Odin and the Mead of Poetry: A feathery tale of murder, spit-people, and poop.
Updated: May 26
Odin is a Viking God. He is perhaps the Viking God. He’s the all-father, the king, the boss, Numero Uno, the head honcho, the top dog, the daddy, a number one, the best in the woooooooooorld. Though, for the people of the past, Odin wasn’t always Odin. Different tribes knew him by different names, these include; Wodan, Woden, and Wotan. However, by the time we get to the era of the Vikings, Odin was the name of choice.
The Vikings believed that Odin lived in Valhalla, in an enormous hall, and great warriors would join the god once they had died gloriously in battle. They had to die in an awesome way – probably in slow-motion with something exploding behind them – with their weapon clutched in their hand, otherwise they’d be doomed to plod off to a far less fun afterlife instead.
Anyway, back to Odin. Odin is quite a contradictory god, managing to be both a god of poetry and a god of war. Perhaps these two skills actually go together quite well, after all, what’s the point of performing valiant deeds in battle if no one knows that you did them, right? That’s where Odin’s crazy poetry skills come in handy, he can write sweet rhymes - in the form of a saga - to share Viking heroes’ heroic tales with everyone and anyone. Odin wasn’t born with this skill though, he stole it!
The giants were the humongous rivals of the Viking gods, and they possessed a magical mead of poetry (mead is a drink that’s a bit like beer mixed with wine, only way more disgusting!).
Whoever drank from this mead would be granted supreme poetry skills. Odin wanted the mead for himself, so that’s why he decided to steal it.
Well, not really steal it I suppose. More like the giants had borrowed the mead and Odin just wanted it back. You see, the Mead of Poetry used to be a creature called Kvasir. Kvasir was a human made from the accumulated globules of Viking god spit. Despite his slightly gross phlegm-filled birth, Kvasir became the wisest and most knowledgeable human of all time. However, in a tragic turn of events, Kvasir was tricked and murdered by two dwarves and then mushed by them into mead. That though is a story for another day and, considering a human gets gorily mushed into booze, probably one that’ll be 18-rated.
Anyhow, to cut a long story short – too late for that, right – the mead ended up in the possession of a giant called Suttung. Suttung, wanting to keep his precious mead safe, hid it under a mountain and ordered his daughter Gunnlod to protect it.
That didn’t stop Odin, who snuck into the chamber where the mead was kept and drank it all in one massive slurping gulp. Odin then transformed into an eagle and flew off back to Asgard, the home of the gods. Suttung though spotted the fleeing Asgardian.
This is probably because Odin was a little tipsy from all of the mead; he was likely flying beak first into trees, wobbling inanely into bushes, and drunkenly telling every seagull he met, ‘I luurrrvveee yooouuuuu’. Suttung transformed into another eagle and gave chase.
The two birds whizzed through the sky, cartwheeling and barrel rolling, feathers flying everywhere. Suttung was fast but Odin was faster. He reached Asgard and vomited up all the mead into three vats prepared by the gods for his arrival (yes, this blog has contained both spitting and regurgitation, you’re welcome!). This is where poetry comes from; spoken verse, song, rhyme, and language so beautiful that it is kept by the gods themselves and only shared with the most talented of mortals.
But what of Suttung? Well, he was unfortunately hit by a giant dollop of bird poo during the chase. An epic avian dump of eagle proportions that had plopped from betwixt Odin’s feathered butt cheeks. The poop slid off Suttang’s gipping face and dripped down to Midgard, to earth and the people upon it, slapping on a few unsuspecting mortals’ heads, who then cursed their poor luck and shook their fists at the sky.
So, that’s where bad poetry comes from. From Odin’s bum.
If you ever hear a poem, a song, a rap, a monologue, or a speech that you think absolutely sucks then feel free to blame it on Odin and his overactive backside.
If you're a Primary School teacher then you'll definitely want Imagining History to bring their 'Viking Mythology: (Un)Traditional Storytelling' Interactive workshop to your school.
Our Award-Winning sessions combine role-play, storytelling, demonstrations, and drama and performance to bring history to life for your students.
Our 'Viking Mythology: (Un)Traditional Storytelling' workshop will take your students on a fun and informative journey through the Nine Worlds in this unique introduction to the ancient myths and legends of the Vikings. Your students will:
Identify the key Norse Gods by becoming the Gods themselves.
Interact with replica Mythical Viking Weapons, including Thor's hammer!
Forge weapons with the dwarves to outsmart Loki.
Discover the different realms and afterlives and what they can teach us about the values and beliefs of the Vikings.
Defeat the Frost Giants with Thor (and find out why he wore a fetching wedding dress).
Transform your school hall into a battlefield to help Freyja take the worthy to Valhalla.