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Odin, the Viking god of war and wisdom

The king of the gods

The god of wisdom, war and poetry was also the leader of the  æsir . One of the most important deities of the Nordic pantheon, protagonist of many myths and to whom much worship was paid.

Odin is considered the  king of the gods  in Norse mythology. Not only does he have a preponderant role in Asgard, but he is also the father of other gods of great importance such as Thor or Balder.

It is a deity with a curious contrast. On the one hand, he was angry and energetic. No, in vain, he was the god of war. For this reason, during the fighting, the Vikings asked him for his help in achieving victory . In addition, human sacrifices of prisoners were sometimes made in his honor.

On the other hand, Odin was considered the wisest god of all. He sacrificed his eye to gain knowledge . Either way, it embodies the spirit of self-improvement and always rewards intrepid warriors capable of fighting bravely and willing to die to enter Valhalla.

The origins and genealogy of Odin

The Norse god Odin is the son of the god Bor and the giantess Bestla. Therefore, he is the grandson of Buri, the first god of Scandinavian mythology.

He has two brothers: Ve and Vili. In turn, he is married to Frigg and has a varied lineage with other women. So, among their relationships we can find:

  • Frigg , symbol of cultivated land. With her he had three children: Hermod, Hoder and Balder .
  • Jörð , a jotun who embodies the uninhabited land. Among his descendants we find Thor and Meili.
  • Rind , a giantess who represents the frozen land. She is Vali’s mother.
  • Gríðr , a jotun with whom he fathered Víðarr.
  • Gunnlod , a giantess with whom he had Bragi.

Representation of Odin

Undoubtedly, the main attribute that allows us to distinguish Odin is that he had only one eye . Additionally, this Viking god was usually depicted wearing a golden helmet, gold breastplate, and his dwarf-forged and impossible-to-stop Gungir spear . It is also common to see him accompanied by the ravens Hugin and Munin, as well as his fast eight-legged horse Sleipnir.

His main residence is Valaskjalf, in Asgard . It is a superb palace with a silver roof that houses the Hliðskjálf, a throne from which Odin observes the 9 worlds. In his absence, it is his Vile or Ve brothers who rule.

Another place Odin frequented is the  Glaðsheimr , a meeting room where all the æsir met . Nearby was Valhalla, which is the residence of valiant warriors who died in combat.

Surt, the leader of the fire giants

Odin had a multitude of nicknames, among which “the father of all” or Alfader , Bjørn or the bear, Hertyr or the god of warriors, Gizul or the soothsayer and Sadr or the one who tells the truth stand out.

The water he drank from the well grants him all his past knowledge, his two crows, Munin and Hugin (Memory and Thought, who flew every day to gather news from all over the world and were the extension of his eyes and ears. ), and his throne grant him present knowledge and the gift of seeing the destiny of men that the goddess Freyia taught him gives him future knowledge.

Odin illustration by Swedish painter Georg von Rosen (1886)

Myths of Odin

Odin’s role in the creation of the world

Along with Vili and Ve, Odin helped shape Midgard. The three brothers killed the primeval giant Ymir , and with his gigantic body created the world. With bones and teeth they formed mountains; with their blood and sweat, the rivers and lakes; the brains were used to compose the clouds; the skull, supported by four dwarfs (corresponding to the cardinal points) is the celestial vault.

As we can see, Odin’s role in Norse mythology is not secondary. Not only is he the author of Midgard along with his brothers, but the three have decided to create humans . Taking two tree trunks, Odin breathed a breath of life into them; Vili gave them a brain and feelings; We finished the job by giving them sight, hearing and other senses. Thus the first man and the first woman were born, respectively Ask and Embla.

Nine days hanging from Yggdrasil to learn about the runes

The Norns carve magical runes in Yggdrasil’s trunk. With an infinite thirst for knowledge, Odin sets out to discover the secrets of this writing. It was the case that the runes only appeared when someone provided samples of unparalleled value . As a result, he embarks on a dangerous plan: he injures himself with his spear and hangs himself from a branch of Yggdrasil.

So he remains for nine days, forbidding anyone to help him. Finally, on the verge of death, the runes appeared under his feet . The god contemplated them, memorizing their mysteries in his prodigious mind, and has since acquired magical powers.

Achieving wisdom costs an arm and a leg

Another very popular mythological episode starring Odin has to do with the acquisition of knowledge. Under the roots of Yggdrasil is the Well of Mimir , a well of wisdom guarded by the giant Mimir.

Odin went there to drink from its waters and get a scholarship. However, Mimir asked him for a great sacrifice in return. God offers his eye to attain knowledge . Thus, he becomes the wisest character, who knows everything except the future.

Odin in Ragnarök

As we know, in the final battle there will be a tremendous clash between the forces led by Odin and those commanded by Loki and Surt. Not even Odin himself will survive a tremendous confrontation. Destiny is fixed and not even the father of the gods will be able to escape.


Viking Funeral: How the Vikings greeted their dead

In Ragnarök, Odin dies in front of the fearsome wolf Fenrir, who devours him. His son Viðarr avenges him by killing the animal: he tramples on the lower jaw while using his arms to open the upper one, until it tears off.