Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
My collected thoughts flamed by hubris
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In keeping with my theory of the transformation of Gods, I thought this cartoon pretty humorous. Click on the image for details of this modern change.

Is Zeus either Odhinn or Thor?

Since we are on the subject of Norse (or Viking mythology), I just thought I'd throw out yet another useless bit o' trivia…

When the Romans went around conquering neighboring countries, they assumed that everyone they met was just like them… only more ignorant. They assumed that other Gods were the same as their own… just with different names.

This worked for some countries that lived down the block, but failed for those that lived farther away.

When they started conquering some of the Germanic tribes, they took their pantheon and started making correlations with their own. Even though Woden (Ódhinn or Odin) was the father of the Germanic pantheon, they didn't equate him with Jupiter (Zeus) … they hooked him up with Thurs (Thor ). They did this due to their similar personalities and not on their pantheonic position. (This, incidently, is why the 5th day of the week changed from Jupiter's Day to Thor's Day (Thursday) and the 4th day of the week changed from Mercury's Day to Woden's Day (Wednesday).

I know you're thinking, So what? … but you see, prior to Mercury (Hermes) accepting the lowly position of Messenger of Olympus , he was a powerful God as Healer, Magician, and Scholar. (He is similar to the Egyptian Thoth as the teacher of writing to mankind). He kind of had a rekindling of his ancient power during the Middle Ages when a reincarnation began the Hermetical Orders.

He lost his power for the same reason why Ódhinn began to loose his… Thor was big, manly and not overly bright… but at least he was understandable. Ódhinn was moody, shady, powerful, and down-right mysterious… the Norse warriors just didn't trust this guy, and I think that his popularity was only kept alive as long as it was, because of the mystery rites associated with his worship.

Anyway, my point is that over time, the people (both Greeks, Romans, Germans and Norse) began to drop the Transcendent God (one that is unknowable) for a simpler God that didn't take much effort. You know, one that didn't require a person to think.

So the fickled God of Scholars, Magicians and Healers with all his mysteries and heavy concepts got traded for the constant God of Socials and Jello Salad.

I find this a bit amusing when I look around nowadays… Not that this swap is happening.

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Dear Mr. Abrams,

I can agree with you on many of the things you say but many people of the old Norse ways (those who practice Asatru) would most likely get offended by your use of the word worship. We do not worship or fall to the foot of any diety, we present confidence and instead of standing under the foot of a discriminating Deity… we stand beside our God's and Goddess's and honor them as they honor us. I don't doubt that you have already been told that..but just count me as another who wants to her religion to be looked at accurately. Honor=Good. Worship=Bad.

LOL Sorry I had to do it. It's not that we think of the term "worship" as bad…but part of our faith is to stand tall and not be submissive as many people of different faiths are to their deity's.

Anyways, that was my rant for the evening. :-)

—Theresa Kjielsson
7 May 2002


Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm sorry that you misunderstood me. I was not commenting on modern views, but of the original people in Northern Europe.

For while I think that most pagans would agree with your sentiments (and that is certainly in keeping with with all my pagan friends), the views of moderns pagans are not the views of their ancient counterparts. They can't be…

  1. Few original sources exist from this time period, and fewer still that weren't influenced by Christian/Roman interaction.

  2. While stories may have been recorded (and assuming that they weren't sanitized, other important details like ritual and beliefs weren't written down at all.

  3. Most importantly, modern Americans can not know how it feels not to have a modern perspective on the world… we have been to the moon, we have seen pictures of the Earth from space, we have visited the depths of the oceans. Much mystery has been lost.

I think that worship is actually a pretty good word to describe the ancient view of Ódhinn. For we have accounts of sacrifices made to him. Sacrifices imply ritual, and ritual implies devotion … hence my choice of the word, worship.

I will agree that the ancients view of their gods were not the same as the Christian perspective that most modern pagans were raised in initially believing. One of their favorite story talked about how Thor was persuaded into dressing up as a woman.

