On Odin As Agni

Part One: Kindling The Flame 

In a number of my previous works now, I have established the fundamental equation of the Odin of the Eddic mythology with the Shiva of the Vedic sphere. I have also shown how the Rudra, the Brihaspati, the Agni, the Vayu, the Parjanya of the Vedas – are also all Faces, Masques, of the Indo-European Sky Father (Dyaus Pitar). And of course, the fundamental and the quite direct coterminity within our theology of Agni and Shiva – something well and repeatedly attested within the Vedic materials. 

Now this invites a quite intriguing question – if Odin is Shiva, and if Agni is Shiva also … then can we fairly state that Agni is Odin likewise? 

I believe that the answer is yes. And I have already demonstrated a number of areas in which this parallel holds – indeed has attained a predictive value within the course of our modelling. A good example of which is provided by the Myth of the Meath of Poetry – wherein exactly the same role fulfilled by Odin in the Nordic reckoning is also undertaken by Agni (in alternating form we might say, with Rudra – in the course of the Agnicayana ‘operationalization’ of this understanding). Another would comprise the conception of Heimdallr (otherwise known as Skanda, Kumara) – a situation involving the Sky Father deific (Odin , Shiva , Agni) and the Multiple Mothers correlate to the Pleiades stars. And, speaking of conceptions, we have also demonstrated that the role of Odin in the Volsung Saga – the bestowal of the apple to Volsung’s father, Rerir, enabling Volsung to be born – is similarly directly correlate to that of Agni in the relevant portion of the Asvamedha rite. We likewise find, in the course of the Ynglinga Saga amidst other textual sources, a suite of close concordances for the relationship of Odin to His Folk and the Priests amongst them to what the Vedic society understood of its relationship to Agni.

We could go on at quite some length (and, indeed, have – please consult my previous works for additional details, incidences, and the explications thereof) – but for me, it seems quite clear. Odin Is Agni. In terms of the relevant mythology and in terms of the close parallels between the mythology and the ritual understandings (which is, as we have previously explored, the major manner in which what once must have been the thriving Germanic rites of the living religion have been preserved and transmitted down to us – via ‘mythification’ and rendering in more symbolic form; or rather, the preservation of the myths which had always encoded the ritual, but not the ritual understandings themselves likewise). 

Yet some will object to this – and for one rather glaringly obvious reason. The lack of overt fire conceptry for Odin. Given how irreducibly inflammatory Agni is regarded as in the Hindu presentation, this would seem to be an insurmountable barrier to the objection. 

Except it isn’t. 

Interwoven throughout the Eddic corpus of texts are a litany of occurrences for Odin in the position of the Pyre, associated with Flame, and with a suite of further concordances for the ways that the Fire is spoken of in the Vedas – to the point that it would have to seem utterly uncoincidental, almost as if the same glorious, glowing Being was being depicted. Because, of course, that is exactly what is unfurling in front of us. 

Part Two – The Funeral Pyre, The Flaming Pathway To Upplands Beckons

We shall start with the most prominent initial occurrence of this within the Ynglinga Saga: 

“Thus he established by law that all dead men should be burned, and their belongings laid with them upon the pile, and the ashes be cast into the sea or buried in the earth.  Thus, said he, every one will come to Valhalla with the riches he had with him upon the pile; and he would also enjoy whatever he himself had buried in the earth.”

The role of Agni in the funeral pyre is well attested – and for obvious reason. This notion of Agni as ‘receiving’ the Dead, and enabling the transmigration of the soul to the Realm of the Glorious / Ancestral Dead is found for instance in RV X 15 (“Fathers whom Agni’s flames have tasted” […] “They who, consumed by fire or not cremated, joy in their offering in the midst of heaven,— Grant them, O Sovran Lord, the world of spirits and their own body, as thy pleasure wills it.”) and RV X 16 (“When thou hast made him ready [‘Cooked’ – heated upon the pyre], Jātavedas [Agni], then do thou give him over to the [realm of the] Fathers.” […] “With thine auspicious forms, o Jātavedas, bear this man to the region of the pious. / Again, O Agni, to the Fathers send him who, offered in thee, goes with our oblations.” […] “I choose as God for Father-[Ancestor-]worship Agni, flesh-eater [consumer of what is upon the pyre], who hath past within your dwelling [the Realm of the Gods or Glorious/Ancestral Dead]”, etc.); with an intriguing potential for the line of the Ynglinga Saga around the remains of the now-cremated Nordic man being sent to the sea or buried in the earth to be a resonancy of RV X 16 3-4: “go, as thy merit is, to earth or heaven. /  Go, if it be thy lot, unto the waters; go, make thine home in plants with all thy members.” Although other than noting that this would suggest that the scattering to the Sea mentioned in the Nordic text might in fact be something rather more significant than that more immediately implies, given that The Waters are not just a body of water but rather the liminal sphere of the World(s), we shall leave that – for the moment – unexplored in order to head back to our major theme of subject. 

