My Odin, and Other People’s Odins (revised 9/27/17)

Reprint—and revision—of a post from 2015

I’ve gone on record in the past as speculating that we all might very well get our own individual version of a particular deity—that my Odin, the Odin who is my Beloved, may literally not be the same Odin another devotee of His is involved with. This is a complicated and thorny topic, and can very easily spark misunderstandings. So let me start out by saying point-blank that I am NOT saying my Odin is necessarily THE Odin (as in, the One True Odin). There is simply no way I (or any of His other devotees) can know that with absolute certainty, so any argument one way or another is pointless.

Recently, while reading the new book Santa Muerte by Tracy Rollins, I came across the following startling disclosure: apparently (with the exception of the goddess Santa Muerte may be derived from and that goddess’ husband) the Aztec deities were thought of as possessing masks that captured their divine functions and even their personalities, and they were known to freely lend these masks out to other deities. From a mortal perspective, this means that one could never really be 100% sure that you were dealing with Quetzalcoatl (for example), or with another deity wearing His mask.

With me so far? Headaches aside, we can see that the mask of a deity would represent Their specific and nuanced Job descriptions and personae. The mask would encompass a deity’s most well-known and public manifestations. In contrast, the Face of a deity would represent what that entity is like on a more personal level; what they’re like at home away from work, maybe after unwinding with a couple of beers.

Since I’m more familiar with Odin than I am with Anyone else, I may as well use Him as an example: in His case, the Mask would be Odin as Allfather, King of Asgard, Lord of the Runes, God of the Slain, Leader of the Wild Hunt, etc., etc.–all of the many, many lore-recorded names and roles attached to Him, in addition to all of the major PCPG (peer-corroborated personal gnosis) about Him that has been shared by both ancient and modern worshipers. In other words, His Mask encompasses all of the things you would conceivably call upon Odin for or consult Him on—which is a very long list. It also encompasses the personality traits most commonly ascribed to Him by the vast majority of His devotees (wise yet sometimes remote, enigmatic, charismatic, brilliant but often snarky, compassionate, eloquent, calculating, promiscuous, etc.). In fact, it would be fair to say that “Odin” pretty much IS the Mask. (The same would be true in the case of “Freyja,” “Loki,” or Anyone else.)

Now. A deity’s Mask—even in the modern era, where most of our pagan traditions are only shadows of what they once were—is a very, very busy Persona. The Mask deals with hundreds or thousands (depending on the deity’s popularity) of people on a daily basis, and sometimes even within a single moment. Deities can multi-locate, but even with that, They also have employees and servants to whom They delegate some of Their work, and who sometimes interact with devotees on Their behalf—because They simply have to; no single entity could do all of that Themselves, even with multi-location being a thing. The really big, important deities (such as Odin) have a great many employees at Their disposal; in fact, it might be more useful to think of a deity such as “Odin” as a corporation, rather than an individual per se. (Note that I am not saying Odin is not an individual, just that there may in fact be many individuals who comprise “Odin.”)

Is your head spinning yet? Let me try breaking it down like this. Humor me for a moment and imagine that Odin the Mask (i.e. all of the roles and PCPG personality traits modern pagans and heathens ascribe to Odin) really does represent something resembling a corporation rather than a single individual. Imagine there are a number of individuals who might be called on to answer when Odin is invoked, and that each of these individuals has access to the full measure of powers, responsibilities and basic personality traits that most of us would think of when we think of Odin, just as any top executive in a large corporation might have access to all of that organization’s assets and influence, including its credit line (i.e. resources) and corporate culture (“personality”).

However, just as every top executive at a large corporation is not the exact same person, despite the outward similarities, imagine further that each of these “Odins” is a distinct individual, underneath the “Odin” Mask, with distinct personality quirks, likes and dislikes, and even differing histories. And that when you call for Odin–providing you have been specific enough and are not getting some kind of bottom-feeder entity impersonating Him (which is always a possibility) or Loki (which has also been known to happen)–you are most likely going to get a member of this Odin collective. And once you have dealt with an “Odin” you are always likely going to get the same one—He is now your own personal Odin Co. rep, so to speak—so any personal or intimate relationship that develops is real, and is with that particular individual (but not necessarily with all of the other Odins). You may also, as time goes on, get to see a private side of your particular Odin–the Face behind the Mask—that literally none of Odin’s other devotees gets to see.

