Deity Offerings Series: For Odin

This post is the first of many in which I will be detailing the offerings that I give to the deities and spirits with whom I’ve built strong relationships over the years.

December 2017 will mark the ninth anniversary of my taking up the runes and the beginning of a deep and serious relationship with Odin. Over the years I have worked to grow closer to Odin and to understand his preferences in all things, especially as those preferences influence my devotional work. One important concern in building a mutual and healthy relationship with any deity is sacrifice and offering. Here I present a list of common offerings that I make to Odin. In the lore we see the Old Norse words mjǫðr, vín, and ǫl used most often (which are beer or ale, wine, and mead respectively) to describe alcoholic beverages available at the time. Each has its place in my work with Odin in addition to other offerings.

Mead

Mead is the first and foremost offering for Odin as it was the greatest and grandest of beverages among the Vikings – the iconic libation of kings and those favored by them. As such, mead is an appropriate offering to Odin especially as an acknowledgement of his status as Mighty God and Most High. In addition mead has deep associations with magic and poetry.  It’s also often aligned with the runes given that they are mysteries which one may access through sacrifice, magic, and deep draughts of this holy brew. So it is bound up with Odin as shaman, rune-winner, and wordsmith as well.

By cunning and wit Odin won the mead for the Gods and favored mortals. He entered Gunnlöð’s court, seduced her for three nights, took the mead in three long gulps, and flew away in eagle form, escaping Suttung – the Jotun owner of the mead, before Odin – who was in hot pursuit. We learn of these works and their blessings in the Skáldskaparmál:

En Suttungamjöð gaf Óðinn ásunum ok þeim mönnum, er yrkja kunnu. Því köllum vér skáldskapinn feng Óðins ok fund ok drykk hans ok gjöf hans ok drykk ásanna.

But Odin gave the mead of Suttungr to the Æsir and to those men who possess the ability to compose. Therefore we call poesy Odin’s Booty and Find, and his Drink and Gift, and the Drink of the Æsir.

~Brodeur translation

Yes, mead is first and foremost for me in my devotional offerings to Odin. However, he is a multi-faceted god with many aspects, and many interests and investments. Consequently, there are other alcoholic beverages, in my experience, that when well given will gain his favor.

Wine

Lore is often cited in order to make the point that Odin is sustained solely on mead. In Grímnismál verse 19 commonly used to argue this point, the original Old Norse word vín is translated as mead:

Gera ok Freka seðr gunntamiðr
hróðigr Herjaföður;
en við vín eitt vápngöfugr
Óðinn æ lifir.

~from the Codex Regius

The chief inur’d to toils in war,
Removing from the feast afar,
Bids Gerr and Freker daily eat,
The smoking honors of the treat:
But Odin, great in martial deeds,
With mead, immortal vigor feeds.

~Cottle translation

Freki and Geri | does Herefather feed,
The far-famed fighter of old:
But on wine alone | does the weapon-decked god,
Othin, forever live.

~Bellows translation

However, a closer look reveals that vín is actually more accurately translated simply as wine. Odin is sustained “on wine alone”, if we rely solely on this bit of lore. What we know about wine within its temporal and cultural context is that it was hard to obtain because of the lack of grapes in Scandinavian lands. It could be acquired through trade with wine producing countries, but was quite expensive for this reason. As a result, it was reserved for nobility, especially kings, and Odin is absolutely that, so I give him wine to honor him as nobility.

In addition I work with a number of Greek and Roman deities. Within those ancient cultures, wine was central to the symposium. The symposium was an aristocratic event marked by poetry readings, the singing of hymns, deity libations, philosophical conversation, political strategizing, and entertainment of a musical as well as a sexual persuasion. Symposia seem like events that a seeker of knowledge and wisdom from a distant land (who also has skill with disguises) would have happily wandered right into the middle of. And so I use wine to honor Odin as scholar, philosopher, and political mastermind as well as god of commerce, trade especially by ship, and long-distance travel. In my experience many wines available today suit his tastes well. I find that Odin appreciates blood red wine in general, as well as most German varieties.

Beer and Ale

Óminnis hegri heitr sás of ölþrum þrumir,
hann stelr geþi guma;
þess fugls fjöþrum ek fjötraþr vask
í garþi Gunnlaþar.

A bird of Unmindfulness flutters over ale-feasts,
Wiling away men’s wits;
With the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
In the garths of Gunnlodr below.