RV X 15 finds further co-expression in the Ynglinga Saga – “Sometimes even he called the dead out of the earth, or set himself beside the burial-mounds”. A line which upon the surface of things would surely seem to refer to Shiva amidst the cremation grounds – and that is not inaccurate. Agni is, after all, also Shiva. Yet in RV X 15 9-10, we quite specifically see Agni as presented as being able to ‘call to’ the deceased Ancestors and bring Them with Him back to the world of the living. 

The other main Ynglinga occurence for Odin in the context of a funerary pyre is His Own one. 

“Odin died in his bed in Swithiod; and when he was near his death he made himself be marked with the point of a spear, and said he was going to Godheim, and would give a welcome there to all his friends, and all brave warriors should be dedicated to him; and the Swedes believed that he was gone to the ancient Asgaard, and would live there eternally.  Then began the belief in Odin, and the calling upon him.  The Swedes believed that he often showed to them before any great battle.  To some he gave victory; others
he invited to himself; and they reckoned both of these to be fortunate.  Odin was burnt, and at his pile there was great splendour.  It was their faith that the higher the smoke arose in the air, the higher he would be raised whose pile it was; and the richer he would be, the more property that was consumed with him.” 

Now, of course, it almost goes without saying that what has been presented here by Sturluson is a garbled and downright euhemeric point of perspective. Odin did not die as a mortal man does (although, as with Shiva, I do not discount the possibility of Odin having died – temporarily – in some sense. Hard to keep a good God down, and all of that; especially the Sovereign Lord of Death and the Departed), which presents the interesting line of inquiry: what is Odin doing in a funerary pyre? Is it that Sturluson has presented the funeral of a Norse nobleman, simply because that is what he is presenting Odin to be? Not impossible – but I suspect something else to be at play. Rather, Odin is in the Pyre … because that is where it is that Agni is to be found in the ancient (and, indeed – of course ! – the modern) Hindu understanding. 

We can tell this, in part, because that is what we find presented in the relevant Vedic hymnals – and how Agni’s role therein is to travel (and conveyance) back up  to the Realm of the Gods, the Realm of the Ancestors. Bringing back blessings , taking great offerings of wealth up with Him, and ensuring also that the Glorious Dead borne upon the flame’s pyre and the heightening transmission of its smoke, would be well-supported and well-looked after in their eventual heavenly situation thanks to those things burned in the appropriate manner. This is all contained within the aforementioned two RigVedic hymnals – and we find, also, quite a suite of Vedic hymnals devoted to Agni , and the rites involving He , before great battles for blessings amidst war. 

In other words – as we have demonstrated for certain other passages from the Ynglinga Saga – what we have seen here is that the descriptions for Odin therein are direct (if ‘summarized’, and occasionally ‘distorted’ via euhemericism etc.) concordances with the Vedic liturgy, the Vedic understanding. See my earlier work “On Odin Brihaspati As Song-Smith – The Sung Seizing Of The Wealth Of Cows” for a suite of examples drawn from both Vedic and Eddic canons of text of this principle’s direct application. 

A further Ynglinga Saga saliency may perhaps be found in the accounting of the fate of King Olaf – 

“The Swedes took it amiss that Olaf was sparing in his sacrifices, and believed the dear times must proceed from this cause. The Swedes therefore gathered together troops, made an expedition against King Olaf, surrounded his house and burnt him in it, giving him to Odin as a sacrifice for good crops. […]”
“The temple wolf, by the lake shores,
     The corpse of Olaf now devours.
     The clearer of the forests died
     At Odin’s shrine by the lake side.
     The glowing flames stripped to the skin
     The royal robes from the Swedes’ king.
     Thus Olaf, famed in days of yore,
     Vanished from earth at Venner’s shore.”

Now there are a number of ways in which this could be read in light of our reconstructive typology. One is that it is simply the account of a pagan nobleman’s funeral – except presented as evidence of the barbarity of the heathen religion (i.e. due to the perceived lack of sacrifices to guarantee the fertility of the land, even though it is overpopulation which is responsible for the famine per Sturluson’s account, the Swedes had killed the king to offer *him* as the sacrifice instead). Another is that this is, indeed, a largely accurate rendition of that which had happened – and the standard sacrificial rite to the Sky Father to ensure the fertility of the land (which I looked at in “The Queen Of Serpents – The Serpentine Form Of The Indo-European Earth Mother”) had indeed gone unperformed by the King up until he became the main element in its eventual, fiery, completion. 

