Prayer to Odin
(begin by lighting a candle and pouring out an offering if you’re able – water is ok. It’s always a good and acceptable offering).
Hail to You, Odin: Wizard, Shaman, and King. You breathed into us the gift of our souls and You fill Your followers with burning frenzy. You create; You destroy; You hunger. You took the raw matter of primordial Being and with the help of Your Brothers, forged it into nine mighty worlds. Yours is ever the keenness of a forward thinking, knife-like mind. Yours is ever the restless fury of a heart never sated in its quest for more. Knowledge and the power it bestows to weave one’s will, to shape one’s world, to sustain one’s creative endeavors, to endure is Your ambrosia. From You, devotees learn to hone their minds, to hunt for knowledge and experiences fearlessly, to know that learning (and teaching!) are sacred endeavors and through them, we imitate You. Through learning and exploring our world, we engage in something sacred, and we bring ourselves that much closer to our Gods when we allow ourselves the privilege. This then, is my prayer for today: may my thought-world never be small. May I never curb the hungry curiosity of my mind. May I never fear experience, may I never fear failure. Grant me courage, oh God of war, that in the war to tame and hone myself, I might be victorious. Hail to You, Odin, God of many names. For everything, I thank You.
“Odin” by W. McMillan
Quote of the Day
“Power is not revealed by striking hard or striking often, but by striking true.
–Honore de Balzac
“The World Tree,” my photo.
Why do we have all these heiti for our Gods? Each of our Holy Powers has numerous epithets or by-names. Many of these are contradictory. Some are relational or regional. Some are iterations of that Power’s primary areas of interest, Their particular skills, expressions of Their unique and very individual power. When a particular by-name is used, it provides a window through which the God may act. It becomes one way out of oh so many that the God can reveal Him or Herself. Sometimes, when we feel blocked devotionally praying to one of our Gods under a well-known or well-loved epithet, switching it up and meditating upon a different by-name can be productive. Moreover, I think sometimes our normal, well-trod devotional paths to our Gods have to be blocked specifically to force us down different, more obscure paths. Why? Because each heiti is a way to know a God differently, more deeply. Every by-name, every epithet is a mystery. It’s a word of power. It’s a doorway into a very specific face of a God. It’s multi-faceted and complex, and each and every one has a life of its own. Consider your favorite names for Odin. Where do they take you? What do they bring to mind? How do they tie into our cosmology? How did you first come to know this God? What by-names would you like to explore? Which ones scare you? Which ones intrigue you? Consider diving deeply into a new heiti and seeing where it leads.
Neil Price, The Viking Way. This book is an exploration of Old Norse magic, shamanism, and sorcery of the late Viking Age through the lens of archaeology and history. It touches on so many things: Sami influence on Norse magical practices, the use of battle magic, women’s magic – and sorcery specifically as women’s magic, Gods, ancestors, gender expectations, transgression and more. If I could choose one academic book on this particular topic, this would be the book and it’s written by a very generous scholar who was kind enough to answer a few philological questions from this Heathen on terminology for our modern tools, and to do so at finals time no less! This is one of four academic texts that I strongly suggest to my students that they own. It’s really quite invaluable.
Daily passage for Meditation and Lectio Divina: Gylfaginning 20-21 passim
Hann heitir ok Hangaguð ok Haftaguð, Farmaguð, ok enn hefir hann nefnzt á fleiri vega, þá er hann var kominn til Geirröðar konungs: Hétumk Grímr ok Gangleri, Herjann, Hjalmberi, Þekkr, Þriði, Þuðr, Uðr, Helblindi, Hárr, Saðr, Svipall, Sanngetall, Herteitr, Hnikarr, Bileygr, Báleygr, Bölverkr, Fjölnir, Grímnir, Glapsviðr, Fjölsviðr, Síðhöttr, Síðskeggr, Sigföðr, Hnikuðr, Alföðr, Atríðr, Farmatýr, Óski, Ómi, Jafnhárr, Biflindi, Göndlir, Hárbarðr, Sviðurr, Sviðrir, Jalkr, Kjalarr, Viðurr, Þrór, Yggr, Þundr, Vakr, Skilfingr, Váfuðr, Hroftatýr, Gautr, Veratýr." He is also called God of the Hanged, God of Gods, God of Cargoes; and he has also been named in many more ways, after he had come to King Geirrödr: We were called the Masked One | and Wanderer, Warrior, Helm-bearer; Welcome One, Third, | Lean (or Pale) One, Beloved, Hel Blinder, High. Truthful, Changing One, | Finder of Truth, Glad of War, Thruster; Flashing Eye, Flaming Eye, | Bale-Worker, Concealer, Hooded One, Swift in Deceit (or Wise in Magical spells, or Maddener), Very Wise. Broad Hat, Long Beard, | Victory Father, Overthrower, All Father, Attacking Rider, God of Burdens; God of Wishes, Resounding One, | Just as High, Spear (or Shield) Shaker, Wand-Wielder, Grey Beard. Wise One, Calmer, | Gelded One, Nourisher, Killer, Burgeoning One, Terrible One, Thunderer; Wakeful One (or Awakener), Shaking One(1), | Swinger of Gungnir, Sage, Ancestral Power (2), God of Being (or God of humanity)." (text and translation from this site, though the actual translation of the individual names is mine)
Hero or Heroine of the Day:
I thought long and hard about this, because very little of my hero cultus is given to Saga heroes. Driving home from an appointment today, however, I found myself thinking about Starkadr. There were actually two of them. The first is the Starkadr who kidnapped a woman while she was performing religious sacrifice. He’s hardly a model of piety and eventually, at the bequest of the woman’s father, Thor kills him. The second is his grandson. Gautreks Saga tells how he was a great warrior, favored by Odin.
