The earliest known depiction of the Norse deity Odin may be seen on a gold necklace that was recently discovered in Denmark. The tiny gold Odin pendant, which is dated by archaeologists to the fifth century AD, is 150 years earlier than the oldest relic that has previously been assigned a Norse mythology date.
Odin’s name has never before been referenced in human history, according to Lisbeth Imer, a handwriting expert at the National Museum of Denmark. As a result, it is now possible to date Norse mythology to the first half of the fifth century.
The runic inscription on the bracteate, a pendant imprinted on a thin strip of gold, says “He is a man of Odin” in a crude Norse script. It is believed to be a reference to the necklace’s owner, an Iron Age chief or monarch who would have regarded the deity as an ancestor.
“I believe the phrasing alludes to the main theme that characterizes Odin, a man riding a horse, a local leader or king who professed to be a deity and god of gods descent. Other literary evidence suggests that rulers want to portray themselves as demigods.
Imer and her colleague, linguist Krister Vasshus, have spent more than a year deciphering the rune inscription on the pendant, which is part of a beautiful gold mine unearthed in Jutland, Denmark, in 2021.
Norse Gods – Odin
In Norse mythology, Odin is the king of the gods; death, wisdom, magic, and runes; and is the “Father” of both gods and mortals. Although the Norse pantheon contains dozens of gods, Odin is one of the three main gods worshiped in the Norse religion, along with Thor and Frey.
Odin is often depicted with only one eye, as, according to legend, he ventured out his other eye to gain unparalleled knowledge. He is also the Norse model of the German god Wotan and the Anglo-Saxon god Woden, although both have two eyes.
Imer said the runic inscription appears to be more weathered than the rest of the pendant, possibly because it is a holy inscription that is touched to “gain strength”.
She added: “It was a time when religion was more integrated into daily life. Leaders of society were responsible for religious activities and performed rituals to maintain relationships. good relations with the gods.”
However, it is difficult to explain the small runes because the words run one after another without spaces and because the name “Odin” is written as “Wodnas” and not in the regular form “Wodinas” – possibly because it is written in antiquity.
Archaeologists believe that the Norse are descended from the peoples of North Germany who migrated into Denmark and other Scandinavian countries between the fourth and first centuries BC. After the eighth century AD, seafarers became known as the plundering Vikings of Europe. They established colonies in parts of England, France, Iceland, and Greenland for a time. Some Vikings even went to the Faroe Islands and Newfoundland in present-day Canada.
The discovery of inscriptions influenced the interpretation of other gold leaf inscriptions; More than 1,000 have been found throughout Northern Europe and more than 200 of them have inscriptions.
“The inscription on Odin’s pendant is actually copied from one of Vindelev’s other gold foils with a slightly different motif,” says Imer. “But the inscription copywriter misinterpreted the words, so in many places, only a few messy strokes and lines were engraved.”
It also appears that the copied letter was stamped from the same mold as another found in 1852 on the Danish island of Funen and given to the National Museum, although its inscription has never been found. decoded.
“So the National Museum has owned an inscription with Odin on it for 170 years – but we didn’t know until very recently,” says Imer.