Odin (1825-1827) by H. E. Freund

Odin: A god with many names

Odin (pronounced “Oh-din”; Old Norse Óðinn, Old English and Old Saxon Woden, Old High German Wuotan, Wotan, or Wodan, Proto-Germanic *Woðanaz, “Master of Ecstasy”) is one of the most complex and enigmatic characters to be found in Old Norse mythology. In a modern novel "American Gods"by Neil Garmen, Odin is given the namesake of "Mr Wednesbury" because of the old Anglo Saxon town of Wodnesburig or known today as the English town of Wednesbury.

Woden and Odin are not the same god (or are they?)

 Perhaps it remains a little short-sighted to broadly assume as many do in Anglo-Saxon heathenry reconstructions that Woden and Odin (and Wotan, Oðinn, Wotanaz, etc.) are the same deity, and yet they are not. I could be wrong but such contradictions tend to always lead to much confusion. Are the two gods actually the same? Quite possibly yes but with cultural and time distance differences. But the cultural distinctions between an Anglo-Saxon interpretation of Woden and a Norse interpretation of Odin are important and informative, because they present different faces, aspects, and influences. This edges into theoretical metaphysics and admittedly has issues with evidence, off course. Here is the crux of the matter: In approaching the differences between Woden and Odin, we’re forced to rely on comparative studies between Anglo-Saxon and Norse cultures, which understandably has pitfalls and dangers all their own. Many Heathens, even steadfast Anglo-Saxonists, have to plug holes (make stuff up) in their mythology using later cultural source material. But this is dangerous. One cannot simply plug the Old Norse Odin mythological knowledge with Woden’s character and expect it to work, at all. There are significant cultural, social, and environmental factors to consider in the development of Anglo-Saxon myth that do not exist within the Norse experience.

Odin has many names and titles of which are found in the various (eddic) poems:

  1. Aldaföðr ("father of men")
  2. Aldagautr ("Gautr of men")
  3. Aldingautr ("the ancient Gautr")
  4. Alföðr ("father of all")
  5. Arnhöfði ("eagle-head")
  6. Atriði, Atriðr ("attacking rider")
  7. Auðun ("wealth-friend"?)
  8. Báleygr ("blaze-eye")
  9. Bifliði or Biflindi ("shield-shaker")
  10. Bileygr ("wavering-eye")
  11. Björn ("bear")
  12. Blindi ("blind")
  13. Bölverker ("evil-doer")
  14. Bragi ("chieftain")
  15. Brúni, Brúnn ("the brown one")
  16. Darraðr, Dörruðr ("spearman")
  17. Draugadróttin ("lord of the dead")
  18. Ennibrattr ("the one with a straight forehead")
  19. Eylúðr ("island vessel?," "ever-booming"?)
  20. Farmaguð, Farmatýr ("cargo-god")
  21. Farmögnuðr ("journey-empowerer")
  22. Fengr ("snatch")
  23. Fimbultýr ("mighty god")
  24. Fimbulþulr ("mighty þulr", "mighty poet")
  25. Fjölnir ("much-wise"?, "concealer"?)
  26. Flölsviðr ("much-wise")
  27. Forni ("the ancient one")
  28. Fráríðr ("one who rides forth")
  29. Fundinn ("the found")
  30. Gagnráðr ("advantage counsel)
  31. Gangleri ("wanderer")
  32. Gangráðr ("journey-adviser," "contrary adviser")
  33. Gapþrosnir ("one in gaping frenzy"?)
  34. Gauti, Gautr ("one from Gotland", "Gaut", "Goth")
  35. Geiguðr ("dangler")
  36. Geirlöðnir ("spear-inviter")
  37. Geirtýr ("spear-god")
  38. Geirvaldr ("spear-master")
  39. Geirölnir ("spear-changer")
  40. Gestr ("guest")
  41. Gestumblindi ("the blind guest")
  42. Ginnarr ("deceiver")
  43. Gizurr ("riddler"?)
  44. Glapsviðr ("seducer")
  45. Goðjaðarr ("god-protector")
  46. Göllnir, Göllor, Göllungr ("yeller")
  47. Göndlir ("wand-wielder")
  48. Grimnir ("the masked one")
  49. Grímr ("grim")
  50. Gunnar ("warrior"?)
  51. Gunnblindi ("battle-blinder")
  52. Hagvirkr ("skilful worker")
  53. Hangaguð, Hangatýr ("hanged-god")
  54. Hangi ("hanged one")
  55. Haptaguð ("fetter-god")
  56. Haptsœnir ("fetter-loosener")
  57. Hárbarðr ("grey-beard")
  58. Hárr ("high one")
  59. Hávi ("high one")
  60. Helblindi ("Helblind")
  61. Hengikeptr ("hang-jaw")
  62. Herblindi ("host-blind")
  63. Herföðr, Herjaföðr ("host-father")
  64. Hergautr ("host-Gautr")
  65. Herann or Herrjan ("the one of the host")
  66. Herteitr ("host-glad")
  67. Hertýr ("host-god")
  68. Hildólf ("battle-wolf")
  69. Hlalmberi ("helm-bearer")
  70. Hjarrandi ("screamer")
  71. Hléfreyr ("famous lord"?, "mound-lord")
  72. Hnikarr or Nikarr ("spear-lord"?)
  73. Hnikuðr or Nikuðr ("striker")
  74. Höarr ("one-eyed")
  75. Hövi ("high one")
  76. Hrafnáss ("raven-god")
  77. Hrammi ("fetterer"?, "ripper"?)
  78. Hrani ("blusterer")
  79. Hrjótr ("roarer")
  80. Hroptatýr ("lord of gods"?, "tumult-god"?)
  81. Hroptr ("god"?, "tumult"?)
  82. Hrosshársgrani ("hourse-hair moustache")
  83. Hvatmóðr ("whet-courage")
  84. Hveðrungr ("roarer")
  85. Ítreker ("splendid ruler")
  86. Jafnhárr ("just as high")
  87. Jalfaðr, Jalföðr ("yellow-brown back"")
  88. Jalgr, Jalkr ("gelding")
  89. Járngrímr ("iron-grim")
  90. Jólfr ("horse-wolf", "bear")
  91. Jólnir ("yule-figure")
  92. Jörmunr ("mighty-one")
  93. Karl Karl ("old man")
  94. Kjalarr ("nourisher")
  95. Langbarðr ("long-beard")
  96. Loðungr ("shaggy-cloak wearer")
  97. Njótr ("user", "enjoyer")
  98. Óðinn ("frenzied one")
  99. Óðr ("frenzy")
  100. Ófnir ("weaver", "inciter")
  101. Olgr ("protector"?, "hawk"?)
  102. Ómi ("boomer")
  103. Óski ("wished-for")
  104. Rauðgrani ("red moustache")
  105. Reiðartýr ("wagon-god")
  106. Sanngetall ("truth-getter")
  107. Sannr ("truth")
  108. Saðr ("truth")
  109. Síðgrani ("drooping moustache")
  110. Síðhöttr ("drooping hat")
  111. Síðskeggr ("drooping beard")
  112. Sigðir ("victory-bringer")
  113. Sigfaðir ("victory-father")
  114. Siggautr ("victory-Gautr")
  115. Sigmundr ("victory-protection")
  116. Sigrhöfundr ("victory-author")
  117. Sigrunnr ("victory-tree")
  118. Sigþrór ("victory-successful")
  119. Sigtryggr ("victory-sure")
  120. Sigtýr ("victory-god")
  121. Skollvaldr ("treachery-ruler")
  122. Sváfnir ("sleep-bringer")
  123. Sveigðir ("reed-bringer"?)
  124. Sviðurr ("the burner"?),
  125. Sviðrir ("the destroyer"?)
  126. Svipall ("fleeting")
  127. Svölnir ("cooler"?, "sweller"?)
  128. Þekkr ("clever")
  129. Þrasarr ("quarreler")
  130. Þriði ("third")
  131. Þriggi ("triple")
  132. Þrór ("burgeoning")
  133. Þróttr ("strength")
  134. Þrundr ("sweller")
  135. Þundr ("rumbler")
  136. Þunnr, Þuðr ("lean", "pale")
  137. Tveggi ("double")
  138. Tvíblindi ("twice-blind")
  139. Unnr, Uðr ("lover"?, "beloved"?)
  140. Váföðr, Váfuðr ("dangler")
  141. Vakr ("vigilant")
  142. Valföðr ("father of the slain")
  143. Valgautr ("slaughter-Gaut"")
  144. Valkjósandi ("chooser of the slain")
  145. Valtamr ("slain-tame")
  146. Valtýr ("slain-god")
  147. Valþögnir ("slain-receiver")
  148. Vegtamr ("way-tame")
  149. Veratýr ("god of men")
  150. Viðrir ("stormer")
  151. Víðgfrægr ("wide-famed")
  152. Viðhrímnir ("contrary-screamer")
  153. Viðurr ("killer"?)
  154. Vingnir ("swinger")
  155. Vöfuðr ("dangler")
  156. Yggr ("terrible")
  157. Ýrungr ("stormy")