For our purposes, it is enough to note that not only is this yet another fundamental proof for Odin as Sky Father (i.e. the God propitiated for the fertility of the land just as we find in the Vedic understanding for Him), but that this again has intriguing resonancies for those aforementioned Vedic presentations to the Flame of the Funerary and Offering Pyres. A “Temple Wolf” is how Odin is described here – directly akin to the “Kravya” term utilized to refer to the ‘Devouring’ head of Agni which consumes the flesh thusly offered, especially within the funerary pyre (c.f several occurrences of this theonym in RV X 16). Kravya, for us, means also “Wolf” (it is cognate with “Carnivore”) – and in one of the utilizations of this term in RV X 16 (line 11), it is not impossible that the term “Kravya-Vahana” has been understood not so much in the sense of the “Flesh-Conveyor” but rather as the “Flesh-eating Animal” [‘Vahana’ can also mean a steed or a mount] and therefore the “Wolf” of the “Temple” also referred to as “Odin’s Shrine”.

This notion of a ‘Wolf-Vahana’, however, is most prominently attested in the Nordic mythology instead as something of a ‘delegated role’ – as the Valkyries are stated to ride. Something that would most certainly keep with the metempsychotic or transmigratory role of the Funerary Pyre for Agni, even if it is not Agni directly and in person taking charge of these acts of conveyancing in that portion of the Nordic understanding. Perhaps the understanding is the result of the female followers of the Great God in question, that are often quite lethal to mortals (c.f the Maenads and the Ash-Nymphs of Dionysus, and also the intriguing Varoti [‘Vata-Putri’ – Daughters of Vata(-Vayu)] of the Kalash). 

I would also surmise that part of what is being related in the Gylfaginning pertaining to the funerary vessel of Baldr also reflects this understanding – there, a certain Hyrrokkin (a name whose root is that of Flame) comes mounted upon a truly formidable wolf; summoned to dispatch the ship of Baldr out to sea – as it could not be moved (i.e. Baldr could not be properly dispatched on across the ocean (as liminal space between the worlds) upon the requisite conveyance-vessel – an understanding also found in the Vedas) in the absence of the Fire. Hyrrokkin’s push for the ship instantly causes it to not only be dispatched out onto the ocean – but the frictional movement of the ship upon its rollers causes it to burst immediately into flame (recall the rubbing of sticks to produce the sacral fire in the Vedic conceptr). The Wolf, meanwhile, that Hyrrokkin had ridden in upon is subdued at the behest of Odin – something that may accord with the Vedic conceptry for the ‘Kravya’ becoming subdued so that the other facing of Agni may instead be invoked [as seen in RV X 16]. 

Part Three – Kravyada And Jataveda – Wolf And Eagle

That ‘Wolf’ symbolism is something that prominently occurs for Odin – in the Grimnismal, we find the description for the entryway to Valhalla as bearing both a Wolf and an Eagle. We have earlier seen Agni referred to in terms relating to that of a Wolf – and we have also made brief reference to some of those occasions wherein Agni is referred to as a Raptor. These are in the same (i.e. directly cognate) context to Odin’s eagle form – the major one being the bringing of the Soma, or a particular of the relevant fire rites that is strongly connected with same (the Agnicayana). And I would hazard that the dual ‘Wolf’ and ‘Eagle’ symbolism may have deepa resonancies – the ‘Wolf’ as the ‘flesh-eater’, or the baleful head, which *takes* … the ‘Eagle’ as the more radiant, regal, and positively regarded ‘head’ – that brings and bestows, which *gives*. ‘Going up’ and ‘Coming down’, respectively. But that is purely my conjecture – and other points of symbolic resonancy are possible. Not least given the reasonably standard ‘Eagle’ association for the Indo-European Sky Father deific (which also plays a role in the conveyancing of the soul of the great man up to the heavens as part of, for instance, the Apotheosis known to the Classical mythology and political representations of this most glorious phenomenon). 