In this Saga, Starkadr aligned himself with a King named Vikar and went about engaging in battle and raiding for this king. All debts eventually have to come due though and so it was with Starkadr and the King. While traveling with his warband and King Vikar, it was revealed through divination (done by Odin in disguise) that Odin required a sacrifice to ensure their survival and fortune. As was the custom, the warband drew lots to determine whom the sacrifice might be. Every time the band drew lots, however, Vikar came up as the chosen sacrifice. This makes sense, since Odin is a God of kings and also had allowed Starkardr to serve Vikar as a great warrior AND had given Starkadr many, many blessings, which were put in service to the king. TANSTAAFL. Of course, while Odin may have favored Starkadr, Thor didn’t due to his ancestry. Throughout multiple lifetimes, Thor prevented Starkadr from having children, and in every lifetime the warrior carried a particular blood-line curse courtesy of Thor: he would commit a crime, he would never be satisfied with the amount of property and wealth accrued, he’d always take terrible wounds in battle, he’d be hated by the common folk, etc. For every curse Thor laid on this man, Odin countered with a blessing.
So, once Odin tells the warband that a sacrifice must be given, and repeated drawing of lots show that Vikar is intended to be that sacrifice, things get a bit strange. Starkadr encourages Vikar to perform a mock sacrifice, setting things up so that the king won’t really die. The plan is that they’ll go through all the symbolic motions, but the king will walk away alive. It will all be a performance. Odin is not fooled, and some of the sources indicate that Odin arranged things with Starkadr, to ensure that Vikar would put himself in the proper place and position for sacrifice. The God gave Starkadr a spear that appeared to everyone else to be a simple reed-stalk. The king was hung with calf guts, which should not have born his weight. When the moment of death came, which everyone expected to be fake, the guts turned into real rope and the reed into a mighty spear and Vikar was sacrificed for real in the Odinic manner. (I vaguely remember reading at least one source where Starkadr did not know the reed was a spear and honestly intended to spare the king by cheating Odin. So, either Odin arranged the trickery of the king with Starkadr, or Starkadr tried to trick Odin on his own…the results were the same). After this event, Starkadr has to flee to the protection of a neighboring king.
The story is told in several sagas, and it gets chronologically complicated, but this is your basic story. I think there’s a lot about not trying to cheat the Gods, about meeting one’s fate with integrity and valor, about not pissing off Gods by committing hubris, and about the sometimes heavy negotiations required in being chosen or favored by a God. We can take Starkadr as a negative example rather than a hero (if he tried to trick Odin) or a hero but a tragic one (if he worked with Odin to trick Vikar). Either way, it’s complicated as devotional things usually are. Also, Starkadr is working with very problematic ancestral curses and it’s important to note that Thor has the lawful right to curse Odin’s favorite and while Odin blesses in equal measure, neither God undoes the curse or blessing of the Other. That’s important.
All these things and more are good food for contemplation.
Affiliate advertising Disclosure
- I wonder if this refers to the frenzy of Seiðr.
- My translation/interpretation.
Posted on January 25, 2023, in Heathenry and tagged God of the Day, Heathenry, Lectio divina, Lived Polytheism, Northern tradition. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Wednesday’s Devotion.