The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods
Also known as Odhinn, Wotan, Woden.
Odin, the All-Father, is the leader of the Aesir spirits, Lord of Asgard. Devotion to Odin once spread across the entire Germanic and Norse world. One-eyed Spirit of War, Wisdom, and Death, he is married to Frigga, a birth goddess: theirs is a marriage of complementary forces. Odin is Lord of ecstasy, shamanism, and occult wisdom. He is a patriarch, occult master, wandering wizard, trickster, and shaman.
Odin loves women, knowledge, and hospitality. He is a spiritual seeker himself. His thirst and quest for occult wisdom is endless. He willingly paid the price of an eye in order to drink from the Well of Knowledge.
Freya was his first teacher: she taught him charms and spell-casting and introduced him to the runes. Ultimately his quest for occult wisdom is a solitary pursuit: Odin famously pierced himself and hung for nine days and nights in shamanic ritual from the World Tree (Yggdrasil), dying a shamanic death in order to become a rune-master. The Tarot card The Hanged One may be understood to depict this ritual rather than a literal hanging.
Odin’s curiosity has no bounds; he refuses to be limited by boundaries of tradition or by restrictions of gender. Odin is curious and respectful toward what was traditionally “women’s magic.” His myth demonstrates that he is not ashamed to learn from women.
Freya taught seiòr to Odin, although men historically did not practice this style of prophecy; it was considered a woman’s art.
When Odin gathers herbs and roots for healing, he dresses as a woman.
In the Eddas, Odin is accused thus: “They say you have practiced magic…that you have cast spells like any Vala: you have wandered through the country disguised as a witch.” (See DICTIONARY: Völva.)
Odin wanders Earth dressed as a shabby, dusty traveler with a black hooded cloak, learning everything he can incognito. Those who are gracious to him in this guise are rewarded. Odin traditionally appears with a wide-brimmed hat sloping over his face to hide his missing eye. Similar images frequently appear on the tarot card, The Magician. Some historians believe that the traditional stage magician’s uniform is based on that of Odin, although others feel it honors Hermes, another wandering magician.
Odin has two ravens, Hugin and Munin—Thought and Memory. Every morning they fly all over Earth, then return full of news, gossip, and secrets to whisper in his ear.
Odin’s familiars are two wolves. He rides a magical eight-legged stallion, Sleipneir, whose teeth are engraved with runes. Odin rides where he will, all over the Earth but also over the Milky Way and through the sky. He is a restless spirit, traveling and riding; post-Christianity, Odin continues to ride.
Post-Christianity, Odin’s martyred son Baldur remained an appealing deity who was identified with the second coming of Christ. Odin was resolutely pagan. Odin became the Wild Hunter himself, leading the Wild Hunt, which was now understood as a parade of the damned rather than of Odin’s favorites. Sometimes Odin heads the Wild Hunt alone, at other times with a female co-leader—Freya, Hella, Hulda (Frau Wode), Perchta or Herta. In the guise of Chief Hunter, Odin was sometimes identified with the devil in medieval Europe.
Wednesday is literally “Woden’s Day” and is the best day to petition his help and make offerings for him. His numbers are three and nine. His sacred animals include wolves, ravens, snakes, bears, and horses. His attributes include a magical wand and spear. The ansuz rune may be used to request Odin’s protection.
Vestiges of Odin linger in Santa Claus (Odin as gift-giving traveler). Odin too is a bearded, white-haired man, dressed in a hat and cloak with a magic staff. Santa Claus’ Dutch sidekick, Black Peter, may be Odin’s old friend Loki in disguise. A kinder, gentler Odin, complete with ravens and wolves, appears in the guise of the king in the 1994 Swedish fairy-tale film The Polar Bear King.
See also Herta; ANIMALS: Bears, Wolves and Werewolves; DICTIONARY: Seidh; ERGOT: The Rye Wolf.