The chief of Aesir, the Norse gods, Odin was also known as Wotan or Woden, and often referred to as “Allfather”. Together with his brothers, Vili and Ve, he carved the world out of the giant Ymir and created the first man and woman, giving them the breath of life. As the oldest of the gods, he was treated by the others as their father.
Like his fellow Aesir, Odin lived in Asgard, in a fortress called Gladsheim. He also had a high seat called Hlidskjalf,from where he was able to look out across the nine realms.Two ravens, Huginnn (“thought”) and Muninn (“memory”) kept him informed of everything happening in the world. He also possessed a spear called Gungnir, an eight-legged horse called Sleipnir, and a magic ring called Draupnir, which dropped eight new rings of the same size and weight of the original on every ninth night.
He was married to Frigg, although he had many lovers and fathered several children, among them Thor, Balder, Hodr, and Vali. Wednesday (“Woden’s Day”) is named after him.
Odin was the most learned and wise of the gods, after sacrificing one of his eyes to Mimir’s well in return for a drink of its immense wisdom. He impaled himself on his spear and hung himself from Yggdrasil, the world tree, for nine days, and in return for his sacrifice he gained knowledge of the runes. Perhaps because of this, he received sacrifices of hanged men. He was also able to practice magic, known as seidr, and he was a patron god of poetry, giving worthy poets the mead of inspiration.
As well as a god of wisdom and magic, he was a battle god,able to inspire a berserker rage in the warriors who followed him. In that state, these men feared nothing and ran into the fray in a mad frenzy, naked and biting the edges of their own shields. Odin was also known as “father of the slain” because he collected the souls of fallen warriors, the Einherjar (“glorious dead”), from the battlefield. He commanded the Valkyries, battle maidens who appeared on the battlefield to select and collect the warriors deemed worthy. These warriors were brought to Valhalla, the hall of the slain, where they drank and fought while waiting for Ragnarok, the end of the world which would feature a huge battle between the gods and their allies, and the frost giants and their allies.
Odin was a cunning god, often using trickery and deception to accomplish his goals. He was also seen as unreliable and treacherous, because he would withdraw his favor from a strong warrior in the midst of battle, leading to their death. He justified his actions by saying that he needed the strongest and most skilled warriors at his side for Ragnarok. His foreknowledge of these events troubled him, and he used all of his resources and skills in preparing for them.
In the end, Odin himself was destined to face and be killed by Fenrir, the monstrous wolf fathered by the trickster god Loki.
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