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Nordische Philologie Department für Germanistik und Komparatistik Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg Bachelor-Arbeit

Prüfer: Prof. Dr. Hubert Seelow

The One-eyed Trickster and his Names

Ó ðinn’s Trickster-Aspect as evident in Heiti , Sagas and Eddas

vorgelegt von:

Jeremias Jokisch

Altersham 34 84347 Pfarrkirchen Email: Nordische Philologie / Theater- und Medienwissenschaften FS. 6 Matrikelnr. 21540565 am 19.12.2014



Introduction to the idea of Ó ðinn having a pronounced trickster-aspect



The Trickster Archetype



Archetypes in general (C.G. Jung)



The Trickster



Trickster and Fool in Mythology and Literature



Loki son of Laufey



Hermes son of Zeus






Ó ðinn’s Trickster-Aspect



Deceiver and Mischief-Maker



Glapsvi ðr



B ǫ lverkr












Bj ǫ rn/Bjarki



Ambiguous and “Other”



G ǫ ndlir






Bodily harm and Torture



Geigu ðr












Haptagu ð












Valf ǫðr and the Wild Hunt







1. Introduction to the idea of Ó ðinn having a pronounced trickster-aspect

According to the Eddas and sagas, Ó ðinn 1 was the son of Burr, creator of the world, Allfather, Lord of the Æsir and god of warriors and jarls. His hall was Valhalla (hall of the fallen), where to he would call the fallen warriors, to feast and drink and train their fighting skills. Those einherjar would then, come ragnar ǫ k, twilight of the gods, ride out with him to the field of Vigriðr (“where war is waged”) to make a final stand against the forces of chaos, led by Loki and the fire-giant Surtr. At the end of this final battle, so the völva (sibyl, seeress, witch) has foretold, all will be lost and the world will sink into the chaos from which it once was shaped, thus completing the cycle, able to begin anew. Were one to evaluate the character of the one called Ó ðinn, based solely on this roughly summarised description of his functions, one would be tempted to view him as a pagan version of the Christian Lord and Father, a good and omniscient, all powerful God striving to protect His creation to His last anthropomorphic breath. While Ó ðinn, in his own way, surely embodies all or most of these characteristics, there is compelling evidence of a controversial, nearly contradictory side to this view. Were one to ask, on the other hand, who the archetypal mischief-maker, the trickster of Nordic myth might be, the “blame” would surely fall on Loki Laufeyjarson, a comparatively minor deity without worshippers (as far as we know). He is charged with theft, murder, slander, fraud and general misdemeanour, an alleged oathbreaker and fugitive from justice whose (pen-)ultimate fate is to be eternal imprisonment and torture. Yet, he is also the Æsir-gods’ chief problem-solver, advisor and companion to Þ orr and, last but not least, sworn blood-brother to Ó ðinn, who vowed never to have a drink at a table where there was not a cup filled for Loki too. 2 This I would take as a first hint that cunning and trickery, under the right circumstances, might not have been viewed as altogether despicable.


1 A word on the spelling of non-English vocabulary: I will try to stay true to the Old Norse spelling of ON nouns, verbs and adjectives as far as is practical, though I have opted to neglect proper declension and conjugation in favour of better intelligibility. ON words will be written in cursive when integrated into English sentences and translated/annotated where necessary. ON quotes will be translated in the footnotes. I proceed in the same way with German and other languages and direct quotes. 2 Cf. “Lokasenna” 9 Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern 3rd Edition. 1962. Edts. KUHN, HANS; NECKEL, GUSTAV Heidelberg. Carl Winter. p.98 in the following referred to as Codex Regius.

Further evidence is found in the Hávamál (The High One’s speech) when Ó ðinn himself is heard proclaiming:

“Vin sínom scal ma ð r vinr vera ok gialda gi ǫ f vi ð gi ǫ f;


hlátr vi ð hlátri scyli h ǫ l ð ar taca enn lausung vi ð lygi.” 3


“Ef þ ú átt annan, þ annz þ ú illa trúir, vildu af hánom þ ó gott geta:

fagrt scaltu vi ð þ ann mæla en flátt hyggja oc gialda lausung vi ð lygi.” 4

If one’s counterpart can be expected to lie or otherwise act fiendishly, it is the High One’s counsel not to turn the other cheek, but to fight fire with fire, to reward treachery with lies. This would accordingly have been deemed the “correct” and moreover “honourable” thing to do. Consequently we can assume that Ó ðinn, as god of highborn men, of jarls, might actually have done his fair share of lying and trickery. An investigation of what we have left of the – undoubtedly once even richer – wealth of stories surrounding the one-eyed god confirms this assumption. Stories of how an old wanderer spies on a high king and an inconspicuous farmhand slaughters a group of giants with the help of a whetstone alone, are not-so-vaguely


3 “Hávamál” 42 Codex Regius p.23 “To his friends, a man shall be a friend and reward gift with gift. Laughter/mockery with laughter/mockery shall you answer, but deceit with lies.“ (If not otherwise marked, all translations are my own. n/a) 4 “Hávamál” 45 in: Codex Regius p.24 “If there is one whom you trust ill, though you want good things from him, you shall talk to him nicely, but think falsely and repay deceit with lies.”

reminiscent of the pranks of more well-known tricksters like Till Eulenspiegel in German medieval tales or Jack the Giantkiller in Celtic (and later North-American) folklore. Yet it is Ó ðinn Allfather himself who seems to stoop to these and other, even lower

tricks to reach his goals. Changing his name like a cloak or even his very shape, from god to human or even animal, is a common occurrence and consistent with the behaviour of other tricksters throughout world lore.

In the present work the aim is to call attention to the more obscure side of a multi-

facetted cultural figure in the Old Norse tradition and (mostly Old-Icelandic) literature. I will attempt to connect the archetypal Trickster as found in various cultures around the globe to the Norse Ó ðinn. To my knowledge this has not been done before. Studies of Ó ðinn’s character rarely, if at all, touch upon the subject of the Trickster. Only in connection with Loki have I found side notes that they might share some characteristics, often suggesting that Loki may be viewed as some kind of hatchet man or trouble-shooter for Ó ðinn who does not want to get his hands dirty, scheming only from behind the protection of

Valhalla’s walls and the safety of his high seat. This is not to say that characteristics constituting a trickster have not been observed in the Allfather. A number of researchers have salvaged the remains of stories surrounding Ó ðinn for any little piece of his character. That he, like many other deities, possesses various aspects has long been established. We know him as god of wisdom, of war, of poetry, and of kings, and even the darker sides to his character have been duly noted. Yet, somehow, almost no author has conclusively drawn the connection from a shape- shifting, tortured, wandering and scheming deity of death, frenzy and mindless abandon to the Trickster, or if so, he has been wantonly underappreciated and I can find no trace of his work. To give credit where it’s due, H.R. Ellis Davidson spares three of fourteen pages in his article “Loki and Saxo’s Hamlet” 5 , to ascribe to Ó ðinn

a trickster-status equal to Loki’s, though his observations are by no means

exhaustive. Einar Haugen comes within a hair’s breadth of actually calling Ó ðinn out, but after an impressive display of his various aspects (which he fittingly refers to


5 DAVIDSON, H.R. ELLIS, “Loki and Saxo’s Hamlet”: The Fool and the Trickster: Studies in Honour of Enid Welsford 1979. Edt. WILLIAMS, PAUL V.A. Cambridge. D.S. Brewer and Totowa. Rowman & Littlefield. In the following referred to as DAVIDSON.

as “masks”) he veers off to again ascribe to Loki the role of Ó ðinn’s “shadow, his alter ego6 .

I, on the other hand, am going argue that Ó ðinn is in fact an archetypal trickster in

his own right. My intention is to begin closing this gap in research, recognising full

well the limited extent to which this rather short work may illuminate the topic at hand.

2. The Trickster Archetype The following paragraphs will begin with an effort to generate a basic understanding of the concept of archetypes, according to the theses of C.G. Jung. Based on the works of the field’s foremost scholars (Paul Radin, C.G. Jung, Karl Kerényi and

William J. Hynes a.o.) a clearer picture will be drawn of the archetypal characteristics that define the Trickster 7 , though there is of course no one simple definition that applies to all his “incarnations” throughout cultural history. It may nonetheless be possible to find common ground on which to base the assumption that

a cultural figure, like Ó ðinn for instance, may or may not be counted among the

tricksters’ ranks. To even further emphasise the similarities between trickster-figures in general, a few

better-known pranksters out of myth and literature will briefly be introduced in the paragraphs that follow.

2.1. Archetypes in general “Archetypes”, according to C.G. Jung, are the contents of the collective unconscious of humankind, archaic representations of universal value, thus explaining their existence in virtually every culture around the world. 8 The different forms an Archetype takes in its respective context are due to the Archetype constituting essentially “einen unbewussten Inhalt […], welcher durch seine Bewusstwerdung und das Wahrgenommensein verändert wird, und zwar im Sinne des jeweiligen


6 HAUGEN, EINAR “The Edda as Ritual: Odin and His Masks” Edda : a collection of essays Edts. GLENDINNING, ROBERT JAMES; BESSASON, HARALDUR 1983. Winnipeg. Univ. of Manitoba P.

7 Throughout this paper, „the Trickster“ (with capital T) refers to the hypothetical Trickster- Archetype, while „a trickster“ means individual tricksters, i.e. culturally established archetypal images that derive from the Trickster. My aim is therefore to determine whether Ó ðinn is indeed an archetypal trickster, by comparing his attributes to those traits attributed to the Trickster-Archetype.

8 JUNG, CARL GUSTAV Archetypen 1934-1954. München. dtv. In the following referred to as JUNG.

individuellen Bewusstseins in welchem er auftaucht” 9 , thereby producing what may be referred to as “archetypische Vorstellungen” 10 (archetypal images) which may differ more or less greatly, depending on their cultural background. The Archetype is, in other words, the hypothetical model that gives rise to individual and/or cultural (archetypal) ideas of deities, spirits or folk-heroes that conform to this model.