The ‘dual natures’ of Agni being represented by the Wolf and the Eagle encountered at the entryway to Odin’s shining Hall of the Glorious Dead would, however, make quite some sense – as in the context of those tenth mandala RigVedic hymnals that we have quoted from earlier, which directly invoke the correlate Vedic realm, we see the alternating references to Agni as ‘Kravyada’ (the ‘Kravya’ / ‘Carnivore’ / ‘Wolf’ that we have earlier met), and also as ‘Jataveda’. Jataveda is a fascinatingly complex theonym (possessed, entirely unsurprisingly, also by Shiva) – and while we may feasibly approach it as ‘Inceptor of the Vedas’ or ‘Re(ve)lator of Wisdom’ (exactly what Odin does in the course of the Grimnismal – the source where this ‘Wolf’/’Eagle’ representation is to be found, along with much other Knowledge and Wisdom besides), the sense which interests me here is the figurative connotation for it frequently encountered: “The Knower Of All Beings”. Not only would this most certainly fit with Odin’s incredible ken of knowledge and depthless reservoir of hidden counsel – but it would also resonate with the immense range and sharpless of clarity for the Vision of the Eagle. All things may be seen by the Eagle, all creatures may be witnessed by the Sky Father – and all spheres are within the reach of the mighty wing-beat (swift with ‘Speed of Thought’, akin to the wide-ranging Mind, per RV VI 9 5) and razor-sharp talons of the King of the Avian Realm. Perhaps this is what is meant by Odin’s theonym – Arnhöfði (‘Eagle-Headed’); the ‘Head’, after all, is the seat of this most swiftly flying Mind. 

Predictably, we also find the Eagle invoked with direct reference to this transmission to the Realm of the Glorious / Ancestral Dead in the Vedas – AV XVIII 3 66 invokes the Eagle in just such a capacity also in an iconographic sense; whilst the Eagle is also prominent in the detailing of the third Heaven in AV XVIII 4 4 (encountered also in slightly different capacity at line 89) at the terminus of the pathway of Agni JataVeda to be followed also by the Glorious Dead. And given the broader usage, I would therefore contend that just as the Eagle is invoked in AV XIX 65 to refer to Agni as the Sun (another ‘All-Seeing’ Eye – just as with Odin in Hlidskjalf, proximate to Valaskjalf ; and His Blazing Eye likewise), the mention for the Eagle in various capacities with reference to Odin is another ‘residual’ solar symbolism – just what we should expect for Dyaus Pitar amongst the Germanic Indo-European peoples. Something which would also accord with the ‘Solar Afterlife’ symbolism pervasively found amidst the more archaic Indo-European mytho-cosmology (most prominently, as it happens, amongst the Vedic and Hittite texts – although also somewhat less overtly recalled in other, younger Indo-European spectrums of gleaning perspective as to the Land Above/Beyond The Veil).

Perhaps there may be some similar currency, in terms of ‘sendings’ for the Raptor understood in the Vedas to also herald the transfer of Kingship (c.f AV III 3 3-4) and Agni to empower the receiver thereof – as that is most certainly what transpires when Odin bound to the Fire comes to the hall of Geirroth; young Agnar is granted the Kingship even afore his aged father is slain. A bestowal of power at the feet of the Fire – and all in resultance from making the appropriate propitiatory offerings thereto. 

Truly, as Odin Himself puts it therein – “For a single drink / shalt thou never receive / A greater gift as reward.”

Part Four – Odin In Flames – The Grimnismal 

But to return to our major theme – that of Odin amidst the Flames – I would also contend that the Grimnismal is, in its general unfolding, something which might also be drawn upon to support the identification of Odin with Agni. After all – what we see there is the God come as a Guest, and the bountiful bestowal of wisdom and blessing that result from the feeding of the God held literally between the flames of Geirroth’s hall. It is not hard to see how this might be read as just exactly that – Agni, as the Guest (Sanskrit: ‘Atithi’ – also a prominent Agni theonym) thusly conjured (exactly as we should expect in a Vedic fire-rite), except rather literally into the hearth rather than oddly between two pyres as Sturluson presents Odin. Now, of course, the fact that the Guest is maltreated means that the ‘framing device’ for the explication of the cosmos entered into is effectively a ‘morality play’ of such – wherein the consequences for disrespecting the dweller in the altar-fire, for disrespecting also the custom of the sacred hospitality in general, is clearly demonstrated for the luckless Geirroth. Yet nevertheless, this notion of the wisdom being handed to the man who *does* engage in the proper sacral conduct, and make offerings into the fire that is ‘living’ (and recall the PIE distinction between ‘living fire” (i.e. hngwnis – whence ‘Ignis’, ‘Agni’) and the more mundane kind (‘pehwr’ – whence ‘fire’, ‘pyre’, etc)). It is, in short, the direct demonstration of the appropriate relationship between God and Man – and one that we have also seen earlier in the Ynglinga Saga wherein Odin bestows teaching in the priestly ways to those men somewhat alike to Him in such abilities, which again mirrors the situation of Agni relative to the Angirases and other priestly lines or clades in the Vedic sphere. 

