In late July, at the the height of summer’s shining, The Morrigan laughed as she grabbed my head, pulled my tongue out of my mouth, and scratched two feda into the bleeding muscle with her thumb. Onn (Gorse/Furze, sometimes Ash) and Duir (Oak) she scratched together. Her message:
On Friday night, the 22nd of December, moments after considering to whom I might dedicate a libation donation for the Strong Roots Wide Branches Temple for PantheaCon 2018, E a retired liberal Christian white woman, made eye contact with me in the produce section of a local Target store. My mom and I were shopping for sweet potatoes and a few other items.
E arrested my attention and then started a conversation with me and mom by sharing her rage and fury about the current state of the world. I listened, though initially I desperately wanted to continue shopping and to get home as soon as possible. I was tired from the day’s demands. As E shared her rage and her shock about some people’s ignorance and corruption, I commented that the ignorance and corruption we see now in the form of flagrant and rampant isms in high places have always been present and operating, only now it’s more visible to more people than before. Please who need to wake up are waking up, and its disorienting for them. E smiled and with warm eyes dubbed me wise.
E later asked about my work and my education. I spoke vaguely but still somehow revealed more than I intended to with a total stranger. E told me about her work too. She shared her personal details between grimaces and sharp stabs at corrupt politicians. She seemed to almost whisper as she noted feeling crazy living in the world the way it is. My mom and I shared words of love and wisdom to instill hope and courage for change. She shared her plans to seek inner peace and to meditate this holiday.
E held me and my mom in a triangle talking politics, religion, family, and social justice for at least 30 minutes. Throughout our time together, E made frequent mention of my smarts and wisdom. Her passion and fury for the state of the world caught my attention and held it too. Lodged in the narrow pass between frozen meats and fresh milk, I had time to think and to feel her energy. Eventually I noticed E’s gold and silver tree of life pendant, her six large eyes (shades and glasses included), her gold (ear)rings, her intricately woven sweater with images arrows and a horse. With each passing minute, E felt like herself and…More.
E felt like more than a human being. She felt like an vessel for a shard of Odin’s power, taken for a time to deliver a Yuletide message to a weary devotee passing through a Midwestern Target. I often hear Christians croon that God works in mysterious ways. Well, so does mine apparently. I needed his presence this year. I struggle with crashes in my mood, like most folks, but especially during the holiday season because I see what people imagine the world to be – love, peace, joy, good cheer – and I see how so much of our reality flies in the face of that. 2017 has been one of the worst years in my lifetime. E felt it too. People of color and queer people have been aware of the pain and madness of the world for a long time and we need white woman and others with certain types of privilege in the world to see that pain and madness too – and to fight!
Through E, Odin called me to rally, to share knowledge, wisdom, and insight, to speak up, to harness the fury and the madness for change. And he reminded me to be there for people and the celebrate and honor those who are there for me. The world is full of love, peace, joy, and good cheer, but it is also filled with those who want to steal it away. After we process our feelings about that attempted theft, we have to ethically act against it. E, carrying Odin, reminded me that I have to feel the rage and choose courage. Choose to push through the low moods and fight for what I value. Odin reminded me that I have shell-shocked allies that I can rally to righteous action. He reminded me that I too need to soak up the energy of the strengthening sun and rise toward victory. We are all huddled in the dark together waiting for the same sun rise. It’s our intentional alliances, our relentless political action and our heartfelt prayers that will sing in victory.
I’m pretty damned sure that I conversed with Odin – Wanderer, Seeker, Healer – in the guise of a (righteously) salty retired woman in a Midwestern Target at the headwaters of the Yuletide. In that conversation, I saw how far we’ve come and how far we’ve to go. The fire and fury is at work in me. May it rise and strengthen as the sun rises and strengthens.
Good Yule to you and yours.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
Freki and Geri | does Herefather feed,
The far-famed fighter of old:
But on wine alone | does the weapon-decked god,
Othin, forever live.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!