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oden if facing right with a horned helmet and carrying a spear that is as tall as he is
The figure of Odin from the doors of the John Adams Building (Theodor Horydczak Collection/Library of Congress)


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Oden and Quetzalcoatl. Carol Highsmith Collection.
Odin and Quetzalcoatl. Carol Highsmith Collection.

One of my goals in writing for the blog has been to feature the decorative details of the Adams Building, including the figures that grace the bronze doors.  I thought it was time revisit this topic, so this post is dedicated to Odin, the image that stands beside Quetzalcoatl.

Odin, sometimes written as Wodan, Woden, or Wotan, is a principle god of Norse mythology.  He was a god of war and protector of heroes. Warriors who died in battle were escorted by Valkyries to join him in Valhalla – Hall of the Slain.  He had an eight legged horse by the name of Sleipnir who had runes inscribed on his teeth, and two ravens,  Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory/mind), who gathered information for him from around the world (Midgard). That made me wonder- why was he chosen to be depicted on the brass doors and join others like Sequoyah, who were associated with writing?

Odin. Carol Highsmith Collection.
Odin. Carol Highsmith Collection.

The answer is because Odin is seen as the creator of the runic alphabet and god of poets.  This alphabet supposedly was given to him  hanging from Yggdrasil – the World Tree – and the runes were reputed to have magical powers that when put together correctly could enact power spells.  Think letters put together to form words, then sentences, paragraphs, and books.

There was, however, an interesting angle that occurred to me when I was reading about Odin that makes me feel a bit of kinship toward him. Odin was the god of war and was concerned with battles and all things military. He would have needed intelligence from all over the world, so he sent his ravens Huginn and Munnin to gather it.   They functioned like librarians!

Now I really understand why Odin was chosen.

Comments (2)

  1. Odin also sacrificed an eye to gain wisdom by drinking from Mimir’s Well beneath the roots of World Tree.

  2. Odin was called All-father. Yes, he gave his eye in exchange for wisdom. He was the god of poetry, wisdom, magic and war. Yes, he’s called Woden by the Saxons but Odin by the Norse. The 4th day of the week is named after Woden (Wednesday).

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