Insight into the Function, Form and Relationship Between Odin and Thor

          Odin has long been viewed in connection with the wind and inspiration, while Thor has been related to willpower, strength, and action. These two forces, in an elemental or alchemical context, represent two distinct functions of the self-development of the Superindividual, Übermensch, Buddha, Druid, Shaman, Monk, Priest etc. The two parts of this mechanism include first the fire, which in this metaphor would be a symbolic “inner” fire, regarded centrally within the gut or deep in the lungs. Some would equate this to the Will and the willingness to act on instinct and intentions with confidence and clarity. The second part is the wind or air, represented by Odin, as the fanning breath that inspires the fire to grow and develop. Fire needs breath. As we’ve all seen, wind or breath is what inspires fire to rage, dance, live, generate more energy and produce more heat. In this regard, Thor is our internal flame, the force of Will, strength and action within us, while Odin is the oxygen, wind or current that breathes inspiration (like a bellows) onto the internal flame, causing it to rage and ultimately be “inspired” to grow and conquer more. These two deities, represented by Wind and Fire, are necessary to form the self-actualized and potent man. This man is concrete in focus and intensity, able to live in strength, wisdom, and constant action. 

          Unifying the two forces of Odin and Thor seems to have been accomplished and utilized by certain classes and aspects of society, as not everyone was meant to form and manipulate the fire that exists within. Traditionally, this would have been a practice of the Priest/King and Warrior classes, who’s function was to control chaos and keep alive the organism of society. Essentially, these Priest/Kings were embodiments of the Gods on Earth, and the same responsibility would be bestowed upon them, usually ending in their sacrifice if crops failed, famine ensued, or war was lost. Although the unification of these two forces is necessary for certain individuals and both deities were widely worshipped and observed alongside each other, the two cults of Odin and Thor were highly different in their more basic, daily, and practical functions. There were completely different lifestyle qualities, goals, skills, approaches to life, and ultimately different methods in overall purpose and intent. The cult of Thor generally resides around the community, fertility, farming and the “thrall” lifestyle that most humans experienced within the tribe or larger group. Because of this, Thor was the most widely worshipped of the ancient gods and was the chief deity observed by the common folk. Thor protects man from chaos and endows power into material forms. This force keeps man strong and determined, acting in accordance with honor and vitality. Thor represents the physical and temporal qualities of human life, things we can build, destroy, and manipulate in accordance with our Will.

          The esoteric meaning of this deity is rarely observed and utilized but is very beneficial and powerful when introduced and practiced with other occult techniques and connotations. This occult function of Thor can be seen most clearly in the Siberian and Sami Pagan religions, who venerate the Thunder god “Horagalles,” which translates to Old Man Thor. Through Shamanic/Odinic techniques they use the element of Thunder to induce trance through rhythm, inducing the visionary travel and prophetic hallucinations famous to their practice. Here it seems the Thunder God takes on the more singular roll of community protector, Shaman, student of wisdom and the living bridge or messenger of the gods. It is possible that this sorcery was originally a single, unified practice, until eventually splitting into multiple cults and focuses as people spread out of the Northern Steppes.

The Norse god Óðinn, from a 1760 Icelandic paper manuscript (Copenhagen, Danish Royal Library, MS NKS 1867 4º, f. 94r)

          The cult of Odin is a much different beast when approached in a focused and direct way. As I’ve stated, many Pagans, past and present, acknowledge and venerate both Gods, but it is fair to say that most Germanic Pagans lean one way or the other when it comes to utmost devotion and dedication of spirit. Odin is a self-development, war, and artist God, one associated with mantic wisdom and mad obsession to obtain knowledge and conquer new metaphysical territory, whether for the good or bad, helpful, or detrimental. The Odinist develops the self, and in doing so thus inspires the community to follow suit, acting in accordance with the archetype (or one of the many archetypes) of the God. Odin is the god of nobility, artists, and kings, the ones whom the myths, legends, and culture of the tribe is associated with and known for. Through acts of brilliance, magic, prophecy and wisdom, Odin (and his devoted) inspire and pass on wisdom and tradition to the rest of the community. This inspiring force ultimately leads the tribe towards greatness, stirring the “flame” of Thor to burn powerfully within the soul of the group, instigating excellence from all instead of the enabling of weakness and brittleness.

          When it comes to esoteric, occult, or alternative views on these Gods, we can easily see their different function in the psychology of the human mind. However, when brought into union, we can see how this formula of wind and fire is necessary (and without lack of potency) when it comes to developing strong, wise, and sturdy acolytes. Greatness and madness go hand in hand; like wind and fire. Odin and Thor, in the soul of the sorcerer or warrior, must be unlocked and unified to become completely unhinged in potential and intensity.

Allegany, New York
Winter, 2022
Photo by Ariale Miller.

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