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The Wisdom of Odin
Odin, the All-Father
Odin stands unique amongst Gods. He doesn’t claim to know everything. In fact Odin is always seeking out greater and deeper wisdom and knowledge. Within Germanic, frequently miss-spoken of as Norse, mythology, Odin knows that one day he will die. In the great and final battle of Ragnarok it is prophesied He will be kiled by the Wolf, Fenrir. This does not in any way hold him back. Odin lives with vigor and there is a zest for life in all the stories associated with Him and the rest of the Aesir, the race of Gods. Significantly he seeks to deepen his wisdom and knowledge. An example of this is the tale of how he obtained the wisdom of the deep and gave the price demanded without grudge or hesitation.
How Odin lost his eye
Above all else Odin desired knowledge and wisdom. The All-Father of Gods and man sat on his throne in Asgard, his all-seeing eyes showing him all that took place in the nine worlds. His Ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (Memory) brought him news of all things hidden.
It is said that there is a mighty ash tree named Yggdrasil whose branches reach up into Asgard where the mighty Aesir live while its roots sink far below the lowest depth. The Ravens brought Odin word of a sacred well hidden below the roots of Yggdrasil, where Ocean and Sky meet. This well had been guarded from before the beginning of time by the giant Mimir. To drink from this well was to obtain wisdom the like of which was nowhere to be found. So Odin approached Mimir and asked that he might drink from the well. At first the giant refused but Odin persisted and offered in payment whatever the giant might ask. First Mimir asked;
"Why do you wish to drink from the well?"
Odin replied; "With my all-seeing eyes I can see all that takes place in the nine worlds but I cannot see what takes place in the depths of the Ocean. The wisdom of the deep is hidden from me. The well which you guard can give me this knowledge. I am Odin and I would know all things."
Then Mimir replied; "I will let you drink but in payment you must give one of your eyes to the well." This sacrifice the All-Father gladly made and after taking his fill of the waters of the well, he plucked out one of his eyes and cast it into the deep well where it remains today. Now it is said that any that drink from this well will have the greatest of wisdom and will also have the power of the all-seeing eye.
Odin amongst us
It is said that Odin often walks the Earth and speaks with the people of this World. He is generally seen as an older man with a long beard, a grey cloak with a blue hood and a wide brimmed hat that is tilted down to hide his missing eye.
While journeying among mankind He imparts his wisdom.The following are extracts from the Havamal or The Words of the Most High. From around 1000 AD, it is an Icelandic poem that purports to be the words and wisdom of Odin to His people. Below is a sample of some of the verses.
Before one would advance
through each doorway,
one must look about
and peer around.
Because one can't know for sure
where enemies sit in the hall beforehand.
There is need of fire
for him who is come in
with cold knees.
There is need of food and clothes
for the man
who has journeyed on the mountainside.
A man must not be boastful
in his mind, but wary in disposition.
When he, wise and silent,
comes to the homestead.
Misfortune rarely befalls the wary,
because man can never have
a more reliable guide
than great common sense.
Do not let a man hold on to a goblet,
but let him drink mead in moderation.
Let him talk sense or be silent.
No man blames you of bad manners,
that you go early to sleep
The day must be praised in the evening,
a woman, when she is cremated,
a sword, when it is proven,
a maiden, when she is given away,
ice, when it is crossed,
ale, when it is drunk.
Often they don't precisely know,
those who sit first in a house,
whose kinsmen they are who come (later):
No man is so good
that no fault follows him,
nor so bad that he is of no use.
The Gods and People of the North
The Nine Noble Virtues and the Nine Charges
From the Havamal, and it is quite a lengthy poem, have been derived the Nine Noble Virtues and the Nine Charges.
The Nine noble Virtues
The Nine Charges were, like the Nine Noble Virtues, codified by the Odinic Rite in the 1970's.
1)To maintain candour and fidelity in love and devotion to the tried friend: though he strike me I will do him no scathe.
2) Never to make wrongsome oath: for great and grim is the reward for the breaking of plighted troth.
3) To deal not hardly with the humble and the lowly.
4) To remember the respect that is due to great age.
5) To suffer no evil to go unremedied and to fight against the enemies of Faith, Folk and Family: my foes I will fight in the field, nor will I stay to be burnt in my house.
6) To succor the friendless but to put no faith in the pledged word of a stranger people.
7) If I hear the fool's word of a drunken man I will strive not: for many a grief and the very death groweth from out such things.
8) To give kind heed to dead men: straw dead, sea dead or sword dead.
9) To abide by the enactments of lawful authority and to bear with courage the decrees of the Norns.
So if you meet a kindly old man with his hat pulled down over one eye. Pay attention to what he says and treat his words with respect. You never know who you may be talking to.
Further information on the Havamal
This is an excellent book containing the original Norse Runes with the Icelandic and English translation. It has aided me in the understanding of the Havamal. Not just in the words but in the meanings behind them.