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Odin 'Wotan'

October 25, 2023 8 min read

The god Odin 'Wotan' | The story of the most powerful Viking god!

The God Odin 'Wotan' The Story of the Viking God

The god Odin, the ultimate symbol of Norse mythology, continuously watches over the Vikings. He was their protector against the forces of darkness. According to legends, he was the origin of their power, a force so indomitable that it made them the greatest warriors the world has ever known.

This influential god holds a very special place within Viking civilization. He was so respected that he is found everywhere in Viking art, where he is symbolized as being the creator of the Viking world.

Prepare yourself to experience this article, the legend of the fantastic god Odin, god of all the Norse gods. You will discover his origin, his story, and the characteristics that made him so revered by the Vikings.

The god Odin: Viking god of wisdom

The god Odin: Viking god of wisdom

Norse mythology holds a rich and unique history and folklore. It details the rise of the god Odin in great detail. This Norse mythology has been preserved thanks to the Viking runes, a very ancient alphabet that he himself offered to them.

He was able to decipher the secret of the alphabet, thus obtaining the most powerful power: that of absolute knowledge. The god Odin, in his benevolence towards the Viking man, gifted them the invaluable gift of writing.

His kindness thus allowed them to preserve their history, and to pass on his infinite knowledge. It is thanks to this that we know the story of Odin today, and have discovered his fame and status.

His journey is strangely similar to that of a Viking born to become the most powerful warrior, whose destiny is to die with honor on the battlefield. Yet, this ultimate deity symbol is far from perfect. Like the Vikings, he too had to travel a long road to earn his title and prove his worth.

To understand why this Viking god is at the center of Scandinavian mythology, one must go back to the very beginning of the world's history.

The origin of the Viking god Odin, also known as 'Wotan'


Before the creation of the world of men and gods as we know it, there were only two original worlds:

  • Niflheim: a realm of cold and ice. It is lifeless and constantly covered in a thick layer of ice.
  • Muspellheim: the realm of fire, where the very first being "Surt", a gigantic and destructive fire creature, lives.

These two worlds are separated by an infinite void, an endless abyss: the "Ginnungagap".

The birth of the god Odin

Odin's online viking store

One day, to amuse himself, "Surt" used his sword to throw flames into the "Ginnungagap". These flames crossed it to reach the ice of "Niflheim" and create steam that rose again to the "Ginnungagap".

This steam, upon meeting the cold of the "Ginnungagap", condensed, and gave birth to two creatures:

  • Ymir : the original giant, and mother of all giants;
  • Audhumla : a giant cow that nourished Ymir with her milk, and from the ice freed “Bori”, Odin’s grandfather and the very first god.

“Bori” gave birth to “Bor”: Odin’s father, who married a giantess of ice “Bestla”. Bor and Bestla had 3 children, Odin and his two brothers Vili and Vé: the three creator gods, and the first of the Aesir lineage.

The creation of the world by Odin and his brothers

The Body of Ymir - Creation of the 9 realms

The giants, vile and destructive creatures, ruled over the ice world “Niflheim”. At their head was Ymir, the original giantess and mother of the entire giant race. They harbored a fierce hatred against Odin and his brothers.

Thus, the giants and the three brothers fought a fierce battle that lasted for ages:

  • Odin, Vili, and Vé, possessing incredible power, and the ability to heal their wounds very quickly,
  • The giants, with their large numbers, had the ability to reproduce quickly to replace the losses in their army.

Odin and his brothers had to put an end to this battle which otherwise would have lasted for eternity. They directly attacked Ymir, the mother of all giants, and managed to kill her. The blood that gushed from her wounds flooded the “Ginnungagap” and “Niflheim”, drowning all the giants, except for Bergelmir and his wife. Thus, they triumphed over the giants, at least temporarily.

Odin, Vé, and Vili used the blood and body of Ymir to create the 9 realms of the world. From her body, they created the earth and soil, from her bones and teeth they erected the mountains and rocks, from her skull and brain they built the sky and clouds. As for her hair, it was used to create the trees.
Thus, the realms of men and gods came into existence:

  • Midgard was the first realm to be shaped within the “Ginnungagap”. It is the land of men and is located between Asgard and Niflheim.
  • Asgard is the realm of the gods and Odin reigns there as king. He and his brothers were the very first gods of the Aesir lineage, and they made it their dwelling.

The nine worlds are held by the world tree Yggdrasil, an ash tree whose 3 roots originate in Asgard, Niflheim, and Jotunheim to nourish it.

This paradox between destruction and creation is at the heart of Scandinavian and Norse mythology. According to the Vikings, there is not really an end, but an infinite cycle of renewal. This is the secret that truly animates the story of the Vikings.

The god Odin: the story of the most powerful Viking god

The god Odin: the story of the most powerful Viking god

Throughout his existence, the god Odin bore many names that reflect the qualities he acquired through his adventures. He wanted to become ever more powerful and stronger, with the goal of unraveling all the secrets of the world and thus protecting its inhabitants.

Odin: The Creator God or The Father of All

One day, while exploring the world, Odin and his two brothers saw two tree trunks stranded on the shore of Midgard. In his benevolence, the Viking god decided to give them a second life and breathed his essence and his own energy into them.

