or neither are missing. Perhaps He even appears to some people as entirely blind, thus generating one of His Heiti (or by-names), “Twice-Blind.”

Is it any wonder that a god Who has Grimnir (Masked One) among His many names would delight in being able to puzzle and confound people with this conundrum?

I have also heard the story of Odin’s sacrifice to Mimir’s Well interpreted in more symbolic terms, the gist of it being that He didn’t actually tear an Eye out of His head on this occasion—not literally, anyway; instead, He sacrificed half of His focus on the linear, logical, cognitive, left-brained world for enhanced vision and power in the world of dreams, magic and conceptual imagination. I like this version of the story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think the myths are all to be interpreted symbolically, or that the gods Themselves are archetypes (perish the thought; why would I marry an archetype?). No, I like this interpretation because it is more honest than arguing in favor of either the left eye or the right eye with an equally symbolic reasoning as the basis. It is also more deeply rooted in Truth. After all, don’t all of us who come to this Work sacrifice some of our ability to function in the rational, linear world of day jobs and time clocks in favor or being able to converse with non-corporeal beings? Don’t all of us give up some of our interest in climbing the corporate ladder, keeping up with the Joneses, and staying conversant with the expectations of this world’s consensus reality in exchange for climbing the World Tree, speaking with spirits, and becoming conversant with the consensus reality of the Otherworlds? At some point in our respective journeys, even those of us who identify as god-slaves were offered a choice: the mundane world or the Otherworlds, humans or Them? I know what choice I made, and I suspect that many of you reading this now made the same one. Yet it is foolish to suppose that anyone—even Odin—could maintain equal competence in both worlds—the spiritual and the rational/temporal—at all times. The result of this, for many of us poor spirit workers, is that our grasp on the consensus reality of physical Midgard gradually wanes, to the extent that some of us find our ability to function in it becoming increasingly limited.

For Odin, however—being Odin–His focus simply…shifts, moving back and forth from the linear to the conceptual as need and choice dictates. This is why He is a god and we’re not. In short, it is “whichever Eye I damn please,” and in the end it doesn’t matter whether or not the sacrifice was an actual, physical one.

Knowing Him, though, I suspect that it was. Just for kicks (and for the fun of keeping us all wondering), if for no other reason.

On Ordeals [Ask Me About Odin]

Okay, I admit it: this is a made-up question; in fact, I’m not even going to pretend that it’s based on a question at all. Instead, it was inspired by Del’s recent post on the topic of ordeals:

 Many people ask me about ordeal, and they’re surprised when I tell them about my own; we expect ordeal to be physically painful, to be about blood and sweat and tears, and we turn away from that and let it be the story of other people. I have enough pain in my life, we tell ourselves, and I don’t desire to be in any more of it. But my story, my ordeal experience, looked nothing like what someone would expect. Many people come to me for ordeals because in their mind, “ordeal ritual” and “hook suspension” have somehow become linked; in the same vein, more ordeal workers than I can count have asked (or sometimes demanded) that I teach them hook suspension, because they feel without that knowledge they are somehow lesser….But the denial of that desire, that place of expectation, that desperateness to sate the uncomfortable feeling of unknowing, the fear of being the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on; that is the spark from which ordeal is made.

This got me thinking on the topic of Odin and the ordeals He has endured Himself, asks of His people, and has asked of me personally. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail in this post about the first two categories, because the first is a topic for another post (or a series of posts) and the second is not something I would know a lot about without asking the other people involved. Generally, though, Odin is certainly among the gods who spring to mind immediately when the subject of ordeals is raised, being justifiably notorious both for the grueling trials He puts Himself through and the trials He demands of His own. An ordeal is, of course, not merely a situation or rite engineered to bring about suffering for its own sake. I would argue that, in order to qualify as an ordeal, it must: 1) be acutely difficult and uncomfortable (as opposed to merely painful) for the particular individual involved, and 2) result in increased understanding, spiritual growth, wisdom, and perspective.

Based on these criteria (and keeping in mind Del’s comments about ordeals not always taking the shape many of us might expect), most of the situations I have recognized as ordeals, either at the time or after the fact, have involved a combination of the following: 1) acute physical or emotional pain (since, as a chronic pain sufferer, intentionally inflicted physical pain is acutely uncomfortable for me, this classic ordeal ingredient does qualify, but usually has to be accompanied by other factors to be at its most effective, 2) doing scary thing alone, all by myself, and/or 3) calling public attention to myself, my path, and my relationship with Him—especially the more private aspects of these things.

