Of all the gods, Wóden is the best attested in Old English sources. He mentioned in everything from Maxims I to The Nine Herbs Charm. Unfortunately, most of the references to Wóden in Old English literature tend to be brief, so that ultimately we can only get a somewhat detailed picture of how the Angles and Saxons viewed him by gathering together many, many sources. Interestingly, the image which these sources when gathered together is largely faithful to the same image the Old Norse sources present of the god.
Indeed, just as Óðinn was regarded as the ancestor of the Danish kings, so too was Wóden viewed as the progentior of the majority of the royal lines of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy. Bede states in his Ecclesiatical History that many royal families descended from Wóden. In fact, only the kings of Essex did not trace their lines back to Wóden. While Wóden is the ancestor of most of the Anglo-Saxon lines, however, nowhere in Old English literature are we explicitly told that he was king of the gods. That having been said, it seems likely that the Angles and Saxons viewed him as such. In Germania Roman historian and ethnographer states that the Germanic tribes worshipped Mercury most highly of all the gods. That the Roman apparently identified Mercury with Wóden is born out by the fact that later writers also identified the two gods, perhaps the earliest such case being Jonas of Babbio writing in The Life of Columbanus around 642 CE. The possiblilty that Wóden was regarded as the highest of the gods among the Angles and Saxons could be demonstrated by lines in Maxims I, Wóden worhte weos, wuldor alwalda,/rume roderas, "Wóden wrought idols; the Almighty (that is, the Christian god) the heavens." Not only is Wóden constrasted with the Christian's god, but these lines seem to credit Wóden as having "wrought 'idols,'" perhaps implying his primacy over the other gods. Later sources are a bit more clear in establishing Wóden as the chief god of the Angles and Saxons, although it is impossible to know if this was something which had been passed down from when they were still heathen or something which they picked up from the invading Danes (Óðinn being portrayed as king of the gods in Norse sources). In the 12th century work The History of the Kings of Britian, Geoffrey of Monmouth quotes Hengist (the leader of the first Germanic tribe to invade Britian) as saying that they "...especially worship Mercury, whom we call Wóden." In the Early Middle English work Brut, Layamon may have been drawing upon Geoffrey's work when he has Hengist state that Wóden is the highest of gods. It is impossible to know for certain if this reflected native Anglo-Saxon beliefs or something borrowed from the Danes, but it seems quite likely that the Angles and Saxons did see Wóden as king of the gods. After all, from other sources it would appear that Wóden was regarded as the chief god of many of the Germanic peoples, and especially the Anglo-Saxon Pagans.
Not only was Óðinn regarded as king of the gods and the ancestor of kings among Old Norse speakes, but he was also associated with magic, the runes, poetry, and inspiration (indeed, many have theorised that his name literally means "Master of Wód" or "Master of Inspiration."). Among his titles in Old Nosre are Galdraföðir "Father of Galdr (which can roughly be definied as the art of magic incantations)," and Runatyr "god of the runes." In the Hávamál verses 138 to 139 it is told how Óðinn won the runes through hanging on the World Tree. Nowhere in the Old English sources is it said that Wóden won the runes, although it is clear that the Angles and Saxons viewed the god as closely related to magic. Wóden's link to magic in the minds of the Angles and Saxons is demonstrated by the reference to him in the Nine Herbs Charm:
Wyrm com snican, toslat he man;
ða genam Woden VIIII wuldortanas,
sloh ða þa næddran, þæt heo on VIIII tofleah.
A worm came crawling, he struck none;
Wóden took nine glory-twigs,
he smote the serpent, so that it flew into nine parts.
The mention of Wóden in what is definitely a galdor, a magical incantation demonstrates that the Angles and Saxons saw a link between the god and magic. The link between Wodan and magic is also seen on the Continent, in the Second Merseburg Charm:
Phol ende uuodan
uuorun zi holza.
du uuart demo balderes uolon
sin uuoz birenkit.
thu biguol en sinthgunt,
sunna era suister;
thu biguol en friia,
uolla era suister;
thu biguol en uuodan,
so he uuola conda:
ben zi bena,
bluot zi bluoda,
lid zi geliden,
sose gelimida sin.
Phol and Wodan
fared into the woods.
There the brave one's foal
wrenched its foot.
Then sand Sinthgunt,
Sunna her sister;
then sang Frija,
Vola her sister;
then sang Wodan,
as well he could:
bone to bone,
blood to blood,
limb to limb,
so they were stuck together.
