In all of Norse Mythology, there is no deity more significant than Odin. He appears in most of the little recorded facts about the Old Norse. Among the Vikings and Germanic religions, he is the most widely revered god. He goes by many titles including the All-Father, King of Asgard, The Furious, and so on. In many accounts of him, he has also assumed different identities.
As a result, one may wonder who was Odin the god of? That’s because all Norse deities were had power over certain elements of the cosmos, like Thor who was the God of Thunder. Given his immense power, it’s not as simple to place Odin in one category. In this post, however, we will explore who Odin was and what he stood for in Norse mythology.
Who Is Odin?
The All-Father is regarded as the Chief god among the Norse deities and king of the Aesir, a chieftain of gods who resided in Asgard. He is often depicted with one eye and a long white beard. In different artistic depictions, he will either be sitting or standing with his powerful spear in hand and his trusted animals by his side. These animals included the two wolves, Freki and Geri, and the two ravens, Muninn and Huginn. Sometimes he is also depicted riding his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.
Odin was also referred to as a mighty warrior because he had never lost a battle (aside from Ragnarok). This was befitting of his kingly stature, however, regardless of his military prowess, he defied many convections of true warrior-king that many of the Norse idealized. To begin with, he was a wanderer who sought wisdom above all else. He also spoke poetry and riddles and favored magic, crafts, and cunningness over brute strength like true warriors. What’s more, he practiced prophecy which was considered feminine, and a degrading fact for a man let alone a warrior.
In terms of attributes, his main ones were his wisdom, wit, and wile. The meaning of his name also matched with his personality. The name Óðinn, in Old Norse, is gotten from two words. The first word Óðr means fury, passion, inspiration, ecstasy, and rage. Odin’s character could be defined as one that was inspired, furious and passionate, and this was depicted in everything he did.
As for family, Odin was the son of the second god Borr and frost giantess Bestla, and brother to Vili and Ve. While he was married to Frigg, with whom he had a son named Baldur, Odin bore many children with other goddesses and giantesses.
What Is Odin The God Of?
All Norse deities have complex powers, so none is responsible for just one thing. In most cases, their roles may overlap. Odin in particular, given his immense power and knowledge, has a broad sphere of activities. According to Norse mythology, he is associated with knowledge, magic, healing, poetry, battle, death, and the Norse runes among many other things. The following are however his main dockets as a Norse god:
God of War
Although Thor embodies the ideal concept of a warrior, it is Odin who’s favor the Vikings invoke before a war or going into battle. A common ritual the Vikings were known to perform, was an imitation of when Odin threw his spear overhead the Vanir to officially start the Aesir-Vanir war. As such, the Vikings would throw their spears overhead their enemies at the beginning of every battle as a way of dedicating their bodies as a sacrifice to Odin so they can win the war.
God of Wisdom
As we’ve mentioned, there was nothing Odin valued more than knowledge. He went to great lengths to acquire it, and to this day, there is no other creature believed to have matched his wisdom, especially after drinking from Mimir’s well. For this, he had to sacrifice his eye to acquire the knowledge from the well’s water. He even struck himself and hanged from Yggdrasil for nine days and nights to obtain the knowledge and powers of the Norse runes. As a result, scholars and any individual seeking knowledge would invoke Odin for his wisdom.
God of Poetry
Although he lied and cheated to obtain the mead of poetry, Odin is still considered the god of poetry and inspiration. It is said that once he drank the mead, he not only gained great mastery of poetry but also could persued and inspire others to do his bidding. As he stole the mead and was running away with it, some of it spilled and every one the mead touched was said to become a great poet. Odin was said to share the mead with gods and humans he deemed worthy of being poets.
God of Death
This comes as no coincidence, given that he is the god of war. It is said that with the help of Valkyries, Odin would select the souls of fallen warriors who died bravely in battle and take them to his hall in Valhalla. There they dwelled, awaiting Ragnarok when Odin will call upon them to aid him in battle. Despite being the god of death, it seems his power over it was limited. This is proven by the fact that he could not save his son Baldur, nor could he take him from Helheim and bring him to Valhalla.
God of Magic
In his quests, Odin also learned about many charms and sorcery. Aside from the knowledge of the runes, that gave him magical abilities, Odin also became a master of Seidr magic. This form of magic involved being able to see and shape the future. Being the god of magic, he was invoked by sorcerers, seers, and prophets.
According to certain accounts in Norse mythology, Odin was among the first Norse gods to have existed. He was the third generation of gods being the direct son of the Norse god, Borr with a Bestla, who was a giantess. Odin and his brothers were worried that the giants born from Ymir would soon wreak havoc and chaos into the universe, and so they killed the first giant and used his body to create what we call the earth or Midgard, as it was referred to in the Norse mythology.
There is, however, contradicting information that shows Odin emerged from older mythic sources. Aside from Norse mythology, he also appeared in the early Roman sources like Germania of the 1st century CE by Tacitus. In this source, he was referred to as Mercury, a deity who was also a wondered and trickster who knew no boundaries. These characteristics match perfectly with those of Odin. The details of his origin are therefore not well understood.
Odin Powers And Abilities
Odin is the undisputed All-Father, considered to be the god of many things, and whose figure prominently appears in Norse mythology. Being the god of all gods, he is said to have many great powers and unparalleled wisdom, as would be expected. In terms of weapons, Odin valued intellect more and so the only weapon he wielded was Gungnir, his mighty spear. Other than that, the following are the powerful abilities that Odin had at his disposal:
Shape-shifting – he could transform himself into any animal or human form he desired. It only depended on his circumstances and needs.
Riddles – Odin was talented in speaking riddles and would often engage in a battle of intellect with his enemies and beat them.
Seidr – this was a form of magic that Odin mastered for him to become a seer. This power allows him to see both the past and future and to some limit be able to affect or shape it.
Mind control – given his intellectual prowess and after drinking from the mead of poetry, Odin was able to persuade anyone into doing his bidding.
Healing – there isn’t a lot of proof for this, other than the time he embalmed and magically restored Mimir’s head after he was decapacitated.
Combat and warfare – Odin may not have been the perfect embodiment of a warrior, but even without using weapons, he had the power to influence the outcome of a war. He could give superhuman strength to his warriors and fill them with rage or blind the enemy warriors and paralyze them with fear.
Odin’s importance has been maintained throughout the years. He keeps appearing and being depicted in popular culture as the novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman in 2001 or the God of War video game. His prominent depiction however in pop culture has to be in Marvel, where unlike his reality of being a cunning trickster he is seen as a wise and benevolent leader.