Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Odin.

**Whoa there formatting, sorry about that!  Let's see if I can't get this post looking normal...***

My God(s) is(are) an awesome God(s).

 The allfather. The terrifier.  King of victories.  One-eye.


The one-eyed wanderer who so often goes misunderstood in today's world of Bullfinch's Mythology and History Channel debacles. I suppose the kindergarten-style introductions we see these days can still hold up in a broad-strokes kind of way.

 At first glance, yeah Odin is an old analogue for the entity that occupies Christian minds as God... in some ways.  Similarly, he kindof fits into the costumes of Zeus/Jupiter, and probably even good old Zarathurstra.   The similarities fall away pretty quickly when you get to know each of these fellows.  At the end of the day, the only thing they really have in common is that they're all "male".  According to the larger traditions, that is.   But when we really tune in to what Odin was, what he meant to his followers and how he kept/keeps things running, we get to know an aspect of divinity on a way more personal level than is even allowed with the Monotheists out there.

 And here's why:  Odin is going to die.

 Poor Yaweh had to scrump up some loose change and put together his own human son to experience many of the faults and foibles of the human condition.  The God of Christianity did NOT know what it was to be part of creation, and so had to summon up a son to do the wet-work for him.  Odin, by contrast, is already very much a part of what we know as the human condition, making it far less the territory of HUMANITY and more a part of simply being alive.  Odin, as a matter of fact, has been wrestling with all this humanity stuff for far longer than we humans have...  and it was his decision to bestow upon us the virtues and values he saw to be most worthy.

 Like us, Odin has good days and bad days.  Odin feels lust and rage and hunger.  Odin makes mistakes and celebrates tremendous victories.  Just like, if you will, me.  Odin, the one eyed god of my ancestors, the father of all things in their world (and mine, thankyouverymuch) is not the kind of deity who creates creation by saying 'make it so'.  He's not a  'pull it from thin air because I said so' kind of deity that most North Americans are used to.  Even the noble, beloved Great Spirit is far more whispy and ethereal than Odin and his family of rogues, heroes, and half-breeds.

 Odin made the world, it's true.  But he had existing materials to work with.  He had to fight for it, and get messy, and work and argue with his brothers about how it was all going to end up.  He even wasn't first on the scene, before all things, either.  What Odin was, however (along with his brothers), was the first one to come into the universe filled with all of these nifty raw materials to see if something cool couldn't come of it.  Other entities existed before him, but he was the first one (alongside his brothers) to try to make something of the chaos around him.  He did so in spite of the ancient entities that were there long before him, and in one case WITH (Audhumbla).

 And then the nine worlds were made and our world was made; and after all that mess Odin and his brothers made humanity out of trees.   Because they could.  Because that's what they had to work with and the Yew and the Ash trees were so lovely that making people out of them seemed like a good idea.  I don't think they were wrong. It is from Odin's grace, and the gifts of Vili and Ve, that we humans walk with around here with consciousnesses full of love and laughter and pride and thirst for knowledge.  And now it's up to us to decide what to do about it.

 Sure, we got all that nasty hate and greed and cheating and stuff that the Gods have too, those are important things to experience as well.  And now as Odin sits in his great hall and watches the universe unfold, another one of his little quirks comes into play.  He already knows what's going to happen.

 Always.  He undertook a brutal self-sacrifice in an effort to gain this knowledge.  He didn't write the book of the universe, but he knows how it's going to end.  And with his sacrifice (during which he lost one eye) he learned every page of that book and he knows everything.  He didn't make everything happen, he just knows it.  He knows how he's going to die.  He knows how, and when, and everything.  He knows he can't change it.  Just like we can't change our own deaths.

 What we learn from Odin, as he bears this burden of knowledge, is that in spite of all this bleakness, it is up to us to live honorably and bravely.  Odin shows us that living our lives now, in the present, with integrity and strength, is the most important thing.  As advice from the gods goes, that's pretty useful stuff.  Academically speaking, if you're interested in learning more about the Norse Pantheon, I encourage you to scour the musty old tomes and bullfinch-y goodness in your local library.  Screw the internet, just for this once, and go get some good old fashioned knowledge in a forest of thoughts and words and ideas...  all within arm's reach and waiting to be read.  You don't have to hang upside down for nine days to learn the old stories...  but it should take more than just a little typing to get the 'real' information you're looking for.  Don't ya think?

 The stories go on and on about good old Odin, and I could literally type for years on the subject.   My hope is that now, after reading this, you'll be less likely to discount the Allfather as some kind of hysterical barbarian and more likely to consider what it was he (and his ilk) offered to our ancestors.  And maybe,  thesis notwithstanding, you'll spend a few moments thinking about what Odin (and his ilk) can offer to our modern world, today.


Kristen Dyrr said...

This is an interesting post, but the color is a little bit messed up. I had to highlight the bottom half of it with my cursor in order to read it because it blends into the background. Still, I enjoyed reading it! :)

#atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

Karoline Fritz said...

All better! Sorry about the wonky formatting. I'll go hang my head in bloggerly shame.

Oops, I'm over it. Onward!

Poke The Rock said...

I mean he still has a day of the week called after him right?

Karoline Fritz said...

Hey Pokie! Yes, Yes he does. And it's NEVER a bad idea to raise a cold one to his honor in the middle of the week. And then of course again on my most beloved Thor's day. And they for Freya's day (or Frey, depending on your tradition.) And then quite possibly, after sobering up on the weekend with Monday for the analgesics kick in... starting it all over again proudly on Tyr's day.