~Verse 13 of the Hávamál , in its original Old Norse above with The Viking Answer Lady’s English translation below

In the Havamal we have the Sayings of the High One, who is generally accepted to be Odin himself. From the above verse we see that Odin is well acquainted with ale and the feasts that it presides over, and during his encounter with the giantess Gunnlodr he drank deeply of the ale he was offered. We also know from Hymiskviða aka The Lay of Hymir and from Lokasenna aka Loki’s Wrangling that the gods serve ale/beer at their own feasts too.

Beer and ale are on my list of offerings for Odin. As a wanderer Odin moves among gods, mortals, and etins alike – whether overtly or in disguise – seeking knowledge and wisdom, bestowing gifts and asking favors, laughing and loving, and shaping wyrd and weaving wonders. That mighty god can and will drink the beer and ale that would have been available in any hall or household at any time. Beer or ale would have been the equalizer in that both nobility and common people who have had access to it and consumed it. It’s my belief that any drink offered in the spirit of frithful hospitality (no foul play involved) was and will be well received by Odin.

Other Libations

In addition to mead, wine, and beer/ale, I offer Odin honey whiskey, whiskey, and vodka. I keep hard liquor on hand in larger quantities than mead, wine, and beer. In my experience, he enjoys them. As stated above any fare given in frithful hospitality can potentially be acceptable to him.

Incantations

Because Odin is a god of poetry as well as the written and spoken word, I offer improvised as well as painstakingly crafted verse in the form of a recitation or a song. I also sing songs and recite poetry from others of his devotees who have been so kind as to share their work on sites like Odin’s Gift.

Suffumigations

I often burn incense for the deities and spirits that I have relationships with. For Odin, I burn mugwort or wormwood (either alone or in combination with other herbs and resins) because both have strong associations with travel throughout Europe. I also burn ash bark and leaves because of this tree’s associations with Yggdrasil and with the Ansuz or Æsc rune. From among the resins I give frankincense, myrrh, and dragon’s blood. I often associate frankincense with heady, elevating, contemplative/meditative, soul caliber raising energies which fits well with Odin’s might. Myrrh has the power to draw me into the dark for reflection and/or healing and so I have come to see it as an extension of Odin’s might. Lastly dragon’s blood is one that I’ve come to associate with Odin and burn in his honor because I associate it with everything hot and martial. It is a resin of warfare, happy to lend its energies to anything from campaigns against general stray astral entities causing trouble unintentionally to campaigns against big malevolent things that need to be full-on exorcised, and so dragon’s blood is Odin’s because I haven’t forgotten his ties to the fight and dragon’s blood packs a punch.

Food Offerings

I rarely give food but it’s not unheard of for me to do so. I share a meal with Odin every once in a while. If the lore telling us that Geri and Freki receive Odin’s food is accurate, I’m happy to offer to Odin’s canine allies in this way.  I have also given them red meat, unattached to a larger meal that I’ve made for myself. To Huginn and Muninn, Odin’s ravens of thought and memory, I’ve given hard boiled eggs which they seemed to like. The wolves and ravens need love too!

I hope that the above gives others a starting place in establishing an offering rich devotional relationship with Odin, and for the folks who already have that kind of relationship with him, hopefully some of the above sounds familiar. Hail Odin!

Notes on the Rune Ansuz

ansuz

The rune Ansuz is the fourth rune in the first aett of the Elder Futhark. The rune’s literal meaning is “god” or “mouth”. As a “god” rune, I associate it strongly with Odin. He is chief among the gods after all, and so I associate it with him in his many guises. Odin is a changing and changeable god with many forms and many functions across a wide number of domains. In addition he has influence across many realms. Due to its sympathy with his nature, the power of Ansuz can be harnessed to aid in connecting with Odin.

The might of Ansuz is also bound up with consciousness. This is a major part of Odin’s might and of Ansuz’s as well. Through the power of Ansuz, self-awareness emerges. Also, this rune stimulates knowledge and develops wisdom. Ansuz is the sweet breath of the god, Odin, awakening the mind, stimulating thought, seeding memory, and lifting us up on a whirling wind of possibility. Ansuz is our ability to give and receive inspiration as well. As our consciousness expands so too does our access to inspiration.

