Odin is the supreme deity and eldest of all the gods in the Nordic pantheon. He is leader of the race of gods belonging to the Aesir. He is called All-father for he is father of all the gods.
Odin is also called Val-father because those warriors who honorably die in battle become his adopted sons. Their souls are led by him into the hall of the slain in Valhalla. He is therefore revered as the god of death, and often appears in the battlefield clothed in a cloak. His war-like characteristics are reflected in the many attributive names: Glad-of-war, Spear-thruster, and Father-of-battle.
Odin is often depicted as a wise old man and a wanderer. For that reason, he has many names which reflect his appearance as a traveller: Hooded one, Wanderer, Broad hat, Greybeard, and Staffbearer.
He is often called the sky father. Although he does not hold dominion over the earth and sky, he can change shape into the form of an eagle, a bird often associated with the sky in Indo-European culture.
When Odin went to obtain the mead of inspiration, he is said to have flown in the shape of an eagle greeted by a Valkyrie with a chalice. Odin is sometimes depicted as the eagle that sits upon the Yggdrasil tree (his throne) looking down on the world.
Along with Odin's personal attributes, he also is keeper of magical treasures which provide him with aid in battle. Odin possesses a magical spear called Gungnir. When it is wielded in combat it never ceases to slay the enemy. This mighty weapon was given to Odin as a gift from the trickster god Loki, as part of his plan to stir up warfare.
Among other magical objects, Odin posseses a golden ring called Draupnir. This ring was crafted by dwarfs, along with the spear Gungnir. Draupnir drops eight identical rings every ninth evening.
Odin holds gardianship of a magical eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. This grey steed can journey on both land and sea and carry Odin to the land of the dead and back to his dwelling place in Asgard. The bodies of dead warriors are often transported on Sleipnir back to Odin's hall in Valhalla.
Odin also has two ravens that serve him as messengers and extend his vision. Their names are Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory). These birds sit upon Odin's shoulders. They fly into the battlefield in search of information and return to Odin to whisper it in his ears. These birds serve an important function, because they report on warriors that fall in combat and are suitable to live in Valhalla and feast until the coming of Ragnarok.
Odin is the god of inspiration, magic and poetry. He gained great wisdom when he hanged himself on the world tree, also referred to as the gallows. This, however, was a spiritual death in which he sacrificed himself to himself. Odin hung on the Yggdrasil tree for nine days and nights and was pierced by a spear. He fasted during this whole ordeal. He also pawned one of his eyes for a drink of the Spring of Mimir. Through this offering, Odin received supreme wisdom.
Odin is said to have reached the world beyond the realms of death through his spiritual hanging. By this means he gained knowledge of the runes and learned to master their magic. This power allows him to bring the dead back. Odin preserved the head of Mimir (slain by the Vanir) with herbs to continue consulting him. Odin also has a reputaion for using deceitful magic. In art he is frequently portrayed with a missing eye as he undergoes the torment of hanging. Believers in Odin offered human sacrifices to this god.
Odin is married to Frigg. Odin will die a physical death in the jaws of the Fenrir wolf during the last great battle of Ragnarok.
Gods-Table of Contents