Reply To: Cernunnos

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    I did not know that Odin was regarded as the trickster within Norse mythology; I thought that that role had already been assigned to Loki? I thought that Odin’s role was very different, seems very different.

    Odin/Woden is very much a trickster figure, and a problematic one to categorise too. The Norse legend of Odin’s taking the Mead of Poetry from the giant Suttungr is full of trickery and shapeshifting – Odin transforms himself into a snake and then an eagle to escape. Unlike the thundering hero god Thor/Donar – whom some might equate with the Gaulish Taranos – Odin/Woden wins his battles through cunning and craftiness, and throughout the Norse materials he comes across at times as a rather ambiguous figure. In addition, Odin/Woden has strong associations with animals, especially wolves, ravens and bears and with the totemic warrior-cults of the Bersekr and Úlfhéðnar which may have originated in very ancient ritual hunting cults.

    The distinction between Odin and Loki in Norse mythology is not so easy at times – one of Odin’s epithets is Bölverker (Evil-doer), and we need to remember that these materials have come down to us via Christian monks. It could be that our perception of these figures is also due to Christian monks casting figures in a light that either suited their own theological narrative or simply because it was how they would have quite naturally perceived them themselves. Loki is very problematical in terms of any clear definition or agreement on origin. He is certainly a trickster figure, but a generally malevolent one, so much so that the Aesir have enough of him and he ends up bound by them, a fate which Odin/Woden does not meet.

    I am aware that in Wiltshire there is a Waden Hill; also, that there is a dyke known as the Wansdyke. From what I know I think that this is derived from the name Woden. Presumably the result of Saxon influence.

    I think it’s generally agreed that Wansdyke is indeed derived from Woden’s Dyke. The structure itself is pre-Anglo-Saxon; however, I do believe that the pagan Anglo-Saxons often attributed to the great structures that they found, left over by the Romans and previous peoples, to giants or their own gods as a means to explain them. You could compare this to the Englynion y Beddau from the Black Book of Carmarthen, in which dolmens, barrows and suchlike are attributed to the heroes of Welsh legend. By the way, not too far from your neck of the woods there’s a Neolothic barrow complex known as Wayland’s Smithy, which may also illustrate the point.