This last phenomena is something I’ve remarked on quite a few times in this blog over the years. Being married to Odin (or to any deity) is a lot like being married to human royalty, or to a rock star, in that They need to project a certain image (“the Mask”); this is expected of Them and is actually part of Their Job. However, there is a Face underneath the Mask, and if They come to trust you, you might actually get to see it; you might get to meet Odin the Person–or Freyja the Person, or Loki the Person, etc. (Whether or not this occurs has nothing to do with the advent of sexual intimacy or lack thereof, by the way. It is more likely to happen with spouses, but not because of sexual activity; it is an outgrowth of trust, devotion, and commitment, and these things are more common within a true partnership—which is what any good marriage should be. In other words, having shagged Odin doesn’t necessarily mean you now know Odin the Face/Person beneath the Mask.)

Even if you think of “Odin” as a collective rather than as one single individual, every individual who is part of that collective still has an extremely demanding, stressful job—much like a human monarch, or a high-powered executive. Maintaining a particular image and seeing to the myriad responsibilities that go with the Job description is exhausting work, and deities can get burned out just as humans can. To avoid this, every “Face” needs an opportunity to unwind, as well as people He or She trusts that they can do this with. I think this is one of the biggest reasons They seek out human companionship: to find a home, a refuge, someone They can let Their hair down with. If you are the spouse, lover, or close friend of a deity (or a “Face” of a deity collective), you just might be that person for Them.

The reason I don’t share a lot of specific details about the Odin I know as a Person—Odin the “Face”–well, actually, there are a couple of reasons. One is that our relationship feels very private, and while there are plenty of personal things about Him (and u/Us) that He doesn’t mind me sharing with the world at large, there are also quite a few things He’d rather I didn’t. The other reason is that most of these details won’t be meaningful or even relevant to anyone else, because I honestly believe that none of us experiences the same “Face.” (Okay, to amend that: it IS possible to share the same “Face” with another devotee. Jo and I, for example, share an Odin; the Odin I’m married to is the same one who is her Father. However, even with that, we each know Him in a very different capacity, and thus our experience of Him is not exactly the same.)

To help illustrate the above point, here are a handful of things that are particular to my Odin, but not necessarily anyone else’s. I don’t think I’ve mentioned any of these things before; they are all minor personal facts and/or details specific to our relationship that He doesn’t mind my sharing by way of example. My Odin has shared sweet, sugary frosted cake with me on our anniversary to please me, even though He genuinely hates sweets (the only kind of chocolate He likes, for example is 90% cacao, which is so bitter almost no one else wants to eat it); He learned fiber arts from His mother and enjoys spinning, knitting and weaving as relaxation; He does not think well of His father, nor get along well with Him, and prefers the matronymic form of His surname—Odin Bestlason, as opposed to Odin Borsson; He prefers my hair short, at least partly because He enjoys riffling His fingers through it (He has also observed that I’m more confident with short hair, and as He’s commented on more than one occasion, confidence is sexy); He becomes impatient if I watch a rerun of a CreativeLive business workshop (because He knows damned well that I absorbed everything I’m going to the first time around) but He will tolerate my re-watching seasons of Supernatural, Doctor Who, or another TV show or movie He knows truly brings me enjoyment.

One or two of these kinds of things may conceivably fall into the realm of PCPG, but most of them won’t mean anything to other devotees, because they are specific to my Odin (and/or my particular relationship with Him) rather than anyone else’s Odin. Nor are any of these details especially relevant to Odin the “Mask,” per se. For example, I am not claiming, categorically, that Odin prefers His women with short hair, or that He doesn’t like His dad; I am saying that my Odin likes my hair short, and has been known to make some disapproving comments about Borr (particularly about His treatment of women; my Odin adores His mother, Bestla). I’m sure each spouse, lover, or devotee of Odin’s (or any other deity) reading this could make their own list of personal details of this type that wouldn’t have any meaning for me, and that might be completely different from my own experiences. This is because we are each seeing a different “Face,” quite literally—even though we are all still legitimately dealing with Odin the “Mask.”

Now, some people would argue that there is only one Odin, but that He reveals Himself in different ways to different people; this is also a possibility, and I’m not going to quibble about it because in practice (as far as I’m concerned) it amounts to the same thing. However, where the “Odin as a collective”–Odin Co.–model can make some people uneasy is that it begs a sticky question: If “Odin” really does have a group of employees who all answer to the name Odin, each of whom fits the description and enjoys all of the privileges and powers associated with Odin, then which of us is dealing with the “real” Odin? And is there any way of knowing for sure whether you’ve got the “real” Odin, or “just” another employee?

