by Paul Waggener
Odin has become a shattered archetype.
Adopted by weaklings and underachievers as a loving father figure, or as an oversimplified deity of magic or poetry.
Desacralized through profane use in popular heavy metal or TV shows, the word has become synonymous with bad t-shirts and “Valhalla” memes that run rampant through the internet and social media.
“Hail Odin, drink mead and go to Valhalla.”
Ridiculous slogans that place a childish slant on a feared and fearsome concept.
Adam of Bremen famously said, “Wodan, id est furor.”
Odin- that means fury.
Like many archaic words and names, we can learn a great deal about this one by studying its roots. From proto-Germanic, *wodanaz is related to *wodaz, “raging.” When we look at the proper noun in Old Norse, we are seeing a compound word, Óð- as prefix, meaning fury, ecstasy, passion, rage, frantic, possessed, and even, in some cases, “insane,” and -inn, the definite article “the.”
The Ecstatic. The Raging. The Furious. The Possessed.
As the name implies, those areas which fall under Odin’s aegis are ones associated with death, madness, might, magic and warfare.
The character of Odin, throughout the Germanic lore is far from a loving father, and is more often seen as a liar, deceiver, murderer, and opportunist. His sole goal is the acquisition of power, often through the gaining of information and hidden understanding, other times through the more direct paths of conflict and domination.
If Frey is the good and rightful king of plenty, Odin is the king by his own hand, a tyrant, and an intensely Machiavellian character playing at a game to which only he knows the rules.
My understanding of Odin has always been less as a character or personality, and more as a pathway, a development of one’s own character along certain ley-lines that share a commonality with the principles of an “Odinic” lifestyle.
Some modern writers have attempted to label Odin as a demiurge, painting the Germanic mythological landscape with a gnostic brush to fit their own philosophies, which is itself perhaps an Odinic pursuit- but Odin is not a demiurge.
He did not create matter, nor does he control the universe or the matter within it- in the cosmogony of the north, Odin is a re-shaper of the world around him, which is a critically different concept- rather than being responsible for the winking into existence of the cosmos as we know it, Odin and his brothers reshaped existing reality in the form of the giant Ymir, through a sacrificial act of murder and will, recreating what was already in existence in a way they saw fit. This one simplified concept holds within it most of the bedrock of the practice of “the occult,” or “magic.”
Of course, we are dealing with stories here, truths with a capital “T” and not facts. I have always found literal understandings of any mythology to be abhorrent, and a total obstruction of those truths that can be distilled by way of a deeper approach- there is no dogmatic One Church of Odin, and if there was, and it had members, there would be a strong irony there.
The Odinic path is not a straight road with well defined rules and borders, but a twisted labyrinth of interlocking and crisscrossing pieces, many roads leading to an unknown center. It defies rules and transgresses borders and boundaries, and beckons the one who would walk it out into an ever-changing wilderness without map or compass.
The way of Odin could possibly be best understood as a road of experience and distillation. An alchemical process in which one accumulates massive amounts of raw material and places them in the furnace, burning away the dross and seeing what comes out on the other side, purifying it, re-burning, and filtering everything through the worldview of who the individual desires to be, but perhaps is not yet.
It relies on the development of a sort of spiritual compass. On the one side, there exists the tireless search to find ones correct place in the world, to wander until this is known, or found through the garnering of many experiences in many places. On the other, the Great Work and constant transformation, the acquisition of power and the knowledge that the only good in this world is the feeling of strength increasing.
Above, the one star that burns bright in the firmament for the follower of the Odinic path, or more correctly, the traverser of the Odinic labyrinth- the Ternion configuration of the Valknut, representative of the path itself, and He-Who-First-Walked-It. The crown of fire that exists at the end of the road, the center of the maze, an intangible prize that likely can never be won, but that drives on the traveler and fires his passion.
Below, the commandment from the very roots of his being, deep in his blood, perhaps even in his lineage- the fiery edict to Keep Rising, to combat despair and distraction with purpose. To keep one’s eyes on the only star that will never fail, that is called Destiny, or Fate, or Doom.
The horse he rides is called :ALU:, derived from a proto-Indo-European word that translates as “magic, ritual, possession, intoxication,” and from whence come our words, ale, hallucination. The connection to the name of Odin here is clear, and if Odin is a noun, then alu is the verb with which we attain him, become him, and change ourselves.
This horse is our ritual practice, our elevated work in which we peer into the unknown, and take back mysteries from the void, screaming.
The labyrinth that leads to this fiery crown is not one of “finding balance,” nor “seeking peace.” It is a way of isolation, trial, ordeal, great suffering and huge reward. It relies on passion and fire, the spoken word as a spell of re-ordering the world in our own image. The pillars on which it supports itself are not stability and steadfastness, but chaos and conflict.
The center of the Valknut is the eye of a hurricane, and only the one who is capable of living there- of grasping the power and stillness at the heart of the storm- can call himself worthy of traveling the Odinic Path.