2.2 The Trickster In his commentary on Paul Radin’s “The Trickster” 11 , C.G. Jung writes about the psychology of the trickster figure and in the process gives one of the most striking characterisations of the Tricksters general attitude when he attributes to Mercury a

“curious combination of typical trickster motifs […] for instance, his fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks, his powers as a shape-shifter, his dual nature, half animal, half divine, his exposure to all kinds of torture and – last but not least – his approximation to the figure of a saviour.” 12

Intending to develop a kind of matrix by which to discern the “trickster-qualities” of a specific literary character or mythological figure, one could, from these few lines alone, draw at least five distinguishable parameters.

1. Fondness for jokes and pranks, be they malicious or not

2. Shape-shifting powers

3. Dual if not contradictory nature

4. Exposure to torture whether self-inflicted or otherwise

5. Approximation to saviour-like qualities

William J. Hynes recognises this need for a “modest map, heuristic guide, and common language for the more complex individual studies of particular tricksters within specific belief systems” 13 and advances six initial characteristics he deems


9 JUNG p.10 “ an unconscious content, that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, in the context of the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear”

10 Cf. JUNG 10

11 RADIN, PAUL The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology 1972. New York. Schocken Books . In the following referred to as RADIN.

12 RADIN p.195

13 HYNES, WILLIAM J. 1993: „Mapping the characteristics of mythic tricksters: a heuristic guide“ Mythical Trickster Figures: Contours, Contexts, and Critisisms 1993. Edts. HYNES, WILLIAM J. and DOTY, WILLIAM G. Tuscaloosa and London. University of Alabama Press. p.33. In the following referred to as HYNES and MTF respectively.

common to most trickster myths. These are as follows:

1. Ambiguous and Anomalous

2. Deceiver and Trick-Player

3. Shape-shifter

4. Situation-Invertor (sic)

5. Messenger/Imitator of the Gods

6. Sacred/lewd bricoleur 14

While far from assuming any degree of universality of these traits, Hynes embraces the idea of being able to test the commonality of such characteristics by surveying known examples of tricksters and using said matrix to determine their degree of “tricksterness”. 15 Common sense dictates that any such matrix, or list of parameters, would be readily applicable to the attempt of detecting tricksters hitherto not widely acknowledged as such. Taking into account Jung’s trickster-motifs, I will therefore use a slightly amended version 16 of W.J. Hynes’ matrix to study one such “alleged” trickster myself. As suggested in title and introduction to this thesis, this will be Ó ðinn of the Æsir. My “check-list” with which to determine whether he is indeed an archetypal trickster will pose the following questions:

Is he:

1. A deceiver and mischief-maker?

2. A shape-shifter?

3. Anomalous, ambiguous or in any way “Other” in nature?

4. Traditionally subject to bodily harm and/or torture, self-inflicted or


5. A game-changer (i.e. Situation-Invertor)?

6. A messenger (to the gods) or wanderer between worlds?


14 Cf. ibd.

15 Ibd. p.34

16 Changes are (if not otherwise explained) mostly rephrasing Hynes’ original terms to make them easier to grasp. They are closely adherent to his further explanations of the terms, which are not in detail included in the present work, but may be found in HYNES p.33 et seqq.


have omitted the “saviour” and the “sacred/lewd bricoleur” on purpose.

The saviour I have left out rather reluctantly, because this is actually where we are coming from with the character of Ó ðinn, Father of Gods and Men. To widespread public knowledge, Ó ðinn has been revered first and foremost as humankind’s creator and saviour, right until the end, when he supposedly gives his life in the final battle for the universe he helped create. While, in his aspect as war-god and chooser of the slain, he might not be the kind of messianic saviour western society has grown used to, for the purpose of this thesis be this may be considered “approximating saviour-

like qualities” and will not be addressed further in this thesis.

The lewd bricoleur (French for “fixer” or “inventor”), while an interesting aspect, is

so deeply rooted in the character of Loki, that there is almost (!) no room for it in the stories surrounding Ó ðinn. Certainly not when the Christian writers, whose productivity we have to thank for the stories we do have left, tried to make the two (that is Ó ðinn and Loki) out as antitheses (God and Devil as it were) regardless of

their obvious similarities. In a wider sense, a kind of “fixer”-role might still apply to

Ó ðinn and I will include this aspect in point 5, the “game-changer”, as I called it.

That way the “game changer”-aspect encompasses both Hynes’ “bricoleur” and his “situation invertor”. The latter, according to Hynes, is indeed that power which can turn things upside down and from good to bad and then to even worse, in the blink of an eye. 17 On a whim the trickster might turn things back from “worse” to “better than before”, which may in that precise moment well count as “fixing” things. What happens afterwards is of no concern for the definition. It might get even worse, which is almost always the case when Loki is sent to make things “right”, though not nearly as often in the surviving tales of Ó ðinn. For lack of a better word I will call this mechanism of action and reaction a “trickster-sequence” and we will encounter it at various points throughout this paper. Finally we are left with these six parameters that constitute the check-list or matrix that will be used to determine Ó ðinn‘s “tricksterness”. Before setting out on this task, a few examples of more or less well known tricksters

from different eras and places will be provided. Each one will have to measure up against the trickster-matrix or at least a relevant portion of it.


17 Cf. HYNES p. 37.

2.3 Trickster and Fool in Mythology and Literature As mentioned above, a share of tricksters crop up in every major or minor belief system or corpus of stories and are even (and prominently so) found in modern day media where, curiously, some of the more ancient ones experienced a revival of sorts. I will look at two of them in detail, namely Loki Laufeyarson and Hermes/Mercury, as they are well known even among the less inclined public, but retain their divine status, in contrast to the more profane tricksters of folklore and fairy-tales. These too find their place in this work, when I am going to demonstrate the tradition from which they derive, by showing their continued (if partial) adherence to the trickster-matrix.

2.3.1 Loki son of Laufey The first of the tricksters to be analysed is Loki Laufeyarson, one of mythology’s most notorious tricksters and, as said above, in fact part of the reason why Ó ðinn’s role as such an entity is mostly obscured. With him as with the one that follows, examples of his character will be given that conform to some or all of the above mentioned “parameters of tricksterness”. Of course Loki is both master-deceiver and chief-mischief-maker as evident in the story of his cheating the dwarves Sindri and Brokkr out of their pay for the Hammer Mjǫ lnir, the ring Draupnir and the golden battle-hog Gullinbursti. The price would have been his head, which he wagered against the dwarves being able to match the works of the sons of Iwald, Freyr’s ship Skidbladnir, Ó ðinn’s spear Gungnir and Sif’s newly forged head of golden hair. The latter, in turn, had already been the price for Loki’s life when Þ orr threatened to take it after Loki had cut off Sif’s original hair in an act of pure mischief. He evades his imminent demise at the hands of the dwarves, by claiming he had only forfeited his head, though retaining the right to his neck that he would not allow them to touch. Unable to remove the trickster’s head under these circumstances, the dwarves, in turn, availed themselves of their right to anything above the neck and proceeded to sew shut his mouth with bone-needle and sinew. 18 As we can see, Loki is a paragon of Radin’s “Trickster […]who dupes others and who is always duped himself” 19 .


18 Cf. “Skáldskaparmál” 35 Snorri Sturluson: Edda: Skáldskaparmál: 1:Introduction, Text and Notes 1998. Edt. FAULKES, ANTHONY University College London. Viking Society for Northern Research. p.41 et seqq. In the following referred to as Skáldskaparmál.

19 RADIN p.xxiii

Loki’s shape-shifting abilities are well attested. Changing into a mare in heat, he lured away the giant-stallion Sva ðilfari whose involvement threatened to facilitate his master’s task of finishing Ásgar ðr’s bulwark in two seasons or less, thereby winning not only the sun and the moon, but beautiful goddess Freyja, too. 20 Disguised as an old giantess, he thwarts the attempt to resurrect Baldr from the dead, 21 while on another occasion even changing into a biting fly is not beneath him. 22 The examples above may prove his ambiguousness and “abnormality” as well, often coming to the Æsir-gods’ aid when it was in fact his ill advise that created a problem in the first place, but at the same time producing some of the Aesir’s strongest assets, like Mj ǫ lnir and Gungnir. As shifting as his mood is obviously his gender; frequently changing into females and even giving birth to an eight legged horse, which was conceived in the above mentioned meeting with Svadilfari, is well in the realm of possibilities when it comes to Loki. Such behaviour would evidently have been looked down upon as unmanly, abnormal and argr, by the contemporary audience to such tales, even during the pagan period and certainly after the advent of Christianity. 23 The recurring theme of bodily harm and torture also applies to Loki, and can even be considered self-inflicted in a wider sense. Getting his mouth sewn shut, 24 being dragged through thorn and briar, 25 having a goat tied to his scrotum, 26 and finally being bound on ragged rocks with snake-venom dripping into his eyes 27 are mostly acts of punishment for Loki’s deeds and may hence be viewed as much as self- inflicted as done to him by his judges. The game-changer trait is most evident in the tale of the theft of I ðunn, related to us by Snorri Sturluson in his Skáldskaparmál.


20 Cf. “Gylfaginning” 42 Snorri Sturluson: Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning 2nd Edition. 2005. Edt. FAULKES, ANTHONY University College London. Viking Society for Northern Research. p.34 et. seqq. In the following referred to as Gylfaginning.

21 Cf. ibid. 49, p.45 et seqq.

22 Cf. Skáldskaparmál 35, p.42.

23 Cf. PRICE, NEIL S. The Viking Way – Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia 2002. Uppsala. Dept. of Archaeology and Ancient History. p. 210 et seqq. In the following referred to as


24 Cf. Skáldskaparmál 35, p.43

25 Cf. Skáldskaparmál G56, p.1

26 Cf. ibid. p.2

27 Cf. Gylfaginning 50, p.49

Always changing the situation from bad to good, to worse, to better and so on, trickster Loki is continually oscillating between disaster and solution. A trickster- sequence based on this tale would read something like this:

Loki, Ó ðinn and Hǫ nir wander the world. When they come upon an ox, they slaughter the animal for food and build a fire to roast it. An eagle in a tree somehow prevents the meat from getting ready and only stops his interference when he is promised a share of it. Naturally, he takes the best parts and leaves the hungry gods with the meagre rest. Now a chain-reaction is set into motion.

Enraged, Loki hits the eagle, but his staff sticks to the bird and it carries him away dragging him through thorns and over rocks.

