Wōden

Meaning of Name:  Stems from Old English ,’wōd’, meaning ‘fury’ or ‘madness’. Lit. ‘Furious One’.

Pronunciation: ‘Woe-den’, with the ‘o’ pronounced the same as the ‘o’ in ‘hose’.

Other Names: Identified as Oðinn (Old Norse), Wuotan (Old High German), Wodan (Old Saxon), Wēda (Old Frisian), Wuodan (Old Low Franconian) and other regional variants. Wōden has one of the largest collections of epithets, by-names, and kennings of all the Germanic gods.

Function: Wōden is a god of sovereignty, leadership, and hidden knowledge (seen from his Nine Herbs Charm works).  He is the personification of divine fury, madness, a wanderer, warfare, death and the dead, sacrifice, and violence, a leader of a warband of ravenous, ecstatic warriors.  Tacitus associated Wōden with the Roman Mercurius, who was both a wandering deity, as well as a psychopomp that would lead souls to the underworld.  Wōden leads the Wild Hunt during the liminal period of the year, riding at the fore of his host during the dark time.  In Norse mythology, Oðinn’s valkyries are said to take the souls of the slain in battle.  It is unclear whether the Old English wælcyrian have a similar arrangement with Wōden, given that they are portrayed as corpse stealing witches, but it is probable.

Wōden is a god of liminality, as He is the Wanderer.  He traverses the worlds at his whim, breaching the barriers between them easily in an effort to gain knowledge, or ferry the dead to and from the mound for his own ends.  As a God of esoteric knowledge He is a magician – and is thus associated with prophecy.  His coupling of Frige, who understands and works with fate, rounds this role out.  He is a king-maker, and a destroyer, and marks his sacrifices with a spear throw.

Iconography: It is a common theory that the images of horned men, wielding spears  found on various Anglo-Saxon artifacts (Finglesham buckle) represent Wōden, or a devotee of his cultus. 5th century spear pendants found in Kent may also have been worn by Wōden devotees. Wōden is commonly associated with carrion birds (ravens and eagles), wolves, dark hounds (in later images of the Wild Hunt), and the spear.  Wōden is also thought to have been portrayed as a horned deity.

Attested Sources:  Wōden is listed in the royal genealogies, Maxims I of the Exeter Book, The Nine Herbs Charm, various place-names throughout England (Wednesbury, Wednesfield, Wansdyke etc.) and in modern Wednesday. He may also have been indirectly referenced in the ‘ōs’ rune poem and as ‘Mercurius the Giant’ in Solomon and Saturn.

Interpretatio Romana: Tacitus recounts that the Germanic tribes worshiped Mercurius, who shares a number of qualities and roles with Wōden. This interpretation held true throughout the late antique period, potentially giving Wōden associations in such things as Solomon and Saturn, above.

Contemporary Bīnaman: Hygeferigend (Soul Bearer), Pæþwyrhta (Path-maker), Wordsāwere  (Word sower), Wihtferiend (Wight ferrier), Lǣce (Leech/Healer), Ādrysendlīc (Unquenchable, Inextinguishable), Wēstend (Destroyer, Desolater)

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