The physical origin of the idea of Odin is evident, first from the moaning of his name, and, secondly, from the various attributes assigned to him. The word Odin is simply another form of Woden, or Wuotan, which Grimm connects with the Latin vadere. He is thus the moving, life-giving breath or air of heaven; and as such corresponds to the Hindoo Brahmin – Atman (German, Athem), or ever-present life and energy. His Greek correlative is, of course, Zeus, who is likewise spoken of as All-father. The name Zeus is derived from a root signifying “to shine,” and thus the King of the Greek Asgard was originally “the glistening ether.”
It was but natural that Odin, as the personification of the blue sky, should rule the rain-clouds and the sunlight; hence as Odin the rain-giver he corresponds with Zeus Ombrios (the showery Zeus), while as the light-god he is merely a Norse Phoebus or Apollo, whose spear – the sun rays – disperses the darkness. As sky-god, and god of the moving air, he was, no less naturally or inevitably, invoked as the protector of sailors. In this respect he corresponds or is interchangeable with Thor. But this interchange, or overlapping, of functions is as distinctive of Norse as of Greek mythology,
Finally, Zeus and Odin resemble each other in their development from purely physical into spiritual beings. Odin, the ever-present ether, becomes the ever-present and ever-knowing spirit, the Father of all. And as Zeus is the father of the Muses, so Odin is the father of Saga, the goddess of poetry. The two ravens that sat on the shoulders of Odin, and every morning brought him news of what was passing in the world, were called Hunin and Munin – Thought and Memory. Memory, or Muemosyne, was the mother of the Greek Muses.
A trace of the worship of Odin survives even to the present day. In one of the Orkney islands is an Odin stone, in a hollow of which superstitious people thrust their hands, by way of testifying on their most solemn oath. The island of Heligoland is said to have derived its name from Odin, who was also named Helgi (der Helige), or the Holy. “Charles’s Wain” as we now call it, was named Odin’s Wain; and the “Milky Way” was also known as Odin’s Way. Unlike Zeus – the Greek All-father – Odin was also a god of war. Hence it was that, as already observed, he received into Walhalla one-half of the heron slain in battle.
Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897
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