The eagle, revealing himself to be the giant Þ jazi in disguise, only frees Loki after he promises to bring him Iðunn and her golden apples (the source of eternal youth for the gods)

Loki saves his hide by contriving the theft of I ðunn and the apples.

After the deed, the Æsir (now rapidly ageing) threaten to kill Loki if he doesn’t bring back I ðunn and her rejuvenating apples.

Loki changes I ðunn into a nut and steals her, shifting into falcon-form.

Þ jazi, again in eagle-form, pursues Loki only to be killed with fire by the Æsir.

But the story is not over yet:

The giant’s daughter Ska ði comes to Ásgar ðr to avenge her father.

To try and assuage her, she may choose a husband among the Æsir.

Loki’s idea is to only present the feet of the prospective spouses.

Ska ði chooses the most handsome pair of feet realising too late that they do not belong to Baldr but to Njǫ r ðr.

Ska ði feels cheated and will only accept the compromise if the Æsir are able to make her laugh.

The gods fail to do this, until Loki ties his genitalia to a goats “beard” and

begins a “tug-of-war”-match with the animal.

At this Ska ði has to laugh so hard that she is forced to accept the deal. 28

Over ten times the situation shifts from one extreme to the other, the game changes

continually, almost too fast to keep up, ostensibly “fixing” a situation in one


28 Cf. Skáldskaparmál G56, p.1 et seq.

moment, to make it so much worse in the next and so forth ad nauseam. That, in essence, constitutes the “trickster-sequence” mentioned above. So far Loki has confirmed the first five of the trickster-traits listed above, proven to be deceitful, shape-shifting, ambiguous at best and abnormal at worst, prone to torture and able to frequently “change the game”. The sixth one may well be the only one he fails to adhere to completely, as a messenger- or wanderer-role is one he never really assumes, other than to carry gossip from Ásgar ðr to J ǫ tunheim, avail himself of the opportunities to be gained or, as seen above, retrieve items he has “lost”.

2.3.2 Hermes son of Zeus Another well-known and better-documented trickster in the divine realm as well as the mortal is the Greco-roman Hermes/Mercury. Classical scholars have often treated him as the Hellenistic counterpart to the Norse’ Ó ðinn, with Ares (or Zeus) corresponding to Tyr, Hercules to Þ orr, Aphrodite to Freyja or Frigg and so on. 29 Not having been recast as leader of his pantheon (though son and trusted enforcer of the latter), Hermes retains his trickster-aspect in a more obvious way than Ó ðinn. His more marginal role in Greek mythology allows him a kind of freedom the central figure of the Old Norse pantheon decidedly lacks. This may again be due to the fact that Hermes’ literary legacy was indeed recorded by ancient Greek believers in these tales and not by post-Christianisation historiographers of a crucially different disposition. William G. Doty ventures in his article on Hermes as trickster that, “in turning to the characteristics of deceit, trickery, and thieving, we encounter traits that characterize Hermes that would be shocking as divine traits in other religions.” 30 The fact that so much of Greek mythology and history is actually extant in writing, as well as publicly accessible, makes a discussion of Hermes’ trickster-qualities not only possible but actually feasible. Consequently there is a wealth of works dedicated to this discussion. Notable contributors are, among others, Enid Welsford, Karl Kerény, Paul V.A. Williams and William G. Doty. I will shorten this overview of Hermes’ trickster-aspect slightly and introduce another technique by which to analyse his trickster-qualities. Each of the aspects in


29 Cf. SIMEK, RUDOLF Lexikon der germanischen Mythologie 3rd Edition. 2006. Stuttgart. Kröner. p.118, 182-185, 277+278, 501. In the following referred to as SIMEK. 30 Cf. DOTY, WILLIAM G. 1993: A lifetime of trouble-making: Hermes as trickster, in: MTF p. 56. In the following referred to as DOTY.

which Hermes may appear is codified in bynames or titles that unequivocally define it and give an accurate picture of its function. It should be fairly easy to match these to the questions asked by my trickster-matrix. Hermes is indeed a deceiver and general mischief-maker when he appears as hermes clepsiphronos 31 (deceiver, pretender) or hermes dolios 32 (trickster, wily one) and philokertomos 33 (joker, likes to jeer). He may change his form as easily as any other Greek deity and does therefore not hold any specific epithets defining this function, though he is polytropos 34 (many- shifting, crafty). He is ambiguous as hermes duplex 35 (the two-sided) and conspicuously so when he is at the same time hermes agoraios 36 (of the market-place) as well as hermes pheletes 37 (the thief). Hermes fulfils his role as messenger when he appears as either hermes psychopompos 38 (the soul-guide) or as hermes diaktoros 39 (messenger). His wanderer-aspect is trikephalos 40 (the Three-headed, god of road intersections) or enodios 41 (fellow wanderer, guide). Other epithets and therefore aspects, not directly related to Hermes’ trickster-nature, but nonetheless interesting as they illuminate the supposed connection between Hermes and Ó ðinn, are:

Hermes lyraios 42 : Hermes is a (lyrical) poet, as Ó ðinn is god of skalds. Hermes areias 43 : This epithet, though mostly confined to Mycenean inscriptions, identifies Hermes as “war-like”, thus encroaching on his cousin Ares’ domain, but at the same time affirming his “kinship” with Ó ðinn Herf ǫ dr (father of warriors).


31 Cf. BRUCHMANN, C.F.H. Epitheta Deorum Quae Apud Poetas Graecos Leguntur1893 Leipzig. B.G.Teubner. p.107

32 Cf. ibid. 105 33 Cf. DOTY p.60.

34 Cf. PRELLER, L. Griechische Mythologie: Erster Band: Theogonie und Götter 1854. Leipzig. Weidmannsche Buchhandlung. p.256 In the following referred to as PRELLER.

35 Cf. DOTY p.49

36 Cf. BURKERT, WALTER Griechische Religion der Archaischen und Klassischen Epoche 2.Editon. 2010. Stuttgart. Kohlhammer. p.184. In the following referred to as BURKERT.

37 Cf. PRELLER p. 257

38 Cf. BURKERT p.157

39 Cf. PRELLER p.255

40 Cf. KERÉNYI, KARL Hermes der Seelenführer 1944. Zürich. Rhein-Verlag. p.31. In the following referred to as KERÉNYI.

41 Cf. KERÉNYI p.23

42 Cf. DOTY p.55

43 Cf. BURKERT p.169

Hermes argeiphontês 44 : The title “slayer of Argos” was bestowed unto Hermes when he killed the giant Argos with deceit and cunning, 45 which is reminiscent of Ó ðinn’s encounters with giants, a few of which will be mentioned below.

2.3.3 Others As said before, the trickster is an arguably universal archetype. The list of trickster figures in myth and folklore is endless without even taking into account the more local varieties of village fools, pranksters and clowns. The boy Jack, who is fooled into selling his cow for a few “magic” beans but ends up tricking and slaying a malicious giant is as much an incarnation of the Trickster archetype as the Ash-Lad (Askeladden) from Norwegian folk tales and Grimm’s Valiant Little Tailor. As time progresses, the tribal trickster seems to somewhat deteriorate. He is losing his supernatural powers and his divine connotations. Actual shape-shifting gives way to ingenious or ridiculous disguises, his sacred torment becomes “everyday” injuries like stubbed toes or getting beaten with a stick (Punch ‘n Judy, Kasperltheater), while all-seeing wisdom and clairvoyance is replaced with quick wit and “street smarts”. What is left are exclusively human (Jack, Punch, Askeladden) or animal (Bad Wolf, Reynard Fox) pranksters or outright “clowns” who nonetheless adhere at least to some of the trickster-matrix’ parameters in a way which is most interesting. Leaving aside their obvious aspect of general trickery one encounters a group of “individuals” who may be exceptionally adept at disguising (just one step away from actually transforming) themselves (Wolf becomes grandmother), often pathologically anomalous and ambiguous (Punch essentially beats everyone he meets to death, while Fox will play both sides of the field in any conflict) and are frequently subject to torture and violence (Punch is hanged, Wolf is shot, cut open and filled with stones, then drowned). Others possess such quick wit and ingenuity that they can turn any situation into its opposite (Tailor tricks giants as well as wild beasts and ends up with the princess and half the kingdom, Jack loses a cow but gets rich as a result of his adventures) and are undoubtedly wanderers of more than one world (Jack visits the realm of giants, as do Askeladden and Tailor). Most of these “neo-tricksters” undoubtedly have their origin in older lore, where their “pre-incarnations” may have held greater power. Some may even go back to


44 Cf. KERÉNYI p.16 45 Cf. BURKERT p.157

Ó ðinn or Loki themselves, who in turn surely had forebears in older cultures of Indo-

Germanic origin.

3. Ó ðinn’s trickster-aspect Now to put this matrix to the test, I will look at each of the parameters in detail and connect them to Ó ðinn’s character. To do so I will not only consult tales of the Eddas and sagas to find evidence for his trickery, but also pay closer attention to the various names he is given in literature. As Neil S. Price pointed out in his extensive survey of

Ó ðinn’s connection to seið r-magic and circumpolar shamanism, 46 the god’s various

aspects correspond closely to his numerous names and “denominations” though they are not as unequivocal as Hermes’ epithets. Proceeding from 204 different names or heiti (skaldic paraphrases), Price finds no less than seventeen categories in which to

group them, eight of which are relevant for this work, namely:

Gallows-names ( as relevant to bodily harm)

Names associated with the dead (as relevant to Messenger/Wanderer between worlds)

‘Sorcery’- and ‘ritual’-names (as relevant to “Otherness”)

Ergi-names (as relevant to Ambiguous and “Other”)




Shapeshifter-names 47

Based on this comprehensive list and categorization, I will in turn connect a few names to each of my parameters, interpret their meaning with the help of Hjalmar Falk’s “Odensheite” 48 , Rudolf Simek’s “Lexikon der germanischen Mythologie” as well as Neil S. Price’s own translation of the heiti and illustrate their relevance to the Trickster Archetype. As Hárr says to king Gylfi:


46 Already cited above, cf. PRICE.

47 Cf. ibid. p.101-107

48 FALK, HJALMAR “Odensheite“ Skrifter utgit av Videnskapsselskapet I Kristiania1924. Kristiania. In the following referred to as FALK

"Mikil skynsemi er at rifja vandliga þ at upp. En þ ó er þ ér þ at skjótast at segja, at flest heiti hafa verit gefin af þ eim atbur ð at svá margar sem eru greinir tungnanna í ver ǫ ldunni, þ á þ ykkjast allar þ ð ir þ urfa at breyta nafni hans til sinnar tungu til ákalls ok bœna fyrir sjálfum sér, en sumir atbur ð ir til þ essa heita hafa gerzk í fer ð um hans ok er þ at fœrt í frásagnir, ok muntu eigi mega fró ð r ma ð r heita ef þ ú skalt eigi kunna segja frá þ eim stórtí ð indum." 49

True to this statement I will in the following retell some of those tales in some detail, namely those where Ó ðinn appears as trickster. Not all information given may seem relevant to the trickster-trait at hand, but is nonetheless necessarily provided at the given point, as I will recur to those tales in my analysis later on. I prefer to tell the stories once where most appropriate, instead of providing just the de-contextualised parts that are immediately relevant. I hope to be able to give a more coherent picture of Ó ðinn’s trickster-nature this way.

