Odin is the one-eyed All-Father of the Norse pantheon. His wife is Frigg, the Goddess of Wisdom. Odin carries out war and gives strength to his enemies. Thor was actually more typically associated with peace and abundance than Odin was, and tended to be a more primary god for the living.

Odin rules the Aesir, who constantly battle frost giants that would cast the world into eternal darkness and Winter. Odin also invented the runic alphabet, poetry, mead, and seid, or witchcraft. It may be that Odin was on his way out of the pantheon when Christianity arrived in the Scandinavian lands.

In the beginning, the frost giants ruled all of the lands from their plane known as Ginnungagap. Odin slew the frost giant Ymir and made the earth from his rotting corpse. Odin has an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. His two ravens are named Hunin and Munin. The birds fly in every direction, gathering news to whisper into the All-Father's ears. Odin sacrificed one of his eyes at Mimir's Well beneath the World Tree Yggdrasil. From this same tree Odin hung for nine days and nine nights, pierced by his own ash spear in order to gain knowledge about all of the nine worlds. Namely, and from top to bottom, the worlds are Asgard, Alfheim, five on the same level Midgard, Jotunheim, Muspelheimr, Vanaheim, and Niflheim. Below that Svartalfheim and Helheim.

In modern times, Odin is portrayed as something of a villain. He has featured repeatedly in books by author Neil Gaiman as a sinister figure who is a worse trickster than Loki. Gaiman seems to think that Odin's eye has grown gigantic and still gazes into the Abyss above the Well of Mimir. In Marvel Comics Odin is often a purely destructive character, often undoing what his heroic son Thor attempts to do.

Recommended Reading

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Fiction and fun)
Norse Mythology According to Uncle Einar by Jane Sibley (also fun.
The Divine Thunderbolt:Missile of the Gods by Jane Sibley

See Also

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