In my first piece on Woden, I talked of the connections to water hidden within his name. In this short work, I will focus on how again through his name, again “from a word to a word” he is linked to woods and the wild places, both external and internal.
To gain the knowledge of the Runes, Woden hung upon a tree, said to be Yggdrasil, for nine days and nights. Many when looking at this myth, put high focus on the actions of Woden and rightly so, but what of the tree, what significance does it contain. In simple folk etymology the transition from Woden to Wooden is an easy one, but how deep is this connection and what does it really represent?
The Proto-Germanic/Proto-Celtic word Widu(z/s) is given the simple definition of “wood”, but there are some interesting connections to be found if we delve a little deeper. Firstly you have the Latvian word Vidus, which means “middle” but originates in a word for “Forested area between two homes”. Although it may appear as a simple transition, a meaning moving over time, the notion of the forested area being wild or untilled is also present in other words descending from Widu. Take for example Gwydd a Welsh word for “trees” but in can also mean plough. Here again we have a sense that a wooded area is seen as untamed or untilled. this is probably best seen in the Old Irish word Fiad, again from the word Widu, meaning Uncultivated, wild animal, wilderness.
We can see another interesting connection in the word “Widow”, meaning a woman who has lost her husband.Although this can bee seen in a crude form as the Woman being “untilled” by man, if we take a look at the Sanskrit word Vidhava we may come closer to its connection. Vidhava not only means widow, but also “ a kingdom who has lost its King” A king without a kingdom is a kin to a man without a master. Although in this sense it is presented as a loss, it also harkens to the untamed and wild aspects of man left to his own devices. Also the word spinster, meaning unmarried woman, again a women without a man, invokes the symbol of the Norn’s, the spinning wheel. The Norns being deciders of the fates of both men and gods, again represent that outside of man’s control. In another way we see this in the word unbrid(E)led, meaning uncontrolled, or wild.
Now this may all seem quite obvious, that a forest would be seen as a wild untamed area, but the link is very important. Wood in its old English form is wode, it also has secondary meanings of “to hunt” or to “live within the woods”. In its plural form it literally is Woden, seeing as Woden (God) is an English word for the deity, this is an important Homonym. it is also a homonym for wode/wod meaning mad, frenzied, possessed, which has its root as Wodaz. The word Wodaz of course is the most accepted origin of Wodanaz, the root of Woden. The link here in the English forms of the words Widu and Wodaz are the most strong. It is easy to imagine an outcast living in the woods (wode) outside the laws of man being seen as wode (mad), and Woden is the patron of Outcasts.
There is another link with Wodanaz and the fore mentioned spinster. A spinster as stated is represented with the spinning wheel like the Norns. The Norns being prophets, gives us direct link to the Latin form of Wodaz, Vates meaning again, Prophet or seer. This aspect of Woden though, I will save for a future article, as it deserves one in its own right.
A quick look now at a word I have mentioned throughout this piece, the word Wild. It stems from the Proto Indo-European word welH meaning to turn, coil. whilst this may seem like a stretch for Widu or wode ect, it gives us connection to my previous article, Woden of the flow. From this same root word WelH, we get the word well (water spring), it is the active movement upwards of water. This word WelH is an exceptionally important word and connects Woden to many other powerful forces and the Fehu poem, but again this is something for later articles. For this piece it is important we note this active movement upwards.
Before I move on, I would like to address the word Odin, as it is the name given to Woden in the Norse texts. If an idea is to work it must work in all cases, so can we link the word “wood” to Odin? well in this case it is rather easy, as the given root word for the proto Germanic Widu is the proto Indo-European uidhu.
So what does all this mean?
Woden even in mythology appears as the rebel and often contradictory in his actions. His motives always appear to us unknown, like the wild wood, his secrets remain just at the edge of the grasp of man. He stands at the boundary of the civil and the wild, the concious and the unconscious. In Norse mythology and that of ancient England, he stands at the helm of the Gods, he is the Alfather. This though is contradictory to the standard of Indo-European faiths, where this place is normally reserved for the Thunder God. This we also know to be true of the north, the temple of Uppsalla is said to have had Thunar at its head. Is it though any wonder that such a deity as Woden, one that appears outside of the rules of both men and Gods, would usurp this position? Or did he? Could it be that Woden, wandered these lands long before the others, and is only taking back his rightful place?
Carl Gustav Jung in his Essay Wotan, although with no knowledge of what I present here, saw this through other means. Whether when dancing around Wandervolgel fires in his youth, or through psychotic episodes, I do not know, but he saw into the unconscious and in the darkness he saw Wotan starring back. A lesser man would of recoiled with horror, but Jung stood the course and through his ordeal gained great wisdom. He first describes Wotan’s link to water, as he visualises barren river beds, once again begin to fill and flow. He places Wotan upon the shores, as if brought in by a great wave, as the grip of the false god loosens. Then he likens Wotan’s appearance in the unconscious to that of Nietzsche’s Blond Beast, pacing and Gnawing at its chains in the dark recesses of the mind. He also foresaw the great trouble this would bring upon the horizon, but again through his wisdom knew it was a force of liberation, not enslavement. Wotan cares little for the laws of men and is bound to laws of another kind. his appearance will always mark internal and external war, as this force is on a collision course with all that is false.
Through the seemingly simple connection of Woden to Wood, we see Woden in his most unnerving apparition. He stands at the edge of the wild woods, at the edge of sanity. The wild places, where before man knew law, knew only himself. This place as wild and unsettling as it is, is the place of our birth and Woden stands at the gates of the mother of Gods. Just as a spring draws up the waters of the Earthly womb, it is the forest that draw these waters higher, closer to the burning sun. Woden represents the flow of this force into our world and just as a city abandoned by man is overtaken by nature, so to is the man who opens up to Woden is overtaken by him. These eternal primal forces flow through him, through the unconscious into the concious. He is the cold sweat that wakes you in the terror, of what you really are. The chains you so happily carried begin to irritate, you become restless, sleepless, are you going insane, or becoming sane? He is the ultimate liberator, but just as he breaks the chains of the false laws, when you enter his domain he will hunt you down and bind you to the true, the eternal laws of the Mother. He peers from the edge of the wild places, of the land and your mind, ceaselessly he will harass you till you awaken to what you really are.