In the Second Merseburg Charm not only is Wodan mentioned in a galdor, but he also sings an incantation. Furthermore, he is the only one who successfully heals Phol's foal. This shows that Wodan was associated with magic in the minds of the Continental Germanic tribes. Given that the origins of the Second Merseburg Charm lie in Fulda, which is in Saxony, it seems likely that the Continental Saxons knew of the charm. And if the Continental Saxons knew of the Second Merseburg Charm, then chances seem good that the Saxons in Britain did as well.
Not only do the Nine Herb Charms and the Second Merseburg Charm point to a link between Wóden and magic in the minds of the Angles and Saxons, but they also link him to healing. The Nine Herbs Charm was found in the Anglo-Saxon medical manual called Lacnunga. It is obviously a spell meant to heal wounds. The Second Merseburg Charm is also obviously an incantation meant to heal wounds. Indeed, Wodan is even mentioned as the one who heals the horse's foot in the charm. It would seem that in addition to being considered a magician, the Angles and Saxons also considered Wóden a healer as well.
As I mentioned earlier, nowhere is it mentioned in Anglo-Saxon literature that Wóden discovered the runes. That having been said, we have little reson to doubt that he did. In Old Norse literature, Óðinn's discovery of the runes is told in Hávamál verses 138 to 139:
Veit ek at ek hekk
vindga meiði á
nætr allar níu
ok gefinn Óðni
sjálfr sjálfum mér
á þeim meiði
er manngi veit
hvers hann af rótum renn
Við hleifi mik sældu
né við hornigi
nysta ek niðr
nam ek upp rúnar
fell ek aptr þaðan
- With loaves they did not sate me,
- nor with the drinking horn,
- I looked below me,
- I grabbed the runes up,
- screaming I grabbed them,
- I fell after that.
With regards to Old English sources, evidence that the Angles and Saxons also regarded Wóden as the discoverer of the runes may be seen in the text Salomon and Saturn:
saga me, hwá aeróst bócstasfas sette?
ic the secge, Mercurius ge gygand.
Tell me, who first established letters?
I tell thee, Mercurius the giant.
Not only was Óðinn regarded as the discoverer of the runes in Old Norse sources, but he was a god closely associated with wisdom and counted as the god of poetry. Völuspá states that one of Óðinn's eyes is held within Mímir's Well. Snorri elaborates on this in the Prose Edda, telling how Óðinn sacrificed one of his eyes for a draught from Mímir's Well, the well of wisdom and knowledge. As god of wisdom and knowlege, the Old Norse speakers quite naturally regarded Óðinn as god of poetry as well. In Ynglinga Saga it is said that Óðinn only speaks in poetry. Both the Hávamál and the Prose Edda tell how Óðinn retrieved the the Mead of Inspriation (in Old Norse Óðroerir, literally "Raiser of Wód") from the dwarves Fjalar and Galar. Several skaldic kennings make reference to Óðinn's taking of the Mead of Inspiration. Óðinn's link to wisdom and poetry is further demonstrated by his titles, among which there are Fimbulþulr ("the Great Thyle," a thyle being a profession apparently associated with wisdom), Fjölsviðr ("Very Wise"), and Sviðurr ("Wise One").
Among the Angles and Saxons evidence that Wóden was also regarded as the god of speech and wisdom can be seen in the Old English Rune Poem verse for the rune ós:
Ós biþ ordfurma æfcre spræce,
wísdómes wraþu ond wítena frófor,
ond eorla gehwám éadnes on tóhiht.
Ós is the point of origin of all speech,
wisdom's support and the wise man's help
and for every earl joy and hope.
There are those that have argued that ós in the Old English Rune Poem is the Latin word os, "mouth," but there seems to be good reason to doubt this theory. First, it would be the only instance in one of the Rune Poems in which a foreign word is used for the name of a rune rather than a native one. Second, as anyone familiar with the Hávamál knows, the Germanic peoples regarded people's mouths as the source of foolishness as often as, if not more so than, wisdom. It seems more likely that ós in the Rune Poem means "god," specifically Wóden. Indeed, in the Old Icelandic Rune Poem the name for the rune is given as Áss, which is said to be Ásgarðr's chieftain (asgarðs jofurr) and Valhöll's leader (valhallar visi). In other words, Áss is Óðinn. This makes it possible that the Old English Rune Poem verse alo refers to Wóden. In that case Wóden would have been regarded as the starting point of all speech, a help to wise men, and would be associated with the nobility (the "earls"). These are some of the same things with which we find linked to Óðinn in Old Norse sources.
