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The Season of Yule

"To Odin many a soul was driven, to Odin many a rich gift given."

~ Snorri Sturluson

Grim is another of the many names for Oden or Odin, the widely revered god from Scandinavian Viking and Germanic mythology. More than 170 names are recorded for Odin descriptive of the many powers, attributes, or religious practices associated with him over the centuries. He is variously associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, war, battle, victory, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet! This god lives on prominently in several languages, particularly in the name of the day of the week for Wednesday, Woden's Day. On the mainland of Orkney, Scotland, The Standing Stones of Stenness, thought to be the oldest henge site in British Isles, dating to neolithic times, includes a historical site of a standing stone known as the Odin Stone or the Stone o' Odin. Thought to have been erected as a stone pair around 3000 BC, the remaining Odin stone was toppled by a landowner in 1814 and allegedly destroyed and its original location forgotten, until archaeologists located the socket hole again in 1988. Although there is evidence of varying burial rites practised by Norse settlers in Scotland, there is little evidence that the Norse gods were venerated prior to the reintroduction of Christianity. Most likely, the Odin Stone may have derived its name and Odin associations later rather as an "oathing stone." Thought to possess miraculous healing powers, the stone was the focus of a number of historical "magical" rites for protection, cures, and to ensure health in old age. But apart from its reputation for healing and magical powers, the Odin Stone was perhaps best known for the part it played sealing agreements and binding marriages and unions. People from every corner of Orkney, particularly young lovers, would visit the stone to make their vows absolute by clasping hands through the stone's hole and swearing the "Odin Oath"! Though the words are lost, this oath was considered unbreakable and binding up through the 18th century!

References to Odin appear in place names throughout regions historically inhabited by the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian peoples.  

Designed by Mikael Öst, of Helsingland, Sweden, Helsingland is an old spelling of Hälsingland. landscape/region in the middle of Sweden, one of many places with a legacy of ancient influcences.

According to the designer's notes:

Grim is another name for Oden or Odin, in Old Norse Óðinn, a god from the Scandinavian Viking mythology. Helsingland is an old spelling of Hälsingland a landscape/region in the middle of Sweden.

Odin veneration, part of the polytheistic Anglo-Saxon paganism (itself a variant of Germanic paganism)  is found across much of north-western Europe, encompassing a variety of beliefs and cultic practices which were introduced to Britain following the Anglo-Saxon migration in the mid 5th century.  This remained a dominant belief system until the Christianisation of its kingdoms between the 7th and 8th centuries, with some aspects gradually blending into folklore. 

In the latter decades of the ninth century during the Late Anglo-Saxon period, Scandinavian settlers arrived in Britain, bringing with them their own, kindred pre-Christian beliefs.   Although no cultic sites used by Scandinavian pagans have been archaeologically identified, it is believed that place names suggest some possible examples. For instance, Roseberry Topping in North Yorkshire was known as Othensberg in the twelfth century, a name which derived from the Old Norse Óðinsberg, or 'Hill of Óðin'.  

Place names containing Wodnes- or Wednes- as their first element have also been interpreted by some scholars as references to Woden, such as the basis for such place names as Woodnesborough ("Woden's Barrow") in Kent, Wansdyke ("Woden's Dyke") in Wiltshire, and Wensley ("Woden's Woodland Clearing" or "Woden's Wood") in Derbyshire..

The name Woden also appears as an ancestor of the royal genealogies of Kent, Wessex, East Anglia and Mercia, resulting in suggestions that after losing his status as a god during the Christianisation process he was recast as a royal ancestor.   

Though not widely accepted by all place-name scholars, Odin's alternate name, Grim, may be reflected  in such English place-names as Grimspound in Dartmoor, Grimes Graves in Norfolk and Grimsby ("Grim's Village") in Lincolnshire – because in recorded Norse mythology, the god Óðinn is also known as Grímnir.

Scottish place names attributed to the same derivations include:

  • Edin's Hall Broch, Berwickshire, sometimes Odin's Hall Broch and originally Wooden's (Woden's) Hall

  • Grim's Dyke - another term used for the Antonine Wall

  • Woden Law - "Woden Hill", an Iron Age hillfort in the Cheviots.

In Norse and Germanic mythology creation stories, under Woden’s supervision, the earth and sky were created from the dead body of a giant named Ymir.  Woden also created the first man and woman from an ash tree and an alder. 

For more on the Odin Stone, click the painting of  The Wild Hunt of Odin, by Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1872.

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