How Odin Lost His Eye?

Posted by Ms Elly on

How Odin Lost His Eye?

The common depiction of Odin that many of us might observe is an old man with a hood, under a dark cloak, beard reaching his collar or chest, and having only one eye. The point is, every detail in Norse mythology implied something interesting. So any reason for this thought-provoking appearance of Odin?

The outfit of Odin presented that he took the life of a mysterious wanderer who did not want to reveal his own identity. The beard he got was served to earn the feeling of respect from others who looked at him. But what was the meaning of one eye?

(Odin the Allfather)

In fact, Odin’s one eye stood for his wisdom and his sacrifice for wisdom.

Legend had it that Odin was a nonstop seeker of knowledge and wisdom. He desired to know everything in the cosmos. He had a pair of ravens, Huginn and Muninn, to tell him about the stories around the Nine Worlds every day. He had the High Throne where he could observe everything across the world. He was regarded as the god of wisdom though he was not the wisest god in Norse myth (this title was given to Kvasir).

One day, he traveled to the Well of Urd whose water he knew would carry all the knowledge he wanted. When he arrived, he met Mimir who played as the guardian of the holy well. Odin asked Mimir to permit him a drink of the holy water; however, Mimir knew exactly the water was so priceless that not everyone could try the water. Thereby, a normal request to drink from an old man with a cloak was not persuasive enough for Mimir. He refused to give Odin any drop of the water unless Odin sacrificed one of his eyes. We do not know how the debates between these two went on but finally, Odin agreed to devote his eye to Mimir. He gored out his eye and gave it to Mimir. In return, Mimir handled Odin a glass of the holy water from the Well. Without any hesitation, Odin drank it and this quenched his thirst for knowledge. From that moment on, Odin lived a life with a limitless source of wisdom.

(Depiction of Odin meeting Mimir)

(Odin trading his eye for Holy Water)

People might interpret this story from many angles. But one thing we might think in common was that Odin traded part of his external wisdom for the internal one. To satisfy the requirement of Mimir, Odin only gave up one eye, also standing for part of his external wisdom. The lesson might be that we should know the value of both external and internal wisdom and better balance them. While the eyes (external wisdom) helped Odin observe things surrounding himself, the mental knowledge (internal wisdom) helped him double-check or re-analyze the questions he might face.

Moreover, the knowledge-gaining process always needs a sacrifice. Even Odin the Aesir chief god could not grab the entirety of universal wisdom himself but he needed to give up some things in exchange. Some people now prefer their comfort zone and believe that the difficult task is not worth the try. However, Odin presented the opposite. He proved that he chased after what set his heart on fire no matter what price he had to pay for.    


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