Chapter 6: Odin Sacrificed to Learn Runes

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Chapter 6: Odin Sacrificed to Learn Runes

The burning desire to quench the thirst for knowledge of Odin never seemed to end. Odin was always willing to make a trade to gain more knowledge for himself. Some might not understand how come Odin could do such a trade because it seemed Odin didn't benefit much from it. However, once we get to know Odin and know how much he aspired to knowledge, everything makes sense. 

If we carefully read the tales about Odin, we can easily see that everything Odin did was to surround himself with sources of knowledge. He kept two ravens to tell him what happened around the Nine Worlds, he kept the head of Mimir to consult him, or he sacrificed one eye to be able to drink the water of knowledge. This time, we are to discover the journey from which Odin learnt runes by sacrificing. 


If we now have the alphabets to write and communicate, the Vikings once used runes as their major linguistic system. The reason why the Vikings respected runes was that Odin discovered runes by sacrificing himself.

Runes included 24 letters. Most of them had the names presenting the sounds of themselves as well. However, the Vikings didn't commonly use runes to communicate with each other. Rather, runes were used for foster the communication between humanity and the gods. 


Runes didn't just appear in the cosmos. Rather, they were the result of Odin's sacrifice to reveal runes from the trunks of Yggdrasil.

Odin sacrificed to gain the ability to decipher runes

Odin sacrificed himself on the Yggdrasil tree to gain the ability to decipher runes

According to the myth, Odin once hung himself on the Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights. He did this to make runes reveal themselves from the trunks. Many accounts said that it was the Norns the creators of the fate carved runes on the trunk of Yggdrasil. 

Only the one who could prove that they were super eager to learn runes could make the sacrifice and learn them. Then Odin decided to make his sacrifice, becoming the first figure in the cosmos to know runes. 

He hung himself on the Yggdrasil to make the sacrifice. He hung there for nine days and nine nights. The Gungnir spear of Odin stabbed him in the chest. He ate and drank nothing for the whole sacrifice. Many gods came there to offer help to Odin but the great Allfather just refused everything and chose to make the sacrifice for himself. 

And when the sacrifice finally came to an end, the runes spelt themselves out of the Yggdrasil tree. And Odin grabbed the chance to learn how to decipher runes. 


Every detail in Norse mythology consists of either lessons or message. In Odin's discovery of runes, the message is clear: You need to sacrifice in order to achieve something. This is the law of sacrifice. And from the message, we get to know Odin more. 

First off, we need to understand what is the meaning of sacrifice. When we speak of "sacrifice", we often relate it to the selfless deed. For example, one Viking warrior bravely for his brothers to win. But the best definition of "sacrifice" as we believe is to give up something to get something that is more valuable. And obviously, Odin knew what he needed more. 

We can see the law of sacrifice here. The law goes that you cannot get what you want without giving up something else in return. In order to get something of greater value, you have to give up something that you believe is less valuable. To Odin, what mattered more was his knowledge and the ability to decipher runes. What mattered less was the physical pain that he had to endure during the sacrifice. 

In this day and age, everything seemed to deny the law of sacrifice that Odin once denoted in his discovery of runes. "Losing weight without giving up junk food", "gaining some muscles without working out", or "get rich without working hard". It all is just the seductive fantasy. Because everything comes at a price. 

If you want to lose weight, you have to quit eating junk food. If you want to gain some muscle, working out regularly is the way. And if you want to get rich and more comfortable life, you have to work, start your saving plan and later your investment projects. 

This can be listed among the reasons why Norse mythology can stand the test of time. What the myth and Odin himself taught us remain valuable at any time. 

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