I had a bullshit winter, I admit it. I am well and truly over it all to be sure, but this last winter was ridiculous in so many ways, and events certainly had me reflecting into the spring. Finally, my eye turned inward...
I started to draw. I wasn't sure what I was drawing at first, just one shape leading into another. I started to see a form take shape, and I saw the image was becoming Odin. At some point, I realized I liked the idea, but my drawing wasn't going in the right direction. So I abandoned that initial artwork (detail below)...
... and started again (below). But that second attempt wasn't quite right either.
... so I started over again, liked the direction, and ended up finishing the artwork at the top of this blogpost. I'm very pleased with my final Odin. I finished this piece maybe two or so months ago, but it took me a while to write this post because I'm still not feeling like sharing all that much on the internet lately. Guess I've been more focused on creating the work. But I've got quite a large backlog at this point and intend to start posting more regularly soon. Anyway... today is Wednesday, which is Odin's day. Yesterday was the first day of summer, and my world is green again. Time to bask in the sun!
Odin is all about the solitary path. A path of sacrifice, and even self-destruction, taken to gain a deeper knowledge and wisdom in order to (hopefully) manage destiny.
Perhaps the most famous myth about Odin is his self-sacrifice on the World Tree, which is what I am illustrating here. In this disturbing story Odin sacrifices himself to himself to gain inner vision, magic, and the runes... a system of divination and an alphabet. Odin plucked out his eye for knowledge, pierced himself with his spear, and hung himself on the Tree for nine days and nine nights... a private self destructive path toward some weird wisdom. The extremes Odin puts himself through is a reminder that the path towards illumination is rarely agreeable and all too often unpleasant sacrifices must be made.
I'll also mention that Odin has always reminded me of the Hanged Man tarot card, and I'm not the only one to think so. This tarot card represents being powerless and stuck, acceptance, new perspectives, spiritual enlightenment, and updating your inner reality in order to make changes in the external world. Seems about right.
I've always been fascinated by Odin. Even as a little kid, something about Odin called to me. Maybe its his ravens, which I've always stopped to watch. Maybe it's because I was born blind in my left eye. Maybe its because he has an eight-legged horse. I've also found over the years, for myself and without fail, spiritual growth comes after difficult times.
You can check out a YouTube time-lapse video of my artwork's development and creation directly above.
Below are verses 138-145 of the Hávamál, which describe Odin's time hanging on the World Tree Yggdrasil, and is found in the Poetic or Elder Edda. Translated by Andy Orchard in The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore
I know that I hung on that windy tree,
spear-wounded, nine full nights,
given to Odin, myself to myself,
on that tree that rose from roots
that no man ever knows.
They gave me neither bread nor drink from horn,
I peered down below.
I clutched the runes, screaming I grabbed them,
and then sank back.
I had nine mighty songs from that famed
son of Bölthor, Bestla’s father,
and one swig I snatched of that glorious mead
drained from Frenzy-stirrer.
Then I quickened and flourished,
sprouted and throve.
From a single word, another sprung:
from a single deed, another sprung.
Runes must you find, and the meaningful symbols,
very great symbols,
very strong symbols,
which the mighty sage stained,
and the great powers made,
and a runemaster cut from among the powers:
Odin from the Æsir, and for the elves Dead-one,
Dawdler for the dwarfs, Ásvid for the giants;
I have cut some of myself.
Do you now how to cut? Do you know how to read?
Do you know how to stain? Do you know how to test?
Do you know how to invoke? Do you know how to sacrifice?
Do you know how to dispatch? Do you know how to slaughter?
Better not invoked, than too much sacrificed:
a gift always looks for a return;
better not dispatched, than too much slaughtered:
so Thund cut before the creation of nations:
he rose up when he returned.