With this in mind, here are some of the ordeals I have experienced throughout the years, in no particular order:

  • Being asked to post publicly about a recent argument I had with Him, in order that others might potentially learn from it.
  • Being asked to disclose my daily devotional schedule, which somehow felt so incredibly private that I wanted to take down the post right away, but He demanded I leave it up, and made it clear to me that if I did take it down I would be doing so with the full awareness that I was acting against His wishes.
  • An older one: going to Trothmoot all by myself in 2005 (at least, I think that was the year). At this time, I had just been accepted as a candidate for the Troth’s clergy program, and was going to get the lay of the land, so to speak. I had already committed myself to going when Jo informed me that she would not be able to accompany me, as she had to go to her baby brother’s graduation instead. It would have been so easy for me to back out and go to Massachusetts with her instead, but I purchased my tickets for Indiana anyway, knowing that there would be at least one prominent person there who did not regard me kindly and who had many hangers-on who would be happy to try to tear me down for her sake.
  • Being asked to make certain aspects of my path public that I would much rather keep private, at the risk of public ridicule, such as the Queenship stuff, and the realization of my godatheow status (which is not new, only newly recognized as such by me).
  • One I’m still going through right now: having recently been through my worst fight with Odin to date, and desperately wanting a prolonged horsed session with Him to help speed the recovery and healing from that, but being instead asked to wait four weeks for it, because He wants this session to coincide with an upcoming festival I created for Him several years ago. The very idea of this made-up, invented-by-me festival being so important to Him has been very hard for me to bear or even wrap my mind around, to say the least, and although horsed sessions are far from being the primary way I connect with Him, considering the rough patch we went through, waiting for this one has been excruciating.

And then, there is this past weekend. Several weeks back, while re-reading Galina’s rune book, I was struck by her description of the Anglo-Saxon rune Gar (associated with Odin’s spear) as a brand of ownership, and His desire for me to get this rune tattooed on my body struck me with sudden intensity. (This was weeks before the godatheow realization.) He wanted me to get it tattooed on my chest, in woad blue, just barely above the point where my cleavage begins, so that it is placed directly opposite the valknut I had tattooed on my back ten years ago, at about this same time of year, just months after we were Married. So, I duly made an appointment with my favorite local tattoo artist, assuming that Jolene would accompany me as usual, for moral support and perhaps the occasional glimmer of horsed approval from my Husband.

Except that, towards the end of last week, Jolene suddenly developed an acute pain of her own, in her big toe, that kept her out of work for a couple of days because she could not walk without severe pain, so that, come Sunday (the day of my appointment), she was in no shape to go with me.

And so, girding up my loins (so to speak), I headed out on my own, with my runes and Odin prayer beads in tow. I knew and trusted my tattoo artist, although I was being tattooed in a rather sensitive and self conscious-making girl-place (just above my breasts, and right above my heart chakra) and would have much preferred to have a chaperone, not to mention emotional support. However, I reasoned, I would at least have my Husband with me.

And yet. Curiously, I did not feel Odin’s presence at all (as I had expected to) on my bus ride downtown, or my walk to the tattoo parlor from the bus stop, or my wait once I got there, or my approval of the design, or the preparations for the tattoo, or even the beginnings of the drilling into my skin. As the pain began, though, I resolved to give it to Him, and asked for Him—wherever He had suddenly got to—to accept it as an offering from me. At that point, two things happened at once: the pain got decidedly, and almost unbearably, worse (it felt as though my heart itself was being penetrated), and Odin was tangibly, palpably, almost physically right there, standing behind me, holding my head as He stroked it. He had, I later realized, made Himself scarce up until that point because He was giving me the opportunity to see that I could follow through on this by myself, no matter how scared I was, that I could do something not only scary but also painful all alone. It was His way of asking: “Are you really prepared to do this thing—all of these things—for Me? Well, then, show Me.” A small, surprise ordeal ritual, at the hands of a god Who has seen each and every form they can take, and endured many of those forms Himself.

So, here is the resulting tattoo:

101_9544

Gar is one of the runes of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, and its name means “spear,” giving it the generally accepted meaning of “Odin’s spear.” Its form combines Inguz and Gebo, two runes of sacrifice (of the heart, and of the life essence or spirit), and also manages to incorporate Othala, home and ancestral heritage, making it a very significant rune to have placed above my heart. I now have an entry and exit point for His spear, this new tattoo acting as a neat parallel for the valknut I wear over the heart chakra on my back, also in woad blue. That tattoo I got at the start of my Marriage, accompanied by two friends, one of whom sang an Odin song to me during the process, and Odin was Right There the entire time. It was not an ordeal (it barely even hurt, somehow); it was the start of a grand adventure. This one, I got ten years into my Marriage, set out by myself to get it, and my Husband withheld His presence until a crucial moment in order to give me the opportunity to prove (to myself, mostly) that I was now serious enough about my path to go it alone when need be, to do what needed to be done without support when I had to. There is symmetry, a feeling of having come full circle. And there is a lovely woad-blue rune healing–painfully–on the skin above my breastbone, a gift to Him, but also a gift of myself to Myself, a beacon and sign to guide the next step upward, the next cycle of the journey.