In the minds of many modern day people, the most immediate image of the Norse Óðinn is that of a war god. For many today Óðinn was the god who gathered dead warriors in Valhalla and handed out victory to kings. And while Óðinn was much, much more for the Old Norse speakers (his link to wisdom was emphasis as much, if not more so, than his link to battle), the picture many modern day people have of Óðinn is accurate. Grímnismál, the Prose Edda, and other sources make reference to Óðinn gathering the battle slain in Valhöoll. in Hyndluljóð Óðinn is said to deal out victory. Among Óðinn's titles in Old Norse were Sigfaðir, "Father of Victory," and Sighofundr, "Author of Victory." Adam of Bremen confirms this in his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, where he states that sacrifices were made to Óðinn for victory. Sacrifices to Óðinn are mentioned in various Old Norse and Icelandic sources. In the Styrbjanar Þáttr in Flateyjarbók, before going into battle with his nephew, King Eirikr of Sweden went to a temple and gave himself to Óðinn for victory, only asking for ten more years to live. He was later visited by an old man in a broad brimmed hat who gave him a reed and told him to hurl it over his nephew's army and say, "You all belong to Óðinn." When he did this, the reed flew as a spear and his nephew's army were struck blind. In Old Norse and Icelandic sources Óðinn sometimes offers immediate help in the art of war. According to Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum, taught Hadding the wedge formation for battle. Appearing to Harald Wartooth as a tall, old Man with one eye, he gave Harald immunity to wounds in battle. For this gift Harald said that he would give all those he slew in battle to Óðinn. In various sources Óðinn is very clearly the patron of the Volsung kindred (of whom Sigmundr and Sigurðr were a part), even gifting Sigmundr with a powerful sword and teaching him battle gadlors.
Óðinn was also associated with battle in the minds of the Angles and Saxons. Saxon historian Æðelweard in his Chronicle tells how Hengist and Horsa were descended from Wóden and how the heathen offered sacrifices to Wóden for victory and courage. The Old Norse speakers, Angles, and Saxons do not appear to have been alone in seeing Wóden as a god who dispensed victory in battle. In his Annals Tacitus wrote of how war broke out between the Hermunduri and the Chatti over a salt bearing river. He notes that each side vowed to sacrifice the other to Mars and Mercury for a victory. Mars appears to have been identified with Tíw, and as shown above, Mercury was identified with Wóden.
As a god of battle, among the Old Norse speakers Óðinn was closely associated with the spear. In Skaáldskaparmál Snorri tells how the sons of Ivaldi forged various treasures, among them a fabulous spear called Gungnir for Óðinn. The skald Bragi confirms this, referring to Óðinn as Gungis Váfaðr, "Gungnir's waver." Egill referred to him as geirs dróttin, "Lord of the Spear." In Ynglinga Saga, in which Óðinn was euhemerised as a mortal man, before he died Óðinn had himself marked with a spear point believing that he would go to the world of the gods. His successor, Njörðr, also had himself "marked for Óðinn." The spear was also used a means of dedicating an enemy army to Óðinn. King Eirikr dedicating his nephew's army to Óðinn by hurling a reed over them has already mentioned, but it is not the only instance of this. In Eyrbyggja Saga an ICelander hurled a spear over his enemies "for good luck according to old custom." The poem the Battle of the Goths and Huns makes reference to hurling the spear of Óðinn in order to influence the course of battle. In Völusp´ at the beginning of the war between the Æsir and the Vanir, Óðinn hurled his spear over the Vanic host.
In Old English sources we have no clear references to a link between the spear and Wóden. That having been said, there is a curious passage in Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica dealing with the conversion of Northumbria to Christianity. King Edwin asked who would desecrate the temple. The high priest Coifi announced that he would, then asked for a stallion and a spear, even though priests (at least in Northumbria, apparently) could only ride mares and could bear no weapons. Coifi then rode to the temple and hurled the spear into the temple. Bede states that this was to desecrate the temple, although it seems possible that it was an act of war on Coifi's part against the old gods! Regardless, after hurling the spear Coifi told the men with him to burn the temple and its fences. The custom of hurling a spear above one's enemies was also known on the Continent. Indeed, the poem the Battle Between the Goths and Huns would seem to be based on part of the Jordanes' De origine actibusque Getarum ("The Origns and Deeds of the Goths"), in which the leader of the Goths announces that he will throw the first spear of the battle into the enemy host (that is, the Huns). Although neither of these sources mention Wóden by name, given the number of Old Norse sources which link Óðinn to the spear and the custom of hurling a spear into an enemy army to dedicate them to Óðinn, it seems quite likely that the god was linked to the spear both on the Continent and in England.
