Óðr

Óðr

In Norse mythologyÓðr (Old Norse for the “Divine Madness, frantic, furious, vehement, eager”, as a noun “mind, feeling” and also “song, poetry”; Orchard (1997) gives “the frenzied one”) or Óð, sometimes angliziced as Odr or Od, is a figure associated with the major goddess Freyja. The Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, both describe Óðr as Freyja’s husband and father of her daughter Hnoss. Heimskringla adds that the couple produced another daughter, Gersemi. A number of theories have been proposed about Óðr, generally that he is somehow a hypostasis of the deity Odin due to their similarities.

Óðr
Óðr again leaves the grieving Freyja in Odur verläßt abermals die trauernde Gattin (1882), Carl Emil Doepler ‘The Elder’.

Etymology

The Old Norse noun óðr may be the origin of the theonym Óðinn (Anglicized as Odin), and it means “mind”, “soul” or “spirit” (so used in stanza 18.1 of the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá). In addition, óðr can also mean “song”, “poetry” and “inspiration”, and it has connotations of “possession”. It is derived from a Proto-Germanic *wōð– or *wōþ– and it is related to Gothic wôds (“raging”, “possessed”), Old High German wuot (“fury” “rage, to be insane”) and the Anglo-Saxon words wód (“fury”, “rabies”) and wóð (“song”, “cry”, “voice”, “poetry”, “eloquence”). Old Norse derivations include œði “strong excitation, possession”.

Ultimately these Germanic words are derived from the Proto-Indo-European word *wāt-, which meant “to blow (on), to fan (flames)”, fig. “to inspire”. The same root also appears in Latin vātēs (“seer”, “singer”), which is considered to be a Celtic loanword, compare to Irish fāith (“poet”, but originally “excited”, “inspired”). The root has also been said to appear in Sanskrit vāt- “to fan”.

Attestations

Óðr is attested in the following sources:

Poetic Edda

Óðr is mentioned in stanza 25 of the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá. The name appears in a kenning for the major goddess Freyja; “Óð’s girl” (Old Norse Óðs mey gefna), pointing to a relation with the goddess.

Stanza 47 of the poem Hyndluljóð contains mention of a figure by the name of Œdi. There, Hyndla taunts Freyja, stating that Freyja had run to Œdi, “always full of desire”. 

Prose Edda

In chapter 35 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, the enthroned figure of High says that the goddess Freyja “was married to someone named” Óðr. High details that the two produced a daughter, Hnoss, and that this daughter was so fair that the term hnossir (meaning “treasures”) derives from her name and is applied to whatever is “beautiful and precious.” High adds that Óðr would go off traveling for extended periods, all the while Freyja would stay behind weeping tears of red gold. However, Freyja would travel “among strange peoples” while looking for Óðr, and so had many names. In chapter 36 of Gylfaginning, the stanza of Völuspá mentioning Óðr is quoted.

In chapter 20 of the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, poetic names for the goddess Freyja are listed, including “wife of Óðr”. In chapter 36, a prose narrative points out than an excerpt of a work by the skald Einarr Skúlason refers to Freyja as the wife of Óðr (“Óðr’s bedfellow”). The same excerpt appears in chapter 49. In chapter 75, Óðr is mentioned a final time in the Prose Edda, where Freyja is cited as having “wept gold” for Óðr.

Heimskringla

In chapter 1 of the Heimskringla book Ynglinga sagaSnorri Sturluson refers to the two in an euhemerized account, stating that Freyja had a husband named Óðr, two daughters named Hnoss and Gersemi, and that they were so beautiful that their names were used for “our most precious possessions” (both of their names literally mean “jewel”).