3.1 Deceiver and Mischief-Maker Deception, deceit, mischief and pranks are essential to any trickster’s character and are the only trait that I am comfortable with calling truly “universal” as in “applies to each and every one of them”. It entails treachery and oathbreaking, cunning lies and malicious pranks, as well as little jokes and merrymaking, breaking of social taboos and general deviancy. Some tricks may result in death and/or destruction, others in harmless laughter. Still others backfire promptly and leave the prankster confounded, ridiculed and/or severely injured himself. H.R. Ellis Davidson quotes Radin in his article about Nordic tricksters when he ventures:

“It may indeed be claimed that [Ó ð inn] ‘knows neither good nor evil’, and that he is ‘at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator’, while one might agree that in a sense he is the one who ‘dupes others and who is always duped himself’ , in that he is unable to save himself and the gods from the treachery of fate, that treachery which he has so often meted out to others.” 50


49 Gylfaginning 20, p.22. „It takes great wisdom to explain all of them [O ðinn’s names]; but in short let it be said, that most of the names were given to him because all those who speak the different languages of the world wanted to translate his name into their own languages to call upon and pray to him. But some of these names were created after occurences on his journeys, and those are related in the tales and you may not be called a man of learning, if you can not retell these great events.“


We will see in the next chapter that there are other situations on record, in which

Ó ðinn appears to have been outwitted by another party, though they are few and far

between. It seems worth mentioning that, at least in the sources with plausible pre-

Christian ancestry, it takes a woman to successfully trick the Allfather.

3.1.1 Glapsvi ðr “Deceit” may sometimes be no more than the (attempted) seduction of other gods/goddesses, mortals or even giants, apparently a favourite pastime in many a pantheon.

Ó ðinn’s byname Glapsviðr, roughly translating to “the great seducer” 51 , is evidence

of his aptitude in this area. Not commonly a trait the Allfather is known for, it is not

unthinkable that this might once have been a more important aspect of his character. No doubt Christian idealization of the highest Norse pagan deity in the written sagas made him a good deal tamer than he might have been before. Nevertheless, Snorri lets Ó ðinn describe the outcome of one such amorous escapade in no uncertain terms in verse 102 of the Hávamál:

„M ǫ rg er gó ð mær, ef gorva kannar, hugbrig ð vi ð hali; þ á ec þ at reynda, er i þ ð spaca teyg ð a ec á flær ð ir fljó ð ; há ð ungar hverrar leita ð i mér it horsca man, oc haf ð a ec þ ess vætki vífs.“ 52

Incidentally, this is one of the few instances where the highest god of the Nordic pantheon is duped just as thoroughly as most other tricksters frequently are. Just a


51 Cf. FALK 46 p.14 52 Hávamál, 102 in: Edda p.32 “Many good maidens are, If you but try them, Wilful against men. This I discovered, When the prudent, With flood of falsehood I tried to woo. Mockery of every kind, Made of me the clever maid. I got nothing from this woman.”

few verses further on, Ó ðinn is heard bragging about another (this time successful) seduction, when he deceived the giantess Gunnlǫ ð:

„Vel keyptz litar hefi ek vel notit, fás er fró ð om vant,“ 53

The latter verse describes a scene from the tale of how Ó ðinn won the Poets’ Mead O ðr ǫ rir from the giant Suttungr. It is one of the tales where the one-eyed god is vividly reminiscent of the human trickster in folk and fairy tales, who goes up against and wreaks havoc amongst the stereotypically witless giants.

3.1.2 Bǫ lverkr The O ðr ǫ rir is made from Kvasir’s blood, mixed with honey by two malicious dwarves. These two subsequently lose their bounty to the giant Suttungr, who jealously guards the pots that contain the drink under the mountain Hnitbjǫ rg with his daughter Gunnlǫ ð as the keeper. When Ó ðinn becomes aware of the mead’s hiding place, he disguises himself as an old wanderer and seeks out the lands of the giants. In the fields there, nine servants of the giant Baugi, brother to Suttungr, are hard at work, trying to make hay with near blunt scythes. Ó ðinn loses no time in volunteering to sharpen their blades with an extraordinary whetstone he possesses. He then offers to sell this whetstone to the highest bidder. When an argument breaks out among the giants, Ó ðinn casts the whetstone high into the air and, in their hurry to catch it they all fall under their fellows’ now razor sharp haymaking gear. Ó ðinn goes on to insinuate himself into Baugi’s service under the name of Bǫ lverkr (Evil- Doer, Mischief-Maker) offering to do the work of nine fieldworkers if the giant promises to help him win a drink of his brother’s most valuable possession. Baugi, with all his workers dead, is hard pressed for hired help and therefore agrees to the bargain. Ó ðinn in disguise spends all summer doing the work of nine men/giants, but as winter approaches reminds his “master” of his promise. When Baugi asks his brother for the mead, Suttungr declines, leaving them with no other way than to try


53 Hávamál 107 in: Edda p.33 “The well-earned beauty, I have well used. Little is the wise man’s want.”

and steal it. Ó ðinn produces a drill by the name of Rati and bids Baugi drill a hole into the side of the mountain, so he may shift his shape to that of a serpent and crawl through. The giant, unsure of his brother’s forgiveness should he ever become aware of his involvement in the theft pulls back Rati shortly before he has penetrated the mountainside, intending to trap Ó ðinn in the hole and kill him with a quick thrust of the drill. Ó ðinn, however, who is by far Baugi’s superior with respect to deviousness, blows into the hole, producing a cloud of dust. Now the giant is forced to finish drilling the hole and even as he thrusts after the transformed god with the tool, he has no success in killing him, as Ó ðinn nimbly evades the drill head. Meanwhile, inside the mountain, Ó ðinn (now reshaped as god) encounters Gunnlǫ ð, who, depraved of company for too long, falls head over heels for the proverbial charm of the one who sometimes is called Glapsviðr. After three days in her bed,

Ó ðinn leaves the mountain, again shifting to another form. This time it is that of an

eagle. His stomach contains the poets’ mead, which he later spews into vessels placed in Ásgar ðr’s courtyard, as he is evading the attacks of the (also eagle-shaped) Suttungr. The few drops that he spills in his haste fall down to Midgard, where they

build the basis of human mastery of (skaldic) poetry, thus bringing culture to the world of men. 54 In this Ó ðinn again resembles his Greek counterpart Hermes. 55 To the giant and his family though, Bǫ lverkr brings nothing but doom and dishonour, as his chosen pseudonym suggests. However, he does so with cunning trickery, vast knowledge of his enemy’s weaknesses, quick on-the-spot thinking, seduction, and treachery and – last but not least – an impressive feat of shape-shifting, which brings us to another common trickster-trait.

3.2 Shape-Shifter While not an attribute exclusive to Ó ðinn, shape-shifting abilities do seem to manifest in a select few of the Æsir and Vanir (a tribe of fertility deities, allied with the Æsir). Loki, of course, possesses the ability to change form, virtually whenever he wills it, as does Ó ðinn, and Freyja is purported to own a “falcon-shift” (a magic garment which allows its bearer to change into the form of a falcon), which she loans to Loki on occasion (though it is unclear why he would have need of it). Other than


54 Cf. Skáldskaparmál G58, p.4 et seq. 55 Cf. DOTY p.54 et seq.

these three, there is very scarce mention of the gods changing their forms, apart from Heimdallr’s one-shot-adventure of chasing down Loki in seal-form to bring back Freyja’s necklace. 56 The extent to which Þ orr is “transformed” when he goes to the wedding-feast at Þ rymr’s is not revealed in detail. 57 Whether the successful deception is due to some disguising magic on Loki’s part or the giants’ standards of beauty differing from that of the gods remains speculative. As above, with the more recent incarnations of the Trickster and for the sake of argument in this present work, one could argue that any sufficiently effective disguise or masquerade be viewed as a kind of shape-shifting.

3.2.1 Svipall Derived from the adjective svipull, “shifting” or “changeable”, the name Svipall

acknowledges the many shapes Ó ðinn is able to take. 58 Like Loki he may take the form of a bird, as seen in the episode of his escaping from Hnitbjǫ rg, with the Poets’ Mead safe in his stomach. In the same story Ó ðinn changes himself into a worm or snake (the ON word orm being the same for both animals) to crawl through the hole in the side of the mountain Hnitbjǫ rg. According to Ynglinga saga, he may take various other shapes including those of humans and of beasts (the latter often in connection with cultic practices):

“Ó ðinn skipti hǫ mum. Lá þ á búkrinn sem sofinn e ða dau ðr, en hann var þ á fugl e ða

d ý r, fiskr eða ormr ok fór á einni svipstund á fjarlæg lǫ nd, at sínum ørendum e ða

annarra manna.” 59 The “mechanics” of shapeshifting here bear remarkable similarity to shamanic practice. 60 The name Svipall may even correspond to the game-changing aspect discussed in chapter 3.5, if it is to be understood as “he who changes (the outcome of) things”.


