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Even if you don't know anything about Norse mythology, chances are you've at least heard of Odin. 

Odin was the highest and holiest god of the Northern races.  He was the principal member of the Aesir (newer and ruling gods of the Norse pantheon). 

Odin, was the god of war and death, but also represented universal wisdom and victory, and he was the leader and protector of princes and heroes.  He is also known as the Allfather because he did actually father many of the Aesir (e.g. Thor).

The picture above depicts:
  • Odin's throne, where he can observe what happens in the nine realms.
  • The ravens, Huginn and Muninn (translated as Thought and Memory), who spy on the world of humans and report back to Odin.
  • Odin's spear, Gungnir, that is so well balanced it will strike any target and will never break.
  • Odin's wolves, Geri and Freki (translated as Greedy and Ravenous).

Why is Odin sometimes depicted as wearing an eye-patch?

He sacrificed one of his eyes in order to drink from the Well of Wisdom.  His other eye is described as blazing like the sun.

When Odin visited the world of men, he disguised himself by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and cloak and walked with a wooden staff. 

Tolkien based his character, Gandalf, on the wandering form of Odin.

Many theorize that the wandering form of Odin heavily influenced the concept of Santa Claus.  The modern image of Santa Claus (fat, jolly, and wearing a red suit with white trim) was crafted by Coca Cola in the twentieth century.  The original Santa Claus looked more like this picture from the nineteenth century:

The wandering Odin often gave gifts to children and Odin also rode through the sky on an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir (which was replaced by reindeer in the Santa myth). 

Next Thor's Day: the goddess, Frigg (Odin's wife)

Thor is the Norse god of thunder and the origin of the weekday name Thursday.  During the Roman Empire period, the Germanic peoples adopted the Roman weekly calendar, but replaced the names of Roman gods with their own.  So the day of Jupiter became Thor's day.

If you are familiar with Thor, it may be due to the recent Marvel movies. This is their interpretation:

Easy on the eyes, but not entirely accurate. 

In Norse mythology:
  • Thor actually had bristling red hair and a red beard, from which, in moments of anger, the sparks flew in showers.  
  • He was a fierce warrior with a violent temper, who seems to revel in the slaughter of any who would challenge him (and isn't quite as noble as the one portrayed in the Marvel universe). 
  • He also wore a crown, on each point of which was either a glittering star or a steadily burning flame, so that his head was ever surrounded by a kind of halo of fire (his own element).

Although Thor was not the chief god (that would be Odin), he was the most popular with the people and they associated Thor with strength and the protection of mankind.  He was the patron god of the peasants and lower classes.

Warriors often wore pendants depicting Thor's hammer (like the one below) which was called Mjollnir (translation: that which smashes).

Next Thor's Day: some facts about the Allfather, Odin.

**facts sourced from Myths of the Norsemen by H.A. Guerber

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