A friend asked me this today. If I know he is an asshole, associated with war and death, why worship him?
I quickly pointed out other associations: runes, poetry, magic.
My friend seemed keen to understand, but we were in a group setting, and I totally blanked.
So, this blog post is my response.
Yes, Odin can be an asshole. He can drag you through shadow work, put you in uncomfortable situations, and demand a lot of you. But he’s never been dishonourable to me. He has always encouraged me to get well, keep writing, and study my passions.
So, last weekend, he really challenged me to look at some rot in our relationship. I did the thing, and got the distinct feeling I had passed a test. Then, yesterday, I was talking to a new Internet friend. She started talking about vibes she is getting from Odin. I informed her that I am an Odin devotee. She asked me for advice and we had a long (and delightful!) conversation. I had to delve deep into the very rot I had uprooted. What irony! As the saying goes in the heathen community: That Old Bastard! He wanted to be sure my shadow work was done. You can trust I shook my fist at the sky.
And you might ask, well, if he’s gonna put you through some bullshit, then why go along with him?
The shadow work I did was worth it. Our bond is clearer now. He’s not an asshole for no reason, you know? He can be brutally honest, and I think he expects that from his followers too.
He is the long-bearded, stern, grim warrior sage who gives me snarky advice. He’s certainly filling in the shoes of my deceased human grandfathers too.
My friend encouraged me to challenge Odin–which is not a bad idea, because sometimes I think I avert my eyes from those darker aspects. But sometimes, I call on them too. I’m not sure I would call on his Bolverk (“Evil-Worker”) aspect, but his battle aspects are excellent for protection, warding, banishing, and–if this is your thing–cursing.
To go back to my friend’s main critique: why worship a war god? I’ll admit, I don’t care for or admire war one bit. I don’t think it serves any kind or loving purpose whatsoever. And if Odin ever asked me to join the army, I’d say fuck no. So I don’t call on his war faces so much. I aim at his Gandalf-esque wandering wizard face. I think the discomfort I feel with his war aspects is something I will always have, and I would prefer to perpetually be uncomfortable about it, rather than accept him thoughtlessly. I’ll call on his warrior aspect to have my back in a conflict, but I’m not about to ask him to stir up more trouble for me.
And why worship a death god? my friend asks. Death is a sacred process we all go through. It’s worth honouring.
(I watch videos from Ask a Mortician all the time) I like the idea of Valhalla in that people of strength are honoured for it, but I like to think it’s a very expansive idea of strength: inclusive of disability, just as Odin himself is disabled. I guess for me, Valhalla is more of a concept of courage that I admire, rather than being a place I’m actually going to go when I die. (Admittedly, if I am wrong and I it turned out to be a literal place, I am sure I would tire very quickly of fighting my fellow dead people all day.)
I haven’t mentioned this much on this blog, but for me, Odin has a lot of overlap with the archetypal wise sage in the mountains mixed in with bits of Buddhism I’ve picked up along my spiritual journeys. So the faces I see of him tend to reflect that and it shows up in my poetry too.
His strongest qualities for me are his profound runic knowledge, his poetic inspiration, the ecstatic writing frenzies, and his wisdom-seeking. It’s true that I might even forget his more aggressive aspects. But he’ll always be there to remind me–leading the the Wild Hunt by my window.