Odin is one of the most highly revered deities in the Norse pantheon. He’s also one of the most recognizable to modern viewers — with his ravens, wolves, eight-legged horse, and a missing eye, it’s hard to mistake him for anyone else.
In Germanic paganism, he’s known as Woden. While he’s chiefly associated with the Viking Age, folklore in rural Germanic areas still acknowledges his presence.
The name Odin most likely stems from a Proto-Germanic word that translates to “lord of frenzy.” He also lends his name to Wednesday. He’s often referred to as the All-Father.
As a deity, Odin is connected to wisdom, battle, sorcery, poetry, the dead, and the valkyries. In later legends, he’s said to ride across the winter sky as the leader of a procession of the dead, known as the Wild Hunt.
Old Norse sources describe him as the son of Burr, son of the father deity Búri, and the Bestla, the giantess daughter of Bölþorn.
Odin has two brothers, Vili (“will”) and Vé (“sanctuary”). Together with Odin, these brothers form a triumvirate: spirit, will, and sacredness. They also killed the giant Ymir, which ended the reign of the giants.
Interestingly, Vili and Vé don’t play a large role outside of this. In the Norse pantheon, Odin is part of a trio of the most powerful of Norse gods: Odin, Thor, and Freyr.
Odin is often portrayed with two ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Huginn represents conscious thought, while Muninn represents memory. They are said to fly out over the world each day and return with information for him.
In the poem Grímnismál, Grímnir points out that he worries every day that Huginn might not return but worries more about Muninn.
Odin also rides Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse attested in the Prose Edda. Sleipnir is actually the child of Loki. Through a fairly complex set of circumstances, Loki had worked out a bad deal with an architect and his preternaturally helpful stallion, Svaðilfari.
When it started to look like the gods would have to give the architect Freya as payment, they demanded that Loki fix things. Loki transformed into a mare, seduced the stallion, and conceived Sleipnir. This put the architect behind schedule just enough to forfeit his payment.
The god is portrayed with one eye, as he sacrificed his other in exchange for a drink from Mimir’s well, a source of all knowledge. He also hanged himself from Yggdrasil, the World Tree, for nine long nights in order to learn the runes and secret magic behind them.
Interestingly, the magic associated with Odin (called seidr) had feminine connotations by the Viking Age. The ideal of manliness prized forthright actions, while seidr was a practice of both forecasting and manipulating the future.
In the Lokasenna, Loki accuses Odin of being “unmanly,” to which Odin replies that Loki has done more than his share of unmasculine activities as well.
Odin’s wife is said to be Frigg, but this is debatable. Some sources cite the fact that Frigg has many similarities with Freya, as Freya’s husband Óðr does with Odin.
Since Odin is attested to have over one hundred and fifty different names, it’s possible that Óðr is another epithet for (or aspect of) Odin.
Symbols & Associations
Odin is associated with many things, but this can generally be boiled down to wisdom, magic, poetry, and battle.
He’s sometimes connected to the Roman deity Mercury (Greek Hermes) in the sense that both are psychopomps, though Odin is not considered a messenger to the gods.
His symbols include:
- Sleipnir, his eight-legged horse.
- Huginn and Muninn, his ravens.
- Geri and Freki, his wolves.
- Gungnir, his spear.
- His cloak and broad hat.
Odin was the greatest magician among the Norse deities. He’s also very wise, as sacrificing his eye allowed him access to a magic well that was the source of all knowledge. He is also filled with inspiration, as he drank from the Mead of Poetry.
He’s also gifted with the power of creation. Along with his brothers, he used the body parts of the slain giant, Ymir, to form the cosmos.
Appropriate offerings for Odin include:
- Poetry. You can write your own, or memorize and recite a poem.
- Beer or ale.
- Rune stones, or runic artwork.
- Burning tobacco.
- Burning herbs, particularly those from the Nine Herbs Charm.
