Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Runic Superpowers of Odin: Part II

Odin and Gunnlöð by Frølich
Odin using his SUPERFLIRT powers
When last we left our hero-king-Allfather, he had learned the first 9 of 18 runic spells of power and magic while hanging himself from the world-tree, Yggdrasil. In this post, I present you with the back nine, pulled from the Hávamál:

     10. Odin has the power to ward off witches and send them back home confused -- and it's kind of interesting to note, also, that most of those who use magic in the sagas are women. Males, as a rule, did not engage in such things, with the exception of Odin the Allfather, of course.

     11. Odin can protect his people if he leads them to war. By singing beneath his shield, he can bring them safely through the battle and home again.

     12. With runes and spells, Odin can speak to a hanged man. More precisely, he can bring them down to speak to HIM. I bet the dead have some interesting stories to tell. Gruesome, too.

     13. If Odin sprinkles a new baby with water, they'll never fall in battle. (Kind of sounds like a baptism to me.)

     14. I'm not sure how to interpret this one, exactly, so I'll feed you the quote: "I know all the nature of gods and of elves" (stanza 158).*

     15. With a song, Odin can give extra strength to the gods (I am envisioning little +1s or +5s floating over their heads), bonus SKILL to the elves, and uh -- well, more wisdom to himself, I guess. I wonder if this is temporary or continual. Either way, I wonder why he doesn't bonus-wisdom himself constantly. Maybe he does. WHO CAN SAY.

     16. Odin can win the affection and love of any woman he wants. Ladies man SUPREME, to say the least. No question at all in my mind that Odin got plenty of use out of this one.

     17. Even the SHYEST of ladies will be charmed and reluctant to leave him.**

     18. I'm tempted to believe this one is something to do with professing his own feelings, but it's kind of another riddle -- I guess it could just be that he is withholding the final spell, but I don't know. Odin gets with a lot of ladies, so if he's telling all of them what this one is, he's kind of contradicting himself. I'll give you the quote, here, too (stanza 163):
An eighteenth I know: which I ne'er shall tell
to maiden or wife of man
save alone to my sister, or haply to her
who folds me fast in her arms;
most safe are secrets known to but one-
the songs are sung to an end.

As you can see, Odin is a pretty talented god. And this is just the tip of the iceberg -- he also won a LOT of wisdom and information from Mimir's well, at the cost of his eye. I'm betting Odin has no regrets about that trade, especially since his spear is magicked to hit whatever he aims for, anyway. And I guess you don't really need depth perception when you have two ravens to see everything in the world for you in advance.

*The Norse Myths by Crossley-Holland interprets this as being able to name all the gods and elves, but that seems pretty weak to me. And also, not really something to do with the runes, so much as just being some extra knowledge picked up along the way. I'd be much more impressed if he saw into the hearts of said elves and gods, and KNEW them with a glance instead. 

**I kind of feel like this is a cheat. This is totally just 16 part two, but whatever, Odin, I will give you the pass.


  1. I love how he does everything through song. It's like an old musical.

    1. It really is! I'll admit I have a hard time envisioning Odin charging into battle singing a jaunty tune -- maybe that's why he has to sing it under his shield.

  2. On the quote, since Odin was also known as a watcher deity that oversaw the events of the three worlds I think it means he knew of either the true nature or of every act gods and elves ever did. It explains why Loki never really got away with anything, for too long that is. He also had to watch for Ragnarok.

    1. That's my off-the-cuff interpretation too -- and really, it makes a lot more sense than just being able to name them. That's really lamesauce, compared with everything else.

    2. Then again, true names have power. ;)

    3. Well, I suppose so-- and Odin certainly is never known by the same name twice, but sometimes he spouts off about ALL his names to people, too, and then I kind of wonder how much power they possibly could have, if he's willing to go on about them. Then too, in the Lay of Harbarth, I noticed that Thor's concern is not in giving up his true name -- his concern isn't for any magic, but rather that as long as he's not in Asgard, he isn't protected by the law of any other land of which he is not a part of the community, I guess. So. I think the argument about the power of true names could go either way in Norse Myth.

    4. Also! I wouldn't think Odin needed to hang himself to learn the names of everyone when he has so many other means to discover them without going to that extreme. After all, can't he see anything he wishes from his tower?


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