Certainly, their worship was not the same sort of worship that the Christian missionaries preach.

However, even though Thor would have won a popularity contest against Ódhinn, the stories we have still ring with a certain respect and fear of this mysterious, fickled figure.

So, I think that I will still stick to my choice of words, as honor seems too passive from my perspective. However, we will never fully know how the ancients viewed the world and their gods, and my comments here are just that … my perspective.

—Howard the Author
7 May 2002


Good day,

Great post, and some good tidbits concerning interpretatio romana, however, I do believe you have some innaccuracies concerning certain facts about the germanic gods.

I see this post's general thesis as being related to the "jesus vs. jeezus" pic -- i.e. that "esoteric" gods become "exoteric" in order to be adopted by the masses. Generally, I would hold that this is true to a degree, however, the "odhinn v. thorr" example you're presenting is wholly inaccurate.

Germanic society was a society of stratification, and social order. According to rigsthula, an icelandic poem concerning heimdall's "creation" of the classes seen in that society, we come to the general "3 fold" division that is common in indo-european societies -- namely, a class of "jarls" (warrior-nobility), "karls" (free farmers and craftsmen) and "thralls" (unfree foreign, debt, and born slaves)

Given this societal stratification in mundane life, naturally, the aesir were worshiped (and yes, I'll agree that this is a good word for what we do when we offer to the gods) in a reflective manner.

Thorr, with his hammer, like the hammers found in many a germanic homestead -- typically used for repairing farm tools on a home forge -- and his exploits as being a good drinker, wrestler, goat herder (note: germanic society valued cattle as wealth, so even this points to him being the "poor man's god") and defender of his family and people who treats his thralls with kindness to boot, is sort of the "big man" archetype for what makes a good karl. Likewise, as a rain deity, thorr not only gives the karl an image to attempt to imitate, but also gives him the rain needed for his crops.

In short, thorr was the god of the "middle class worker" of the old germanic world, and although he may have engaged in fights here and there, he was by no means a "warrior" per se.

Now then, odhinn…odhinn could be thought of as the "jarl's god". Unlike Thorr, Odhinn drips of everything related to kingship, leadership and, of course, organised warfare. Naturally, yes, odhinn is adept at magic, is slick with his tounge, seductive to the ladies and has all of the Mercurial attributes you alluded to, however, it needs to be well remembered that, unlike thorr, odhins artefact is no common karls hammer, but a warriors spear -- which when thrown, never misses! They also say he was such a kingly king, that he could even afford to ride a horse into battle -- an 11 legged one at that!

Your comment that "Norse warriors just didn't trust this guy" was especially puzzling to me: odhinn, as a god of jarls (again, warrior-nobles), would not only have been "trusted" by norse warriors, he would have been the archetype -- the role model -- for the war-band's highly esteemed leader. As a matter of fact, the famous berserkers were cult devotees to odhinn, who inspired their battle-rage (either through ritual dance or amanitas; pick your theory, but they still hailed odin). Odhins kennings (valfadr "father of the slain") seem rather warrior related as well, and that his hall, valhalla, is where half those killed in war go when dead -- to say the norse warriors trusted him not is either blaisely mislead, or bluntly misleading.

In summation, odhinn and thorr didn't "compete for the spotlight" like "jesus and jeezus" do…one was a god of common men, and worshiped by such. The other, a god of kings and generals, and thusly such a lot payed homage to him.

Now then, if you would like to talk about gods being replaced in the norse faith -- look into tyr, who's name is a cognate to zeus, jupiter (as ziu pater) and "deus", who's cult took root in pre-roman times and was gradually replaced by the cult of odhinn as the "leader" of the aesir, probably in the period in which late proto-germanic was spoken. Or, look at the fact that thorr was being worshipped by the common folk long after odhinn had been replaced by YHWH as the "god of kings"…how's that for replacement.

—A Generic Heathen