Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Odin: The True God of All Witches

“You’re walking on gallows ground, and there’s a rope around your neck and a raven-bird on each shoulder waiting for your eyes, and the gallows tree has deep roots, for it stretches from heaven to hell, and our world is only the branch from which the rope is swinging.”
~American Gods, Neil Gaiman
Viking stone, 600's AD,
from Gotland, Sweden.
Image from  History for Kids.
I've noticed that modern followers seem to sanitize Odin.  They make him into a benevolent loving god.  They make him fluffy and safe.  But Odin was Hangi (Hanged One), Hangaguð (God of the Hanged), and Hagvirkr (Lord of the Hanged) not just because he hung from the Tree for nine days, but also because the sacrifice to him was to hang someone on a tree.  This wasn't the mystical experience people seem to like today of going out and hanging yourself upside down to commune with Odin.  They would tie the unwilling sacrifice to a tree, stab them in the side so the bled out, and leave them for the ravens and crows to eat.  To gain favour from Odin.

Odin wasn't a loving god, though he did usually take care of his own.  He was generally more concerned with preparing for Ragnarök than the welfare of the common person.  He was a god of warriors at war, out fighting, while Thor was a god of farmers, fighting to defend their land and their home.  You prayed to Thor for your crops, for food, for provision, never to Odin.  And even the warrior had to worry about Odin.  If you were a good warrior and Odin thought you would be good in Ragnarök, he would take you in the middle of battle, even if it meant your people, who also prayed to Odin for victory, might lose.  Odin wasn't much easier to trust than his blood brother, and in many ways Twin, Loki.  But in battle, you prayed to Odin.  Before battle or for thanks for surviving, you sacrificed to Odin.  You had no choice.

Muninn and Huginn.
The eye represents Odin
sitting in  Hlidskjalf on
his throne where he can
see all that passes in
the world.
Image from Alpha Stamps.
Odin is a god of wisdom and knowledge, but also of war and death.  He is a dark god, not the benevelent old man many portray him as today.  There's a reason he's accompanied by wolves and ravens, both of which feed on the dead after battles.  The dead are his, well, half of them.

In many Germanic and Scandinavian areas, Odin/Woden was seen as the Lord of the Wild Hunt, or as it was sometimes called, Odin's Hunt.  The Wild Hunt is a common element in much of Europe and even in the Americas.  The Huntsman comes riding on the Winter Solstice, the Longest Night, the Darkest Night, for Odin truly is the Winter King.  If you hear the horn, you either join the Hunt (forever or the night, depending on the story, often depending on if you cursed the Hunt or joined it willingly) or you are hunted down by it and torn limb for limb.  In much of the British Isles, you find the Wild Hunt associated with the Fey.  In the Old West in the United States, there was the story of the ghost riders, forever condemned to chance the devil's herd across the skies, immortalized in the song Ghost Riders in the Sky.  There's a similar story in India of Shiva, King of Ghosts astride a bull with a host of ghosts accompanying him.  Regardless of the story, the Wild Hunt was greatly feared, and the Huntsman especially.  Odin as Huntsman is terrifying indeed.

Odin leads the Wild Hunt.
Image from Orkneyjar.
In his Basic Structure of the Craft, Robert Cochrane identifies Woden with Tettens, the Wind God who is Lucet's Twin:

In the North lies the Castle of Weeping, the ruler thereof is named Tettens, our Hermes or Woden. He is the second twin, the waning sun, Lord over mysticism, magic, power and death, the Baleful destroyer. The God of War, of Justice, King of Kings, since all pay their homage to Him. Ruler of the Winds, the Windyat. Cain imprisoned in the Moon, ever desiring Earth. He is visualized as a tall dark man, shadowy, cold and deadly. Unpredictable, yet capable of great nobility, since he represents Truth. He is the God of magicians and witches, who knows all sorcery. Lord of the North, dark, unpredictable, the true God of all witches and magicians if they are working at any decent level at all. A cold wind surrounds Him, age and time so ancient that it is beyond belief flows from Him. Dark is His shadow, and he bears a branch of the sorrowing alder, and walks with the aid of a blackthorn stick. Sorrow is printed upon His face, yet also joy. He guards, as a rider upon an eight-legged horse, the approaches to the Castle of Night. He is also the Champion of the glass bridge after the Silver Forest. Cold is tho air as he passes by. Some say tall and dark, I say small and dark, speaking in a faint voice which is as clear as ice. ~Robert Cochrane's third letter to Norman Gills

Storm's version of Arddhu
entitled The Royal Darkness.
Image from  Faerywolf.
He is the "true god of all witches" and the last face you see at the Gates of Death (Arddhu?).  Are you willing to face him?  He is terrible, he is to be feared, he is unpredictable, but all come before him and "every knee shall bow."

~Muninn's Kiss

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