Odin is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania, through the tribal expansions of the Migration Period and the Viking Age. Odin continued into the modern period to be acknowledged in rural folklore in all Germanic regions. References to Odin appear in place names throughout regions historically inhabited by the ancient Germanic peoples, and the day of the week Wednesday bears his name in many Germanic languages.
The official etymology of the name of the old Norse theonym Óðinn (popularly anglicized as Odin) and its cognates, including Old English Wóden, Old Saxon Wōden, and Old High German Wuotan, says that it derives from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym *wōđanaz. The masculine noun *wōđanaz developed from the Proto-Germanic adjective *wōđaz, related to Latin vātēs and Old Irish fáith, both meaning ‘seer, prophet’. Adjectives stemming from *wōđaz include Gothic woþs ‘possessed’, Old Norse óðr, ‘mad, frantic, furious’, and Old English wód ‘mad’.
The adjective *wōđaz (or *wōđō) was further substantivized, leading to Old Norse óðr ‘mind, wit, soul, sense’, Old English ellen-wód ‘zeal’, Middle Dutch woet ‘madness’, and Old High German wuot ‘thrill, violent agitation’. Additionally the Old Norse noun æði ‘rage, fury’ and Old High German wuotī ‘madness’ derive from the feminine noun *wōđīn, from *wōđaz. The weak verb *wōđjanan, also derived from *wōđaz, gave rise to Old Norse æða ‘to rage’, Old English wédan ‘to be mad, furious’, Old Saxon wōdian ‘to rage’, and Old High German wuoten ‘to be insane, to rage’.
But this etymology does not correspond to the role that Odin or Vodan seem to have originally had.
The earliest records of the Germanic peoples were recorded by the Romans, and in these works Odin is frequently referred to as the Roman god Mercury. The first clear example of this occurs in the Roman historian Tacitus’s late 1st-century work Germania, where, writing about the religion of the Suebi (a confederation of Germanic peoples), he comments that “among the gods Mercury is the one they principally worship. In this instance, Tacitus refers to the god Odin as “Mercury”…
Mercury is a major Roman god, being one of the Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the patron god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence (and thus poetry), messages/communication (including divination), travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he is also the guide of souls to the underworld.
You could see how Mercury would be perfect deity for Vikings, the traders, the travellers and the thieves…
While I was discussing Radegast (Welcome guest) with one of my friends, he reminded me that one of Odins names was “far travelled guest”…
This is very interesting.
In some dialects of South Slavic languages word “od” or “hod” means walk. “odi” or “hodi” means walks and “oditi” or “hoditi” means you walk, walking. “odi on” or “hodi on” means he walks, he who walks. Is odin = odi on = the one that walks, travels? It is Interesting that in Greek we have word ὁδός (hodós) which means threshold, road, path, way, journey, trip, expedition…The official etymology is that the Greek word comes form Proto-Indo-European *sodos. Cognates include Old Church Slavonic ходъ (xodŭ) and Sanskrit आसद् (āsad). I wander if the Greek word actually comes from South Slavic word “od, hod” meaning to walk…The word “odos” (path) would then be something you “od” walk on…”odaš, odiš” means you are walking, “oda si, odi si” means he is walking and “odao si” means you walked, both meaning travel, trip, expedition, journey…
Vodan is another name for Odin. In South Slavic languages word “vodi, voda” means leads, “vodi nas, voda nas” means he leads us and “vodi on, voda on” means he leads, leader…The word “vodja” means leader, “vodja naš” means our leader….Is Vodan = vodi + on = leads he = leader?
This fits perfectly with the the Roman description of Odin, Vodan as the equivalent of Mercury, the traveller, messenger, guide…
But if this is true, why does Norse god have name whose etymology comes from Slavic languages? Is this just a coincidence?
Serbian Historian from the 19th century, Miloš Milojević, claimed that Serbs and Danes were one and the same people. This is very interesting because the latest genetic evidence is showing us that Serbs and Croats have majority I2a and the Danes have majority I2b Y haplogroup. Basically they are the closest genetic cousins. You can see this clearly from these maps published on Eupedia:
We know that there was a lot of mixing between the western Slavs and Danes and that the most prominent Danish Viking dynasties descending from Harlad the blue tooth were of mixed Danish Slavic descent. Both Danes and western Slavs were renowned traders and pirates. The Book of Veles talks about western Slavs having the same customs as Germans. So it is entirely possible that Odin’s name did come from the Slavic language.
Another possibility is that Tacitus relied on a Slavic speaking informants who completely misinterpreted the word Vodan and Odin and understood them as the one who leads and the one who wanders. This could have lead to the erroneous linking of Odin, Vodan with Mercury…But this would put Slavic speaking people in Germania in the the first century AD…
A can of worm has been opened. Or more precisely reopened.
“Origin of the Anglo – Saxon race” is a book published in 1906 by Thomas William Shore, author of ‘a history of Hampshire,’ etc, Honorary secretary London and Middlesex archaeological society; honorary Organizing secretary of the Hampshire field club and Archaeological society. In it the author gives detailed analysis of the “Anglo Saxons”, and shows us that both Angles and Saxons were just terms used for complex federations of south Baltic Germanic, Norse and West Slavic tribes. He describes the late Iron Age and early medieval northern central Europe as a melting pot where future great nations of Franks, Angles, Saxons, Danes, Norse, Slavs, were being created from tribal federations of mixed Germanic and Slavic ethnic, linguistic and cultural origin.
This is what he thought about conflict of the Æsir and Vanir. This is just the excerpt, you can find the rest on my blog post “The origin of the Anglo Saxon race“.
…The conflict of the Æsir and Vanir is a Northern myth, which, considered ethnologically, may be regarded as founded on the wars carried on between the Teutonic and Slavonic races. That between the Goths and Vandals was a war of this kind, and it resulted in peace and a lasting alliance. The myth of the conflict of the Æsir and Vanir also terminated in a lasting peace and the exchange of hostages between the contending races….
And this is where we need to look for the origin of Odin and his name….
And this is why I believe that Odin’s name reopens a can of worms which was shut after the first world war, when the Slavs became the bad guys of Europe…
So what do you think?