Odin: A Real Person?

James_H

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A bit of a query here: one of my good friends was reading a book he was given for christmas called "the real middle earth" which is a popular history type thing about the factual (and mythological) basis for Tolkien's Lord of the Rings mythos. He didn't enjoy it one bit, apart from the interesting "fact" he gleaned which was that the Norse god Odin was in fact originally a real person (in the mould of hero-gods, i suppose) who achieved whatever the viking version of enlightenment is after isolating himself in a tree for a week.

Is this possible? true? not true?
 

Mighty_Emperor

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First result from this search:

http://www.google.com/search?q=odin+real

gives what appears to be a copy of a news article:

Norse God Odin Was a Real King

By Alister Doyle

OSLO November 29, 2001 (Reuters) - The Viking god Odin may have been a real king who lived in what is now southern Russia 2,000 years ago, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl said in a controversial new book on Thursday.

In "The Hunt for Odin,'' Heyerdahl says his archaeological digs by the Sea of Azov in Russia backed evidence in 13th century sagas written by Snorre Sturlason that Odin was more than a myth.

Heyerdahl, who won worldwide acclaim with his 1947 voyage across the Pacific on the Kon-Tiki balsa raft, said Odin was a king who lived around Azov before being driven out by the Romans and taking his followers to Sweden.

Ancient metal belt holders, rings and armbands dating from 100-200 AD found in excavations around the mouth of the Don River were almost identical to Viking equivalents found in Gotland, Sweden, some 800 years later, he said.

"Snorre didn't sit down and dream this all up,'' Heyerdahl told a news conference to launch his latest book with co-author Per Lillestrom. "In ancient times, people treated Gods and Kings as one and the same thing.''

Snorre's stories about Odin, viewed as the king of the gods in Norse mythology, portrayed him as fighting battles. By contrast, Snorre treated Thor, the god of thunder, as a mythical hammer-wielding figure riding through the air. And he said that many of the place names in Snorre's sagas matched the ancient Greek names for places around the Sea of Azov, such as Tanais.

Heyerdahl's digs with a team of Scandinavian and Russian archaeologists uncovered skeletons and ancient metal objects.

"It's obvious that there was some link between the Nordic region and where we dug,'' he said.

Some Norwegian historians have criticized Heyerdahl's findings as based on insufficient evidence, saying that Odin's name originated from the Germanic name Wotan. One likened Heyerdahl's quest for Odin to digging for the Garden of Eden.

Heyerdahl, who exploits also included risking his life on the Ra reed vessels crossing the Atlantic to show that the ancient Egyptians could have done so, said he doubted that the book would silence skeptics.

"I don't think so,'' he said.
http://home.earthlink.net/~exonews/xtra/batmanstrikes.htm

I couldn't find any details on the book but there appears to be a documentary on it:

29 November 2002 - London
Autumn Reception
The Thor Heyerdahl Research Centre held its first annual Autumn Reception at the Royal College of General Practitioners just a few hundred metres from the Royal Albert Hall in collaboration with Sebrafilm AB of Torsby, Sweden and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) of Oslo, Norway. The reception was also an occasion for the premiere screening of the English version of the documentary film, "The Hunt for Odin", produced by Sebrafilm in cooperation with NRK. The film documents the last project of Thor Heyerdahl, the background to and the 2001 season of excavation in Azov, Russia. Reflections on Thor Heyerdahl were given by Bengt Jonson of Sebrafilm, Christopher Ralling, producer of the BBC Series, "The Kon-Tiki Man" and Bjørn Heyerdahl, son of Thor Heyerdahl. Jacqueline Beer Heyerdahl, widow of Thor Heyerdahl and chairperson of The Thor Heyerdahl Research Centre, also attended the reception.
http://thrc1.mysite.freeserve.com/news.html

Some discussion:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cybalist/message/14871

which links to a pretty scathing review which you can probably take to be the counter arguement to his claims ;)

Emps
 

Timble2

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A link to Snori Sturlson if you're interested,

At: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/index.htm

Near the earth's centre was made that goodliest of homes and haunts that ever have been, which is called Troy, even that which we call Turkland. This abode was much more gloriously made than others, and fashioned with more skill of craftsmanship in manifold wise, both in luxury and in the wealth which was there in abundance. There were twelve kingdoms and one High King, and many sovereignties belonged to each kingdom; in the stronghold were twelve chieftains. ........

One king among them was called Múnón or Mennón; and he was wedded to the daughter of the High King Priam, her who was called Tróán; they had a child named Trór, whom we call Thor. He was fostered in Thrace by a certain war-duke called Lóríkus; but when he was ten winters old he took unto him the weapons of his father....

....Then he went forth far and wide over the lands, and sought out every quarter of the earth, overcoming alone all berserks and giants, and one dragon, greatest of all dragons, and many beasts. In the northern half of his kingdom he found the prophetess that is called Síbil, whom we call Sif, and wedded her.

...Their son was Lóridi, who resembled his father; his son was Einridi, his son Vingethor, his son Vingener, his son Móda, his son Magi, his son Seskef, ....

...his son Finn, his son Fríallaf (whom we call Fridleifr); his son was he who is named Vóden, whom we call Odin: he was a man far-famed for wisdom and every accomplishment. His wife was Frígídá, whom we call Frigg.

Odin had second sight, and his wife also; and from their foreknowledge he found that his name should be exalted in the northern part of the world and glorified above the fame of all other kings. Therefore, he made ready to journey out of Turkland, and was accompanied by a great multitude of people, young folk and old, men and women; and they had with them much goods of great price. And wherever they went over the lands of the earth, many glorious things were spoken of them, so that they were held more like gods than men. They made no end to their journeying till they were come north into the land that is now called Saxland; there Odin tarried for a long space, and took the land into his own hand, far and wide.

