|“||I am the unknown Will, The Anger that threatens glory and ruin: Lord of Storms am I, in heaven high and caverns deep. I am the Father of the War, Odin for you, Wotan for him, Wayfarer, Wanderer, beggar, king, numen, genius, strength and ring.||„|
Odin is the chief god in Norse mythology and is a widely revered deity and the king of the Norse aesir-gods. Odin is associated with healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg.
Odin is often depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded, frequently wielding a spear named Gungnir, and wearing a cloak and a broad hat. He is often accompanied by his animal companions, the wolves Geri and Freki and the ravens Huginn and Muninn, who bring him information from all over Midgard. Odin also rides the flying, eight-legged steed Sleipnir across the sky and into the underworld. Odin is attested as having many sons, most famously the god Baldr and the more widely known thunder god Thor, and is known by hundreds of names.
Odin and his two brothers were born from the union of Bestla and Buri. Of the three, Ódin is the eldest, Vili the middle, and Ve the youngest. The three brothers established that they would be the rulers of the heavens and the earth given their special divinity amongst the primordial divine giants. To do this, they slayed the primeval giant Ymir and his body produced so much blood from his wounds that within it drowned all the jötnar but two, Bergelmir, who, on a lúðr with his (unnamed) wife, survived and repopulated the jötnar.
The trio took the body into the middle of Ginnungagap and from his flesh fashioned the Earth, from his blood the sea and lakes, from his bones rocks, scree and stones his teeth, molars, and bones. From his gushing wounds they created the sea that surrounds the Earth, the trio took his skull and placed it above the Earth and from it made the sky. They placed the sky above the earth, and, to hold up the sky, they placed four dwarfs—Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri—at its four corners. The trio took the molten particles and sparks that flew from Muspell and "they fixed all the lights, some in the sky, some moved in a wandering course beneath the sky, but they appointed them positions and ordained their courses". At some point, they built Asgard where they and the other gods held their Things.
The brothers were once walking along a beach and found two trees there. They took the wood and from it created their own first human beings; Ask and Embla. Odin gave them the breath of life, Vili gave them movement and intelligence, and Vé gave them shape, speech, hearing and sight. Further, the three gods gave them clothing and names. Ask and Embla go on to become one of the progenitors of humanity and were given a home within the walls of Midgard.
All-Father of Asgard
Odin lived in "the land or home of the Æsir", the capital of which being Asgard. Asgard was ruled by Odin, a great chieftain, and was "a great place for sacrifices". It was the custom there that twelve temple priests were ranked highest; they administered sacrifices and held judgements over men.
Odin was a very successful warrior and travelled widely, conquering many lands, and he was so successful that he never lost a battle. As a result, men came to believe that "it was granted to him" to win all battles. Before Odin sent his men to war or to perform tasks for him, he would place his hands upon their heads and give them a bjannak ('blessing') and the men would believe that they would also prevail. The men placed all of their faith in Odin, and wherever they called his name they would receive assistance from doing so. Odin was often gone for great spans of time.
While Odin was gone, his brothers governed his realm. Once, Odin was gone for so long that the Æsir believed that he would not return. His brothers began to divvy up Odin's inheritance, "but his wife Frigg they shared between them. However, afterwards, [Odin] returned and took possession of his wife again". Contrary to popular belief, these statements did not imply that his brothers seduced and slept with Odin's wife but they may have taken advantage of her hospitality, and when Odin returned he kicked them out.
During the first war between the Northern gods, Odin "made war on the Vanir". The Vanir defended their land and the battle turned to a stalemate, both sides having devastated each other's lands. As part of a peace agreement, the two sides exchanged hostages. One of the exchanges went awry and resulted in the Vanir decapitating one of the hostages sent to them by the Æsir, Mímir. The Vanir sent Mímir's head to the Æsir, whereupon Odin "took it and embalmed it with herbs so that it would not rot, and spoke charms [Old Norse galdr] over it", which imbued the head with the ability to answer Odin and "tell him many occult things".
Sacrifice for Knowledge
Upon acquiring the head of Mimir, Odin would use the decapitated head of the wisdom god to learn otherworldly secrets of the universe. However, such secrets given by Mimir are not so easily acquired for it is said that in order for Odin to truly be worthy to learn all occult secrets, he must give a piece of himself over to Mimir. Odin obliges by taking out his eye, tossing it into Mimir's well which grants him more knowledge.
His relentless pursuit of knowledge is made more clear here in the lengths the benevolent king of Asgard goes to (very deliberately – he sacrifices himself to himself) in order to unlock the runes. He does this by hanging himself for nine nights, swinging from a branch of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, with a spear wound that put him close to death. It is only after those nine nights are the runes revealed to him.
Twilight of the Gods
At the Ragnarök, Odin's wisdom and power are put to the test. Natural catastrophes including a horrible winter, as well as Fenrir devouring the sun, herald the coming of the forces of the Underworld, Heimdall sounds the alarm, Mímir's head is consulted, and the gods have a huddle underneath Yggdrasil to decide what to do. However well-prepared, though, once the battle erupts Odin bravely takes on Fenrir but meets his end in the creature's jaws, dying alongside many of his fellow gods who perish to various foes but also slay many in the process.
Odin is often portrayed as being an eminently honorable ruler and battlefield commander, but to the ancient Norse, he was nothing of the sort. In contrast to more straightforwardly noble war gods such as Tyr or Thor, Odin incites otherwise peaceful people to strife with what, to modern tastes, is a downright sinister glee.
Odin frequently seeks knowledge in some manner and in disguise (most famously by obtaining the Mead of Poetry), at times makes wagers with his wife Frigg over the outcome of exploits, and takes part in both the creation of the world by way of slaying the primordial being Ymir and the gift of life to the first two humans Ask and Embla. Odin has a particular association with Yule, and mankind's knowledge of both the runes and poetry is also attributed to Odin.
Odin’s preference for the elite extends to all realms of society. As the chief of the Aesir gods, he’s the divine archetype of a ruler. He’s the legendary founder of numerous royal lines, and kings are as likely as shamanistic warriors to claim him as their beneficiary.
Myths and Legends
Odin is often the favorite god and helper of outlaws, those who had been banished from society for some especially heinous crime, as well. Like Odin, many such men were exceptionally strong-willed warrior-poets who were apathetic to established societal norms.
He maintains particularly close affiliations with the berserkers and other “warrior-shamans” whose fighting techniques and associated spiritual practices center around achieving a state of ecstatic unification with certain ferocious totem animals, usually wolves or bears, and, by extension, with Odin himself, the master of such beasts.
Odin is given primacy over female beings associated with the battlefield, the valkyries, and he himself oversees the afterlife location Valhalla, where he receives half of those who die in battle, the einherjar. The other half are chosen by goddess Freya for her afterlife location, Fólkvangr. Odin consults the disembodied, herb-embalmed head of the wise being Mímir for advice, and during the foretold events of Ragnarök, Odin is told to lead the einherjar into battle before being consumed by the monstrous wolf Fenrir.