Odin, known also as Wotan or Woden, was the leader of the Viking gods. He was a sky god and god of wisdom, he was the god of war and death. As many of the gods were descended from him he was called Allfather.
With his spear of ash Gungnir and his marvellous ring Draupnir he ruled Asgard, the realm of the gods. The spear was especially associated with his worship, men dying a bloodless death would ask to be marked with a spear so that they might enter Asgard rather than go to the kingdom of Hel. Also, before a battle, a spear would be thrown over the opposing army and an oath made promising Odin the enemy dead as a gift in exchange for providing victory. His ravens Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) perched by him as he sat upon his throne Hlidskialf. These birds would fly out each dawn and return at dusk carrying news of all that they had seen or heard. At his feet lay two wolves, Geri and Freki. The raven and the wolf were beasts of the battlefield and so were sacred to Odin.
Odin had a hall called Valhalla (hall of the slain), which had 540 doors, walls made of brightly polished spears and a roof of golden shields. It was here that he greeted warriors fallen in battle. They became part of his battle host, the Einheriar, who would the martial feats of their mortal life. As night fell all their injuries and wounds would be completely healed and they would spend the dark hours feasting at Odin's rich and plentiful table, carefully attended by the Valkyrs, the warrior maidens of Odin. In Valhalla the warriors drank great quantities of mead, which was provided by the goat Heidrun, who lived amongst the topmost branches of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. For meat they were supplied with the flesh of the boar Saehrimnir, which was killed each day by the cook Andhrimnir and prepared in the cauldron Eldhrimnir.
© copyright Clive Barrett 2012