First of all, under the model I’ve described there would be no such thing as “just an employee,” since ALL of the Odins would share the same basic overarching personality traits, privileges, powers, and abilities—remember? So, no one would be getting some sort of “substandard Odin.” (Ouch, it hurts to even type those two words together in sequence.)

Secondly, though—what difference does it make, really? Assuming that there IS an Odin who is actually THE Odin (and that, if so, He is married to anyone other than Frigga), what difference could it possibly make whether you’re getting Him or one of His employees who performs the same Job description, has the same basic personality, and can do all of the exact same things?

To bring this down to a more personal level, at this point in my own relationship with Odin I don’t even care anymore whether or not He is THE Odin. My Odin has been with me for most of this lifetime, and my relationship with Him goes back long before even that; He has been at my side through some of the lowest points in my life as well as some of the highest; He has patiently nursed me through periods of depression and burnout (while at the same time not coddling me, and eventually insisting that I get off my arse and actually DO something); He has made me feel like the most treasured, exquisite, and beloved woman in all the Nine Worlds; He is my best friend and my partner, my home, the other half of my soul; He has been kind to my dying and dead animals; He has believed in me when no one else did, even myself, and has insisted that I rise to meet the potential only He could see in me; He has helped me turn a small part-time Etsy business into a job that I can do from home, and that not only helps pay the bills but also brings me artistic and spiritual fulfillment, freedom and self-direction, and the kind of life I want to live.

If the Odin who has done all of these things for me, the Odin who I’ve been married to since 2002, is not THE Odin—then guess what? I don’t want THE Odin, if mine is not Him. I want the Odin who is mine, the Odin I’ve sworn vows of sacred marriage to, the Odin who has been at my side all of these years and has reshaped my life into one that I love living, one that actually feeds and strengthens my spirit instead of smothering and killing it. I want the Odin who is my King, my mentor, my partner, my friend, my love. If He isn’t THE Odin, then the hell with THE Odin. I’ve already got exactly Who and what I want, right here.


Grimoire Update


Worked on another page for my grimoire, aka 600 page sketchbook, during Shabbat this past weekend. The Wheel of the Year layout and some of the sketch/doodle ideas were borrowed from the Coloring Book of Shadows 2017 Planner, which is why they may look familiar if you’ve got that. (This page is only for my own personal use, of course.) My revamped Wheel is a mashup of the Jewish and standard Anglo-Saxon/Germanic pagan/witchcraft holidays. The crescent moon and tree is from my business card; it feels appropriate as a symbol for my blended path.

The Jewish holidays I’ll largely be learning about as I go along throughout the year–beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, this coming week.We’ll be having a family feast on Wednesday night, for which I have apples and honey, which are traditional for wishing each other a “sweet year,” and will be making a vegan brisket (trying my hand at home made seitan for the first time!). I’m going to be omitting the overly Yahweh-esque festival days from my Wheel, as my focus in the Jewish part of my practice is really on Asherah, the Goddess.

The Anglo-Saxon/Germanic holidays I already know, of course, but I’m looking to make them distinctly mine this coming year in a way I don’t feel I’ve achieved before. Mine in a way that fits with my lifestyle and my practice, without an eye towards impressing anyone outside my household.

I’ve been reading Diana Paxson’s Odin book and have some things to say about that–some good, some not so much. (She had approached me about sharing my story for the book and I declined; I was still in the midst of my spiritual crisis at the time, but now I’m glad I said no for other reasons.) But one thing I’ll comment on here is that, in her chapter on the malefic aspects of Odin, she quotes part of Jung’s essay “Wotan,” in which he blames the god for instigating Nazi Germany and its consequences. I do not blame Odin for this, for what it’s worth; I blame people, who are more than capable of twisting any tradition or any spirit contact to evil ends. Regardless, the specter of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust has followed Odin around for 80 years now, and I doubt it will be exorcised any time soon. In the context of my own personal life, though, I find it interesting that it was Odin who encouraged me–through trickery, even–to seek out and honor my Jewish heritage and bring it into my practice. I wonder if, on some level, this is a healing experience for Him, through me, a small gesture towards the ancestors who suffered and died needlessly because of the evil that men yoked to His name and His symbols.