Odin, also called Woden, Wuotan, Wotan and Wodan or Wodanaz (master of ecstasy), is the leader of the Aesir (the old Norse and Germanic deities). He is the Patron of wanderers, outcasts, poets, warriors and rulers. Associated with knowledge, battle, poetry, death and magic; Odin is one of the most versatile and enigmatic of the gods. Odin is known as a mischievous wanderer who can be fickle and sometimes incites wars without cause. He rules from his magical throne (Hlidskjalf) in Asgard (home of the Aesir) but also holds dominion over Valhalla, a heaven for slain warriors and he commands the valkyries (choosers of the slain).
Along with his two brothers Vili and Ve, Odin defeated the primordial giant Ymir and together they used the parts of Ymir’s corpse to create the world. Odin is married to the Goddess Frigg and has two sons, Thor and Baldr.
Wander and Warrior
Odin is described as having a long beard, one eye, wears a gray cloak and a wide brimmed hat but he is also known as a master of disguise and can shapeshift.
He is closely affiliated with the berserkers, “warrior-shamans” who are said to be able to shapeshift into animals such as wolves and bears or could shrug off injury and ignore major or even mortal wounds in their berserk frenzy. Odin’s seaming affection for war is based not on a cause or purpose so much as simply for the enjoyment of the frenzy.
He wields a war crafted magic spear called Gungnir which is said never misses its target. He travels on an eight legged horse (Sleipnir) which can travel across air and water. With him are his two wolves and two ravens Hugninn and Muninn (Thought and Memory) who act as his messengers as well as gathering information from the nine realms. Odin seeks to overcome limitations above all else and will do so relentlessly and ruthlessly by any means. He achieves this through deception, magic, outright brutality and arming himself with knowledge.
Odin’s pursuit of Wisdom
Though he can be fickle, above all else, he is dedicated to knowledge. In the pursuit of understanding he is said to have hung himself from the great world tree (Yggdrasil), and pierced himself on his spear for nine days and nights without food or drink. By doing so he learned the mysteries of the Runes and discovered new magical powers.
To Obtain the wisdom of the ages, he went to drink from Mimir’s well. He was told that in order to prove his worth before being allowed to drink he would have to make a sacrifice, for knowledge is not freely given. Without hesitation he gouged out his own eye and stated “No sacrifice is too great for knowledge”. What he learned was the fate of the gods, including his own demise in the final battle (Ragnarok) at the end of the world.
Simply put, there is no simplistic description for Odin. He is complex Deity. He is a ruler and a warrior, a shaman and magician, a poet and sometimes an outright fiend that even the other gods despise. While other gods such a Tir are known for their rule by justice and fairness, Odin patronizes and even encourages deceit, cunning, chaos and victory through extreme strength.