Where the Norse dead end up
Lets begin with the most renown of all Norse afterlife dwelling-places of the dead namely anglicised Valhalla (Old Norse Valhöll) or “the hall of the battle slain”). The story goes that all those chosen by Othin’s and his Valkyries live there as celebrated heroes feasting and fighting until they’re called upon for the final big push by Odin’s side at the Ragnarok, some say the twilight of the gods.The goddess Frøya (Freya, Frea, Freyja) is also cited to welcome the dead into her hall, Folkvang (Old Norse Fólkvangr which means the field of the people/warriors. Those who died at sea sometimes end up to the underwater abode of the giantess Ran. In general, however the afterlife world to which the dead are most commonly portrayed as going is Hel, a Germanic netherworld beneath ruled by the Jotun not a goddess Hella. Other examples suggest that our elder kin of certain families and localities are sometimes depicted as remaining together in a particular place close to where they once lived while they were alive such as underneath a specific mountain.For evidence about Othin’s dwelling at Valhöll, we must first consult the Eddic poems. The Edda contains many poems of the ‘question and answer’ type, in which one character, god, giant or dwarf, tries to outdo another in his knowledge of cosmology and the future of the human and divine worlds, but these poems contain little information about the fate of mankind after death. In Vafþrúðnismál, a dialogue between Othin and the wise giant, Vafþrúðnir is asked who do battle each day in the courts of Othin. He replies that it is the einherjar—that is, single, or out-standing champions—who after choosing the slain and riding home from the battle sit at peace together. It is from Grímnismál, a monologue supposed to be spoken by Othin in as he sits in torment between the fires in the hail of Geirröðr, that we learn more of these einherjar Here the word is used more than once to describe the warriors who dwell with Othin, who, we are told, chooses certain of those killed in battle on earth to dwell with him in Valhöll, his bright dwelling in Glaðsheimr. The life they lead there is one of joy and feasting with no mention of the eternal conflict.
 However, the hall is full of shields and mailcoats, it is haunted by wolf and eagle, the creatures of battle, and is large enough to hold mighty hosts. There are over six hundred doors to the hall, and through each doorway will pour hundreds of to fight the wolf. The poet goes on to give an account of the feasting in Valhöll; he tells of the boar Saehrímnir whose flesh feeds the warriors for ever, and of the bright mead from the goat Heiðrún, which will never give out. Eleven maidens, whose names are given, bear the cups to the warriors, and two more carry the horn to Othin, who himself needs no meat, and lives by wine alone. From verse 21 we assume that the host of the slain reaches Valhöll by wading the strong river Þund, and enters by the gate Valgrind, which is never closed. Lastly, we notice the sinister reference to the day which will bring this life of revelry to a close, the day when the heroes will go out to fight the wolf. This practically ends the information about Valhöll in the poems. There are only brief and cryptic references to be added. Grímnismál itself tells us elsewhere (v. 14) that Frøya allots the seats in her hail, Folkvangr, to whom she will, and that she has half the slain that fall each day, while half belong to Othin. In Hárbarðsljóð (v. 24) The trouble remains that the demarcation lines between these various abodes of the dead remain sketchy without any consistent picture of who decides where a person goes after death, or how the decision is made. It is always assumed that those who die in battle are believed to go to Valhöll, whereas those who die of other more peaceful or not with sword in hand Straw Death cases go to Hel. Leaving aside the fact that this excludes all the other places to which the dead are thought to potentially go, this artificially tidy distinction was first made by Snorri Sturluson, a Christian historian writing in the thirteenth century many generations after the pre-Christian Norse religion had ceased to be a living tradition. Snorri is known for attempting to impose a systematization on his source material that isn’t present in his sources and this seems to be another instance of that tendency.
 Ultimately it remains near impossible to establish a neat set of criteria for how the dead end up where they do [Insufficient data] Likewise it’s also impossible to cleanly differentiate these places themselves from one another. Valhöll is often depicted as a realm where distinguished warriors engage in a continuous battle, and just such a place is described, in important early sources, as being located beneath the ground. Incidentally, name Valhöll, “the hall of the fallen,” clearly seems related to the name Valhallr, “the rock of the fallen,” a title given to certain rocks and hills where the dead were thought to dwell in southern Sweden, one of the greatest historical centres of the worship of Odin.