Perhaps this also explains Odin’s cryptic remark at stanza 42 of the Grimnismal observing that the Favour of the Gods shall come to the man who reaches into the flames in order to remove the obstructing kettle which lies above the pyre – and which also happens to block the direct line from the fire in the hearth up through the smoke-aperture of the roof of the dwelling, to the Sky and implicitly the line-of-sight (or, we might suggest, the transversal conduit) to the Gods On High. An act that would, simultaneously, open up that ‘roadway’ or ‘conduit’ – ‘portal’, we might more properly say – and also de-mundanify the fire to render it open to becoming a sacral context. Something that might also be required for the transfer of the Kingship that we have briefly mentioned earlier. 

Part Six: The Swords – Odin’s Swords – Of Fire

And speaking to that transfer of the bearance of sovereignty in the Grimnismal – the mechanism via which it is more immediately accomplished, I mean – there is an intriguing pattern of Skaldic resonancies for the Sword with Odin. But pointedly for our purposes – the Swords in question are also referred to as being those of Fire. 

The Skaldskaparmal makes reference, for instance, to “Odin’s Helm-Fire” as a way to refer to the Sword (indeed, the specific exemplar listed is Úlfr Uggason’s presentation of the aforementioned occurrence at the funeral pyre-ship of Baldr featuring Hyrrokkin) so perhaps the sense is instead of Odin’s Helm-Fire being the destructive force exerted upon the helm of the adversary by the sword’s swing. Although an intriguing alternative explanation would be that Sturluson has misunderstood something very archaic in his compiling of the Skaldic verses – and that instead, the fact that the bearers of Odin’s Helm-Fire encountered there are Berserks is what is more immediately relevant. If I am right in my speculation, this would be a way of referring to these men as having the Manyu / Ugra [‘Furor’ would be an acceptable translation] within them as His Chosen Warriors – in a manner directly cognate to the mode in which Diomedes and Achilles are spoken of in the Iliad thanks to the Bestowal by Athena of the Menos (an Ancient Greek term directly cognate with ‘Manyu’ and, for that matter, ‘Mania’ – and which I have considered at length in ‘MahaShivRatri And The Mytholinguistics Of War [Part 3] – The Mind, The Mania, The Manyu’ … or but briefly explicated upon in ‘Furor Teutonicus And Furor Poeticus – The Furious Goddess-Given Power Of Both Barbarian And Brahmin Alike’). The understanding for ‘Manyu’ and ‘Menos’ aligning quite directly with ‘Odr’ – the implications of which (especially given Manyu as a prominent Roudran theonym/Aspect/War God) ought be clear. 

However, to move toward a more clear-cut instance from the same text wherein “Swords are called Odin’s Fires” – 

“A sword is Odin’s Fire, as Kormákr sang:
The fight swelled, when the Warrior,
The Wolf’s blithe Feeder, in tumult
Fared with Odin’s [Gaut’s] ringing Fire-Flame;
Urdr came forth from the Well.”

And we can perhaps also make mention of the swords utilized to illuminate a Hall of Asgard at Odin’s command elsewhere in the Skaldskaparmal – 

“And at evening, when it was time for drinking, Odin had swords brought into the hall, so bright that light radiated from them: and other illumination was not used while they sat at drinking. “

But why am I making such a point out of this connexion of Odin and Fiery Swords? Well, precisely because the Vedas Themselves do so – in direct reference to Agni: 

Agni is depicted not only as Sword-Armed (RV X 20 6; and yes, other weapons are also associated to Agni elsewhere, including a certain sort of spear …), but this Sword is depicted to be in flickering, flaring motion as an integral part of the sacrificial pyre of living flame in RV VIII 23 19 – “While, served with sacrificial oil, now upward and now downward Agni moves his sword, / As doth the Asura his robe.”

There are literally too many references for Agni’s flames being a pointed weapon to include all of these here. But RV VI 16 28 – “May Agni with his pointed blaze cast down each fierce devouring fiend / May Agni win us wealth by war.” springs instantly to mind, especially given Odin’s well-storied theonymics that are of direct application to this notion of “winning wealth by war” and blessing afore raiding or other conflict has commenced as mentioned in the Ynglinga Saga, inter alia. 

It would be tempting to infer that the sense being communicated in these kennings for Swords as Odin’s Fires is simply recalling the ‘pointed’ shape and destructive, life-taking and *hungry* element of the flame. Yet that would not quite explicate why they are pointedly “Odin’s” Fires rather than just fires in general (which, to be sure, we also see as a constituent component for kennings for swords in the Nordic poetic schemas). Instead, it is something about Odin – in connexion with the Flame – that makes the kenning work. I would surmise that it is a recalled understanding for this strong association of Agni with the Blade. Not just that we have already encountered – but also the mythic and ritual understandings of the Vedic religion, wherein the First Sword – Asi – is conjured from the Flames and described in terms that are quite intentionally those of Rudra. 

