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Friday, July 18, 2014

Odin By Any Other Name

   Most Gods have a variety of different epithets attached to them and some have several different names that they are known by but none may have as many as Wodan who many know as Odin*. If we look at all the different mythology and lore we find that Odin has more than 200 different names that he uses in different contexts or is known by in different places. Each of these names can be useful in helping us better understand who this enigmatic God is and I have also found it very useful to call on specific names of Odin when I need to honor or pray to different aspects of his energy. 
Shrine to Wodan
    As much as I normally loath wikipedia as a reference there is a fairly good list of Odin's names there. It's beyond the scope of this article to list all of them, but I'd like to touch on a couple at least, and why I personally choose to use them. I have several specific ones that I call on regularly, for example, but I want to be very clear that these are all names for a single god - Odin - not different Gods. The best analogy for this might be to compare it to the use of nicknames. I honor Odin as one being but I choose different heiti (bynames or nicknames) for him in different contexts.
    In the Gylfaginning and Grímnismál Odin appears as Harbard, meaning Grey beard. In this guise he is a ferryman who challenges Thor by refusing to ferry him across a river and insulting him. When I am feeling challenged by Odin this is the name I use for him. This is also the name I call on and pray to in challenging times or when I am trying to maintain my self control when being confronted by difficult people.
   In Óðins nöfn we are told that Odin is also known as Jölföðr, meaning Yule father. My family honors Odin by this name every Yule and we see him as the one who brings gifts to the children. I'm not saying Odin is Santa Claus but I will say that I see the Yule Father as one of Odin's most benevolent and kind forms, where he reinforces reciprocity by encouraging the giving of gifts and the celebration of joy and fellowship in the darkest time of the year.
   Oski, God of Wishes and things wished, is a name for Odin in the Gylfaginning and Grímnismál. I pray to him sometimes for inspiration and often for luck. He always expects a gift for a gift, in my experience, but he is generous with his giving. I have prayed and offered to Oski several times in dire financial circumstances and always had a positive outcome, although never quite in an expected form.
   In Baldr's Draumar Odin goes by the name Vegtam meaning Wanderer or Way-tamer. I call on him especially for seidhr work because I see him as Odin who travels the 9 worlds and journeys to the realm of the dead. As a seidhkona this resonates with me and I find this name for Odin works really well for me when I am doing those same things myself.
    There are a few other names I also use regularly for Odin. One from the Gylfaginning is Hrafnagud, meaning Raven God. I tend to use this one when doing divination or receiving omens more generally and almost always when I see ravens or crows I feel are associated with Odin. Another which is found in both the Gylfaginning and the Skaldaparmal is Vidrir, meaning Stormer; I tend to associate this one with Odin of the Wild Hunt. I use this name when storms pass by, when I feel the Wild Hunt near, or when I am calling on Odin in the context of the Leader of the Hunt. I use the name Hroptatyr, or Sage, from the Gylfaginning when I am honoring Odin as a wise teacher or offering to him in the context of learning. I use this one often in relation to the runes. Finally for healing work I pray to him as Veratyr, God of Men, a name from both the gylfaginning and Odins Nofn.
   This is of course only a small sample of his many names. Some other popular ones that you will often see include Har (High One), Grimnir (Hooded One), and Valfodr (Father of the Slain). Many of his names, like Bolverk (Evil Doer), relate to specific stories and it is a good idea to read those stories and understand the context of the story to understand the real meaning of the name. If you are drawn to honor Odin I highly recommend learning something about at least a few of his many names in order to better understand him.

*Although I am a polytheist I do see Odin and Wodan as the same being

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