“I know that I hung on a windy tree nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin, myself to myself;
On that tree which no man knows from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor drink from a horn, downwards i peered;
I took up the runes, screaming i took them; then i fell back from there.”
Taken from the song, Runatal; Havamal (Sayings of the High One)
This instance of poetic verse describes in almost exact detail, the Christian belief in the self sacrifice of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. However, the verse concerns Odin, or Wotan; cheif god of the pre-Christian, Germanic peoples. The Havamal (pronounced HOW-ve-mowl, in its original Icelandic tongue) dates to the 12th century, leading many historical commentators and authors to suppose it to be a transcription from the much older documented Judeo-Christian tale of Jesus.
However, we must take their words with a grain of salt as the saying goes. The ancient, and enduring Germanic god Wotan has been worshipped for much longer than the personification of the Christian God, in the incarnate form of Jesus.
Although the island of Iceland had been technically converted to Christianity by the year 999-1000, due to the tumultuous ruling of Thorgeir Ljosvetninggagodi Thorkelsson, the islands inhabitants would’ve mostly continued to worship in the traditional Norse ways…as shown in a work of similar era and timeframe, the Islendingabok…written by the 12th century Icelandic priest, Ari Thorgilsson.
It seems strange that a christian priest would write about the staunch opposition to the islands conversion, while a historically Icelandic tale passed down of the sayings of Odin, or Wotan, would be apt in attempting to forge a shared imagery with the waring christian kings of Norway.
Fortunately, we have documented renderings of the Ancient stories in the monumental work known as the Codex Regius, or Kings Book; although the surviving copy is dated to be from around the 1270’s. This is amazing considering the documented history of Christian missionaries, or mercenaries at this point in history (if you will), didn’t find this copy in their attempt to burn away the history of pre-christian Europe. This is even more apparent when you read about the Codex Regius disappearing after it’s creation and only reappearing in 1643 in the libraries of the Catholic Bishop of Skalholt, Brynjolfur Sveinsson.
As Wotan states in the Epic poem of the Runes, ‘no man knows from were its roots run.’ This i feel is a fitting air of mystery in a book as mysterious as The Codex Regius, from a song as stirring and magical, concerning the mystical runes,…of which I’ll speak on this next weeks Wodens Day.