Fun Facts About Norse Mythology – The Getting of Wisdom

The Norse god Odin was willing to sacrifice a lot in the pursuit of knowledge. He exchanged one of his eyes to drink from Mimir’s well of wisdom, for example.

But wait, there’s more…

Among Odin’s many names are God of the Hanged and Hanged One. Óðins Rune Song, a section of Hávamál, details how Odin hung himself from a windy tree for nine nights in order to discover magical runes.  During his ordeal, Odin didn’t eat or drink anything, and he suffered from a spear wound besides.  The runes gave rise to eighteen different spells.

Times sure have changed.

When I was in college, the getting of wisdom involved hanging out at the library.

~ S.G. Rogers

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DANICOVER7When Dani was a teen, she had it all; a starring role in her own television series, a wonderful family, and her health. A few years later, everything has changed for the worse—and her time is running short. All she wants to do before she dies is to fall in love, but when she’s kidnapped and taken to Asgard of Norse mythology, she becomes enmeshed in a quarrel between immortals. Prince Rein lends a hand in her quest to return home, and she begins to think the handsome elf has captured her heart. After a magical artifact goes missing, however, he may be forced to marry another woman to avert a diplomatic catastrophe. To find the artifact and save the prince, Dani must undertake a dangerous quest involving ogres, dark fairies, and underworld criminals. Ultimately, however, she’ll have to defy Odin himself.

Dani & the Immortals is available for the Kindle HERE

26 thoughts on “Fun Facts About Norse Mythology – The Getting of Wisdom”

  1. I’m glad you showed this side of Odin. He was revered by the Norse. One tribe, the Langobards dubbed themselves after him. You show another example of the Norse ideal of self sacrifice for something worthy, In this case it was for portents of the future and literacy. Think of how important those two things would be. With the runes came great magic that Odin shared with the world.

    Odin’s rep didn’t survive Christianization very well. What people don’t know is that most of what we have of Norse lore was edited with a Christian spin. The Havamal might be the purest piece of pre Christian Norse literature. The bulk of Norse lore was destroyed along with the temples and their priests were exterminated. Most of what is known about Odin is not what the Havamal writes but the blood thirsty king of Asgard who waits in Valhalla. There he gathers the bravest of the slain through his valkyries. He sounds cold and brutal in those descriptions. The Havamal has a different Odin. He is sometimes love sick, cagey, adventurous, and vulnerable. At the core of what he seeks is wisdom and he attains most of it through self sacrifice. Hmm. Maybe there is a connection between self sacrifice, honor, knowledge, and wisdom. He also steals the Mead of Poetry which he flaunts as one of his greatest achievements aside from the runes and the wisdom gained from the Well of Mimnir.

    Odin could not be swept away from the newly conquered people. He remains visible every Wednesday. We see Odin in the form of Santa Claus at least once a year. I think that was the gravest insult that the monks gave him. They reduced the mighty self sacrificing god of war and wisdom into a fat, jolly, old elf. If you don’t think Santa Claus is a warmed over Disney version of Odin take a closer look:

    –Odin wears purple winter furs in the same fashion as Santa Claus only Santa wears red.
    –Odin has a magical sleigh pulled by the eight legged Slepnir—-Santa has a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer (although Odin in some versions had reindeer too)
    —Odin visited each winter to reward heroes and accomplished people with gifts and struck dead the cowardly and corrupt—–Santa had a naughty and nice list
    —Odin was known for his laughter and zest for life—-Santa was a fat, jolly old elf, who “I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself” I think Loki laughed at Odin once—-ONCE
    –Santa Claus lives at the north pole with the elves—-Odin is sometimes called the King of the Elves and lives in the North in Valhalla.

    I could go on but you might be bored already. All the same I think of Odin more like a kick your ass Santa than a blood thirsty monster. If I were to have a tankard of mead with him I’d bet he’d be more the fascinating storyteller and wise sage than the bloodthirsty god who chomps at the bit to start Ragnarok. I think Odin was cool and adventurous, and a bit bookish. He is a fascinating character of the Nordic pantheon.

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    1. My understanding was that Odin rode astride Sleipnir; it didn’t pull a sleigh. Also, our modern image of Santa Claus was created for a Coca-Cola marketing campaign, so I’m skeptical it was drawn from Norse mythology. It could have coincided with the romanticization of the Norse myths in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but I still think this is a bit of a stretch.
      Another important source of our knowledge of Norse myths is Snorri Sturluson;s Prose Edda, which was admittedly written after Iceland’s (and the rest of the Nordic countries’) conversion to Christianity, but was written with the express prupose of preserving the old stories for the benefit of poets who needed to know them to write in the Norse tradition of poetry (and to use and create kennings based on the Norse myths, which were falling out of familiarity).

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      1. One of the most frustrating aspects of Norse mythology is the difficulty of pinning things down to absolute facts! I DID read a reference to Odin/Santa Claus at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin#Santa_Claus however, I’m certain modern images of Santa were created for marketing purposes. Part of the fun of Norse mythology, however, is the opportunity for speculation and discussion. Sometimes, even the “experts” cannot agree.

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      2. David isn’t wrong. Odin is often depicted as riding Sleipnir. However, Odin has many names and practically each version carries its own tribal variation. The Celt’s had a god named Mog Ruith who was one eyed and rode a chariot pulled by a multilegged horse for instance. Odin sometimes rides, sometimes has a chariot, and sometimes a sleigh.

