My review of Odin by Diana L. Paxson

odin

“I told you I would tell you my names. This is what they call me. I’m called Glad-of-War, Grim, Raider, and Third. I am One-Eyed. I am called Highest, and True-Guesser. I am Grimnir, and I am the Hooded One. I am All-Father, and I am Gondlir Wand-Bearer. I have as many names as there are winds, as many titles as there are ways to die. My ravens are Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory; my wolves are Freki and Geri; my horse is the gallows.”

— Neil Gaiman, American Gods

It seems quite fitting to review Diana Paxson’s Odin: Ecstacy, Runes, & Norse Magic on His day. With the music of Garmarna and Wardruna as my companions, like two ravens watching over my words, I reflect now on those writ by an author whose writing I have long admired.

But first, let’s look at the book itself. I really like the faux-parchment cover with the rich chocolate coloured lettering. The iconic cover image itself is bold and traditional, though the ravens seem out-of-synch with the classic depiction of Odin astride Sleipnir.

The interior is clean and neat, with solid font choices throughout. A little too varied for my tastes, but nothing overtly inappropriate (which is something you find far too often these days with the advancements in desktop printing).

I like the interior illustrations, which evoke an old world, woodcut feel, lending an air of authenticity to the overall work.

The layout and design are not perfect*, but neither is it distracting. It’s an attractive enough book, but it’s the content that matters most, especially considering the subject matter.

As stated previously, I have a tremendous respect for Diana Paxson. She has such a lyrical quality to her writing and she is as knowledgeable and honest as one can hope to discover. Her words mean a lot to me and she does not disappoint here.

You can feel her forthright devotion on every page, and let’s face it, the Allfather is a complex character, not easy to dissect and codify. Paxson’s examination of Odin in all his guises is as comprehensive as you’re apt to find. Her scholarship is sound and she blends her erudition with an intuitive insight that further unlocks the mystery that surrounds Old One-Eye.

For those new to Odin and the gods of Northern Europe, this is a tremendous introduction. It straddles the fine line between what is known from historical sources with the modern evolution of Odinic worship.

In that regard, there will be points of contention with many within the greater Odinist community. I foresee many of my more folkish leaning peers to find some of her thoughts contrary to their own.

That’s okay. If it opens a meaningful and respectful dialogue, more’s the better. Odin wears many and contradictory hats. This book is an opportunity to bring Odin into the hearts and minds of the masses, and Diana Paxson is an honorable spokesperson for those who walk the northern path. She is a natural storyteller, through and through, and she writes with a clear sense of purpose and conviction.

This is an important work and one I am proud to recommend to those new to the Old Ways of our Northern European ancestors, but I also think there is plenty to be learned by those of us with many years on this path already.

Diana Paxson presents a dazzling and uncompromising portrait of the Hooded One. She brings Geirölnir to life on the page, not as a religious icon, but as a living, vibrant deity that is actively among us.

Odin: Ecstasy, Runes, & Norse Magic by Diana L. Paxson is available wherever books are sold, but I recommend without hesitation that one should buy directly from Red Wheel/Weiser. Why fill the coffers of middle men, when you can show your appreciation at the source, thus allowing them greater profit.

*There is one unfortunate typo that I must address. On page 275, the name of the band is Garmarna, not Gramarna.
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