These two tree trunks, coming back to life, changed appearance to become the first men and women on Earth, “Ask” and “Embela”. However, they were still imperfect, so Odin’s two brothers completed them:

  • gave them the gift of the five senses, and the ability to perceive and feel emotions.
  • Vili gave them the ability to speak and think, and endowed them with intelligence.

Odin thus became Alfadir “The Father of All” and the creator god of mankind. To live in serenity and prosper, he offered them the realm of Midgard.

Odin: The God of War

The god and king of gods is first and foremost a warrior who always fights on the front line to defend the world he created. He has bravery and courage that have allowed him to face hordes of giants alone.

However, the title and throne of Odin were coveted by all creatures of the nine worlds. He had to become even more powerful to protect men and gods.

For this reason, he had by his side weapons and fantastic creatures endowed with immeasurable power and magic:

  • The Gungnir Spear: a spear that always hits its target. It was created by a powerful dwarf, who forged it from an authentic root of the world tree Yggdrasil. The Gungnir accompanies the god Odin in all his battles and allows him to triumph over his enemies.
  • Odin’s Horse Sleipnir: an eight-legged horse, the fastest creature of all the realms. The Norse god had the task of protecting the nine worlds from giants and other creatures that threatened them. Without his faithful horse Sleipnir, he could not have accomplished this task.
  • The Two Wolves of Odin, Geri and Ferki: two giant and powerful wolves that protect Odin’s throne in his absence. They fight by his side and have proven to be invaluable war companions.
  • The Two Ravens of Odin, Hugin and Munin: which mean “thought” and “memory” respectively. They fly over the nine worlds and can see everything that happens there. When their master sits on the throne, they report everything they have seen to him.

With all these powers, the god Odin was a formidable warrior known as Fimbultyr: the mighty god. Like any Viking worthy of the name, he never backed down from a challenge.

However, he realized that he lacked a power of immense value, that of knowledge and omniscience.

Odin: The God of Knowledge and Wisdom

Odin the god of knowledge and wisdom

During his long explorations, Odin learned of the existence of a beverage that could offer infinite inspiration to whoever drank it. This inspiration provides access to the knowledge of poetry and very ancient magical formulas in the form of songs.

This power was contained in the mead, a magical drink protected by giants. To seize it, he took the form of a man named “Bölverk,” which means evil deed in Old Norse.

Having the ability to transform into an animal, the god Odin turned into a serpent to sneak into the cave where the mead was kept. He seduced the giantess who protected it, and immediately flew away with it, transforming into an eagle.

This mead was necessary for him to continue his quest and his thirst for knowledge. To decipher all the secrets of the nine worlds, he needed to understand the magical runes of Yggdrasil.

After drinking the mead, he hung from the tree of life “Yggdrasil” for nine days and nine nights. To ensure he could decipher the Viking runes, he hung from the tree with his spear Gungnir, unable to move until he had succeeded.

On the tenth day, he deciphered the Scandinavian magical runes and acquired the ability to write. In an act of compassion, the Norse god of knowledge gifted the Vikings:

  • Magical runes: This is the Viking alphabet or “Futhrak.” It allowed them to write and acquire some of the magical powers contained within them.
  • Poetry: He transmitted to them the ability to write poems and to have lyrical inspiration.

However, Odin had to pay a final price to become the sole and only omniscient god. By exchanging an eye, he was granted permission to take a sip from the source of wisdom at the foot of Yggdrasil.

He thus became the mythical god known to all. An old one-eyed man with a white beard, with limitless powers, who had the heavy task of maintaining peace in the universe.

The God Odin in Viking Civilization

The god Odin in Viking civilization
Odin on his high throne observing the world below Asgard. Two ravens perched on the arm of the chair and two wolves in the background indicated that the statue belonged to Odin

The god Odin is a being of great complexity. What best illustrates this is the thousands of names he has borne in Viking mythology.

1— The God Odin and the Viking Warriors

In Viking civilization, Odin is the god of protection, victory, death, but also of wisdom and foresight. The power of the Viking warrior comes from his blessing, providing them with:

  • Protection from the forces of evil and their enemies,
  • Weapons and armor forged with divine craftsmanship,
  • The ability to devise strategies unpredictable by their enemies.

A Viking warrior blessed by the god Odin will bravely face all obstacles, and will never retreat on the battlefield. He was certain to triumph gloriously.

2— The God Odin and Valhalla

The god Odin, also known as Valfodr “the father of warriors who died in battle,” observes and monitors the journey of each Viking warrior. He decides if they have the ultimate privilege of dying on the battlefield, the greatest honor for a Viking Berserker.

A Viking warrior never truly dies. His soul is escorted by the Valkyries to Valhalla, where he is welcomed by Valfodr himself. It is the people of the Viking warriors' paradise who will fight with the Viking god during Ragnarök.

The Symbols of Odin in Viking Jewelry

The Vikings have a unique talent in jewelry making. Their jewelry is more than just decorations; they had mystical powers. They obviously come from the symbols and inscriptions that were engraved on them at the time. Viking jewelry featuring the symbols of Odin are among the most powerful.

Thanks to this unique Scandinavian craftsmanship, the blessing of Odin and all his protection have been maintained to this day through the ages.

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