Odin's Shaman Song (from Eldar Edda)

by Eldar Edda (Anonymous)




I know I hung on the gust-beat gallows
     nine full nights,
gashed with a stake and given to fire-see,
     myself to myself,
on that ash-tree of which none know
     from where the roots rise.

They did not comfort me with bread
     nor with a drinking horn:
     I looked down,
I took up the runes, shrieking their names
     I fell back from there.

I got nine mighty songs from the famous son
     of Bolthorn, Bestla's father,
and I got a drink of precious mead
     sprinkled as from the heart.

Then I began to thrive and bear wisdom
     I grew and prospered;
Each word drew another word from me,
each deed drew another deed from me.

Runes you will find, fateful signs
     that the king of singers coloured
and the great gods have made,
good strong staves good stout staves
carved by a god-ruling spirit.

-- from Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania, Edited by Jerome Rothenberg

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

There are several things that are fascinating to me about this poetic excerpt.

First, the Odin myth-story has several striking parallels with the Gospel stories of Christ. Here, Odin is crucified on a tree. No one offers him comfort and he is "gashed with a stake." He is hung for nine days, a tripling of the three days of Christ's entombment. Through his suffering upon the tree, Odin receives several divine gifts, including wisdom and mastery of runes and words (or "the Word").

The Christian parallel goes even deeper if you think about it. For most of the time of Christ's ministry, he teaches in parables, stories with hidden inner meanings. Yet it is only after the sharing of the wine at the Last Supper and his death and resurrection that Christ deems his disciples ready for the unveiled teachings. It is only then that Christ speaks freely.

Similarly, Odin receives his divine gifts when he "got a drink of precious mead / sprinkled as from the heart." This falls very much in line with the metaphor that appears in poetry and sacred language throughout the world, sometimes called ambrosia or amrita or "the mystic's wine," a subtle esoteric elixir that is tasted during deep spiritual communion.

It is this "precious mead" itself that bears the gift of wisdom and words, not the craft of words or oratory, but the ability to let truth pour unhindered from the deepest silence and translate that flow into words. This drink is the initiating substance that bestows the gift of prophecy and true poetry...

Then I began to thrive and bear wisdom
     I grew and prospered;
Each word drew another word from me,
each deed drew another deed from me.



Recommended Books: Eldar Edda (Anonymous)

Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania Poems of the Elder Edda The Poetic Edda The Poetic Edda





Odin's Shaman Song