In that land Odin set up three of his sons for land-wardens...
 

James_H

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thanks, guys
 

phi23

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As an addendum, take a look at the "Hanged Man" card from a deck of Tarot. Look at his face, it is calm not tortured, almost ecstatic with enlightenment. I'd say the card hints at Odin's hanging from the World Tree and his posture is also significantly a yogic asana...
 

gyrtrash

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To those who regard Odin, (Old English ‘Woden,’) as a historical character, he probably lived around 250BCE as the head of a Transylvanian Celtic tribe in an area that was called Tylis. Some of Odin’s teachings can be found as part of an ancient poem called the Havamal, meaning the ‘sayings of the High One’ (Odin.) It was written down about 700 years ago by an Icelandic scribe and a copy was preserved in Denmark. (It was later returned to Iceland.) It records a much earlier oral tradition. Odin is credited with finding the magical Futhark runic ‘alphabet.’ Runes are far older than the period when he lived on earth, but 250BCE seems to be the approximate date when they passed to Germanic speaking tribes.
From http://www.gippeswic.demon.co.uk/odinshof.html
 

Xanatic*

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So anyone have thoughts on this?
 

Tempest63

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If we become the proud owners of a male red Labrador pup early next year we have already chosen Odin as his name.
Following the Norse/Viking theme our next Springer will be called Rollo.
 

Naughty_Felid

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As an addendum, take a look at the "Hanged Man" card from a deck of Tarot. Look at his face, it is calm not tortured, almost ecstatic with enlightenment. I'd say the card hints at Odin's hanging from the World Tree and his posture is also significantly a yogic asana...
Doesn't the card depict wisdom and learning - Is'nt he a later depiction of the fool?
 

Bad Bungle

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Doesn't the card depict wisdom and learning - Is'nt he a later depiction of the fool?
In the book on the Rider Waite pack I read 'The Hanged Man' signified Truth - which is nearly always the opposite (upside down or inverted) of what is commonly accepted as the truth and those who speak it usually end up hanged or crucified.
 

Mikefule

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It all depends what you mean by "real person".

Was there really a person called Odin who was a fierce warrior and a wise king with magical powers, one eye, a spear called Gungnir and an 8 legged horse called Sleipnir? Probably not. I'd go so far as to say, not.

Was there an actual historical person with a name not entirely unlike Odin, Woden, Wotan (etc.) who was a fierce warrior and wise king? Possibly, but then, which parts of our definition of "Odin" are indispensable? At one extreme we have a clearly mythical figure about whom much is known, and at the other, a putative figure about whom nothing is known.

You could ask similar questions about Robin Hood, or any other mythical or legendary character. Was there a mediaeval outlaw called Robin Hood who led a band of merry men in Sherwood Forest, whose lifelong adversary was the Sheriff of Nottingham, and who was an unrivalled bowman, and who stole from the rich to give to the poor? No. We can approximately date when some of these aspects of the legend accrued. However, was there an historical outlaw called something like Robert/Robin Hood/Hode who became a bit of a hero for the locals? Possibly.

Same with King Arthur. Perhaps there was a minor chieftain who led a local resistance to the Saxons, but all that stuff about the round table, the sword in the stone, and the Holy Grail is what we think about whenever someone mentions King Arthur.

It reminds me of the old joke, "the works of Shakespeare weren't written by Shakespeare, but by someone else with the same name." When we talk of "Shakespeare" we don't normally define him by his strictly accurate biographical details (even the famous image of him with the high balding forehead is a later invention) but by the fact that he is the person who produced the body of work.
 

Naughty_Felid

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It all depends what you mean by "real person".

Was there really a person called Odin who was a fierce warrior and a wise king with magical powers, one eye, a spear called Gungnir and an 8 legged horse called Sleipnir? Probably not. I'd go so far as to say, not.

Was there an actual historical person with a name not entirely unlike Odin, Woden, Wotan (etc.) who was a fierce warrior and wise king? Possibly, but then, which parts of our definition of "Odin" are indispensable? At one extreme we have a clearly mythical figure about whom much is known, and at the other, a putative figure about whom nothing is known.

You could ask similar questions about Robin Hood, or any other mythical or legendary character. Was there a mediaeval outlaw called Robin Hood who led a band of merry men in Sherwood Forest, whose lifelong adversary was the Sheriff of Nottingham, and who was an unrivalled bowman, and who stole from the rich to give to the poor? No. We can approximately date when some of these aspects of the legend accrued. However, was there an historical outlaw called something like Robert/Robin Hood/Hode who became a bit of a hero for the locals? Possibly.

Same with King Arthur. Perhaps there was a minor chieftain who led a local resistance to the Saxons, but all that stuff about the round table, the sword in the stone, and the Holy Grail is what we think about whenever someone mentions King Arthur.

It reminds me of the old joke, "the works of Shakespeare weren't written by Shakespeare, but by someone else with the same name." When we talk of "Shakespeare" we don't normally define him by his strictly accurate biographical details (even the famous image of him with the high balding forehead is a later invention) but by the fact that he is the person who produced the body of work.
Most of the time I struggle to think I'm real.
 

AlchoPwn

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Yes, Odin was a real person, and an important linguist. He invented the word "thing". He also created a yearly linguistic meeting where new "things" could be named, but sadly it devolved into an excuse for political nonsense. Odin also famously hung himself on a tree upside down and tore his own eye out because he couldn't get his head around the notion of syntax, let alone context, largely because he hadn't even heard of the Latin invention of grammar. Nevertheless he was an early pioneer in the field of Germanic Languages.
 
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