56 Which enterprise, though successful, earns him the derisive nickname mensækir Freyju („Freyjas Necklace-Searcher“), making Loki the „duper“ of the tale, even in defeat at Heimdallr’s hands. Cf. Skáldskaparmál 8, p.19

57 Cf. “ Þ rymskvi ð a” Codex Regius p.111 et seqq.

58 Cf. FALK 137 p.28

59 “Ynglinga saga” 7 A Ð ALBJARNASON, BJARNI (Edt.) Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla I. 1941. Reykjavik, Hi ð Íslenzka Fornritafélag. p.7. In the following referred to as Heimskringla. “O ð inn changed his shape: His body lay there as if sleeping or dead and he was then a bird or a beast, a fish or a worm, and in a moment he went to remote lands, for his own sake or others’.” 60 Cf. SIMEK 295 ff. sowie 362 f.

3.2.2 Grímnir Having established that the Allfather may change appearances as easily as turning a cloak or donning a mask, Grímnir “the masked One” or even just Grímr, “mask”, is indeed a pseudonym he is attributed with in various thulur (lists of heiti). 61 In Grímnismál (Grímnir’s speech), he assumes the name Grímnir in an attempt to infiltrate the court of king Geirrǫ ðr to determine the outcome of a wager with his wife Frigg. Geirrǫ ðr, one time foster-son of Ó ðinn himself, was made king after he engineered the demise of his elder brother Agnar, beloved charge of Frigg. As Ó ðinn brags about his protégé’s ingenuity, she berates him for favouring an unkind miser, whom she bets would not so much as give a weary guest the scraps from his table. Her husband calls her a liar, agrees to the bet and journeys to Geirrǫ ðr’s court to see for himself. When he arrives at the king’s hall he is immediately set upon by the king’s guards and bound next to a roaring fire. Unbeknownst to Ó ðinn, Frigga has sent her chambermaid Fulla to alert the king to the imminent incursion of a certain malevolent sorcerer, which Geirrǫ ðr has taken measures to prevent. In this way disheartened by the apparent avarice of his former foster-child, Ó ðinn endures eight days of torture, without giving his captors more than the name “Grímnir”. Only the king’s son, Agnar (apparently after his uncle), takes pity on the old man and gives him to drink. When the fire begins to burn his hat on the ninth day, Grímnir finally speaks up. In 54 verses he relates the structure of the world, from a detailed description of each deity’s dwelling in Ásgar ðr, to the general shape of the universe, with the world-tree in its centre, thus un-masking himself. He concludes with an enumeration of 55 of his pseudonyms, aptly remarking that:

“eino nafni hétomc aldregi, síz ec me ð folcom fór.” 62


61 Cf. FALK 47-48 p.14 62 “Grímnismál” 48 Codex Regius p.67 “Never was I known by one name only, since I went among the people.”

Geirrǫ ðr, realising his mistake, jumps up from his throne, where he was sitting with his sword half unsheathed. In his hurry to free his foster-father from his fetters he stumbles and falls onto his blade, immediately ending his life. Ó ðinn disappears in that same instance, leaving Agnar to rule justly for a long while. 63 The tale at hand is interesting in more than one respect. The motive of a bet between gods (with humans as pawns) is essential to classical greek or roman myth, though it is not commonly found in Scandinavian sources. What is more, we have here another of those rare instances where Ó ðinn is not only captured and tortured but ultimately loses the bet with his wife through no small feat of trickery on her part. The trickster who is in turn himself tricked and sometimes tortured is a common motif in other trickster-traditions, as discussed above. The matter of Ó ðinn’s (often ritualised) torture will be discussed further below. 64

3.2.3 Bj ǫ rn/Bjarki Another context in which shape-shifting plays a major role is exclusively connected to Ó ðinn as a god of warriors. There is evidence of an Ó ðinnic mask-cult among the professional warriors of the Norse. 65 On the Torslunda helm-plate, for example, we can see a spear wielding wolf-man next to a dancing figure, which has been identified as Ó ðinn. 66 Accounts of combatants who, in a kind of ecstatic trance or frenzy, (Ó ðinn being the god of frenzied rage and ecstasy), seem to change their form, becoming monstrous, beastlike creatures, berserks, range from Tacitus to the later eddic poems and sagas. The byname Bjǫ rn (bear) and it’s diminutive Bjarki (little bear) allude to the berserk’s supposed ability to change his shape to that of a bear (or sometimes that of a wolf, then called ulfhednar “wolf-hides”) or at least to their correlating ritual disguises. 67


63 Cf. ibid. p.56-68

64 As a sidenote: O ð inn is able to divest himself of any means of confinement, as will be discussed later on in this paper. His capture and detainment by king Geirr ǫ ð r seems therefore suspiciously gratuitous. As a rule he can only be held as long as he allows it to happen. In the case of Geirr ǫ ð r, eight days of continuous torture and minimal sustenance pass, until O ð inn frees himself easily from his bounds on the ninth day. The rather obvious allusion to O ð inn’s self-sacrifice in Yggdrasil’s branches leads various scholars to assume yet another instance of ritual torture as a means of obtaining knowledge, reminiscent of shamanic practices. Cf. SIMEK p.151 f.

65 Cf. PRICE p. 366

66 Cf. PRICE p. 372

67 Cf. SIMEK, p.49 and p.53

O ðin assumes the name Bjǫ rn in Har ð ar saga 15, while Bjarki is a heiti for the god

in the kenning (skaldic paraphrase with two or more links) stála Bjarki (steel of Bjarki/Ó ðinn = warrior), as well as the name of one of the most accomplished berserkers known from the sagas, Bǫ ðvarr Bjarki 68 , who was rumoured to be able to shift into the form of a giant bear. 69 There is of course vast disagreement as to the precise nature of the berserkir. Theories range from them being a mere literary plot-device or “stock-villain”, 70 over frothing madmen and “were-wolves” to elite warriors with a very real technique of

inducing frenzy to aid battlefield-endeavours. While it may be deemed unscientific to assume that they really were able to change their shape, it might be interesting to examine how those stories came to be and what they meant to contemporaries who believed in them. Famed skald Egill Skallagrimsson was known to fly into a frothing rage from time to time, but it was his grandfather Ulfr, called Kveldulf (evening- wolf), who was said to be both berserkr and mj ǫ k hamrammr (a great shapeshifter),

in other words, the shapeshifting berserker in the family. Ulfr is indeed described as

a wise man and formidable (read “elite”) warrior who even in high age managed to

fly into a berserk’s rage and change his shape to become monstrous and fight his enemies. 71 In Ynglinga saga, Ó ðinn’s chosen “menn fóru brynjulausir ok váru galnir sem hundar e ða vargar, bitu í skjǫ ldu sína, váru sterkir sem birnir e ða gri ðungar. Þ eir drápu mannfólkit, en hvártki eldr né járn orti á þ á. Þ at er kalla ðr berserksgangr.“ 72 Here the purpose of shape-shifting is to strike fear in the hearts of the enemy, as well as becoming virtually invincible in battle. Similar tactics are attested in Tacitus’ descriptions of the Harii, whom he describes as a Germanic tribe. Kershaw and others think it more likely that the warriors with the blackened shields and painted bodies that Tacitus describes were in fact elite troops of the Lugii, who, much like the berserks drew their formidable strength and invulnerability from the belief that


68 Cf. FALK 9 p.4

69 Cf. PRICE, p.367 et seqq.

70 PRICE p. 368.

71 Cf. “Egils saga Skallagrímssonar” 1 Egils Saga Skallagrímssonar nebst den größeren Gedichten Egils 2nd Edition. Edt. JÓNSSON, FINNUR 1924. Halle (Saale). Max Niemeyer. p.1 et seqq.

72 “Ynglinga saga” 6 Heimskringla p.17 “O ð inn’s „men went [into battle] without ring-mail and were mad as dogs or wolves, they bit their shields, were strong as bears or oxen; they killed men, and neither fire nor iron worked against them then. This is called berserker rage.“

they had “changed their shape”, had become wild beasts or in the Harii’s case, spirits of the ancestors. 73 Similar structures, so called Männerbünde, meaning groups of professional warriors with their own cultic practices (often centred around a particular deity), are found in nearly every warfaring tribal society in the Indo-Germanic territories and can in essence be traced back to the vedic Vratyas with the god Rudra as central subject of worship (who bears more than a passing similarity to Ó ðinn himself as Kershaw impressively demonstrates). 74 Without going into even further detail, it seems that Ó ðinn’s shape-changing abilities are more than well established.

3.3 Ambiguous and “Other” This aspect of the Trickster-Archetype may per definition be the one that is hardest to grasp. Understanding things that are neither exclusively one nor the other, but both at the same time is a hard task for most of people, having grown up in a culture where many inherently linked concepts are taught as clearly divided, such as male – female, good – bad, heaven – earth, or even child – adult. The Trickster transcends all these distinctions, as he is always both and more. To humans he must therefore seem strange, alien, “other”, often frightfully so. He is everybody, but at the same time everything they are not. In medieval society everything that was not directly controllable by human powers was “other”, “strange” and often “terrible”. 75 The wild woods, mountains and the far North were out of their influence and filled with outlaws, trolls, giants and monsters, 76 as well as Ó ðinn and the other gods (both Vanir and Æsir) themselves. Magic powers as exhibited by vǫ lva, seið rmadr (sorcerer) and others (Ó ðinn among them), while accepted as fact, where not accepted socially, but tainted with so-called ergi (dishonour, pariah-status). In folk- and later Christian belief, they were invariably linked to perverse or wanton sexual practices and behaviour, devilry and other cultural taboos, such as cross-dressing or sodomy for example. The Trickster again is the breaker of taboos, making him and his powers “other” in every sense of the word.


73 Cf. KERSHAW p.26 et seqq.

74 Cf. KERSHAW p.22 et seqq. + p.201 et seqq.

75 Cf. SCHULZ, KATJA Riesen: Von Wissenshütern und Wildnisbewohnern in Eda und Saga 2004. Heidelberg. Universitätsverlag Winter. p.231 et seqq.

76 Cf. ibid.

3.3.1 Gǫ ndlir Gandr is an old norse term for “magic”, g ǫ ndlir meaning “wizard” or “sorcerer”. According to the sagas Ó ðinn first learned magic from the Vanir, more specifically from the Goddess Freyja. Opinions on which kind of magic was socially accepted or not, differ in professional circles. While runic magic and galdr (magic-songs, spells) are mostly attributed to heroes, seið r 77 is more often than not something evil witches and Finnish (read: Sámi) warlocks engage in. This, however, is according to Christianised sources and therefore most likely provides a warped image of how these things were regarded by pre-Christian Norse society, from which the character of Ó ðinn sprang. Tampering with magic powers has arguably been an alien, “other” occupation before that and thus falls into the domain of the Trickster in any case.

