Odin - Encyclopedia

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ODIN, or Othin (0. Norse 661nn), the chief god of the Northern pantheon. He is represented as an old man with one eye. Frigg is his wife, and several of the gods, including Thor and Balder, are his sons. He is also said to have been the father of several legendary kings, and more than one princely family claimed descent from him. His exploits and adventures form the theme of a number of the Eddaic poems, and also of several stories in the prose Edda. In all these stories his character is distinguished rather by wisdom and cunning than by martial prowess, and reference is very frequently made to his skill in poetry and magic. In Ynglinga Saga he is represented as reigning in Sweden, where he established laws for his people. In notices relating to religious observances Odin appears chiefly as the giver of victory or as the god of the dead. He is frequently introduced in legendary sagas, generally in disguise, imparting secret instructions to his favourites or presenting them with weapons by which victory is assured. In return he receives the souls of the slain who in his palace, Valhalla, live a life of fighting and feasting, similar to that which has been their desire on earth. Human sacrifices were very frequently offered to Odin, especially prisoners taken in battle. The commonest method of sacrifice was by hanging the victim on a tree; and in the poem Hdvamfil the god himself is represented as sacrificed in this way. The worship of Odin seems to have prevailed chiefly, if not solely, in military circles, i.e. among princely families and the retinues of warriors attached to them. It is probable, however, that the worship of Odin was once common to most of the Teutonic peoples. To the Anglo-Saxons he was known as Woden and to the Germans as Wodan (Wuotan), which are the regular forms of the same name in those languages. It is largely owing to the peculiar character of this god and the prominent position which he occupies that the mythology of the north presents so striking a contrast to that of Greece.

See TEUTONIC PEOPLES, ad fin.; and WODEN. (H. M. C.)

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