Odin, for those of you who have not seen the Marvel movie ‘Thor’, is the major god of Norse (Anglo-Saxon/Germanic) mythology. The Norse gods are somewhat similar to the Greek gods. Odin, like Zeus, is an older but powerful man with armor, a spear, and an eyepatch. He is the wise All-Father of the gods, creator of the world and men, and reigns as the high chieftain with his wife Frigga in the city of the gods, Asgard.
Here are eight great things we can learn from this mighty god.
Odin has an insatiable thirst for wisdom. He is on a never-ending journey to acquire knowledge and he makes monumental personal sacrifices along the way to attain it.
Here are some of the ways Odin seeks wisdom:
He sits on Hlidskialf, his throne, in the hall of Valaskialf, a high tower overlooking the world where he can view all things.
He gets news from all the worlds every day;
“Two ravens had Odin All-Father; Hugin and Munin were their names; they flew through all the worlds every day, and coming back to Asgard they would light on Odin’s shoulders and tell him of all the things they had seen and heard.”
Odin visits the Norns (three wise women), disguises himself to wander the earth so he can interact with regular people, drinks the Mead of Poetry, hangs from the branch of Yggdrasill, the cosmic World Tree, until he understands the profound meaning of Runes, and he sacrifices his eye for a drink from Mimir’s Well of Wisdom, to name a few ways he seeks wisdom.
Odin the All-Father is receptive to the counsel of others. We already mentioned his ravens:
“He summoned his two ravens… that flew through the earth and through the Realm of the Giants and that knew all things that were past and all things that were to come. What Odin learnt from these ravens was told in the Council of the Gods.”
Like the Greek gods, the Norse Gods have a council with Odin as it’s leader. Information is given at the council, issues discussed, grievances resolved, and solutions found. Although Odin has the ultimate say so, he always listens to everyone around him.
Odin listens very well and seeks to understand. And not just to his fellow gods, the Aesir and the Vanir.
“And so Odin, no longer riding on Sleipner, his eight-legged steed; no longer wearing his golden armor and his eagle-helmet, and without even his spear in his hand, traveled through Midgard, the World of Men, and made his way to Jotunheim, the Realm of the Giants. No longer was he called Odin All-father, but Vegtam the Wanderer…. Odin seemed a man to men and a giant to giants.”
Odin listens to gods and goddesses, men and women, nature and animals, giants, dwarves, Valkyries, and the dead. From the lowly fisherman to the greatest king, he meets them as a humble equal.
Odin drinks a Magic Mead which was brewed by the Dwarfs from the blood of Kvasir the Poet who had wisdom and a way with words.
“Those who drank of the Magic Mead became very wise, and not only that but they could put their wisdom into such beautiful words that every one who heard would love and remember it.”
Words have power. Your inspirational words, passion, and eloquence influences others to take action, moves them emotionally and changes the course of their lives forever.
The buck stops with Odin. He is one of the oldest Gods. He helped, with his two brothers, to create the world and gave men the breath of life.
“And Odin knew that the world must not be left between Surtur, who would destroy it with fire, and Niflheim, that would gather it back to Darkness and Nothingness. He, the eldest of the Gods, would have to win the wisdom that would help save the world.
And so, with his face stern in front of his loss and pain, Odin All-Father turned and went toward Mimir’s Well.”
Odin does what is necessary because he chooses to take the responsibility as his own.
Odin knows, from his ravens and looking into the eyes of the Norns, that bad things are coming for the Gods and the world of men. In fact, most of the gods, including Odin himself, are going to die in the upcoming battle. But, he does not run from this. Instead, he seeks further knowledge, to become more prepared, from the Well of Wisdom.
“Odin took the horn in both hands and drank and drank. And as he drank all the future became clear to him. He saw all the sorrows and troubles that would fall upon Men and Gods. But he saw, too, why the sorrows and troubles had to fall, and he saw how they might be borne so that Gods and Men, by being noble in the days of sorrow and trouble, would leave in the world a force that one day, a day that was far off indeed, would destroy the evil that brought terror and sorrow and despair into the world.”
Face your trials with the same determination and acceptance as you do working toward your goals. They are part of the same journey.
“And there sat Mimir, the Guardian of the Well of Wisdom, with his deep eyes bent upon the deep water… Then Odin made reverence to Mimir, the wisest of the world’s beings. ‘I would drink from your well, Mimir’, he said.”
“There is a price to be paid. All who have come here to drink have shrunk from paying the price. Will you, eldest of the Gods, pay it?”
“I will not shrink from the price that has to be paid, Mimir”, said Odin All-Father.”
“Then drink,” said Mimir.
In the end, Odin plucked out his own eye as the price for a drink from the Well of Wisdom.
Odin taught us you must sacrifice part of yourself to gain a greater self
While hanging on the Tree of Yggdrasil, with no food or drink for nine days and nights, Odin finally understood the meaning and wisdom of the sacred Runes. But, what I think is interesting is he had to sacrifice himself to himself to do it:
“I know that I hung on a windy tree nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, given to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.”
He sacrificed himself (as he was) to Odin (faith) in order to get to a greater level of understanding. We, too, sometimes leave behind who we have been – the life we have known- in order to discover a greater self.
Pay The Price Without Complaint
“Then when he had drunk out of the great horn that Mimir had given him, he put his hand to his face and he plucked out his right eye. Terrible was the pain that Odin All-Father endured. But he made no groan nor moan.”
“…as Mimir took the eye and let it sink deep, deep into the water of the Well of Wisdom. And there the Eye of Odin stayed, shining up through the water, a sign to all who came to that place of the price that the Father of the Gods had paid for his wisdom.”
Odin knew he would die one day so he made sure to leave his wisdom for future generations. Ultimately, we all have a limited amount of time but we can leave something of our wisdom for the future.
“Once there was another Sun and another Moon; a different Sun and a different Moon from the ones we see now… And there was another earth at that time, an earth green and beautiful. But the terrible winds that blew leveled down forests and hills and dwellings. Then fire came and burnt the earth. There was darkness, for the Sun and the Moon were devoured. The Gods had met with their doom. And the time in which all these things happened was called Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods.”
“Then a new Sun and a new Moon appeared and went traveling through the heavens. The earth became beautiful again, and in a deep forest that the fire had not burnt a woman and a man wakened up. They had been hidden there by Odin and left to sleep during Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods.”
“…they moved through the world, and their children and their children’s children made people for the new earth. And of the Gods were left Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor; and on the new earth Vidar and Vali found tablets that the older Gods had written on and had left there for them, tablets telling of all that had happened before Ragnarok, The Twilight of the Gods.”
Source for the quotes and exerpts used throughout this article:
“The Children of Odin- The Book of Northern Myths” By Padraic Colum.
Get it. Read it to the kids. It’s awesome.