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Odin The Unknowable

English: The Norse god Odin on his horse Sleip...

The Norse god Odin on his horse Sleipnir, featured on the Tjängvide image stone in Vallhalla. It also can depict a killed warrior on his way to Vallhalla greeted by Valkyries with horn goblet in their hands. Français : Le dieu Odin représenté sur la pierre de Tjängvide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Odin (also called Woden by Anglo-Saxon pagans) is the supreme Norse God who, according to most accounts, anticipates the German Wotan.

As head of the Nordic pantheon called the Aesir, Odin has many faces. He is the wise giver of laws, the author of mystical poetry, a fierce, even frenzied war god and the protector of heroes. He is also a shaman, magician and shapeshifter.

Like the Greek Zeus, Odin is an unfaithful husband. His wife Frigga tolerates his numerous affairs with goddesses and human women.

An 1886 depiction of the indigenous Norse God ...

An 1886 depiction of the indigenous Norse God Odin by Georg von Rosen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Odin is popularized in the Tarot deck as the god who hangs himself from the World Tree (Ydgrassil) for nine days and nights to gain the esoteric wisdom of the runes—that is, the secret of immortality. This has been compared to Christ hanging on the cross but, some think, spuriously so.

The ambient music artist Giles Reaves released a track called “Odin (The Unknowable)” in his 1986 album Wunjo.

Since this entry initially appeared, Wikipedia has blossomed. So I add the following. I could rewrite in my own words. But that seems a waste of time when it’s already clear:

Odin is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania through the tribal expansions of the Migration Period and the Viking Age. In the modern period, Odin continued to be acknowledged in the rural folklore of Germanic Europe. References to Odin appear in place names throughout regions historically inhabited by the ancient Germanic peoples, and the day of the week Wednesday bears his name in many Germanic languages, including English.¹

R. Ellis Davidson’s Gods and Myths of Northern Europe seems to give more individualized treatment to Odin, Woden and Wotan than what we see at Wikipedia. I’m not sure if this or the Wikipedia view is more accurate. Probably an issue open to debate as the actual beliefs about this figure likely differed among peoples in that time (something Davidson mentions) and also, differed from recorded accounts (from which we have to do detective work to try to figure out what really happened).

Related » Achilles, Balder, Fenris, Freya, Hero, Thor

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin