The stories we hear about Odin, the All-Father of the Viking gods, indicate how much the divine leader was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. The ruler of Valhalla is notably distinguished by his missing eye.
Odin is a significant figure in Norse mythology. He is considered the leader of the Norse gods and features in different Norse myths. Odin’s name is usually mentioned when stories are told about how he lost his eye in exchange for divine wisdom. He acquired the name “All-Father” due to his knowledge and power.
In this article, we will expound on the eye of the Odin symbol. You will also get to know the meaning and history of this Viking symbol.
History of the Eye of Odin Symbol
Odin was a famous one-eyed Norse god. Norse mythology states that Odin was a powerful god who wanted to learn all that was available. He tried to access all the knowledge hidden from him. Most depictions show Odin with one eye, but this was not always the case.
As mentioned earlier, Odin had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, leading to the loss of one of his eyes. This happened in the following manner.
Although Odin was the All-Father, he was not an all-knowing god. That is why he was motivated to pursue knowledge and wisdom. He traveled all over to pursue this knowledge and was willing to sacrifice everything.
He finally succeeded in being one of the wisest gods in Norse culture. He was still not the most astute Norse god because another god was wiser than him. His name was the giant Mimir, meaning “The Rememberer.”
It was believed that he had divine knowledge and wisdom over everything in Norse cosmology. The giant Mimir achieved this status by drinking from the well of Mimisbrunnr, also referred to as the Well of Wisdom. When the god Odin became aware of the source of Mimir’s wisdom, he decided to meet Mimir at the well of Urd since Mimir was the well’s guardian.
The Norse god Odin requested Mimir for a drink, which he accepted on the condition that Odin sacrificed one of his eyes. Odin obliged and gouged one of his eyes and threw it into the well, as was instructed by Mimir.
It needs to be clarified which eye he removed since some depictions show the left; others say he removed his third eye, but most descriptions say it is the right one.
Odin’s eye was not removed by force. On the contrary, he did it voluntarily as a warrior making the ultimate sacrifice.
Odin was not interested in scholarly knowledge. He was after ethereal and spiritual enlightenment. It is unclear whether Odin was satisfied with the knowledge he got after drinking from the well, but what is certain is that any other god could not rival his knowledge and wisdom.
The Meaning of the Eye of Odin Symbol and Other Viking Symbols
The Viking Age had many symbols that were quite popular and were displayed as tattoos even by Viking warriors.
The Viking symbols are based on what is known about Norse mythology and Viking culture. Therefore, the information about Viking symbols needs to be concrete and can be debated, which makes them very interesting.
We shall take a look at some of the important symbols that are associated with the Viking culture. Some of these symbols appeared in ancient Viking jewelry, while others still appear in modern jewelry.
The Eye of Odin Symbol
The god Odin’s sacrifice acted as a source of inspiration in the Viking ages. It is also a suitable metaphor that illustrates how the ancient Norse population considered and gained proper knowledge and wisdom.
There are different ways in which this Norse pantheon has been interpreted to come up with various meanings, such as;
From Chaos to Peace
The eye is interpreted as one that observes the chaotic and troubled life in this symbolic meaning. We get a negative knowledge of the world from such an unclear insight.
Mimir’s reference to the Rememberer signified the recollection of ancestral tradition and wisdom. In a nutshell, we could say that the Norse god Odin sacrificed the perception of mayhem to gain the perception of tranquility as directed by the ancestors’ wisdom.
External to Internal
Odin’s name was associated with his trades regarding knowledge acquisition. He appreciated the importance of internal wisdom and willingly sacrificed his external self to get it.
In comparison, when he hung himself from the Yggdrasil by sacrificing his eyes, he was willing to give up his external vision to achieve internal perception. He believed that eyesight helps us view our surroundings, while internal wisdom helps us evaluate the value of what we perceive. That is why he only sacrificed one eye to achieve balance.
Apart from the above-mentioned symbolic meaning, there are a few life lessons to be interpreted from the Norse god Odin’s sacrifice. They are:
- The pursuit of knowledge is noble: Despite Odin being the All-Father and the mightiest of all Norse gods, he still understood the importance of having knowledge and wisdom as assets, which is why he sacrificed his eye to have them. His actions teach us that knowledge is valuable and that seeking it is noble.
- No sacrifice is too great to gain knowledge: When Odin accidentally lost his sight, he showed us that learning and attaining a greater understanding of oneself are the most important things. Odin teaches us that we should be ready to go through anything to achieve enlightenment. However, it does not mean you achieve wisdom at the expense of others.
- Wisdom is derived from the loss: By losing his sight, Odin could acquire Mimir’s wisdom. It means that sometimes we have to lose something to achieve something better. There is usually a lesson to be gained from any loss we suffer.
- There is a distinction between human and divine knowledge: The Norse god Odin sacrificed his earthly vision to gain spiritual insight. It is a lesson that we should rely on our knowledge as humans and endeavor to be spiritually enlightened.
Mjolnir, Thor’s Hammer
Also known to the Vikings as Mjolnir, it is among the different symbols associated with Viking culture. The dwarven artisans made it at the request of Loki.
He had to give it to Thor as an apology after cutting off Thor’s wife’s hair as a prank. He snuck into Thor’s home when they were asleep with his wife Siff and cut off all her golden hair from the roots so it could not grow again.
When Thor woke up and realized what had happened to his wife, he was furious and vowed to kill Loki. Loki had to make something unique to appease Thor. The hammer was made with a very short handle due to Loki’s interference.
Someone with enormous strength like Thor could only wield it. The Viking warriors wore jewelry designed like Thor’s hammer to symbolize protection.
The Valknut was a Viking symbol that consisted of three interlocking triangles. It is a very powerful symbol. The Valknut symbol is among the most commonly appearing symbols in Viking culture. It usually appears in conjunction with Odin, which has led to speculation that it was a Valhalla symbol.
In Asgard, Valhalla is believed to be Odin’s hall. He selects the most valiant slain warriors to live there.
The Valknut symbol indicates that the slain warrior was in Valhalla. It was also used to call Odin’s helpers to take the souls of the slain warriors to Valhalla or keep away the spirits that might want to take the Viking warrior to another Norse underworld.
The three triangles that make up the valknut create nine points. In Viking culture, the number 9 is very significant since it represents the nine worlds in Norse mythology. The ancient civilization used Norse symbols as a connection to their gods.
The ancient symbols were curved into jewelry and worn by the inhabitants to feel closer to their gods. Apart from god Odin’s name being associated with sacrifice, it is also a reminder that physical sacrifice made to gain cosmic comprehension is very common in the Norse pantheon.
As human beings, we are accustomed to using our external senses to try and find meaning. We normally try to figure out the world using the knowledge we acquire in this manner. This knowledge will only show us the surface, which is not enough to understand the world completely.
We need to search deeper within ourselves because knowing ourselves translates to understanding the universe. To achieve this level of understanding, we need to slightly sacrifice one mode of perception to get a better one.
Studying these ancient symbols is interesting because no scholar has all the answers, which means they are open to further interpretation, and for the most part, the interpretation can be subjective.