Of the little that is written of the Norse Mythology, there is a lot said about Odin. He is, without question, the most important deity in the Norse pantheon. There are many mythic accounts of him both as himself or in the guise of someone or something else. He is associated as the god of many things and his power and wisdom are said to be unmatched.
But even with everything that is written about him, who truly is the All-Father? How would you describe him? What characters define him? Where did he originate from and what was his role in Norse mythology? In this post, we are going to look at everything you need to know about Odin, including all his powers and abilities as well as the myths written about him.
Who Is Odin?
Odin is a significant deity, widely revered among the Vikings and other Old Germanic religions. He can be described as a tall and old wise man with a long white beard and a missing eye. In most of his depictions, he is either seen holding his sphere Gungnir or sitting with his trusted animals, the two ravens and wolves. There are times when the depiction was of him riding Sleipnir, the horse with eight legs. To fully grasp who Odin was, the following are the different aspects of who he is:
Odin the Creator
During the creation of the cosmos, Buri was the first Norse god who was licked out of Ice. He later had a son named Borr who mated with the frost giantess, Bestla, giving birth to Odin and his two brothers Vili and Ve.
Odin and his brother later become afraid that the frost giants being birthed by Ymir, the first being to ever exist, would come to bring chaos to the cosmos. To prevent this, the three brothers decided to kill Ymir. They used his body to create what they considered a more organized world named Midgard, what we called earth. The brothers later created the first humans from husks and placed them on Midgard to populate.
Odin was therefore the creator of men and became one of the deities worshipped by them.
Odin the Father
The Raven god was the king of Asgard and father to many of the Aesir gods. He was married to Frigg, queen of Asgard, with whom he had a son named Baldur. His son was unfortunately killed at the hands of Loki, and his death is said to have set in motion the events that would lead up to Ragnarok. Aside from his wife, Odin also had many relations with a giantess, something that was common among the Aesir gods.
Thor, his favorite son, was birthed by a giantess named Jord. Vidar, the son who would later avenge Odin’s death during Ragnarok, was birthed by another giantess named Gridr. Odin is believed to have fathered several other gods including, Heimdall, Hodr, Bragi, and Try. With the limited information on Norse mythology, unfortunately, there is not enough proof that this is true.
Odin the All-Father
While Odin fathered many of the Aesir gods, he was not the father of all of them. He got the title ‘All Father’ from Christianized sources of Norse mythology. He was the head ruler or chieftain of the Aesir, who resided on Asgard where Odin’s hall, Valhalla, was located. From there he presided over all of Asgard, although he was described to be more of a wanderer searching for knowledge.
Odin the God
Like all other Norse gods, Odin had control over certain elements. His sphere of activities was however broader than other gods. This was due to his immense complex power and unmatched wisdom. He was associated with many things including knowledge, healing, poetry, battle, death, and so on. His main dockets, however, were that he was the god of war, wisdom, poetry, runes, and magic.
Odin may be an important figure in the Norse mythic traditions, but his origins are not clearly understood. Sturluson attempted to bring order to Odin’s character in the thirteenth century through the Ynglinga saga. Here he described Odin as the King of Asgard, a great and strong ruler whose blessings were invoked by warriors and who accepted many sacrifices from them.
Odin however, is said to have appeared in other older mythic sources. A great example is Germania, an early Roman source written by Tacitus in the 1st Century CE. Here Odin appears as Mercury, a deity known to be a traveler and trickster who would surpass any boundary. These characters match perfectly with Odin’s character in Norse mythology.
Being the might All-Father it is only befitting for Odin to have unparalleled power and a complex set of abilities and power. Aside from his exceptional military prowess, Odin is also a great sorcerer. He is the master of Seidr, necromancy, and many other forms of magic. This allows him to see the past and future and change the outcomes. He also can speak to the dead and in some cases even resurrect them.
The Raven God is also the wisest being in all of the cosmos. He attained this knowledge with great pains. For him to be knowledgeable in the Norse runes, he had to hang himself from Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights. He also had to sacrifice his eye to attain the wisdom found from drinking from Mimir’s well. Myth has it that by drinking water from the well, Odin received 18 additional powers including the ability to heal, bind enemies and quench fires among many others.
Odin was also a skilled poet. He gained this ability after drinking the Mead of Poetry. To acquire this mead, he had to disguise himself, trick, and cheat. The mead is also believed to have given him the ability to easily influence others into doing his bidding. The power from the mead and his great knowledge allowed him to face intellectual battles with enemies and emerge victoriously.
While Odin was a great warrior who barely ever lost a battle, he never used brute strength but cunningness and magic. The only weapon he had was his spear Gungnir, which barely ever saw a battle, but was believed to never miss its target once thrown. So mighty was the sword, however, that whenever Odin would wield it, the ground would tremble and his enemies would be paralyzed with fear.
Other Interesting Myths About Odin?
A lot has been written and spoken of Odin. Many myths are accounting for his different quests and travel in search of knowledge. Aside from the time he sacrificed his eye, for example, myths have it that Odin gained wisdom from Mimir in a different manner. He is said to have restored Mimir’s decapacitated head and preserved it so he could seek his counsel.
Some myths speak of Odin preparing for Ragnarok by building an army of einherjar, brave fallen warriors in battle. Together with his Valkyries, he would select the souls of these fallen soldiers and keep them in Valhalla until the day of Ragnarok when they would join him in battle. Of all the Norse deities, Odin’s biography seems to be the only one that is almost complete, save for the actual number of gods he fathered and some discrepancies when comparing different accounts.
Even today Odin is still an important Norse figure. Many places around the world have been named after him, especially in Sweden and Norway. Wednesday is also believed to be Odin’s day because it is believed that the name was derived from his name. Even in pop culture, Odin remains prominent. He is a fictional character in the Marvel movies and comics and features in American God’s, a novel by Neil Gaiman, as the character Mr. Wednesday.