Not only is Wóden a god of battle, but he is also a god of death. It has already mentioned how Óðinn was said to gather those slain in battle in Valhöll. While the idea that Óðinn gathres dead warriors in Valhöll is only expressed in Old Norse sources, it is possible it was known to other Germanic peoples. In the Prose Edda Old Norse sources the battle slain are said to be taken to Valhöll by the Valkyrjur, "the choosers of the slain." These goddesses not only choose those slain in battle for Óðinn, but serve the dead in Valhöll. An Old English cognate for Valkyrja exists in the form of wælcyrige, which also means "chooser of the slain." Curiously, however, in the Sermo Lupi Wulfstan condemned Wælcyrigen alongside witches (wyccan). There is almost no reason to doubt that the Angles and Saxons thought of witches as mortal casters of spells and not goddesses, which would seem to indicate that Wulfstan thought of wæcyrigen as mortal and perhaps akin to witches. Of course, that brings up the question of why any mortal would be called a "wæcyrigen." Given other evidence, however, it seems quite possible that Wulfstan was simply confused and mistaken. In an Old English glossary wæcyrige is used to gloss the Furies of Greek mythology. Given the similarity of the Valkyrjur of Old Norse sources to the Furies, this seems the most likely way the Angles and Saxons viewed wæcyrigen.
Indeed, another word which would almost appear to be a synonym for both Valkyrja and wæcyrigen also appears in Old English sources. Wæce´siga also means "chooser of the slain." It appears as a word for "raven" in the Old English poem Exodus and in Cædmon's Metrical Paraphrases. There can be little argument that ravens could be considered "choosers of the slain," as they are carrion eaters. And the use of the word wæce´siga, a word that means basically the same thing as Valkyrja and wæcyrige, for ravens could indicate that among the Angles and Saxons the wæcyrigen were seen as ravens descending to the battle field. This could be confirmed by the importance of ravens to Óðinn in Old Norse sources. In the Prose Edda Snorri refers to Óðinn as hrafnaguð, "god of ravens." In other sources Óðinn is called Hrafnáss, "god of ravens," and hrafnfreistuðr, "raven tester." In the Prose Edda Snorri also tells how two ravens named Huginn and Muninn travel the world each day and report everything they see to Óðinn. Huginn and Muninn are also mentioned in Grímnismál, where it is said that hey fly every day over the world. Óðinn fears that Huginn will not return to him, but fears even more for Muninn. Both names were used in various kennings. For instance, Egill referred to blood as Hugins vörr, "Huginn's sea." Given the fact that the Old English wæce´siga means basically the same thing as Old English wælcyrige and Old Norse Valkyrja, and the link between Óðinn and ravens, it seems quite possible that the Angles and Saxons regarded the wæcyrigen as flying to battlefields in raven form to choose the slain. Unfortunately, we do not have any hard evidence to prove such. We also do not have any hard evidence linking the wæcyrigen to Wóden, making it possible that the Angles and Saxons may not have viewed the Wæcyrigen as servants of Wóden. Even if the Angles and Saxons did view the wæcyrigen as the servants of Wóden who chose the slain in battles, it does not necessarily mean the Angles and Saxons believed in a great hall for the battle dead such as Valhöll.
Whether or not the Angles and Saxons believed in such a hall, Wóden appears to have been linked to the Wild Hunt, the host of the dead believed to ride across the sky during storms. In Denmark and Sweden the Wild Hunt is called Odensjakt, "Óðinn's Hunt." In Mecklenburg in Germany the Wild Hunt was said to be led by Wod, a name suspiciously close to that of Wodan. Also in Mecklenburg the Wild Hunt was sometimes led by a a Frau Gauden, which some have considered a feminine version of Wodan (Frige or Fréo perhaps?). In Switzerland the Hunt is often said to be led by Wuot or Wuotung and the Hunt is sometimes called Wuttjns Heer. All of these forms are suspiciously close to that of Wuotan. Among the Dutch the leader of the Hunt is often called Gait and the Hunt itself is called Gait met de hondjes, "Gait with his Hounds." It seems possible that the name Gait could be related to Old Norse Gautr, a byname of Óðinn. It is worth noting that Old Norse Gautr may also be related to Old English Geat, a name found in the genealogy of the Kings of Wessex and in the genealogies in Beowulf. In the Life of Ælfræd, Asser states that Geat was worshipped as a god. Both Old Norse Gautr and Old Enlgish Geat could in turn be related to Gothic Gapt (thought by some to be an error for Gaut), the ancestor of the Amelungs, a Gothic royal line according to Jordanes. Quite simply, it seems that Gait could be Wodan under another name and the hounds are his wolves (Geri and Freki mentioned in Old Norse sources). Ultimately, Óðinn is definitely said to be the leader of the Wild Hunt in Sweden and Denmark, while it is quite possible he was considered the leader of the Hunt in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.Unfortunately, Wóden is never named the leader of the Wild Hunt in England. In the earliest verison of the Wild Hunt recorded in England, by Walter Map in De Nugis Curialium, the leader of the Hunt is said to be King Herla. According to Map, Herla was a Briton king who became leader of the Wild Hunt after an unfortunate encounter with an otherworldy dwarf. Despite Map's tale, there are those who believe that the name Herla could be related to a title of Óðinn in Old Norse, Herjan, which fitting means "Leader of the Army." While this is possible, such identification is by no means certain. We can only assume that given Wóden's position as leader of the Hunt elsewhere in the Germanic world, the Angles and Saxons may have seen him as such as well.
