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loki

Odin or Thor

Someone over on the allfathers_own community had made a post about their own thoughts on the subject of how Odin and Thor were treated, then and now in response to comments that people associate with Odin today because they want to rub shoulders with the high and mighty, whereas in the past they turned to Thor more.

This got me to thinking--a dangerous thing I know. So here's some of my thoughts on the matter.


Actually as to your friend's suspicion that's just not true. Different areas had different preferences. By the time the religion was clashing with Christianity in the middle to late Viking Age, surviving records point to an emphasis on Thor, yes. But records also show Odin had a great deal of ancient status as well and had been popular before Thor. You have to remember a huge chunk of surviving data comes from this particular period of time of conflict/transition/conversion and much of what most Westerners are familiar with comes from a speciic area, mainly Iceland thanks to Snorri's Edda.

Really it's like Greece, one city-state focused on Athena, another on Artemis. You have to remember we know a hell of alot less about the various settlements and peoples that fall under the "Asatru/Heathen" umbrella then we know about just a single settlement of much, much older civilizations. If you pay attention, many of the monarchs were said to descend from a particular God. So one group would have Odin, another a different God, and so forth. In fact if I recall correctly in the modern day Theodish groups, in order to be the "Lord" of the tribe, they have to prove genealogical descent via one of those monarchs supposedly descended from whatever God is specific to that tribe. Granted, this may only be true to a specific group.

I have a theory as to why the Icelanders had more of a Thor emphasis at this time. So bare with me, for starters (because I'm lazy), here's an excerpt from my Master's thesis:

"The dichotic opposition between Inangarđr (‘inner’) and Utgarđr is most clearly preserved among the social universe of the Icelanders, portraying an inherent structure of Heathen cultural beliefs within the cosmos, where Iceland became the microcosm of the Heathen macrocosm. Iceland—just as Midgarđr was separated from Utgarđr by the sea terrorized by the Midgardsormr (the serpent of Midgarđr)—was separated by the vast North Atlantic from the rest of Northern Europe. External rulers, tax collectors, and merchants crossed the waters of the North Atlantic to exploit the island. Every single farmstead was an atomistic social structure, where the fence became a barrier—girding the farmstead like the might of Thor and the sturdy wall around Asgarđr girded the Gods from the perils of Utgarđr —against the chaotic threats of the wild. In this world, the household epitomized society, and the ordinary attributes of farm life became a daily reminder of the basic opposition between Inangarđr and Utgarđr. The Germanic settlements in the British Isles performed the same function for the settlers, all the more so as, before the arrival of Christianity, the British certainly shared a common cosmology with the Norse and Scandinavian tribes.

Britain shared a simulacrum concept of its own Inangarđr that survived from pre-Christian times. Bede opens his Historia with: “Brittania Oceani insula.” Literally, a statement of the obvious, that Britain is an island. However, here the obvious statement is highly significant. Britain’s geography placed the island on the edge of the world in a reflection of the Mediterranean perspective of ancient geography. This image of Britain as being on the edge—existing almost as a liminal realm—yields a powerful representation for the island’s isolation."

So why is this important? Well, Thor's function in the myths is as the protector of Midgard, or the Inangardr from the Jotuns/forces of chaos/utgardr. Now in a time of encroaching Christianity, don't you think they'd more naturally turn to a God who protects from the outsiders?

Today I'd certainly say Odin and Thor are the two most commonly hailed Gods in ANY Heathen group, which considering they are the Gods we know the most about, isn't all that surprising. Many people are shy, or don't know how to connect with Gods and Goddesses that don't have quite as much an abundance of tales about them.


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When someone else spoke in the thread of how today they feel many people are wary of Odin, I added the following to the discussion:

Well Odin hung on a tree, sacrificed an eye, ran a spear through himself. Got half the battle dead, and is connected with the Wild Hunt. And that's just for starters.

Now who do you think has the friendlier, surviving myths about them?

Thor on the other hand comes off as more the beer-belly hill-billy, that will go knock some heads about when he needs to. Versus a God who seems to demand much more, especially with all the Odinic cultic activity we know about (with blood eagle sacrifices, and men hung to death in offering to Odin).

To my knowledge, I can't think of any known accounts of human sacrifices to Thor. Any God is dangerous, but with Odin we have all the stories to tell us how, and why. Too many of us today come from Christian backgrounds where we're used to a protective/loving God image. Add the magical connections and even insults of ergi to Odin, and then most people become even more uncomfortable with Him due to our scientific, western, Abrhamaic mainstream upbringing such things are well poppycock or simply don't fit the world-view of our youth.

Still, that being said, these two Gods are still the most commonly hailed at any gathering. In most cases I hear them each hailed once or twice at any normal gathering, and at the big ones you actually wait on pins and needles for the person who DOESN'T!

Personally, we are unique individuals, and each of us respond and learn, and even worship differently to our Gods then someone else. Some may work with Odin as a warrior, others as a poet. The one doesn't negate the other. We usually connect with either what is most familiar, or what is most accessible, and in this case these two Gods are both.



[Edited]:

Even I'm not always right. I was reminded that we do have references to sacrifice to Thor in Chapter 10 of Eyrbyggja saga.

And pointed to a good read:
http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/mythology/religion/text/practices.htm
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Comments

Very nice piece;>!
My personal experience with those feeling the need to have a Patron is that those with Magical inclinations Follow the Old Man and those that see themselves as a warrior particularly against the Mundane WOrld to Redbeard.
On specifically the Old Man. I've asked Magic Folks why Him? After all, a number of the Regin are Known for Magic. The Amusingly sad reaction often is that they already Knew about The Old Man so it was sort of a "default" setting. Also, His "problematic" areas aren't as culturally charged in Western culture. Violence=OK. Sex? Weeeellll;>. Throw in "hints" of Homosexual Acts(real or percieved) and the average Het Male Magicker is going to run "straight" to One Eye;>!
Truth,
Pat

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