Odin - greatest of the Norse pantheon
and ruler of the Gods - the Aesir
. He had many names other than Odin and its permutations of Wodin
It is from Odin that we get the name of the day Wednesday
. Odin is the lord of war
Odin was born of Bor and Bestla and is brother to Ve and Vili. Along with his brothers, Odin created the world. As with much of the Norse culture, the creation of the world was an act of battle. The universe before the tree Yggdrasil grew was a chasm that separated fire and ice. When the fire and ice met it formed the giant Ymir and a cow, Audhumbla, who nursed Ymir. The sweat of Ymir created a male and female frost giant. Through licking the ice blocks, Audhumbla created Bur who was the father of Bor and grandfather to Odin. Odin and his brothers killed Ymir.
- From the blood from the giant's body killed all of the frost giants with the exception of Bergelmir
- From Ymir's body Odin created the world
- From Ymir's blood the sea was created
- From Ymir's flesh, the earth was formed
- Ymir's skull formed the sky
- Ymir's bones became the mountains
- Ymir's hair became the trees
This new world created was named Midgard
and Ymir's eyebrow was then used to create a fence around the area were mankind was to live. Upon this world grew the tree Yggdrasil
that was supported the universe. Along the sea shore, the brothers created the first man, Aske
, from an ash tree
and the first woman, Embla
, from an elm tree
. Ve bestowed upon humans the attributes of feeling
while Vili gave humans thought
Odin's wife is Frigga and one of his sons is Thor - the second most powerful of the Aesir. Odin is often portrayed as a old one-eyed man. Accompanying Odin was his eight legged horse, Sleipner (the offspring of the mare Svadilfari and Loki) and the ravens Hugin and Munin meaning thought and memory. Each day these ravens flew through the world and brought news back to Odin. The wolves Freki and Geri also accompany Odin - Freki means ravenous and Gere means Greedy. Odin carries with him a spear named Grungir that never missed and a bow that shot ten arrows with each pull. On his hand, Odin wore the ring Draupner which created eight copies of itself every night.
Odin ruled from Valhalla, where his throne was called Hlidskialf. From this seat, he could see the entire world. In Valhalla, he is attended by the Valkyries who are a select group of the Einheriar - a portion of slain warriors which were divided between Odin and Freya. Life in Valhalla was a constant battle in preparation for
Mentioned above was the aspect of Odin as a one-eyed man which relates to the tale where Odin gave one of his eyes to drink from the well of Mimir to see the future. The knowledge that he gained allowed him to lead the gods to prominence however it also gave him the vision of his own doom and Ragnarok. After this drink, Odin is said to never have smiled again. While there, he broke a branch from Yggdrasil which was later formed into his spear.
Worship of Odin involved human sacrifice. As part of the tradition, to gain knowledge Odin was hung on the tree Yggdrasil and thrust through with a spear. From this, Odin learned 18 charms. Similarly, his followers hung on the gallows (Odin was also known as the Lord of the Gallows). It was then believed that the ravens of Odin would fly to the hanged man or that Odin himself would talk to the man. It should be noted that 'Ygg' is
one of the names for Odin and Yggdrasil means Odin's gallows.
When Ragnarok arrives Odin is destined to die - swallowed by the Fenris Wolf. Odin is aware of this and goes to it willingly, for he is a god of warriors who go to their fate knowingly.