Of course, if Wóden was considered leader of the Wild Hunt, it can be assumed he would need a horse to ride. And even Óðinn's horse in Old Norse sources may connect him to the world of the dead. In Old Norse sources Óðinn is said to have a marvelous horse called Sleipnir. Although Saxo does not name the horse, he was apparently familiar with him. In Gesta Danorum he tells how Hadding was carried to Óðinn's realm by a marvelous horse. Sleipnir is mentioned in Gríminsmál as the best of horses. In Sigdrífumál it is said that runes are carved on his teeth. Hyndluljóð states that Sleipnir was born to Loki and Svaðilfari. This story is fully told in Snorri's Prose Edda. Loki took the form of a mare to lure away the horse, named Svaðilfari, of the giant hired to build the walls of Ásgarðr. Snorri also states that Sleipnir was grey and had eight legs. The idea of Sleipnir as having eight legs may be borne out by the famous Tängvide stone on which there is depicted a horse with eight legs.
Among horses Sleipnir apparently had the unique ability to enter the realm of the dead. In Baldrs Draumar, when Baldr has bad dreams Óðinn rode to Hel on Sleipnir in order to seek an answer to the dreams' meaning. In the Prose Edda, Snorri states that after Baldr died, the god Heremóð was dispatched to Hel upon Sleipnir to seek Baldr's release from there. Not only is Sleipnir said to enter Hel with Heremóð riding atop him, but he is said to leap over Hel's gate! Sleipnir's link to death can also be seen in a kenning from Ynglinga Tal, where the gallows is referred to as hábrjóstr hörva Sleipnir or "high chested, rope Sleipnir." In his book Myth and Religion of the North, Turville-Petre notes that appratitons foretelling death were often portrayed as riding greys. In Gísla Saga one of the dream women who visits Gísli rides a grey horse and tells him that he will come to her house when he died. In the same saga Guðrún Gjúkadóttir, sister of Gunnar from the Volsunga Saga and the various Sigurðr lays, rides a grey horse when she returns from the realm of the dead. In Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, H. R. Ellis Davidson expresses the thought that Sleipnir may have been considered to have eight legs because in olden days the bier upon which a dead man rested in a funeral procession was carried by four pallbearers. Having two legs apiece, the pallbearers would have eight legs total among them.Evidence for Sleipnir is nonexistent in Old English sources. Although it only has four legs, the image of a white horse carved into a chalk hillside above Uffington, Oxfordshire could possibly be a depiction of Sleipnir. The image is of a white horse, and in the Germanic languages words for "white" and "grey' were sometimes interchangable. The problem with this theory is that we do not know the age of the horse carving. It could just as easily have been created prior to the Angles and Saxons' invasion of Britain, perhaps carved by Celts to the goddess Epona. Indeed, although once thought to have been created in the Iron Age or later, recent tests indicate it could have been carved as long ago as 1000 BCE. An argument for the carving having been performed by invading Angles is that it is very near to a megalithic mortuary house called by the Angles "Wayland's Smithy," named for the legendary smith from Germanic mythology, named in such diverse sources as the Old English poem Déor and the Eddic poem Vöundarskviða. Legend has it that if one leaves his horse at the smithy with a few pennies, it will be reshod when he returns. Even if the white horse was not carved by the Angles (just as Wayland's Smithy was not built by them), it may have been viewed as sacred by them as a depiction of Wóden's horse. Unfortunately, all of this is supposition and we have no way of knowing for certain what the Angles thought the horse was. In England the Wild Hunt is often linked to horses. In De Nugis Curialium, Herla and his men are said to never be able to dismount from their horses. Another 12th century account of the Hunt describes the hunters as riding black horses. If the Wild Hunt was originally thought to be led by Wóden, then it seems possible that his mount in the Hunt would have been Sleipnir. Of course, without hard evidence we cannot be absolutely certain. The importance of the horse to the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes may be seen in the names of the first Germanic chieftains to invade Britain: Hengest and Horsa mean "stallion" and "horse" respectively.