Signs Odin is Calling You
You may hear Odin’s call in the form of a dream, particularly a prophetic one. You might also see the deity himself in your dream. He generally appears as an older man with a long beard, broad hat, and one eye, accompanied by one or more of his animals.
If you live in an area where they’re native, you might see wolves or ravens in your daily life. If you don’t, you might come across images of them instead.
Seeing a single picture of a wolf or raven is probably a coincidence, but repeated encounters with these animals or their images can be a stronger sign.
One of Odin’s epithets is Hveðrungr, or Weather-Changer. If you attempt to connect with him and notice a sudden change in the weather, it may be a sign that he’s reaching out to you.
You might also feel Odin’s call as a desire to learn the runes or art of poetry. While he’s a battle-god, god of the slain, and deity of sorcery, he’s also a consummate poet with the power of inspiration.
Crystals Associated with Odin
There are a few crystals connected to Odin:
- Hawk’s eye, or blue tiger’s eye. In addition to its ocular imagery, this stone is connected to intuition and the inner-sight.
- Agate. This versatile mineral comes in a wide variety of colors. Avoid dyed specimens and choose natural ones whenever possible.
- Jet. This black stone is a type of fossilized wood. Its color connects it to darkness, introspection, and the dead.
- Onyx. Like agate, onyx comes in several colors. It’s perhaps most popular as black onyx, which is connected to the inner self and the dead.
- Carnelian. This bright red-orange stone is associated with strength and courage.
Herbs Associated with Odin
Odin is associated with many herbs, particularly those found in the Nine Herbs Charm (or Nigon Wyrta Galdor). This is an Old English charm found in Lacnunga, a compilation of medical formulas.
It states that, “A snake came crawling, it bit a man. Then Woden took nine glory-twigs, Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.”
The herbs mentioned in this charm are most likely:
- Broadleaf plantain.
- Lamb’s cress.
- Fumitory (or possibly betony).
- Crab apple.
Other herbs connected to Odin include:
- Ash trees.
- Yew trees.
- Amanita muscaria mushrooms.
- Aconite. (Caution, monkshood is very toxic. People have reported symptoms from simply touching the fresh plants.)
Working with Odin
There are many ways to work with Odin. The first and best way to begin connecting to any deity is to do your homework — read the Eddas, read the Nine Herbs Charm, and familiarize yourself with the cultural context and role that this god played.
You may wish to offer your time or money to organizations that protect the habitat of creatures like wolves or ravens. These creatures are often maligned but are a very important part of the ecosystem and need to be protected. Conservation efforts are seeking to restore the delicate balance damaged by habitat loss and human encroachment.
You might also want to work with organizations that help veterans. Odin is associated with battle, and former soldiers are often treated very poorly.
There are groups that help them access physical and mental health care, cope with the trauma of warfare, and access housing and other needs.
If you don’t have a group like this near you, consider helping the homeless — tens of thousands of veterans experience homelessness.
Learning the runes can be another way to work with Odin. He sacrificed much to learn them and their secrets. While you won’t need to dangle for a tree for nine days, undertaking serious rune study can help you understand his magic.
Creating your own poetry or songs can also connect you to Odin. He is associated with poetry and inspiration, and you may find that attempting to work with him serves as a source of ideas.
If you have the space, you may wish to make an altar space for him. This can be done inside or outside (just make sure you use durable, weatherproof materials if you’re working outdoors).
All you need is a table, an image of Odin, and an offering bowl. If you like, you can also include images or representations of his symbols, crystals connected to him, a candle, an incense bowl (for burning herbs), and a set of rune stones or staves. Visit this place often to make offerings and perform divination.
Odin is a very ancient, powerful deity who blurred the lines between magical and mundane, living and dead, and masculine and feminine.
There is a wealth of information available about him, formed into beautifully evocative, poetic works. If you want to connect with him, and he deems you ready, he can have a lot to teach you.