How Odin Lost His Eye to Drink From the Well of Knowledge
How Odin Lost His Eye
Odin is the god of many things. He is also a god know by many names. However, most particular to his nature are the concepts of wisdom and sacrifice. Odin, through his own sacrifices, gains wisdom during many occasions and ordeals. In one such occasion, the lore tells us how Odin lost his eye so that he could drink from Urd’s Well. It was the price he had to pay to allow the giant Mimir to offer him a horn from the well. This sacrifice would gain Odin true wisdom.
Far below the roots of world tree Yggdrasil, there was a well. This well held the treasure of true wisdom. It was guarded by the giant Mimir. Odin’s two ravens Hugin and Munin had spotted it during one of their recon missions. Bringing this news back to Odin, the all-father set off on his mission to drink from it. He could have things no other way.
Everyday, Mimir filled his horn Giöll from the well. Sipping from the magnificent horn, the ancient one grew wiser and wiser. Mimir, doing this from before the race of gods appeared, had been doing this from the beginning of all things. No mortal or god could match him in his wisdom. This greatly bothered Odin as he could not allow a giant to be wiser than himself. Odin sought to be the wisest of all beings and thus continued on his journey to drink from the well.
As the sun set in the realm of Midgard, Odin arrived to claim what he sought. In his broad brim hat and cloak, he travelled down a long bridge to meet Mimir. Arriving at his destination Odin greeted Mimir. He told the giant why he was there.
Mimir was not keen to allow the all-father to have a drink from the well. He questioned Odin and asked him why he so eagerly wanted to drink from his well.
“I can see with my eyes all that goes on in heaven and upon earth,” said Odin, “but I cannot see into the depths of ocean. I lack the hidden wisdom of the deep, —the wit that lies at the bottom of your fountain. My ravens tell me many secrets; but I would know all. And as for payment, ask what you will, and I will pledge anything in return for the draught of wisdom.”
Mimir considered for a moment, and then named his price. He wanted Odin to leave one of his far seeing eyes in the bottom of the well. An equal exchange to the giant Mimir. Odin did not wait. He agreed and drank from the horn.
Finishing the magical water from the bottom of the horn, Odin became the wisest being of the universe next to Mimir. Now it was Odin’s turn to hold up his end of the bargain. The lore does not say how Odin felt about the transaction, but what we do know is that he gouged out his own eye and left it in the bottom of the well. Odin then soon returned to Asgard having made a great sacrifice for knowledge.
This myth tells us many things about Odin. It first tells us how Odin lost his eye. It also reveals to us his true nature and the guiding belief that no sacrifice is too great for true wisdom. Odin lost his eye so that he could see through new depths. Odin urges us to do the same. While brute strength, particularly associated with the god Thor, is important –true wisdom demands the greatest of sacrifices. In this case it was Odin’s eye. This is why the one-eyed god covers his eye with his hair or his brim hat. He does this so he may not be so obviously spotted by giants and men alike.
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