Norse mythology, although seemingly ancient, can be applied to much of our present lives. Take the legend of the Norse God Odin, he sought wisdom and the legend states that he even sacrificed one of his eyes in the pursuit of knowledge. While our sacrifices may not be a drastic as Odin’s, do we not still sacrifice in the pursuit of gaining knowledge? We sacrifice our time, our money towards tuition and supplies, our friends when we choose to do homework instead of going out, and our energy while we work towards absorbing the facts we are taught in class and struggle to make new connections and observations. Each semester, and every day we take the time to learn and understand something new, we make sacrifices in the hopes of obtaining wisdom.
While researching Norse mythology, I came across the legend of Odin’s discovery of the Runes. Odin pushed his body and mind beyond what he thought humanly possible in order to attain an understanding of runes. After acknowledging the hidden language and mystery of the runes, Odin is said to have stated, “then I was fertilized and became wise; / I truly grew and thrived. / From a word to a word I was led to a word, / from a work to a work I was led to a work.” Knowledge can never be quenched by seeking and finding the answer to one question; instead, it is a pursuit of information that forms roots stretching endlessly in all directions. From the roots of our proverbial knowledge tree we learn and we grow. Odin’s journey to comprehend the mystical runes is viewed as a sacrifice of himself to himself. The myth conveys a form of rebirth in which Odin was able to let the ignorant part of himself go in order to be reborn as someone with a better understanding of the world around him.
Odin is often portrayed with his ravens, Hugin and Munin, perched atop his shoulders or hovering nearby. Recent texts translate the names of Odin’s ravens as thought (Hugin) and memory (Munin). The significance of the two birds can only be valued by attributing value to the concepts of thought and memory. While Odin sacrificed much in his journey for knowledge, he also gained a renewed sense of memory and new thoughts that led him in the direction of continuing his quest for knowledge. Odin was able to stretch the constraints of his memory in order to maintain a new flow of information, just as his thoughts were able to expand and encompass his new perception of the world. Odin may have sacrificed in order to attain wisdom, but he gained much more than he could have realized.
As college students working hard towards creating a better future, do we not sacrifice our ignorance in order to learn more about the world around us? Are we not reborn into individuals with a better understanding of society and ourselves when we complete the first steps of our journey? Do we not crave to learn more and do more with the knowledge we attain? When I first began to attend an institute of higher education, I hoped it would make me a better person. I hoped for a brighter future and a greater understanding of myself and the world around me. As graduation approaches, I realize I’m not done yet. I realized that the quest for wisdom doesn’t end in four short years; instead it is ongoing and this is just part of our search for understanding.