To quote from the Mahabharat (and at length because it is really quite a cool piece of symbolic regaling): 

“The sacrificial altar became adorned with Rishis skilled in sacrifice and competent to perform all acts appertaining thereto, with [bundles of sticks] of sacrificial fuel, and with blazing fires. And it looked exceedingly beautiful in consequence of the sacrificial plates and vessels all made of gold. All the foremost ones among the Gods took Their seats on it. The platform was further adorned with Sadasyas all of whom were high regenerate Rishis. I have heard from the Rishis that soon something very awful occurred in that sacrifice. It is heard that a creature sprang (from the sacrificial fire) scattering the flames around him, and whose splendour equalled that of the Moon Himself when He rises in the firmament spangled with stars. His complexion was dark like that of the petals of the blue lotus. His teeth were keen. His stomach was lean. His stature was tall. He seemed to be irresistible and possessed of exceeding energy. Upon the appearance of that being, the earth trembled. The Ocean became agitated with high billows and awful eddies. Meteors foreboding great disasters shot through the sky. The branches of trees began to fall down. All the points of the compass became unquiet. Inauspicious winds began to blow. All creatures began to quake with fear every moment. Beholding that awful agitation of the universe and that Being sprung from the sacrificial fire, the Grandsire said these words unto the great Rishis, the gods, and the Gandharvas. “This Being was thought of by me. Possessed of great energy, His name is Asi (sword or scimitar). For the protection of the world and the destruction of the enemies of the Gods, I have created Him.”

That being then, abandoning the form he had first assumed, took the shape of a sword of great splendour, highly polished, sharp-edged, risen like the all-destructive Being at the end of the Yuga. Then Brahman made over that sharp weapon to the blue-throated Rudra Who has for the device on His banner the foremost of bulls, for enabling Him to put down irreligion and sin. At this, the divine Rudra of immeasurable soul, praised by the great Rishis, took up that sword and assumed a different shape. Putting forth four arms, He became so tall that though standing on the Earth He touched the very Sun with His Head. With eyes turned upwards and with every limb extended wide, He began to vomit flames of fire from his mouth. Assuming diverse complexions such as blue and white and red, wearing a black deer-skin studded with stars of gold, He bore on His forehead a Third Eye that resembled the Sun in splendour. His two other eyes, one of which was black and the other tawny, shone very brightly. The divine Mahadeva, the bearer of the Sula [‘Spear’], the tearer of Bhaga’s eyes, taking up the sword Whose splendour resembled that of the all-destructive Yuga fire, and wielding a large shield with three high bosses which looked like a mass of dark clouds adorned with flashes of lightning, began to perform diverse kinds of evolutions. Possessed of great prowess, He began to whirl the Sword in the Sky, desirous of an encounter. Loud were the Roars He uttered, and awful the sound of His laughter. Indeed, O Bharata, the form then assumed by Rudra was exceedingly terrible.

Hearing that Rudra had assumed that form for achieving fierce deeds, the Danavas, filled with joy, began to come towards Him with great speed, showering huge rocks upon Him as they come, and blazing brands of wood, and diverse kinds of terrible weapons made of iron and each endued with the sharpness of a razor. The Danava host, however, beholding that foremost of all beings, the indestructible Rudra, swelling with might, became stupefied and began to tremble. Although Rudra was alone and single-handed, yet so quickly did He move on the field of battle with the sword in His arm that the Asuras thought there were a thousand similar Rudras battling with them. Tearing and piercing and afflicting and cutting and lopping off and grinding down, the Great God moved with celerity among the thick masses of His foes like forest conflagration amid heaps of dry grass spread around. The mighty Asuras, broken by the God with the whirls of His Sword, with arms and thighs and chests cut off and pierced, and with heads severed from their trunks, began to fall down on the earth. Others among the Danavas, afflicted with strokes of the sword, broke and fled in all directions, cheering one another as they fled. Some penetrated into the bowels of the earth; others got under the cover of mountains, Some went upwards; others entered the depths of the sea.

During the progress of that dreadful and fierce battle, the Earth became miry with flesh and blood and horrible sights presented themselves on every side. Strewn with the fallen bodies of Danavas covered with blood, the Earth looked as if overspread with mountain summits overgrown with Kinsukas. Drenched with gore, the Earth looked exceedingly beautiful, like a fair-complexioned lady intoxicated with alcohol and attired in crimson robes. Having slain the Danavas and re-established Righteousness on earth, the auspicious Rudra cast off His awful form and assumed his own beneficent shape. Then all the Rishis and all the celestials adored that god of gods with loud acclamations wishing him victory.”

