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(Information provided by Jenni Barnett)
Odin is the Norse God who is known mostly as the All-father. The reason for this title is somewhat obscure, because he had two brothers named Vili and Ve who helped him slay the frost Giant Ymir after the time of creation, but that's another story.
Odin was the seeker of wisdom and the hidden mysteries. He chose the ultimate sacrifice by piercing himself in the side with a spear, and hanging from the World Tree Yggdrasil for 9 days without food or water. The reason for this sacrifice was to gain knowledge by travelling through the underworld and receive his initiation from the Goddess. The Goddess in question isn't directly mentioned in the Eddas, but the tree Yggdrasil could be a relevant clue.
During the 9 days that Odin hung from Yggdrasil, he underwent a personal transformation and embarked on a journey of Shamanism. On his return journey from the underworld, after some gruelling tasks - including fasting, meditation and wakefulness - and encountering some dubious characters who inhabit this realm, his reward eventually became the Elder Futhark Runes that we know today as the Runic alphabet. Odin retrieved these runes on the 9th day and also earned the right to practise the Magical craft, especially that of Shamanism.
Never satisfied in his quest for knowledge, Odin also sacrificed one of his eyes, in order to drink from Mimir's well of knowledge and memory. It seems that in exchange for his eye - as well as drinking from the well he received two ravens as his totemic animals. Huginn is the raven for thought, while Muginn is the raven for memory. They accompany Odin wherever he goes.
Odin is probably best known for ruling the otherworldly realm of Valhalla, which is sometimes confused with the term Heaven. Odin is the patron of soldiers - through the course of war, it is predetermined who is to be slain on the battlefield by Odin. Odin has one main agenda in his choice of the best soldiers. He was forewarned about the coming of Ragnarok - end of the world - where the Gods and Giants battle each other for the last time. Odin enlists the help of these hand-picked soldiers, who practice their skills on eachother by day in the halls of Valhalla.
Other help that Odin receives are in the form of his 12 shieldmaidens who are better known as the Valkyries. See below:
The Valkyries are the special shieldmaidens handpicked by Odin for the specific purpose of choosing the slain during the course of battle. Once chosen to die, the soldiers are assisted by the Valkyries in their journey through the otherworld, and will reside in the halls of Valhalla. The Valkyries are also the entertainment for the soldiers during the nightly sojourns of drinking and carousing.
It's interesting to note that the otherworldly realm is essentially the domain of the Goddess, who are masters of the hidden mysteries and the practices of Shamanism. However, men like Odin who seek this knowledge and inner balance are also masters who would be held in high reverence in terms of their knowledge and experience.
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