Woden’s Vision

In Norse mythology, Odin (Woden) hangs himself in the Earth Tree, Yggdrasil, to seek knowledge. His vision gained by being in the great tree is taken in outline from The Real Middle Earth by Brian Bates and the symbolism inspired by the old English poem The Dream of the Rood. Wyrd is a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. The word is ancestral to Modern English “weird”, which retains its original meaning only dialectically.

Woden’s Vision

Careening through the terror that was night
Eternal Chaos was then everywhere
As discord then held all within its might
And woefulness was gaunt beyond compare

And everything and nothing all were one,
One in the mass complexity of Wyrd
From Wyrd it was all destinies would run
As from hence come all Hope and all that’s feared

The Well of Wyrd would water that great tree
The Earth tree that would span the realms of all
And sprout what ever was and what would be
For Wyrd holds all both at its beck and call

The mighty tree has roots before all time
Deep in the realms of wisdom and of Death
They draw out order from chaotic slime
Imposing on all things some shibboleth

All elemental things thence got their form
Earth, Water, Fire and Air then came to be
Each came outwith of that primeval storm
The mighty ancient tree had set them free

Each element itself could not gain sway
For none alone may see them self yet free
Through sharing though they kept chaos at bay
And then at last all other things might be

And so I climber the tree from whence all came
And nine long nights and days I hung therein
Ah, then from thence nought then would be the same
I knew at end that nought but Wyrd might win

And yet through Wyrd now all may be alive,
Alive yet guided on their woven way
Through Wyrd alone they die or they may thrive
Yet Wyrd’s Well still brims over to this day

And then I saw all morrows to my end
Saw foul and manksome wolves destroy most all
And then what Wyrd destroyed then Wyrd might mend
Sweet lands there to the west, how they would call

And dead or dying I would venture there
And kinfolk of my kin would multiply
And as I knew my kin would flourish there
Right then I was content that I must die

The tree then seemed to sway, I saw yet more
Saw things of mystery and of wondrous might
Saw in the depths below so dread, so sure
Saw dead souls of the craven and their plight

Eternal cold until the end of time
The brave alone are spared of that dire place
For cowardice it is a manksome crime
The craven who are dead face that disgrace

Self sacrifice of weapon men at war
Alone will save their tender weaker kin
Much mead is theirs and ought be ever more
They gain that right but only if they win

The tree then showed me things I knew not why
A noble god nailed to its trunk would bleed
I heard a dirge the tree then seemed to sigh
And on the air I saw it shed its seed

This spread across Midgard and some would grow
Right then I saw an eagle up above
It’s eyes they pierced my soul they seemed to glow
It taught me much but taught me nought of love

The squirrel in the branches climbed on up
The doe beneath the tree would calmly graze
Then blood and mead seemed mingled in a cup
As all about me faded to a haze

And all was dark and dank there in my mind
And as the spear wound in my side had bled
My lost eye then it seemed was now quite blind
And yet through all of this I was not dead

For firmament from chaos had emerged
And oceans all around Midgard would brim
And I saw much beneath those waves submerged
I’d sought the old All-Father but was him

Him I had been but I had known it not
Yet longer still I hung there in the tree
And saw those things that I had long forgot
Revealed were antique mysteries, I was free!

I saw those Dragons that would fill the sky
With fire and smoke in many a dismal time
I saw descendants ever strive and try
They seemed a folk forever in their prime

I saw each hell of dire defeat arrive
I saw their inner strength and sheer resolve
I saw the grit that would see them survive
With each defeat I saw their souls evolve

I saw both plague and famine in a land
I saw that plague put monstrous Orcs to flight
It ended both the haughty and the grand
Yet plague before a frost soon lost it might

Ah, how the ways of Wyrd they seem so odd
One winter and one spring turned all about
Grass grows on upturned earth and on each sod
For conquering Orcs themselves would face pure rout

The mighty in their turn all fade away
The overbearing end up put upon
Each dreaded Werm in time will have its day
For Wyrd at end makes all the proud turn wan

The boughs they seemed to tremble with the tree
Above I saw three realms and powers there
In one there all of nature I could see
The other filled with spirits of the air

The third was where all knowledge could be found
I yearned to be there should Wyrd let that be
As still I hung between the sky and ground
And prayed for knowledge that might set me free

Then more realms came in view about me there
I saw the mighty giants from of old
Across an ocean in their ancient lair
About them seemed a realm all ice, all cold

I saw the elves that dwell within the light
I heard them give their counsel to a king
I saw them stand beside him in his plight
For in his realm they seemed in everything

Three sisters then I saw beside the well
They wove my destiny I had no say
Though in the waters I then could foretell
I gained a gift it was to know Wyrd’s way!

And though I knew the way it would rule me
For though both sight and knowledge now were mine
Wyrd holds me in its thrall I am not free
Wyrd binds us all as if we’re bound by twine

Nine days I hung to gain the gifts I sought
I gained great knowledge, could see far and wide
And yet at end all this may count for naught
My destiny is fixed – I may not hide!

My doom I know my end is clear to me
My children not yet born I’ve seen grow old
Dark things I had not sought Wyrd made me see
And now I must enact what is foretold

Two ravens will be mine and I will reign
And when my age is done my kind may fade
And aeons pass before they rise again
Returning to each sacred shrine and glade

The tree I heard again now weep out loud
The god that hung on nails he now was dead
Men took him down and wrapped him in his shroud
Stained was the tree where all his blood was shed

The weeping tree it self now let me go
I wandered all the world for many a year
Wyrd works in all things its firm ebb and flow
Though I must die I now have naught to fear

There is no terror there in that dark night
For order out of chaos now must be
Ah, sweet accord it is a comely sight
Once I was blind but now at last I see.

yggdrasil and the nine worlds by John Howe


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