Ó ðinn’s proficiency not only with runes and galdr-spells, but with seið r as well is

another pointer that he might fit this archetype. Snorri relates that:

“Ó ð inn kunni þ á í þ rótt, er mestr máttr fylg ð i, ok fram ð i sjálfr, er sei ð r heitir, en af þ ví mátti hann vita ørl ǫ g manna ok óor ðna hluti, svá ok at gera m ǫ nnum bana e ð a óhamingju e ð a vanheilendi, svá ok at taka frá m ǫ nnum vit e ð a afl ok gefa ǫ ð rum. En þ essi fj ǫ lkyngi, er framit er, fylgir svá mikil ergi, at eigi þ ótti karlm ǫ nnum skamlaust vi ð at fara, ok var gy ð junum kend sú í þ rótt.” 78

In Lokasenna, the enraged Loki calls Ó ðinn argr, 79 a derisive term used for men who engaged in homosexual intercourse as the passive partner, as well as men or women who practised seið r or incurred ergi in any other way. Not only is Ó ðinn “other”, alien, but also androgynous in that he may engage in activities that are exclusively connected to one particular gender. He is not only ambiguous but, as we will see, arguably androgynous as well.


77 There is some uncertainty as to how sei ð r is to be translated, though it is generally used in a way that implies witchcraft or black magic. Connections to the act of spinning wool (an exclusively female occupation) have been drawn in: HEIDE, ELDAR „Spinning Sei ðr“ Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives: Origins, Changes, and Interactions Edts. ANDRÉN, ANDERS; JENNBERT, KRISTINA et al. 2006. Lund. Nordic Academic Press

78 “Ynglinga saga” 7 Heimskringla p.19 “O ð inn knew such witchcraft, as was most powerful and which he himself practised, which is called sei ð r. Because of this, he could know of men’s destinies and things yet to come, as well as bring death, bad luck, and sickness over them, take from a man wit or ability and give it to others. But such magic, if it is done, carries such ergi, that none thought it honourable for men to concern themselves with, and so it was a craft taught to the priestesses.”

79 Cf. “Lokasenna” 24 Codex Regius p.101

3.3.2 Tveggi Hjalmar Falk translates the heiti Tveggi as “hermafrodit, i likhet med urjetten Yme”. 80 Though reluctant to concede a belief in Ó ðinns androgynous nature among the Nordic peoples, both he and Simek admit a certain correspondence to the Germanic Tuisto, according to Tacitus the progenitor of the Germanic tribes, who lends his name to the german Zwitter i.e. hermaphrodite. 81

“[Hierzu] finden wir an. tvistr 'zwiespältig, traurig' nebst tvistra 'zerteilen', ndd. ndl. twist hd. zwist 'streit', nhd. dial. zwister 'zwitter', wozu Tuisto der […] name des erdgeborenen gottes, der der vater des Mannus, des ersten menschen, ist, — wie W. Wackemagel […] erkannt hat, der repraesentant jenes zwitterhaften, männliches und weibliches geschlecht in sich vereinenden wesens, von dem nicht selten in kosmogonischen Vorstellungen der Ursprung des menschengeschlechtes hergeleitet wird”. 82

Ó ðinn’s ambiguous or even outright hermaphroditic nature is discussed at length in

Ármann Jakobsson’s 2011 article: “Ó ðinn as mother: The Old Norse deviant patriarch”. 83 Only taking into account Snorri’s Edda and Heimskringla, he argues “that Snorri leaves us with an Ó ðinn who is not only a patriarch but also a deviant, a sorcerer, a queer”, 84 several traits which have been shown to be characteristic for the archetypal Trickster. The byname tveggi is mirrored in Hermes’ epithet duplex, while the hermes triplex finds his counterpart in the Ó ðinns-heiti thriggi, also a name that marks the god’s multiplicity. 85


80 FALK 140 p.29 “hermaphrodite, like the primal giant Ymir”

81 Cf. FALK 140 p.29 as well as SIMEK p.443, 444

82 SOLMSEN, FELIX: “Beiträge zur geschichte der lateinischen sprache” (sic) Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete der indogermanischen Sprachen, 1900. Gütersloh. Bertelsmann. p. 20 “Concerning this we find ON tvistr ‘ambiguous, sad’ as well as tvistra ‘to part’ Low German, Dutch twist High German zwist ‘quarrel’ New High German dial. zwister ‘zwitter’ with Tuisto being the name of the earth-born god, father of Mannus, the first human, - as W. Wackemangel recognised, the representative of this androgynous being that combines male and female gender in itself and from which, in cosmogonic beliefs, the genesis of humanity is often derived.”

83 JAKOBSSON, ÁRMANN “Ó ð inn as mother: The Old Norse deviant patriarch,” Arkiv för nordisk filologi 126. 2011. p.5–16.

84 Ibid. p.7

85 Cf. FALK 140,145 p.29,30

According to this, Ó ðinn is even more than ambiguous, he is also amoral (depending on what is considered moral in a given time and place of reception), anormal (again depending) and therefore “Other” in that he cannot be defined by black and white standards, but transcends definitive boundaries.

3.4 Bodily harm and Torture While other tricksters suffer their “torture” in the form of slapstick-injury or as a result of (often punishment for) their own misdemeanours, the most prominent instances of bodily harm coming to Ó ðinn are both self-inflicted and purposeful. As is so often the case with the damage a trickster does (whether to others or himself) the result is ultimately beneficial or at least goal-oriented. In the case of the Allfather, bodily harm or torture is most times part of a ritualised obtainment of knowledge.

3.4.1 Geiguðr The “Gallows-God” refers to Ó ðinn’s ritual self-sacrifice, of which he says in Hávamál:

“Veit ec, at ec hecc vindgamei ð i á nætr allar nío, geiri unda ð r oc gefinn Ó ð ni, sjalfr sjalfom mér, á þ eim mei ð i, er mangi veit hvers hann af rótom renn.” 86

Pierced by his own spear Ó ðinn hung from one of Yggdrasil’s branches, for nine days and nights, absent food or drink, the ultimate torture, inflicted on himself by


86 Hávamál 138 in: Codex Regius p.40 “I know that I hung, on the windy tree, all of nine nights, wounded by a spear, and given to O ð inn, myself to myself, on this tree, of which no-one knows, where it’s roots run.”

himself. The reward for his pain is, of course, knowledge:

“Vi ð hleifi mic sældo né vi ð hornigi; n ý sta ec ni ð r, nam ec upp rúnar, œpandi nam, fell ec aptr þ a ð an.” 87

Hanging from a wooden “pillar” and wounded by a spear, Ó ðinn’s self-sacrifice bears some resemblance to the tales of the crucifixion of one Jesus of Nazareth, which lead to the assumption of “eine über England erfolgte und auf Odin übertragene Übernahme des Kreuzesopfers Christi […]. Die Form des Opfers ist jedoch auch aus den Initiationsriten archaischer Kulturen bekannt und hat ausreichende Parallelen in der indischen […] und der griech. Mythologie […] um als indogerman. Motiv betrachtet werden zu können. Somit ist als Ursprung von [Ó ðinns Selbstopfer] eine der schamanischen ähnliche Initiation in die Kenntnis der Dichtung und Magie […] anzunehmen.” 88

3.4.2 Blindr/Hárr Another, maybe the best-known instance of self-inflicted bodily harm, is the episode of a young Ó ðinn sacrificing one of his eyes to the well of Mimir, making him “eineygja Friggjar faðmbyggvi” 89 , Frigg’s one-eyed husband (embracement- resident), as he is called in Haraldskvæ ð i, thought to be one of the oldest Old Norse poems we know of.


87 Hávamál 139 in: Codex Regius p.40 Neither with loaf (food) did they do me good Nor with horn (drink)

I looked down,

I took up the runes,

Screaming I took them, And thus I fell.

88 SIMEK p.321:

“an adoption of the crucifixion of Christ, which happened by way of England and was transferred to

Ó ð inn. The pattern of the sacrifice is however also known from the rites of initiation of archaic

cultures and has sufficient parallels in Indic and Greek mythology to be considered an Indo-Germanic motif. Therefore an initiation into the art of poetry and magic similar to shamanic practice has to be considered the origin of Ó ð inn’s self-sacrifice.”

89 “Haraldskvæ ð i” 12 HAUGEN, ODD EINAR (Edt.) Norrøne tekster i utval 1994. Oslo. Ad Notam Gyldendal. p.85.

In Völuspá the seeress speaks of this sacrifice, as cited by Snorri in Gylfaginning:

Þ ar kom Alf ǫ ð r ok beiddisk eins drykkjar af brunninum, en hann fekk eigi fyrr en hann lag ð i auga sitt at ve ð i. Svá segir í V ǫ luspá:


Allt veit ek Ó ð inn hvar þ ú auga falt, í þ eim inum mæra Mímis brunni. Drekkr mj ǫ ð Mímir morgun hverjan af ve ð i Valf ǫ ð rs. Vitu ð þ ér enn e ð a hvat?” 90

What Ó ðinn gains with this sacrifice is boundless wisdom, approximating all-seeing qualities. Pawning his eye for a drink from the well leaves him blindr, not necessary completely blind, but certainly “blind-ed” or “one-eyed”, thus perpetuating the idea of the “blind blinder” (see gunnblindi below). 91 The scars he retains from this self-mutilation make him (in some accounts) recognisable when he appears in his wanderer-aspect, though he often pulls hood or hat down over his face in an attempt to disguise his features (sið h ǫ ttr). 92 There is an ongoing discussion about whether or not the name Hárr ought to be construed as “One-Eye” instead of “High One” or “Greyhair”, in which the former interpretation, derived from a goth. Haihs (“one-eyed” -> lat caecus = blind, invisible) seems to be slowly gaining ground.


90 Gylfaginning 15, p.17 “Then came Valf ǫ dr and asked to take one drink from the well, but he was not allowed to before he laid down his eye as a pawn. So it is said in Völuspá:

For sure I know, O ð inn, where you left your eye in that famed Mimir’s well Mead drinks Mimir every morning from Valf ǫ dr’s pledge Do you know more and what?”

