Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Asatru FAQ: Was Odin Human?

The Asatru FAQ series is my answers to questions asked on my forum, the Asatru Facebook Forum. Frequently Asked Question: Was Odin human?

My answer:

That's a fairly common interpretation, but I personally don't think he was.

The logic of the interpretation of Odin as human who ascended to godhood goes like this: Tyr was the original Sky God and King. Odin appeared in the culture suddenly. Odin's myth includes a shamanic initiation, or possibly two-- the Tree and the Well. He was therefore a great mystic to ascended to godhood.

The problem with this interpretation is that Odin's myth also says he sculpted our world and humanity. If one is going to say that part of Odin's myth, the part about initiation as a magic user, is a literal history of an actual person, then how can we simply ignore another part of the same figure's myth? It makes more sense to say all parts of his myth are metaphorical and none are literal.

I personally interact with Odin in the form of the trinity of brothers who created the world and humans (Odin / Honir / Lodhur.) So, that part of his story is very important to me, and I don't want to just shrug it off.

Image: Gods of Asgard calligraphy by Erin Lale


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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Monday, 01 July 2019

    Wasn't it that historian Saxo Germanicus who first identified Odin as some ancient king?

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Wednesday, 03 July 2019

    Indeed, but he didn't have access to the full range of heathen mythology that we have today, and didn't know the story of Odin-and-brothers as sculptor of the world and of humanity. He is an important source of information, especially because he wrote very early on before the northern peoples were converted to xianity, but he was writing as an outsider who observed the Germanic tribes, not as someone who actually learned all their oral lore.

  • Victoria
    Victoria Thursday, 08 August 2019

    Gesta Danorum is not very early, it was written in the early 13th century. Scandinavian countries were Christianised between 8th-12 century.

    It's not only Saxo that portrays Odin as a human king so does Snorri Sturlusson and it is not without precedent, the even earlier Anglo Saxon genealogies portray Woden as a human ancestor of the royal houses.

    As ancestor veneration is a feature of many pre-Christian folkways and given the paucity of primary sources the question of whether or not Odin may once have been human chieftain is not one that is not easily put to bed.

    Either way, human or god, Odin played a role as creator therefore as ancestor of the human race.

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