I have a couple of questions from readers on my recent Wild Hunt posts (I’ve been asked precisely what I do for/with the Hunt, and also to elaborate on Odin’s Holy Grief). I think it’s best to handle those questions in a separate blog post (or posts) and had been hoping to get to that over the weekend, but instead I spent a good chunk of it working under a deadline to get an article finished. (I will share the information on when and where to look for that if it gets accepted.) I was going to try to write on the Hunt this morning, but a different post has been rattling around my brain instead. I think the comments I made when reblogging Jo’s post from yesterday are calling out for a bit of clarification. One flaw I’ve noticed in my own writing is that I often resort to mental shorthand, assuming that all of my readers have read all of my previous posts, as well as my bio and my faq page, and will know what I’m referring to. I know this is not the case, so I’m trying to discipline myself on this.
Odin has always, for me (ever since o/Our Marriage in 2002), looked more or less a certain way, and it’s a certain way that I am extremely fond of and find very attractive. Oh sure, He has changed His age by a decade or two up or down when it suits Him, and His hair color and degree of beard have shifted from time to time. But that’s pretty much it, and I’m realizing now that this is a LONG period of time for a shapeshifter to go not really altering His appearance at all to someone who sees Him every day. (All day. I was asked once by a reader if He is always at my side, or if He leaves me to attend to business elsewhere. The answer is, yes. Beyond finding this question a little insulting—of course ODIN has other business to attend to– I find it a tad strange that anyone would not have grasped the concept that a god of His degree of power has the ability to multi-locate–which would be a necessary skill even if it’s true that we each have our own unique version of Him. But I digress.)
Anyway, yes, almost thirteen years is a LONG period of time for a god known for His shapeshifting talents—and with Grimnir (Masked One) as one of His heiti, for crying out loud—to assume more or less the same shape, every single day. I’ll admit I assumed it was His own shape I was seeing, what He actually looks like beneath all of His masks—and while that may or may not be mostly true, it’s still highly unlikely to be exactly what He really looks like. And even if it were, the real problem is that I—as a highly visual person—have become too attached to how He appears, and He wants me to focus more on recognizing His energy signature, not just when attached to the form I’m used to, but when attached to any form. (I DO recognize that signature, don’t get me wrong; in fact, my Odin cords were a pretty good interpretation of it, as I experience it. However, He wants my recognition of it to be so strong that no outward appearance would ever be able to fool me. I can already see that this is going to be especially important for me now that the training wheels are off—after twelve years—in my work with the Hunt, but also after I pass over from this life, when it might be crucial for me to recognize Him based on that signature alone.)
So, for the moment He has shifted His appearance rather radically, taking on the face of an actual living person—not someone I know, thankfully, but an actor who bears a striking resemblance to what I have thought of as His “real form”. I’m experiencing acute pop culture shame right now as a result of this shift; although I am not worshiping the fictional character, and certainly not the actor, it’s a little too close for comfort to that, you know? Still, this is Odin, and our relationship is not now, and never has been, about my personal comfort. It is also, He has pointed out, still a form I find pleasing (He could easily have taken one I would not have found attractive at all—but for the sake of o/Our Marriage, that would not have been His first choice). I am not going to identify His face-claim here (in order to maintain at least the illusion of a shred pf privacy), but a few of you can probably guess. (Do not guess here, though; I am not going to either confirm or deny, or even approve such comments.) At any rate, I’m Told the shift is not permanent, and it is isn’t even consistent; He still flits back to His “usual” form as it suits Him. The point is not “Hey, I’d rather look like this,” but more, “Hey, you find this form pleasing. I’ll try this out for a while to help train you not to become so attached to any one appearance I might assume.” And also, because being a shapeshifter is so integral to who He is, trying to confine Him to a single appearance for my own comfort would be a rejection of who He is on a very basic level.
There is also another reason why (as mentioned in my comment) I suspect He is doing this, as a way of preparing me for some further exploration I’m equally uncomfortable with. About five years ago now, I read an academic book called Lady with a Mead Cup by Michael J. Enright, a professor of medieval European history. This book offered a lot of informed speculation about the importance of sacred drink in the comitatus, or Germanic war band, and how the role of king and queen, respectively, developed from the need to knit the band together, the easiest way being for it to mimic a familial structure. As a result, the king became the “father” of the band, the “giver of rings,” while the queen became the “mother,” the provider of sacred drink. (This is, by the way, also related to my role in the Wild Hunt.) In Germanic culture, sacred drink takes on an enhanced importance not only because of the Mead of Poetry myth cycle, but also because when oaths are taken over the mead horn, the horn becomes a stand-in for the Well of Wyrd, so that oaths go directly into the Well itself. In addition, Enright posited a rite of kingship in which the king was granted sovereignty through the acceptance of a sacred drink from the queen.
But wait, there’s more. In the course of the book, Enright piles up a good deal of evidence that Wodan made His first appearance not in mainland Germany as the storm giant Wodanaz, but in Romano-Celtic Gaul as an aspect of Mercury connected with kingship. He cites numerous inscriptions, offering stones, and reliefs that refer to or depict Mercuries Rex and Mercurius Hrano, this latter name (meaning “ the brawler,”) being closely related to one of Odin’s names in the sagas, Hrani. Reminding the reader of the backdrop he has established for the leadership of the warband—a king who is the bread-provider being paired with a prophetess-queen who is the liquor-provider)–he remarks that it should not be difficult to locate, in the Germanic pantheon, a goddess who fits this exact description. And yet, she is not there, and the only divine female who fulfills all aspects of this role during the late Iron Age is the Romano-Celtic Rosmerta. A goddess of sovereignty and prophecy, Rosmerta was above all connected with the serving of sacred drink (as depicted in numerous reliefs from this era) and it was in fact she who was paired with Mercurius Hrano and regarded as queen to his king, and thus as (according to this argument) Wodan’s earliest consort. When his cult moved further into the Germanic mainland and then to Scandinavia, she was replaced by the indigenous Germanic Frigga.
However, after reading this I immediately made the connection that while Frigga did preserve some of Rosmerta’s original attributes, such as prophecy and control over the household, she lost one crucial role: that of liquor provider. Since it is traditionally the lady of the hall who both brews the mead (or oversees its brewing) and serves it, modern Heathens have tried to plaster this role onto Frigga, yet it is (in my opinion) a rather poor fit, since none of her myths reference it. Yet there is one female in the pantheon whose central myth does revolve around sacred drink: Gunnlod. Enright did not make this connection, but it seems to me that the mead story—in which a powerful giantess offers Odin a rare and special drink, and he accepts it—may be preserving an older story about Wodan’s marriage to Gunnlod, and also possibly how he first became king, through being wed to a goddess of sovereignty.