91 Cf. FALK 11 p.5

92 Cf. “V ǫ lsunga saga” 3+11 THORSSON, ÖRNÓLFUR (Edt.) Völsunga saga og Ragnars saga lo ð brókar 1985. Reykjavík. Mál og menning. p. 13+31. In the following referred to as V ǫ lsunga saga

3.5 Game-Changer The game-changer aspect refers to the Trickster’s ability to turn a situation on its head in the blink of an eye. He may use it to save himself or others from a seemingly hopeless situation, tricking an opponent into releasing him or (especially in Ó ðinn’s case) changing the outcome of a battle for better or worse. In essence, the game-changer aspect is what fuels the trickster-sequence, the underlying structure of any trickster-tale, the making of plans and their being foiled, schemes being plotted and set into action, constantly oscillating between success and disaster, chaos and order, right up until the completion of the task or the demise (sometimes escape) of the trickster or his proxy.

Ó ðinn might grant his followers victory in war, enhancing their fame and fortune or

ensure their demise, often to enlist them in his army of fallen warriors, which may

again be counted as a mark of favour, as only the best warriors were chosen to become einherjar. His resolution to do the one or the other may change from one moment to the next, his mood as changeable (cf. svipull) as his appearance. Some of the spells he reportedly learned during his ordeal of hanging and falling from Yggdrasil’s branches seem extraordinarily suited to such endeavours, as we will see in the following.

3.5.1. Gunnblindi One of these spells dulls the blades of enemy combatants, another stops their arrows in the air. As he himself has been blinded (by his own hand no less), Ó ðinn may also blind his enemies and is therefore called Gunnblindi (warrior blinder / he who blinds in battle). 93 It is said that “Ó ðinn kunni svá gera, at í orrostum ur ðu úvinir hans blindir e ða daufir e ða óttafullir, en vápn þ eirra bitu eigi heldr en vendir“ 94 . He is in fact tviblindi, double-blind, the blind (or “one eyed") blinder of foes. But while securing Ó ðinn’s favour against enemy combatants may seem a worthwhile precaution, it has to be kept in mind that his affections are known to waver. A warrior protected from deadly wounds in one moment may fall prey to a change of plans the next.


93 Cf. 49+65 94 “Ynglinga saga” 6 Heimskringla p.17 „O ð inn could make it so that, in a battle, his enemies became blind or deaf or full of fear and their weapons would not bite either and they fled.

In V ǫ lsunga saga it is king Sigmund who possesses a near-magical sword provided to him by Ó ðinn himself. 95 It serves him well in any battle throughout his life. Even in high age he leads his warriors into battle, with neither shield nor mail to protect him. Yet the tale of king Sigmund’s final battle goes like this:

Margt spjót var þ ar á lopti ok örvar. En svá hlíf ð u honum hans spádísir, at hann var ð ekki sárr, ok engi kunni töl, hversu margr ma ð r fell fyrir honum. Hann haf ð i bá ð ar hendr bló ð gar til axlar. Ok er orrosta haf ð i sta ð it um hrí ð , þ á kom ma ð r í bardagann me ð ð an hött ok heklu blá. Hann haf ði eitt auga ok geir í hendi. Þ essi ma ð r kom á mót Sigmundi konungi ok brá upp geirinum fyrir hann. Ok er Sigmundr konungr hjó fast, kom sver ð it í geirinn ok brast í sundr í tvá hluti. Sí ð an sneri mannfallinu, ok váru Sigmundi konungi horfin heill, ok fell mjök li ð it fyrir honum. Konungrinn hlíf ð i sér ekki ok eggjar mjög li ð it. Nú er sem mælt, at eigi má vi ð margnum. Í þ essari orrostu fell Sigmundr konungr ok Eylimi konungr, mágr hans, í öndver ðri fylkingu ok mestr hluti li ð s hans. 96

Ó ðinn gives and he takes away, as it were, his mood as unpredictable as the push and

shove of armies on the battlefield over which he presides, constantly changing the “game” for friend and foe alike.

3.5.2. Haptagu ð Another two galdr-spells let Ó ðinn slip any fetters put on him, as well as bind his enemy in turn, 97 which makes him Haptaguð, the “god of fetters”. 98 Fetters and bonds may in the greater picture refer to any kind of trap or predicament a trickster encounters, the ability to free himself from them and escape (ideally but not necessarily unharmed) traditionally being one of his most important qualities. Ó ðinn breaks the bonds in which king Geirr ǫ ðr has held him captive, he evades the trap set for him by the Giant Baugi and even the rope from which he hung himself only kept


95 Cf. V ǫ lsunga saga 3 p.13 et seq.

96 V ǫ lsunga saga 11-12 p. 31 “Many spears where in the air there, and arrows, too. But his spirit-guardians protected him so, that he was not wounded, and none could tally how many men fell before him. Both of his hands were bloody up to his shoulders. And when the battle had stopped for a while, came a man to the battle, with a broad-rimmed hat and a blue cloak. He had one eye and a spear in his hand. This man came up to Sigmund and levelled his spear at him. And when king Sigmund struck hard, his sword stuck in the spear and broke asunder into two parts. After this, the slaughter turned, king Sigmund’s luck had left him and many of his men fell around him. The king did not spare himself, but encouraged his men. Now it is said that there is no power against superior numbers. In this battle fell king Sigmund and king Eylimi, his father-in-law, in the first line of his army, and with him most of his men.”

97 Cf. “Hávamal” 148-149 in: Codex Regius p.42

98 Cf. SIMEK p.168

him for nine days, to name just a few of the instances in which his magic abilities saved him from trouble. 99 Venturing from this premise one could argue that spells four to nine (verses 150-155 in Hávamál) seem to constitute a veritable panacea for any seemingly hopeless situation a trickster may find himself in. Not only do they enable him to cast off his fetters, but he may stop an arrow mid-flight, escape magic used against him, quench house-fires, placate enraged folk (very handy in a line of work that frequently leaves people crying bloody murder and evidently the one which is “öllum […] nytsamligt at nema” 100 ) and calm the raging seas if onboard a ship. Originally intended to save the caster and his companions from harm, these spells again enable the “game-changer”-aspect and therefore the trickster-sequence.

3.6. Messenger/Wanderer The messenger-aspect, in Ó ðinn’s case, is not so much that of a glorified postman for the higher gods (a way in which Hermes is sometimes portrayed), but more that of a “mediator” between opposing sides. These need not necessarily be opponents in a bellicose way, though they may well be, certainly if Ó ðinn appears in his aspect as war-deity or as an inciter of strife (correspondent maybe to the deceiver-aspect, as his function is then, of course, to “mediate” in a way that leads to the greatest possible bloodshed). Often though, he appears “merely” as a wanderer between worlds, driven by the search for wisdom. In older Latin a mediator was called intercessor, thus literally “one who walks between”. In this case he walks between worlds. Saxo Grammaticus dubs him viator indefessus, as Mercury/Hermes was called viator in the Celto-Germanic territories of western Germania during the second century. 101

3.6.1. Gangleri Though the name Gangleri is not attested in any of the tales with Ó ðinn himself as the protagonist, but almost 102 exclusively in thulur and other enumerations of his many names, it is this denomination, which best describes the Allfather’s wanderer- aspect.


99 Cf. the tales related above.

100 “Hávamál” 153 in: Codex Regius p.42. „of all these the most useful to learn“

101 Cf. FALK 33 p.11

102 The exception is, of course, Snorri’s Gylfaginning, where the human protagonist, king Gylfi, takes the name Gangleri when he comes to the hall of the gods.

Meaning either just “wanderer” 103 , “one who is tired from wandering” 104 or even “vagrant”, “ugly beggar” 105 it shows a certain amount of deliberate trickery, or “mummery” on the Allfather’s side. Disguised as a member of one of the lowest rungs of Nordic society, dependant on the goodwill of his “fellow men” (which he traditionally ascertains through verses 2-4 in Hávamál), he goes about largely unnoticed, discovers the wilful pride of kings and bestows blessings with one hand while taking them away with the other. He only reveals his true nature at the last moment (if at all) and just before he disappears again. In Ynglinga saga and V ǫ lsunga saga, among others, he appears in the guise of an old man with drooping hat and dark (often blue) cloak as well as a staff to replace his trusted spear (though sometimes he carries that one as well). Yet Ó ðinn does not contend himself with wandering the mortal world of Midgard. He travels far and wide across all of the nine worlds that rest on Yggdrasil’s branches. He achieves this feat with the help of the mighty horse Sleipnir, eight- legged and offspring to the giant-stallion Svadilfari and Loki’s mare-form. In a way the Norse counterpart to Hermes’ winged shoes (with obvious allowances to Ó ðinn’s primary function as a war-god and leader), Sleipnir carries its rider across every imaginable boundary in the blink of an eye. The number of Sleipnir’s legs might be considered auspicious, as it corresponds to the number of worlds Ó ðinn is reported to travel in (with either Ásgar ðr or Mi ðgardr as his starting point and not part of the count) or even the eight winds. Simek dismisses this interpretation completely, 106 though others (e.g. Price and Kershaw) agree that the eight-legged horse bears significance again in conjunction with shamanism and Indo-European mask-cults. 107 The shamanistic implications are worthy of discussion, though not directly relevant to this work, other than that the Trickster is considered to be connected to shamanism by a wide range of scholars. 108


103 Cf. PRICE p.105

104 Cf. Simek p.126

105 Cf. Falk 32 p.11

106 Cf. SIMEK, p.388

107 Cf. PRICE p.320 et seqq. and KERSHAW, p.30 et seqq.

108 Cf. PRICE, p.324

3.6.2. Draugadrottin/Hangatyr Another two of Ó ðinn’s bynames reference his ability to not only journey between worlds, but also to, again, “mediate” between the realms of the living and of the dead. The ability to cross and warp the boundaries between life and death is an important attribute of the more ancient tricksters and is described by Hynes when he writes about the aspect of the messenger:

“[T]he trickster can be both a messenger and an imitator of the gods. [Or, in some cases, deified himself. a/n] Admixing both divine and human traits, he can slip back and forth across the border between the sacred and the profane with ease. He may bring something across this line from the gods to the humans – be it a message, punishment, an essential cultural power [cf. above:

O ð r ǫ rir, the poets’ mead], or even life itself.” 109

He goes on to assert that the “trickster is often a psychopomp, a mediator who crosses and resets the lines between life and death” 110 and is “most often associated with conducting individuals to restored life” 111 though he “can also be the messenger of death.” 112 As draugadrottin, “king of the ghosts”, Ó ðinn raises the dead from their graves and communicates with them, asking questions and receiving answers to them, satisfying his hunger for knowledge, if only temporarily. Thus it is written in Ynglinga saga that “stundum vakði hann upp dau ða menn ór jǫ r ðu e ða settisk undir hanga. Fyrir þ ví var hann kalla ðr draugadróttinn e ða hangadróttinn.” 113 In the poem “Baldrs draumar”, there is an account of how Ó ðinn literally breaches the borders between the worlds of life and death, riding to Helheim on Sleipnir to consult a vǫ lva, long since dead and buried. The verse goes:

Þ á rei ð Ó ð inn fyr austan dyrr,


109 HYNES p.38

110 Ibid.

111 Ibid.

112 Ibid.

113 “Ynglinga saga” 7 Heimskringla p.18 “Betimes he woke dead men from the earth, or sat down below hanged ones; because of this he was called king of the ghosts or king of the hanged.”