Evidence for Wodan's horse is also lacking in Continental sources, although there are enough references to horses for us to know that they were animals central to the lives of the Germanic peoples and even figured in their religious expereince. According to Tacitus in Germania, kings or village leaders among the Germanic peoples would interpret the neighing of horses as a form of divination. Another reference to divination involving horses is made in the Indiculus Superstitionem et Paganorum ("Index of Pagan superstitions") from the 8th century. Of course, horses are frequently mentioned in Continental sources as being sacrficed to the gods. Of course, horses figure in the various legends surrounding the Wild Hunt. In the Netherlands the Wild Hunt is sometimes called het Glujende peerd, "the Glowing Horse." In Germany Wod in some legends is said to ride a white horse. Wod could well be another name for Wuotan. As to the white horse, he could possibly be none other than Sleipnir.
Between the importance of horses among the ancient Germanic peoples and the many references to the Wild Hunt, particularly its leader, as mounted on horseback, it seems possible that the idea of Wóden possessing a marvelous horse capable of bridging the worlds of the living and the dead was one shared by the Germanic peoples. Unfortunately, we have no hard evidence of such beyond the Old Norse sources, so it only remains a fascinating possiblity.
Óðinn's status as a death god is also demonatrated by his strong link with hanging and the gallows. Indeed, many of the titles ascribed to Óðinn in the Old Norse sources make reference to hanging and the gallows. In various skaldic poems Óðinn is called gálga valdr "Lord of the Gallows" as well as hangatyr and hangagoð, "god of hanging." Of course, Óðinn's link to hanging is made obvious by his hanging on the World Tree to win the runes discussed earlier. This myth also gave rise to kenning in which Óðinn is referred to as the victim of the gallows: Eyvind the Plagiarist called him gálga farmr "the load of the gallows." In other sources he is also called Hangi, "hanged." In Myth and Religion of the North Turville-Petre notes the similarity of Óðinn hanging on the World Tree to sacrifices hanged to Óðinn in Old Norse sources (see below). He notes the lines in the Hávamál in which Óðinn said that he was "..given to Óðen/myself to myself." In the sacrifices to Óðinn noted elsewhere, the victim is said to be "given to Óðinn." Turville-Petre goes on to note that in hanging from the World Tree Óðinn was in effect with the dead and taking in their wisdom. He also notes that in hanging on the World Tree, Óðinn rose from the dead. He notes that later in the Hávamál, in line 145, it states something to that effect: "When he rose up/and when he came back." Although Turville-Petre does not make note of this, it seems possible that this could explain Óðinn's link to death. In dying and rising from the dead, Óðinn in effect mastered death. It is must be noted that, even when not riding Sleipnir, Óðinn is portrayed as being able to travel to the world of the dead and back again.
As Turville-Petre noted, there is a stark similarity between Óðinn hanging on the World Tree and sacrifices to Óðinn portrayed in other sources. Perhaps the most famous sacrifice to Óðinn is portrayed in both Gautreks Saga and Gesta Danorum. Both tell how King Víkar's ship became stilled off the coast of an island. Víkar and his men decided to cast lots to decided who should be sacrificed to Óðinn to get the ship moving again. It was Víkar whom the lots chose. King Víkar's men decided that they should make a mock sacrifice of the king. They decided to hang him from a weak twig of a fir tree, below which there was a tree stump. Instead of a spear they decided to use a reed. For the noose they used calf gut. In this way they sought to sacrifice Víkar without actually killing him. When it came time for the sacrifice, the legendary hero Starkað poked the king with the reed and said "Now I give you to Óðinn." Abruptly the reed became a spear and pierced Víkar, the stummp fell from beneath the king's feet, the calf gut became a strong rope, and the tiny twig was tranformed into a hardy branch. The king was lifted well off the ground and hanged to death. As Turville-Petre notes, the similarities to Óðinn's hanging upon the World Tree are remarkable. In both instances the victims are stabbed with a spear, and in both cases are the victims are the victims "given to Óðinn." Hanging was certainly not unusual as a means of sacrifice among the Old Norse speakers. In his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, Adam of Bremen tells how sacrifices were hanged in a sacred grove near the temple at Uppsala, Sweden. Adam of Bremen does not state these sacrifices to Óðinn alone. And it does not follow that every single sacrifice that was hanged was to Óðinn nor that every sacrifice to Óðinn was hanged. In the Historia Norvegiae ("History of Norway") a victim is hanged as a sacrifice to Ceres. The identity of this Ceres cannot be known, although she may have been Frigg, Gefjun, or some other goddess associated with crops (Ceres being the Roman goddess of grain)
Óðinn's link to the gallows appears in other ways as well. In the Hávamál, among the galdors of which Óðinn boasts he knows, there is one in which if he sees a hanged man, he can then write and dye runestaves so that the corpse walks and talks with him. In the Thirteenth century the Orkney skald Bjarni said that "...in no way did I learn/Yggr's prize ("poetry") under the hanged."
