Besides being a well-known old man in a somewhat miserable wandering appearance, Odin the Aesir chief god was a nonstop knowledge seeker. He was willing to trade anything he had for knowledge and wisdom. One of the most remarkable occasions was when he exchanged his eye for wisdom, which made him become one-eyed Odin. The story Odin discovered runes was a gold example of his unquenchable thirst for explaining all mysteries in life.
Runes were the Viking alphabets but not commonly for communicative purpose between human. Rather, runes were a means of communication between human and their Higher Power. Runes meant “secret” or “mystery” in Germanic language. In the Viking belief, runes allowed people to access and interact with some kind of divine power. Thus, Odin didn’t merely acquire a sets of letters, but he tended to lift the veil of a potent magical system.
Odin Discovered Runes
In the middle of the cosmos stood Yggdrasil the Great Tree of Life. The Great Tree held the Nine Worlds within its branches and its roots reached every land in the cosmos. Well of Urd from which Yggdrasil grew was the home of three Norns in Norse mythology. The Norns wove and created fates of all beings in the cosmos. The most common way that the Norn created fates was to carve runes into Yggdrasil’s trunk. These symbols then carried the magical intentions affecting the whole Nine Worlds.
On the High Throne, Odin watched the Norns and envied their intelligence and power. This ignited the learning flames inside, so he set up his plan to learn the runes.
The point is, Odin could not simply come to see Norns and asked for the power. Because runes did not reveal unless someone proved themselves worthy of the precious insights and abilities. Odin hung himself on the branch of Yggdrasil, stabbed with his Gungnir spear, and peered at the water below. He refused any help from the other Gods, even a sip of water or a scrap of food.
Well, Odin survived though he teetered on the edge of death precipice for nine days and nights. When the time of the ninth night was up, Odin discovered runes, acquiring the deep meaning of runes. They accepted his sacrifice and revealed themselves. Not only did Odin acquired the shapes of runes but he also gained the ability to read the meanings that runes carried. Odin recounted the moment he knew his thirst for knowledge was slaked.
Then I was fertilized and became wise;
I truly grew and thrived.
From a word to a word I was led to a word,
From a work to a work I was led to a work.
Odin’s mind was like a seed. It had the potential to grow up but it needed water. Then the water (runes) poured onto the seed. And here we go, the seed “was fertilized” only to grow and thrive. Though no one had done this before Odin, Odin never rested on his laurels. He had an infinite fountain of knowledge inside but he never stopped learning. He learnt from his ravens who told him what happened around the Nine Worlds. Odin observed the worlds on his High Throne. He would love to surround himself with things and people that could provide him with as much knowledge as possible.