Nine Days Upside Down

In my quest to improve myself, I’m trying to finally finish my undergraduate degree. I don’t really need this, but it’s important to me to actually finish it after so much money has been spent on it. At any rate, I had to write a paper on the importance of personal responsibility and relate it to education. This was what I wrote.


Personal responsibility is important because we must all honor Odin. Odin, the all-father of the gods, the son of Besla and Bor, brother of Villi and Ve, first among the Aesir gods, whose dedication to learning and responsibility echoes through all mankind. Odin whose wisdom for travelers and council to guests stresses the importance of wisdom and of being educated. Odin, who disguises himself as a wanderer to travel amongst mortals for the express purpose of making sure that they are living up the personal responsibilities he has set down and punishing the uneducated and the rude.

Odin, the father of the Aesir Gods, has set down certain laws governing manners, law, wisdom, and responsibility as the thirteenth century poet and historian, Snorri Sturluson collected in the Havamal which has come to be a part of the Younger, or Poetic, Edda. This section of the Younger Edda specifically details rules for travelers, hosts, and lovers as well as counsel for all men.

Odin’s further counsel on the nature of responsibility for all to heed can be found in the Song of the Nibelung when the Valkyrie sings the High Song of Odin to Sigurd reminding her of the importance of fidelity and oath-keeping, amongst other things. The power of someone other than Odin reciting Odin’s rules is a clear illustration of their widespread importance.

Doing honor to Odin by maintaining personal responsibility and being educated increases the likelihood of being chosen by Odin or the Valkyries, his warrior maidens, to enter Odin’s hall, Valhalla, and join the ranks of the Einherjar (those who have fallen in noble battle) to drink and eat and fight until Ragnarok, the time when the gods fall, when the Einherjar will be summoned to slay the evil Fenris the wolf. Those dead who did not honor Odin, who do not live by Odin’s laws, who are not responsible, and who do not educate themselves, those with poor time-management skills, their souls go to the frigid realm of Helheim to dwell in the cold and the dark for eternity (Brodeur, 2011).

In order to properly honor Odin, we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of wisdom and learning for it is said in the Havamal (Bellows, 2011), “A better burden may no man bear / For wanderings wide than wisdom; / It is better than wealth on unknown ways, / And in grief a refuge it gives.” (10) In his pursuit of knowledge, Odin himself sacrificed one of his eyes to Mimir the Wise in exchange for a drink from the Well of Wisdom over which Mimir stands guard. The hardships that Odin underwent to educate himself should stand as inspiration to us all for if Odin, the father of the gods, King of Asgard, who from his seat Hliðskjálf sees the nine worlds, whose ravens Huginn and Muninn tell him all the day’s events, is willing to lose an eye for knowledge, how important must it be? If Odin, already the wisest, most knowledgeable of the gods, is willing not only to seek knowledge but also to make sacrifices to educate himself, we mortals must also make sacrifices in the name of education and, in our own pursuit of knowledge and responsibility, we must remember that it is so important that even the king of the gods is willing to fight for it.

It is clear that Odin valued wisdom and education, particularly in the liberal arts, for beyond giving up his eye, he seduced the giantess Gunnlöð and endured three nights of lovemaking in order to get just a sip of the Mead of Poetry from the cavern of mighty Suttungr the giant (Brodeur, 2011). Odin was also voluntarily crucified against Yggdrasil, the World Tree, upside-down for nine days without food or drink after being stabbed in the side by a spear of ash, an offering of himself to himself, (Bellows, 2011) in exchange for which he was granted not money, not power, but language. Odin’s sacrifice showed him the runes, a system of writing so versatile and complex that, no matter what modern occultists say, has still not been conclusively translated. In this, Odin’s actions teach us as much as his words as his sacrifice shows us not just the obvious importance of the art of poetry, the beauty of language, and the power of words, but it also teaches us the significance of following through on the goals we set even in the face of unbelievable adversity. If we believe that our goals are important, as Odin clearly did, then it is imperative that we endure the hardships along the way to their achievement.

It is true that there are some who, even in this enlightened age, doubt Odin’s existence, but in Gautrek’s Saga when King Gautrek and his crew are stranded at sea and are granted the fair sailing weather for which they prayed, they agree to make a sacrifice to Odin and draw lots. When Gautrek’s lot is chosen, they do not want to sacrifice their king and agree to do it in effigy, symbolically. His crew wraps sheep intestine around his neck instead of rope, tie it loosely to a sapling instead of a full tree, and poke him in the side with a twig but just as the twig makes contact with his body, the intestines turn to rope, the sapling grows suddenly into a tree, and the twig turns into a spear, piercing Gautrek’s side and so Odin received his sacrifice after all (Edwards & Palson, 1968).

It is difficult to doubt Odin’s existence in the face of this evidence, but more importantly, what lesson can we take away from not only Odin’s great sacrifice but also what it was for, writing and poetry, but that they are of deep significance? How can we honor our personal responsibilities to Odin and his teachings without recognizing the importance of wisdom, knowledge, poetry, and art? And how can we pursue these important things without remembering that the road to bettering oneself is a hard one? Yes, the road to education and wisdom can be one fraught with peril and we must remain focused on our desired outcomes. We must not try to cheat Odin, and by extension,

ourselves, out of our due as Gautrek did, but rather we must look hard at the future, aiming ourselves at our goals like Odin himself would aim Gungnir, his spear which never misses, at a foe on the battlefield.



Works Cited:

Edwards, P. G., & Palson, H. (1968). Gautrek’s Saga, and other medieval tales . London, : University of London.
Anderson, R. B. (1884). Norse Mythology (4th ed.). Chicago, Illinois: S.C. Griggs & co..
Hatto, A.T. (1965). The Nibelungenlied: Prose Translation. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin
the Poetic Edda. (2011). Retrieved from
the Prose Edda. (2011). Retrieved from

Categories: Creativity, and Geek Couture, and Humor

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  • Celestial Elf

    Great Post, I thought you might like my Mead Of Poetry machinima film, a new poetic account of the ancient Norse tale about Odin written in the old Norse poetic form of Fornyrdislag.
    Bright Blessings