Although there is a great deal of information in Old Norse and Old Icelandic sources which link Óðinn to hanging, we have no sources in Old English which definitely do so. In the Nine Herbs Charm, following the lines telling of Wóden slaying the worm, there is a mysterious passage often thought to refer to the crucifixion of Jesus:
Fille and finule, felamihtigu twa,
þa wyrte gesceop witig drihten,
halig on heofonum, þa he hongode;
sette and sænde on VII worulde
earmum and eadigum eallum to bote.
Chervil and fennel, that very mighty two,
these herbs created the wise drighten,
holy in heaven, as he hanged;
He set them and sent them to the seven worlds
for the poor and the rich all to benefit.
Here I must mention that the meaning of fille is uncertain, although it is often translated as "chervil." At any rate, there is a good deal of reason to believe that this passage does refer to Jesus. Drihten (modern English "drighten") meant "leader of the dryht" or "leader of the war band." It was used of the Christian God and Jesus both. In Old English hangian was not only used of hanging by a noose, but of crucifixion as well. The "seven worlds" could refer to the seven spheres in the Ptolemic view of the universe; hence it could be a classical reference. That having been said, the identification of this verse with the crucifixion of Jesus has its flaws. One of these are the words "holy in heaven." Are we to believe that the scribe simply meant that Jesus was "holy in heaven" or that he was hanged in heaven, where he was holy? If it is the latter that was meant, then it becomes questionable whether or not it is the crucifixion of Jesus which is being portrayed. After all, even in the 10th or 11th century (when the Charm is believed to have been recorded), relatively shortly after the Conversion, Angles and Saxons would have known that Jesus was crucified at Golgotha (literally "place of the skull"), hardly anyone's idea of heaven. On the other hand, it could easily describe Wóden hanging upon the World Tree.
A more glaring flaw is the line in which the wise drighten "sent them/to the seven worlds." While this often thought to refer to the Seven Spheres of the Heavens, it seems a shaky identification at best. In Old English, weorold (the Old English version of modern "world") meant "the material world," "Earth (in opposition to heaven)," "a state of existence," "the present state," "an individual's lifetime," "the course of human affairs," "a period of time," "men," and "humanity." Nowhere is it ever used of the heavenly spehres and it would seem to refer more to things on Earth (perhaps similar places) rather than the heavens. It seems that if the scribe had wished to refer to the Seven Spheres, he would have used the word heofon, sometimes thought of as a sphere in Old English texts (a classical influence, most likely), hringgewindla, "something rolled into a ball, a sphere," or þóþer "ball, sphere" instead. Given the use of the word woruld brings ups the possibility that it is a reference to the worlds of Norse mythology. In Völuspá the volva refers to seeing "nine in the tree," generally thought to mean "nine worlds" in the World Tree. The Prose Edda clearly makes reference to "Nine Worlds," indicating that Snorri apparently knew of such. The Nine Worlds are never listed or named in Old Norse and Old Icelandic models, although today in most popular theories of the Nine Worlds there are at last two worlds popular counted as part of the Nine that probably would have no need of herbs: Hel, world of the dead and Niflheimr, the world of ice where, presumably, nothing lives save for the dead who are said to die a second death and go there in some sources (the Prose Edda among them). In other words, the wise Drighten would only have to send the two herbs to Seven Worlds.
