I was eight years old when He first came to claim me. I thought He was Santa Claus back then; on stormy winter nights, He would come to me as the Wild Hunter with His retinue of ghostly horsemen and howling wolves. Outside my window, He would pause and call my name, inviting me to come and ride with Him. But He frightened me, and the only response I was capable of was to hide under the covers and pretend I didn’t hear, and later on to try to block the entire experience from my memory.
For a long time, I succeeded in doing just that. I was a strange, complex child (definitely a misfit among my peers) who gravitated towards adult books and topics that should have been far over my head. I was drawn to the runes from an early age, but some instinct made me keep putting off studying them; some part of me, even though it wasn’t a conscious part, knew that the runes would lead me straight to Him. Similarly, I loved Tolkien and knew he had borrowed heavily from Norse myth, but I avoided reading those actual myths, even while Odin in the guise of Gandalf continued to beckon. I wrote constantly, from the age of seven or so; it was the first craft that called to me, and I knew it was not the Muses who inspired my scribblings. (Yes, I consider writing to be a craft, although it can become elevated to an art on occasion.) I felt strongly drawn to wolves from an early age, and the call of a raven or an eagle was enough to send chills through my entire body; I felt that they were calling to me to come and hunt with them, but I put this down to being an animal lover with an overactive imagination. I was drawn to plants (especially poison plants!) and sensed a life force in them that I was surprised other people did not seem to feel. I heard voices in the wind, knew I could communicate with trees, and often sensed unseen presences around me, presences that I almost could see with my inner sight.
I knew I was very different from most of the people in my immediate circle of family and friends (although there were whispers of an Aunt Bertha who was a witch), but as I began reading about Paganism and Wicca I learned that many people had an extended awareness similar to mine, if not exactly the same. On the subject of Odin Himself, though, I remained deeply in denial. Whenever I encountered a mention or an image of Him, I would quickly turn my attention away before I had time to consider it, before He had a chance to reel me in.
By the age of 13, I was a Wiccanesque Pagan and was particularly drawn towards the magic and history and Britain. And so, true to form, I veered away from that geographical domain and culture as far as I could and concentrated my research on the gods and mysteries of ancient Egypt. Towards the end of my teens, I actually became Wiccan. It seemed close to what I was looking for, but was still not quite right. Then, in my early twenties, I met another woman who not only also heard voices, but actually heard some of the very same ones I did, and was interacting with these noncorporeal beings on a daily basis. If my new friend had been my own age, I might have thought her deluded (as I often thought myself to be), but she was twenty years my senior, held a normal day job at an insurance company, and was by all indications otherwise normal and sane. We began to talk about our experiences with these beings, hold extended conversations with Them via channelling, and even journey, in sleep or trance states, to visit Them in their otherworldy homes.
The entity who was around me the most took the appearance of an older man with silvered hair, not old like Gandalf but strong, virile, and very alluring—eloquent, charismatic, and more than a little dangerous. He came to me in dreams at night and in my waking hours during the day, and I adored Him with every fiber of my being. He did not call Himself Odin but by another name (one with similarly dark connotations), yet He was a guide and protector of the dead, a traveler between the worlds, a warrior, shape-shifter, and powerful sorcerer-king. In retrospect, it seems to me that His actual identity should have been obvious, yet at the time somehow He kept me from seeing it, or at least from panicking and fleeing. Then again, He was–and is–a consummate master of Disguise.
When He asked me to marry Him, I eagerly agreed, having no idea what that would mean.
Unfortunately, not long after my otherworldly marriage took place I had a falling out with the woman I had been confiding in about all these things. Our friendship broke up, she and I went our separate ways, and without her support–since she was the only other “non-mundane” person I knew at that time, this being before there were droves of spirit workers in the eaves that I could have potentially turned to–I wasn’t able to sustain the conviction that I was married to a discarnate being, or even that I was actually interacting with these entities. Shortly afterwards, I began dating a man who gradually convinced me that either I had imagined the entire thing, or that it was all very nice but not relevant to my everyday, mundane life. This man wanted me to marry him. I was not head over heels in love with him the way I had been with my otherworldly Husband, but he was my friend, we shared artistic interests, and he could offer a measure of security, so eventually I agreed.
