We’ve been seeing a lot of Thor and Loki, lately. Probably because the Marvel Universe has placed him in the limelight. Along with Loki, the two are off saving Asgard and Midgård. While it’s fun to watch, many people don’t know much more detail beyond the famous people that are playing Loki and Thor’s parents in the movies. Much of the time people don’t know who Odin really is and the role that he played in mythology. Odin is usually viewed as the Norse God. The very first God. This isn’t actually the case. To truly understand where Odin came from, I’m going to tell you a short version of his story.
Before there were humans and before there was a world or sky or wind, there was a great abyss. This abyss was known as Ginnungagap. There were two ends to this abyss. One end was engulfed in elemental fire while the other end of the abyss was engulfed in elemental ice. Within the middle of Ginnungagap, the heat and the cold met. The fire melted the frost and from the droplets of ice, a frost ogre emerged. This ogre was called Ymir.
More, the frost melted and dripped and from those droplets emerged a cow. Her name was Audhumbla. Audhumbla cared for Ymir and fed him her milk. She, in turn, consumed the salt licks that had formed within the ice of the gap. As she licked away at the salt she uncovered the first of all of the Norse gods. The first god’s name was Buri. From Buri came a son who was called Bor. From Bor and the giantess, Bestla came three sons. These sons were named Vili, Ve, and Odin.
Odin and his brothers killed the frost giant Ymir and from his remains, they constructed the world. The blood of the giant became the lakes and the seas, the mountains were constructed of his bones, and the giant's flesh filled out the earth.
Once the world was created, the three brothers created the first humans. Ask and Embla. Ve and Vili gave humans the ability to understand and to move. They also gave the first humans names and clothing. Odin’s task was the most important. He gave them life and spirit. Due to Odin bringing life to the first people, another of his names is Giver of Life.
With that bit of background let’s move on to the biggest difference between the Norse gods and the depictions of Jesus or Allah. While Allah and Jesus are thought of as “good”, Norse gods were not thought of in such a way, nor are they now. They had their good points and they also had their faults. They were much like the people that worshiped them. The All-Father was no exception.
How popular is Odin?
Many people feel that Tolkien fashioned Gandalf after him. In fact, Gandalf’s name is Old Norse and roughly translates to “wand elf”. We won’t even get into the amount of Norse inspiration that you’ll find in his books.
What made Odin so popular to the Viking culture? Why was he so worthy of emulation?
There are a few stories as to how Odin lost his eye. One of them was so that he could drink from the Well of Urd and Mimir demanded one of his eyes as payment. Another story has Odin exchanging his eye for the ability to see his inner wisdom. Regardless of the tale, he gave his eye willingly to gain wisdom.
Aside from wisdom, there was poetry. Inspiration and knowledge are more reasons as to why the Vikings worshiped Odin.
While it is true that Odin is seen as a god of war in many movies and shows, that’s not really his title. That one belongs to Tyr. In fact, there are very few myths where Odin actually wages war or fights in battles. Odin is more of the spirit, knowledge, wisdom, and inspiration that warriors look to so that they can find victory over their enemies. Odin is the reason that men and women worked so hard at bettering themselves. Odin didn’t just hand over praise and blessings. You had to strive to work for them. Greatness through wisdom and action. This is just a small piece of why Odin so highly looked on.
Fun Facts: The two ravens that are often seen with Odin are Hugin and Munin (“HOO-gin” and “MOO-nin”). Their names are usually said to mean “Thought” and “Memory”, but Munin’s name meaning is closer to the word “emotion” or “desire”. Odin also runs around riding an 8 legged horse. Sleipnir ( “SLAYP-neer”). His name means “Sliding one”.