þ ar er hann vissi v ǫ lu lei ð i; nam hann vittugri valgaldr qve ð a, unz nau ð ig reis, nás or ð um qva ð 114

Even if the vǫ lva in the poem later turns out to be a kind of mouthpiece for the (probably already bound) god Loki, this illustrates how Ó ðinn, with the help of galdr-spells, can raise the dead from their graves. As hangatyr or hangadrottin (see above) he may speak to men who died on the gallows. He seems to have a special bond to these victims as their demise alludes to his own “hanging” from the branches of the world-ash. 115

3.6.3. Valf ǫ ðr and the Wild Hunt Yet Ó ðinn is of course also a messenger of death in a grander sense. In his aspect as “Father of the Slain” he leads the souls of the fallen warriors into the afterlife and to Valhalla, effectively making him what the Greeks referred to as psychopompos, the “soul-guide”. He may in some tales relegate this task to his valkyrjar (“choosers of the slain”), but these beings carrying out his will are so closely related to him as to be indissociable where their purpose is concerned. 116 This army of fallen warriors, often referred to as “the Wild Hunt”, and lead by none other than Wotan/Ó ðinn himself, or some incarnation of his, 117 has been an omen of death (though also of renewed life) 118 far into our own time. 119 As Price says, there


114 “Baldrs draumar” 4 Codex Regius p.277. “Then Ó ð inn rode For the eastern door Where he knew Lay a wise woman’s grave; Wisely he took to Singing a spell for the slain And perforce she rose And spoke words of the dead.”

115 Cf. SIMEK p. 137.

116 Cf. ibid. p.483.

117 Cf. KERSHAW p.20 et seq.

118 The Raunächte, the german term for the twelve nights after Christmas, traditionally the time where the hunt took place, mark the “death” of the old year, with a new one sure to follow.

119 I’ve known people my own age who were warned not to cross open fields during certain times of the year, so as not to be taken away by old “Wode” A/N.

“are variations on the precise form of the legends, but they all concern a body of spirits who ride the storms of the midwinter sky during the nights of Yule (in the pagan period broadly definable as lasting from mid-November to early January), terrorising the population and sometimes carrying people away. In all versions of the tale the spirits are associated with the dead, often in the form of ghosts, and more often still they are described as an army or a band of warriors. In the south and the west of Norway, the Hunt was known as the Oskoreidi, the original derivation of which has been the subject of some debate (Hægstad 1912). Some have seen it as stemming from an earlier form of óskrei ð, ‘wish- ride’, and thereby connecting with the valkyrjur in their aspect as wish- maidens, as discussed above. Others link the name to Ásgu ð srei ð , ‘ride of the Æsir god [i.e. Ó ð inn]’, and the name could equally mean simply ‘ride of terror’ (de Vries 1957: §167, 309, 335, 401). The southern Swedish and Danish name, Odensjakt contains an obvious link to the god (de Vries 1957:

§167), and similar associations are found further south in the Germanic world, where the Hunt was known as Wuotanes her, ‘Woden’s army’, and later the Wildes Heer, or Wilde Jagd led by der Schimmelreiter (see Huth 1935; de Vries 1963).” 120

Interestingly enough, the Hunt does not seem to be confined to the Germanic territories, but figures prominently in tales from all across northern Europe, even in Celtic mythology. 121 The ghostly army is as closely related to the abovementioned Männerbünde, the berserker-cult and the einherjar, as these are to each other. Seeing as the bulk of tales around the Wild Hunt have been recorded during the middle ages one might be tempted to ascribe those stories to the Christians need for vilifying the old gods and goddesses, making Ó ðinn a devil on horseback, intent only on abducting unassuming folk from the fields. These tales, however, can be traced back to pre-Christian folk belief in “various kinds of supernatural riders [which] could be encountered singly or in groups” 122 and were considered dangerous omens of doom and disaster. 123 In Njáls saga brennu the Wild Hunt is referenced at least two times. Even before the actual burning of Njál, one Hildiglúmr encounters a dark rider on a grey horse bearing a burning brand and foretelling the doom of Flósi, the man who will


120 PRICE, p.350

121 Cf. Ibid.

122 Ibid.

123 Cf. ibid.

eventually engineer Njál’s demise in the flames. Afterwards Hildiglúmr is informed that he has indeed “sét gandreið, ok er þ at ávallt fyrir stórtiðenum.” 124 Towards the end of the story, before the disastrous defeat of the Viking forces at the battle of Clontarf, one Hárekr sees his dead chief Sigurðr among the host and rides to join him, never to be seen again. 125 Both times the Hunt heralds destruction and death, making their leader (or in some cases the lone hunter) a paradigmatic “messenger of death”, in keeping with both Ó ðinn’s role as god of death and the messenger-aspect of his trickster-side. Searching for an easily recognised link of the Wild Hunt to the Trickster-archetype one need not look further than an old term for the hunt:

In a report from the late 11 th century, one Ordericus Vitalis describes a ghostly host of tortured souls, as related to him by a wandering monk and calls them famila herlechini i.e. “Harlequins host”. 126 The connection between trickster Harlequin, known primarily as the fool Arlecchino from the commedia dell’arte and Ó ðinn Allfather, though not readily apparent, is nonetheless existent and hopefully will be addressed in a future paper.

4. Conclusion This last piece of information may stand for the fact that there are many other roads of inquiry by which to arrive at the conclusion I am able to draw from my research. I have shown that Ó ðinn is an unscrupulous deceiver of his foes and that his affection, too, can be deceptive. He is a mischievous seducer of women as well as a formidable shape-shifter. An accomplished seið rma ð r he knowingly incurs ergi with all the implications of ambiguousness, androgyny and abnormality this entails, which is reflected in his various names. He undergoes torturous pains, both self inflicted and done by a third party, to gain wisdom and supernatural insight. He is a game-changer in more ways than one, turning seemingly desperate situations around for his own good or other’s or toppling seemingly stable institutions. Finally, he is both a wanderer between worlds and a messenger of death and leader of souls into the afterlife. Hence my conclusion:


124 SVEINSSON, EINAR ÓL. (Edt.) Brennu-Njáls saga Reykjavik, Hi ð Íslenzka Fornritafélag. 125 p.321 He has „seen the sorcerer-ride and that comes always before great events.“

125 Cf. ibid. 157 p.459

126 Cf. DRIESEN, OTTO Der Ursprung des Harlekin. Ein kulturgeschichtliches Phänomen 1904. Berlin. Alexander Duncker. p. 25 et seqq.

Ó ðinn is in fact an archetypal trickster-figure (an incarnation of the Trickster) as he

fulfils, in one way or another, all of the requirements posed by Hynes’ trickster matrix and my own slightly amended “check-list”. But the character of Ó ðinn is not limited by this “definition”. The notion that Trickster is limited, finite at all seems next to ridiculous, now that we have established his penchant for transgressing each and any limitation. Nonetheless are those entities that assume a similar breadth of “responsibilities” as Ó ðinn rather few and far between. Most tricksters seem unable to look beyond their own personal

satisfaction and thus are unaccustomed to using their formidable powers for anything else. One might argue that it is precisely this attitude of mindless abandon that constitutes the innermost core of the Trickster archetype. Jung’s psychological Trickster- archetype (which he calls Schatten i.e. shadow) is that primal part of the human psyche solely intent on instant gratification. Yet Ó ðinn seems to be something more, transcending (!) the cycle of “want-get-want” (even if he indulges in it at times). His schemes are often means to a greater end, even when, considered in themselves, they are as devious and chaotic as they come. It almost seems as if his role as leader of the Norse pantheon forces him to direct his powers to the satisfaction more universal “needs”, “wants” and “urges”. This, in conjunction with the fact that Ó ðinn/Wotan has not always been the highest god in Germanic mythology but once upon a time was maybe a lot like Hermes to Tyr’s Zeus, suggests the assumption that Ó ðinn may once have been an even more typical trickster, who has grown into his role as Allfather in time. This in turn might allow some interesting insights into the mindset of a people that chose a figure like him as their highest god, as opposed to the rather straight-forward authority-figure that is a Zeus or Tyr. I am well aware that I have but scratched the surface of the mystery that is Ó ðinn. The above-mentioned roads, which may or may not lead to the same, or at least similar conclusions I have arrived at here, remain to be explored. Possibly (inter-) connected fields of study include shamanism in medieval Norse society, the tradition of the Indo-Germanic Männerbund, the link between Hermes/Mercury and

Ó ðinn/Wotan and in-depth studies of accounts of the Wild Hunt and its different

appearances in connection to various trickster-figures. One can only hope to have the chance to at least scratch the surface of some of these, too.



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Hiermit erkläre ich dass ich die vorliegende Arbeit selbständig und ohne fremde Hilfe verfasst und keine anderen als die angegebenen Hilfsmittel verwendet habe. Insbesondere versichere ich dass ich alle wörtlichen und sinngemäßen Übernahmen aus anderen Quellen als solche kenntlich gemacht habe.

I hereby declare that this thesis and its content are my own and have been generated

without another’s contribution or help.

I state especially that all direct and indirect quotes from other sources have been marked as such.