In the wise drighten setting and sending the two herbs to the Seven Worlds, this verse is more than a bit reminiscent of verse 18 from the Eddic poem Sigdrífumál in which Óðinn (called by his byname Hropt) is said to have sent runes to the Æsir, the elves, the Vanir, and some to the sons of men, too. While this could possibly a coincidence, it is also possible that it might not. Perhaps the Angles and Saxons remembered a tradition whereby Wóden not only won the runes while hanging on the Tree, but created two herbs as well. It must also be mentioned that while drihten is used of both the Christian god and Jesus in Old English texts, it may well refer to Wóden here. Many kennings in Old Norse refer to Óðinn as dróttin (such as the aforementioned geirs dróttin). It is not too far fetched, then, to believe that the "wittig drihten" mentioned here is Wóden.
Of course, all of this is supposition. It is quite likely that the verse does refer to Jesus. At best we can only admit the possiblity that it refers to Wóden instead. Another possiblity is that the verse refers to both. That is, it does indeed portray the crucifixtion of Jesus, but intermixed with memories of Wóden hanging upon the Tree.While this verse in the Nine Herbs Charm might not refer to Wóden and we have no definite references to hanging associated with the god, there is what is possibly be a reference to sacrifice by hanging in the poem Beowulf. There the king of the Swedes said that he would grant some of his enemies to the the gallows tree as game for the birds (lines 2939 to 2341). Although not stated as such, this could well be a reference to sacrifice through hanging, especially given the reference to the sacrifices of enemies in both Continental and Old Norse sources (for instance, the dedicating of the enemy host to Óðinn by throwing a spear over them).
On the Continent there were no clear references to hanging being linked to Wodan, although at least one source could be a possible reference to such. The Byzantine historian Procopius, in De Bellis states that Ares is the greatest god of the Goths. He also states that they believe the best sacrifice to Ares is the first prisoner taken in a battle. He tates that they hang their victims from trees, toss them into thorns, or slay them in some other very horrible means. The first instinct of the modern day scholar might be assume that by Ares Procopius means "Tíw." That having been said, it could just as easily be a reference to Wodan. Procopius was a citizen of the Byzantine Empire, born in Caesarea (approximately modern day Israel, where Greek was the dominant language. While people living in the Western Roman Empire and later what was once the Western Roman Empire might have identified Mercury with Wodan, it seems possible those living in the Eastern Byzantine Empire might have seen Ares as a more fitting god with which to identify the Gothic god Wodan. And it seens quite likely that Procopius was speaking of Wodan. He says that Ares is the Goths' greatest god. Those living in the Western Roman Empire and afterwards state that Mercury was the greatest god of the Germanic peoples. Indeed, Wodan's name may well appear on the Ring of Pietroassa, often considered a Gothic runic artefact. At any rate, given the link between Óðinn and hanging in Old Norse sources, it is reasonable to believe. Beyond Procopius, there are other references to sacrifice by hanging on the Continent, although none in connection with Wodan. In the Life of Wulfram, there are two references to the Frisians sacrificing by hanging. In one a boy was being led to the gallows as a sacrifice. Wulfram beseeched King Radbod not to sacrfice to "demons" Radbod told him that it had been established long ago that sacrifices must be chosen by lot. The boy was then hanged. The Life of Wulfram goes onto mention various other forms of sacrifce among the Frisians, again mentioning that "some are hanged by nooses."
While Old English literature and even Continental literature provides us with little evidence linking Wodan to death, place names from Anglo-Saxon England almost certainly make it clear he was considered a god of death. A burial mound in Wiltshire now known as Adam's Grave was called Wódnes beorh, "Wóden's Barrow" or "Wóden's Burial Mound," in Old English. The half-hundred Wenslow was called Wodenslawe in 1149 and Weneslai in 1086. In all likelihood the name was originally Wódnes hlæw, "Wóden's Burial Mound." These names would seem to indicate that the Angles and Saxons thought of Wóden as a god of death, otherwise apply his name to places considered burial mounds?
Sadly, from the various sources in Old English literature and from Anglo-Saxon England we have an incomplete picture of Wóden. We can definitely say that he was considered the ancestor of kings, a magician, a healer, the dispenser of victory, a god of courage, and a god of death. We can only guess that he was also considered king of the Ése, the discoverer of the runes, the god of speech, the god of wisdom, the gatherer of the dead, and leader of the Wild Hunt. It only remains a possiblity that the Angles and Saxons saw Wóden as Lord of the Spear, gatherer of the battle slain, owner of a fabulous horse (called Sleipnir by the Old Norse speakers), and God of the Hanged. Regardless, what little we do know of how the Angles and Saxons viewed Wóden is remarkably close to the portrayal of Óðinn in Old Norse and Icelandic sources.