10: “Wednesday” (Norse Mythology)

         “Wednesday” comes from the Old English “wodnesdæg,” or “Woden’s day.” Woden is an older name for Odin. My source is etymonline.com, which is a wonderful resource and a rabbit hole I rather frequently go tumbling down to lands rich in silliness, surprise, and adventure.

         In Norse mythology, we’re all supported by Yggdrasil, the World Tree. At a root of the World Tree rests the Well of Wisdom, also called Mimir’s Well, as Mimir is the guardian of its waters. Odin All-Father once found his way to that well. He’d searched for a long time, for drinking its water gives knowledge of things that were, that are, and that must be. (Some things are fated, some things are for us to choose; the well only gives knowledge of what’s fated). When Odin told Mimir, the guardian, that he would drink, Mimir told him that he could. The price was his right eye. The myth doesn’t say how long Odin stood, wondering about the choice before him; but it does say that he reached up and plucked out his eye, and offered it to the water as his sacrifice, his pledge. Then he drank.
         Odin was not blind after that: he saw more than he ever had. He saw some of the patterns in living and dying, he saw something through the mists of time; he saw something of others’ hearts and minds. When he was Chieftain in Asgaard, two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, would fly out through the worlds, and return to perch on Odin’s shoulders and whisper what they’d seen. The price for seeing more was his right eye.
         I love the metaphor. In order to see more deeply, more clearly–to see something of what’s coming, to see from other’s sight; to see beyond what’s visible from our own perspective–we must be willing to give up part of our own vision. We have to stop insisting that our perspective is the only one, or the most important. We can keep our hearts, our minds; we can open them by seeing what others have seen, and learning from it. The price is simple. The price, the pledge, is one of our two eyes; the gift is a drink from the water we all share, the water that nourishes the very Tree that grows at the heart of all our worlds.
         Odin’s name means “to blow, inspire, spiritually awaken.” He was the one who blew spiritual, intellectual life into humans. Perhaps that spark, that first breath of humanity, is being willing to keep your one eye open and your mind awake while also seeing from others’ eyes.

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