The_Sacrifice_of_Odin_by_Frølich

Odin’s sacrifice depicted by Lorenz Frølich, 1895

Because I associate Ansuz with expanding consciousness, it signifies the purpose of Odin’s sacrifice, self to self, upon the World Tree. Ansuz is the code for Odin’s Nine Nights of Sacrifice. He hung that he might extend his consciousness which meant growing in self-knowledge, personal power, and wisdom, all of which were necessary for his own enrichment and for the advancement of his creation. In my work, I use Ansuz for a similar purpose, scratched on the forehead with a fingernail (which I do a lot) or painted on in white, storm blue, or red. In addition to writing this rune on my flesh, I also use galdr. In my work, Ansuz is the quintessential rune of galdr magic, of consciousness manifested in breath and expressed in song. Through this rune I draw closer to Odin and the meaning of his sacrifice.

As a “mouth” rune, Ansuz is connected to expression in general. When I think of Ansuz as an expressive rune I think specifically of inspired creative expression. In this way, Ansuz is linked to the Mead of Poetry that Odin won and to the art of poetry as a divinely inspired endeavor intimately linked with Odin’s furious passion. I also consider Ansuz’s power to be an integral part of oracular work in which the gods and spirits open us up and use our breath, our voice to bring messages to the folk. In that work I expand my awareness and my consciousness so that I can access messages from the powers that be. On top of that, I then have to ensure that my mind is open and my tongue is loose so that the message is accurately expressed to those poised to here it. Ansuz is a magical rune for me. So much of my work includes spoken charms, singing, chanting, proclaiming, and prophesying. The might of Ansuz is bound up in that process.

I also associate Ansuz with communication in general; however, it opens not just the mouth but also the heart and mind so that what comes out of the mouth is worth the breath expended. As the Hávamál warns in verse 29 of the Auden & Taylor translation:

Wise is he not who is never silent,
Mouthing meaningless words:
A glib tongue that goes on chattering
Sings to its own harm.

And so for me Ansuz is a rune of potent meaning. It is not simply the act of communicating but of speaking true and well. Ansuz allows us to say what we know and articulate what we understand, about our selves, about the world, about the gods, and more. In that way Ansuz is the rune of legend and lore and it is the stuff of Odin’s conversations with Sága in Sökkvabekkr as they consume draughts of blessed mead from golden cups. Simply put, Ansuz is in wise words well spoken, not idle chit-chat. Here’s a handy meme that captures the type of communication that I often associate with the power of the rune Ansuz:

ihatesmalltalk

With regard to other contexts in which the might of Ansuz may manifest, as an academic in the last leg of Ph.D. program I associate this rune with the academy, with research (i.e., generating knowledge) and dissertating (i.e., recording that knowledge for later intellectual consumption) as well as the academic conferences that I am expected to attend (i.e., orally presenting said knowledge). I am reminded as well of the Greek symposia filled with wine, entertainment, and debate. In addition, this rune conjures images of the Thing to my mind, an ancient annual Germanic assembly of freemen for the purposes of dispute resolution, political decision making, public religious practice, and commerce. In that form, Ansuz is about the kind of communication exchange needed to create and maintain a civilization.

The above are the ways in which Ansuz is exalted and well-manifested from my perspective, but runes are tremendous founts of power and their might has both light and dark aspects. I have seen Ansuz’s might corrupted in the form of gaslighting, mind games, and manipulation and where its might has been twisted Ansuz can be used in bindrunes and charms to help untwist the situation. With Algiz, it forms a quality ward against such foul play. With Thurisaz, Ansuz can help one to mount an active offense designed to detour future bullshit. Void where prohibited and all ethical taxes apply. With Laguz and Algiz, it can be used to ward one’s dreams against foul play of a manipulative nature. With Nauthiz and Algiz, you can give back exactly as foul as you get. Think of it as the Aikido of baleful magic. Contained in Ansuz’s power is the wisdom and savvy to know what manner of person you are dealing with, and to act accordingly. As the Hávamál counsels in verses 18 and 38 of the Auden & Taylor translation:

He who has seen and suffered much,
And knows the ways of the world,
Who has traveled, can tell what spirit
Governs the men he meets

A wayfarer should not walk unarmed,
But have his weapons to hand:
He knows not when he may need a spear,
Or what menace meet on the road.

The might of Ansuz is a howling wind carrying thought and memory, knowledge and wisdom, good communication and divine inspiration within its currents, and I am quite taken. Hail Ansuz and Hail Odin, Winner of the Runes!

The Raven in the Tree


Odin brought me, in corvid hame, to this place. This cosmic crossing is like Hlidskjalf and Yggdrasil itself rolled into one. I can feel the wind in my feathers and the warm sun pressing against me even as the chill of twilight sets in. I ponder this place in the dim glow of dusk, my left eye red as rowan berry, and my right hand still stinging with the brand burned there. The way is open and The Old Man’s many faces are visible in the fading light.