As applies that last transition – it most certainly seems resonant with the lines of the Ynglinga Saga with reference to Odin: “When sitting among his friends his countenance was so beautiful and dignified, that the spirits of all were exhilarated by it, but when he was in war he appeared dreadful to his foes.” 

Entirely unsurprisingly, along with Rudra – this most magnificent of Swords is also keyed to Agni. Something that may, perhaps, also find expression in various of the Vedic (and most pointedly, the Brahmana ritual manual) texts detailing the Vajra with which Vritra was slain. Here we have the ‘Wooden Sword’ also referred to as one of the “Weapons of the Sacrifice” forming the ‘warhead’ of this most excellent Divine demon-(dragon-)slaying weapon. And, in other verses, we have Agni referred to in the veer-y same role: 

“For it was after shaping Agni into a sharp point, that the Gods rushed forward, intent on slaying Vritra; and that sharp point, Agni, swerved not. And so does he (the Sacrificer) now rush forward, after shaping Agni into a sharp point, intent on slaying his wicked, spiteful enemy; and that sharp point, Agni, swerves not: this is why he sacrifices to Agni Anîkavat.” [Shatapatha Brahmana II 5 3]

Not for nothing is Agni amongst the illustrious ranks of the handful of figures accorded the title of Vritrahan (‘Slayer of Vritra’) in the Vedas! And that theonym – Anikavat – is additionally Odinically resonant. For, per the most excellent commentary-work of Sayana, this is rendered as “Possessing An Army”. Agni Anikavat, therefore, is Agni Leading/Possessing An Army”. In a manner not entirely dissimilar to quite a swathe of Odinic theonyms – Herjaföðr, Hergautr, Herjan, Hertýr. And, of course, in the sense of being the first into the fray, leading the charge of the Divine Army here – Atriðr. 

In other words, if I am correct in my presumption that underlying the Nordic mythology and mytho-poetry of which we are more directly acquainted, there lies an ancient faith that has only fragmentarily been filtered through to us via these beautiful (yet imperfect) means, and which has quite something in common with the Vedic faith … then it would stand to reason that the incredibly important ritualine conceptry we find mentioned in the Vedas around such an ultimate weapon should also have been known to the Germanics. And that this weapon, likewise, should have both the ‘Fiery’ associations connoted by Piety – and the same Patron / Embodying / Wielding Deity. That is to say Rudra-Agni. 

We have already demonstrated the close concordancy of Vedic and Eddic texts in other areas of direct relevancy to this potential linkage in various of my previous works. Even if the Eddic presentation tends more usually to be a considerably ‘slimmed down’, ‘summarized’ and ‘pared back’ rendition in various ways – as we should expect given the nature of its composition and compiler. 

So therefore, in just the same manner that we find expression in the Sanskrit conceptual syllabary for ‘Sword’ (indeed, all Swords) to be termed after the foremost and greatest of their kind in the manner of a mythic progenitor-prototype for their species of weapon (something that, if we think about it, is also in a manner how Manu / Mannus has become “Mankind” for our own race) – so too should we plausibly expect a suite of kennings to have come down to us in the Germanic sphere that do likewise. And with the added detail that the Sword’s Wielder, Patron, and perhaps ‘essence’ – that is to say, Agni Rudra – is also preserved as part of the ken-name. 

In short: calling a blade Odin’s Flame is to recall the great weapon of the God Himself – something that is of obvious poetic import and a most powerful ‘boast’ indeed to its (human) wielder. It may also, as with the sacral Sword conceptry we have but briefly elucidated upon from the Vedas , have connotations of righteousness and the divine service built into its referencing as well. “Odin’s Flame”, in other words, being not merely a weapon – but an active implement, instrument of Piety : of Faith! 

Part Seven – The Concluding Tongue

Now for various reasons, I do not consider this to be the end of the matter. I have no doubt that this (A)Arti-cle will trigger all manner of comments and quibbles from readers – and more especially, title-readers who are not all that prone to battling their way through the actual body to my work. 

It is true that this piece has left out detailed examination of several of the most compelling (and, to my mind, outright irrefutable) skeins of evidence in support of my argument. That is partially for reasons of space; and partially because I consider those revelations to already be in circulation for those who would have wish to examine them. I have included the titles to the works in question, which have been available for some months now, with those interested readers in mind. 

However, while it might be suggested that this *particular* article has been cobbled together through (over-)readings of specific occurrences and instances within the Nordic textual corpus that may appear rather ‘circumstantial’ evidence at best … with this, I (unsurprisingly) do not agree. Constellations are not made up of hard-lines of light arka-ning between the stars that we incontrovertibly assent are there. Rather, they are the result of wise men tracing the patterns within the Heavens (containing ‘Arka’ of a different kind), and thence showing how beneath those apparently unconnected far-flung dots of light there is an essential, underlying anchorage of unity. So, too, it is with the nature of our field. 