At our wedding, instead of the wedding march I had selected, “Ride of the Valkyries” suddenly blared out as I was about to walk down the aisle. Our hapless deejay was perplexed, but the message was clear: my new marriage was doomed from the start, because I already belonged to another. But this was a warning I neither understood nor heeded. Likewise, all the little signs and hints Odin continued to give me through the following years also went unrecognized. Crows and ravens seemed to follow me everywhere, but my new mortal husband was an avid reader of Carlos Casteneda and insisted they were signs for him instead of for me. Meanwhile, Odin’s name kept popping up in unusual contexts. For example, when I went back to college to finish my BA in English literature, one professor suggested that I read the Eddas, while another suddenly asked me one day, apropos of nothing, if I had heard of Asatru. But I was clueless, and all my energy was consumed in my studies and in trying to be a wife, and a mother to my young daughter. The studies earned me straight As, my daughter grew into a beautiful young woman, but wifehood (to both my husbands) was something I was hopelessly failing at.
Fast forward to 2002. I was unhappy in my marriage, having trouble at my job, and feeling spiritually disconnected, almost spiritually dead. Wicca wasn’t working for me, and hadn’t been for a while. Everything simply felt meaningless. Then a sudden crisis at work threw me into a deep depression that lasted for about a year. I started taking Prozac, but even in spite of that was contemplating suicide. At around that time began to feel a huge tug towards exploring my heritage, which is mostly English, French and Scandinavian. As a means of distracting myself from being miserable, I started studying Norse myths and deities, and felt irresistibly drawn to the stories and images of Odin. (The old avoidance patterns had fallen away because I simply didn’t care anymore.) In a bookstore one day, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods demanded to be bought and devoured, and as I read about Mr. Wednesday my entire being cried out “MINE!!!” I began to dream about Odin. I bought a set of those ubiquitous clay runes that comes with a booklet and a blank rune, and enrolled in a rune study course. Finally, on Ebay, I saw a statue of Odin with His wolves and ravens by Oberon Zell and impulsively bought it. When it arrived I set it up on an impromptu shrine and began to talk to it, telling Him about all the reasons I was so unhappy and begging Him to help me if He could.
It was as if a rug had been pulled out from under my life, swiftly and suddenly, and everything I had known went flying. Within days, there was a dramatic answer to my prayers, a tangible answer that proved to me that Odin was not only a real, distinct, individual God, but that He had a very strong and very PERSONAL interest in me. I had not imagined any of it; it was all very fucking real. One night soon afterwards, He showed up in person–or, well, in astral form, as He had once before riding at the head of His Hunt, and then again years later as my dark suitor. And once again, I fell head over heels in love with Him. He claimed me that night (as belonging to Him; claiming me as His wife came a few short weeks later), and also freed me from the depression as if it had never existed. I quit taking a rather high daily dose of Prozac cold turkey–something you’re not ever supposed to do. And I realized that it hadn’t really been Him I had been running from all those years, but myself–my own destiny or wyrd, the Me I had been born to be.
Not long after He claimed me, Odin asked me to formally dedicate myself to Him. I began to script a ritual and compose the oath I planned to take, but soon found Him taking over the writing of it, changing the wording and the oath to suit His own purposes. Before long, I realized that what I had written was a wedding ceremony, interwoven with a blood oath and elements of the old worlds traditions involving the sacrifice of the last sheaf at harvest time. This terrified me, because I was already married, at least in name (although I didn’t realize at the time that my first wedding vows had already been to Him!) and because at the time I had only heard of one other person daring to even think of doing such a thing in modern times, outside of Lwa marriage in Vodou. (Although I had come across references to ancient priestesses being considered brides of the Gods they served.) But He insisted, and even in my terror I wanted this, wanted Him, more than I had ever wanted anything in my entire life. So the ceremony took place, and about six months afterwards was repeated in front of a witness, my kindred sister (who is bride to a different God entirely and who is now, years later, my partner). I ordered a wedding band–a handcrafted silver ring engraved with His name in runes–which I have worn ever since.