Odin, Sacrifice, and Respecting Boundaries

He is called the Allfather, the Deceiver, the Guardian of the Dead, the Hanged One, and the god of War, amongst other names. He is married to Frigg but can charm any woman that he wishes. He sits on his throne in Asgard, welcoming those who die in battle to his great hall Valhalla and waiting for Ragnarök, the end of days, to come. He hung himself from Yggdrasil, the World Tree, for nine days and nine nights with the spear Gungir in his side so that he could learn of the runes, and he sacrificed his left eye to drink from Mímir’s Well and become wise.

He is father to Thor – the god of Thunder – and to Baldr – most gentle and beloved of the gods – and to Hod – innocent slayer of Baldr – and to Vidar – vengeful slayer of Hod. He is blood brother to Loki, the trickster. He drinks only mead, stolen from dwarves, and he practices the art of Seidr above any other god. He is rarely without his ravens Hugin and Mugin, nor Sleipnir, child of Loki, nor his wolves Geri and Freki. He will die by Fenrir’s fangs and the world will disappear into flames and flood.

He also knows all the words to Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin and has been known to wear an Armani coat, on top of a shirt of maille. Today, we're talking about Odin.

Quel surprise, I hear you say. After all, I talk about Odin a lot. That's true. But over the last year, the number of people online who I've seen ask the question "what is it like working with Odin" has just... exploded. I have my theories as to why that is; Odin is playing a long game, and he's always recruiting to his side. 2020 has been the kind of year where everybody has wanted answers and action, and I feel like Odin is exactly the kind of god who would take advantage of that vulnerability. Which isn't to say that all he is is an opportunistic bastard. But it is definitely an aspect of him, which is where the problem of answering the question about anybody's experience with him lies. Because there is no one Odin out there, making himself known. There are thousands.

I could give you a detailed description in the week of the life of someone who works with Odin, but I don't think it would do you any good. But I can talk about sacrifices, and I think that would. Odin is famously a god of sacrifices. He sacrificed his own life to Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights in order to learn forbidden knowledge, the runes. He gave his eye to Mimir's well - again, for knowledge - which at the very least has to have affected his peripheral vision. It was tradition to toss a spear across the field of battle, in order to dedicate the sacrifice of life to the Allfather himself. And at the Althing, it wasn't unheard of for nine beasts (or men) to be sacrificed as an offering to Odin in a request of better times to come.

You will make sacrifices working with Odin. You won't know what those sacrifices are before you're already deep in them. A lot of people who work with Odin suffer from deteriorating eyesight, or migraines, or other such disabilities. He may call upon you to change your life to better suit his needs in a way that yes, may also benefit you, but which may mean giving up something that you wouldn't have given up before. You may find yourself the target of the Wild Hunt, or losing sleep to trancework, or giving up on old truths about yourself such as your gender, your name, or what you wanted for yourself. You may lose an opportunity and have your whole life unravel before you, and maybe what comes next will be what you want, and maybe it will not.

And I don't say this to scare you - I just think it needs to be said. No god, in my experience, better encapsulates the idiom "an eye for an eye" than Odin does. But it's important to decide for yourself whether or not the sacrifice is worth it. At what point do you draw the line and cut off ties? How much are you willing to lose with no guarantee of a return?

Because final though all this may sound, the Odin that I work with is an Odin who respects boundaries. He doesn't want followers who will roll over and show them his belly; he wants people who will question him and challenge him and stand up to him. When I first started working with Odin, a very hard limit of mine was "no godspousing". (This has since been reevaluated, but not where Odin is concerned.) I told him that if he wanted that kind of relationship, then I was not the person for him, no matter how determined he was to claim me. I have also made it clear that I will not recruit for him (for free) and that I have an exit clause, should I want it. And Odin has respected this, even when he has pushed his luck and tested how far he can manipulate those limits. But he has never crossed a line because I have made it clear that he will not get what he wants from me if he does.

My situation is complex. I have history with the gods. Not only that, but I have evaluated my wants and needs and made peace with not knowing, exactly, what it is that Odin wants of me. Odin has a use for me in his greater plan, and he has errands for me. He wants me to study, and so I study. I want him to help me be more true to myself, and so he puts opportunities in my path; it's not his fault if I fail to take them. He wants me to be more open about my spiritwork, and so I blog. I want to make my writing my career, and so he fulfills his part of the bargain while getting something he wants out of it, too. But in return, 2020 was financially unstable for me and my partner.

Ask yourself, if you're considering working with Odin, if you are. Ask yourself not just what Odin wants from you, but also what you want from Odin. What are your boundaries? What are you willing to sacrifice? How much of an itinerary do you need before you begin in order to be comfortable? Because Odin is not a god who will make things comfortable for you, but if you make your voice heard, you can make things easier for yourself. Don't just take his bullshit, but don't expect him to be a tame god, either.

Our relationship is mutually, if not necessarily equally, beneficial. And there are things that I am utterly clueless about, and I'm not shy to say that. But I'm fine with that. Are you?

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