We are unlikely to ever find a direct statement inscribed upon some incredibly ancient ruin somewhere that “Odin Is Rudra” – and yet it is not usually held controversial to point this point. Because we can see the pattern – the proclivity for the data-points-of-illumination in each culture’s version of this ‘constellation’ , to align with each other and with the Great God Who underpins both perceptions. 

As applies my statement that Odin is Agni – it is the same. We DO have the statement that Agni is Rudra – made repeatedly, and for good theological, metaphysical, and mythological reasons – in both primary texts and secondary analysis. Some might irritatedly suggest that simply because Odin is Rudra, and Rudra is Agni – that this does not also mean that Odin is Agni, as various of the conceptry for Agni is (in their view) not strictly coterminous with that of Odin. That the pattern does not align – or only aligns so imperfectly as to be more ‘random’ than ‘revelatory’. 

This, in my experience, is usually a perspective put forward by persons who have some sort of fundamental disagreement with what various terms and elements actually mean. So, for example, they may object to Odin as Agni on grounds that Agni is a priestly figure – and claim that this ipso facto means that He cannot be Odin … ignoring the aforementioned (and covered in far greater detail in my earlier “On Odin Brihaspati As Song-Smith – The Sung Seizing Of The Wealth Of Cows”) Ynglinga Saga materials showing that Odin most definitely DOES have a ‘priestly’ understanding. Or they fundamentally misunderstand what an Indo-European “Priest” actually *is* – and insist that Agni cannot be Odin because Odin is a figure associated with warfare, raiding, and killings of the foe … apparently ignorant of the quite extensive suite of Vedic conceptry wherein yes, yes this is exactly what Agni (or, for that matter, Brihaspati, etc.) does. When Sarama (another Wolf) wishes to terrify the hell out of an assemblage of demons who have stolen from The Gods … Who does She invoke? Why, various forms of Priest, of course! (Human priests, as it happens – although also Brihaspati, and alongside Him, Indra as well) And this should be unsurprising – after all, whether we are speaking of Trita Aptya, Brihaspati, Agni, or in a sense, Vak Saraswati : the great Slayers of the mightiest Demons are held to be the Priests (with, again, direct co-expression of the relevant conceptry around ‘Vritra/Vala’ to be found in the Ynglinga Saga’s presentation of Odin, as detailed in the aforementioned earlier of my works). 

Or perhaps it is because they have another Nordic figure they wish to push as the “appropriate” cognate expression for Agni ; and therefore, Odin as Agni would be fatal for this, so it is vigorously opposed as a result. I shall not go through those sorts of claims here – it is for them to make their cases; although as applies two that come up with some frequency … Viktor Rydberg’s identification of Agni with Heimdallr appears to have been made in ignorance of a rather weighty quotient of material that would instead demonstrate Heimdallr to be Agni’s Son (Kumara – the same figure that is Skanda, the Son of Shiva), and which would also fairly strongly support Odin as Agni likewise. This is not necessarily Rydberg’s fault, however – as his major works upon the subject were published some years before much of the Vedic canon that is of relevancy here was actually made available. In other words – a charitable interpretation would be that he was operating in the early years of the field, and made what he could from what was available to him … but with nearly a century and a half of further advancement in our knowledge and the materials we have access to, various of his conclusions have understandably been superceded by the facts. There is no shame in that. 

Where there *is* shame to be had, however, is amongst those much more recent sorts propelling the outright heretical and abjectly blasphemous insinuation of Agni somehow being Loki – as this is an overt ‘demonization’ of a God, in a manner that fundamentally misrepresents just what and who Agni actually is. And it seems that various of the people pushing this kind of thing have deliberately anti-righteous agendas in mind. But it is for them to speak in their own defence … as it becomes necessary. I shall dwell no more upon it. 

Suffice to say – I have no doubt that even though what we know of the Nordic/Germanic religious sphere of a thousand years ago or more is lamentably incomplete … what we DO know, or can safely infer with strength or even certitude – is that the scattered stars of this constellation of our understanding of Odin, align resoundingly with these foundations lain down also elsewhere in the firmament , most completely and enduringly amidst the Vedas and the Vedic Hindu religion: that Odin is Shiva , Shiva is Rudra , Rudra is Agni , and Agni is Odin. 

Great Praise and Victory to the Spear-Tongued Father Of The Sages ! 

One thought on “On Odin As Agni

  1. Pingback: On The Flaming Swords Of Odin & Agni & Rudra – An Excerpt | arya-akasha

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