        Purple robes with the ermine or seal cuffs are not an invention of Coca-Cola but a traditional winter robe worn in Scandinavia. Coka Cola made them red to match their emblem but it is the same garb.

        David is also right that we owe much to what we have to Snorri Sturluson with what is contained in the Poetic Edda. Nonetheless there is a great debate as to how pure the texts remain to the original. Even the oldest version of Beowulf is a copy. Most of the Nordic lore was changed to Christian themes. Grimm’s Fairy Tales are another example of the editing involved. Keep in mind during Sturluson’s time Iceland had been Christian for nearly two hundred years (Iceland Christianization 980AD–1000AD and Sturluson born approx 1180AD died 1241AD). You can imagine the possibility of how watered down the knowledge base might have been. Nordic culture was erased from history. As a comparision ask someone newly out of high school what they know of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, or anything pertaining to the time period of the American Revolution. It shouldn’t take long.

        You are right though, the experts don’t agree. What I have discovered the more I read on the history and lore of the Norse is that genocide has many forms. Extermination is just one facet. Eradication of history and culture is another facet and sometimes I think it is the most severe.

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      3. In the most recent Battlestar Galactica television series, the cylons believed that “all this has happened before and will happen again,” alluding to the cyclical nature of history. I believe historical events are frequently rewritten to fit a narrative. Actual facts, therefore, may be a rare luxury.

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      4. This is true — Sturluson was coming along long after the formal adoption of Christianity in Iceland. However, in that country (unlike in Norway, for example), at the time of formally adopting Christianity, the pagan traditions were not forbidden and people were permitted to continue practising in private. So while it may had fallen off in terms of public use, the Norse religion could well have had currency in Sturluson’s time — though the fact he felt the need to write a book to preserve the knowledge points to its erosion in the culture.

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      5. A while back I did a post on my own blog on the modern incarnations of the Norse myths — as presented in comic books. Interesting to see what various writers (and publishers) decide to draw from and what they discard.

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      6. I agree David. I’m in the school of thought that Sturluson was close to the mark of the original. I think he is more credible than Tacticus, who is considered to be one of the best sources, and is a good one, pales in comparison to Sturleson because Tacticus wasn’t first hand information. Sturluson might have known who to go to for the best information. I also wonder if he wasn’t a closet heathen himself. He seemed to have a passion for retaining the original intent.

        Kennings are amazing metaphors that sometimes rely upon a cultural reference. I think the nearest comparison to them is the coded language used in the Underground Railroad by the slaves. You had the same situation where a conquered populace using cultural references. In this instance more of the culture might understand the meanings. We can understand what they mean by “a storm of swords” but references to “hanging on a tree ” might carry a different meaning without a cultural reference.

        By the way. I love the new Battlestar Galactica series. I wish they had a spin off series of young Adama. I agree that history is written for the time period it is in. Just remember—the winner writes the history. I’d hate to see freedom stamped out and erased from history. It took a loooong time to get here and might seem like a noose but it is a “quick drop and short stop” once it is lost.

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      7. This has been an interesting back and forth David and at first I thought you were pretty cool. Now, i have serious doubts about you and I considered sueing you. I liked the conversation and I clicked on your profile link and discovered your blog. Cool blog by the way and I’ll have to investigate it further. I noticed that you are a Tolkien afficianado and I am am too. Cool! So then I see a past blog about Leonard Nimoy and the Hobbit. I’m a big Star Trek fan and I said, “Hey! I gotta check this out.” Then I watched, much to my regret, the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins sung by Leonard Nimoy.

        I could feel my brain melting and blood poured out my ears. Thankfully I blacked out and upon recovery took several perscription pain killers and cried for the first time in 30 years. I was so furious with you that I nearly called in a friend that owes me a favor or two in SEAL Team Two. But I had time to calm down and I realized that you were just presenting history as it was. Like Oppenheimer after he released the Atomic Bomb he felt ashamed for what he unleashed on the world. So, I decided to forgive you.

        After watching the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins I decided two things. 1. There are somethings like mummies, and the sex diary of Elenor Roosevelt that should be buried in history and never be seen again by mankind. and 2. I’ll have to burn a copy of this to send to my other buddy who works at the GITMO terrorist detention facility. Expect breakthroughs in the war on terror soon.

        Sturluson preserved much of the Norweigan and Western Swedish traditions. However the Germanic culture was diverse in their pantheon worship. The closer you get to Finnland the more Vanir influence. Germany’s tribes had their sacred groves chopped down and faced mumerous exterminations. They are said to be closer to Freyr, Tyr, and Donnar. There isn’t any lore that survives except through old stories ala Grimm’s fairy tales.

        I’ll have to be careful checking out your website David but I’ve enjoyed your posts here. I’m looking forward to what Peter King does with the Hobbit. Someone send him a copy of the Poetic Edda!

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      8. The horror. Dont attempt it. The Ballad is …..let’s just say that it is a new dimension of awful.

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      9. Too late, Don. I am shaking my head, wondering if Leonard Nimoy was bullied by his management into doing that video or whether he did it for the paycheck.

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      10. If you want to hear a very cool rendition of the Poetic Edda try this: http://www.eddan.net/ It is the complete Norse mythology set to music by Mats Wendt. It is called Eddan: the Invincible Sword of the Elf smith. It has a song in there that is The Magic Runes and the First Burning of Gullveig.

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