(redirected from Votan)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.


(wō`dən; German vō`dĭn), Norse


(ō`dĭn), in Germanic religion and mythology, the supreme god. His cult, although widespread among the Germanic tribes, was sometimes subordinated to that of his son Thor. With his brothers, Woden fashioned the earth and the sky from the dead body of the giant Ymir, and from an ash tree and an alder he created the first man and woman. As chief of the gods of AsgardAsgard
, in Norse mythology, home of the gods, also known as Aesir. It consisted of luxurious palaces and halls, in which the gods (whose chief was Odin) dwelled, conferred, and banqueted. One of the most beautiful of these halls was Valhalla.
..... Click the link for more information.
 he established the laws that governed the universe and controlled the destiny of humanity. At his court at ValhallaValhalla
or Walhalla
, in Norse mythology, Odin's hall for slain heroes. This martial paradise was one of the most beautiful halls of Asgard. The dead warriors, brought to Valhalla by the Valkyries, fought during the day and feasted at night.
..... Click the link for more information.
 he was attended by the Valkyries. Woden was widely known as a god of war, but he was important also as a god of learning, of poetry, and of magic. His wife was Frigg, and his children included Thor, Balder, and Tiw. He was identified with the Roman god Mercury, and among Germanic peoples Mercury's day became Woden's day (Wednesday). In Richard Wagner's opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, Woden is called Wotan.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Anglos and the Saxons invoked Woden before setting out to invade England in the fifth century. Woden was the principle god of the Teutonic peoples. God of the Anglo-Saxons and a counterpart of the Scandinavian Odin and the German Wodan or Wuotan, Woden was identified by the Romans with their deity Mercurius because of his connection to the spiritual life. It was said that Woden spoke with ease and eloquence, often expressing himself in verse. He was a shapeshifter—he had the power to change himself into any shape he wished, as did Zeus, the major Greek deity. It is generally believed that Woden was first thought of as a sky god—perhaps a wind or storm deity—with great wisdom and powers over life and death. This is evidenced by the derivation of Wodenaz from an Indo-European word, parent also of the Sanskrit vata and the Latin ventus, both meaning "wind." The name Woden also appears to be connected with the old adjective wood, which means "furious," "wild," "mad." This word was still used in Chaucer's time but archaic by Shakespeare's, although in A Midsummer Night's Dream, an angry Demetrius says that he is "wood within this wood."

In England there are many place-names associated with Woden, such as the earthwork Wansdyke (Wodnes dic) which runs from Hampshire to Somerset; Woden's Barrow, at Alton Priors; Woden's Valley at West Overton; Woden's Plain above the headwaters of the River Thame; Woodnesborough, near Sandwich; Wednesbury in Staffordshire; and Wornshill, near Sittingbourne. Woden's ekename, or nickname, was Grim, a word meaning one who wears a hood in such a way as to mask his face. This is from the Old Norse grimr and was given to Woden because of his habit of wandering between the worlds, wearing a hood or a large, floppy hat. The name is reflected in such places as Grimsdyke (which appears in many locations in southern England), Grimsby, Grimley, and Grimesthorpe.

Woden was credited with special magical powers as a magician or sorcerer (Gal- dorcraeftig was "a person proficient in magic"), ruling by his magic and taking an interest not only in this world but also in the next. In spite of his interest in battles, Woden did not fight in them but intervened magically, making use of his herfjöturr, or army-fetter, a paralyzing panic. His magic extended to healing. From old magical formulae, surviving in Scandinavian countries, we learn that Woden was asked to cure sprains and dislocations. He was also invoked by warriors in battle to bring them victory. Woden had two ravens that sat on his shoulders: Hugin ("thought") and Munin ("memory"). They could fly through all reaches of the universe and would tell Woden what they had seen. Two wolves were also his constant companions.

The Saxons were practicing pagans during at least their first five generations in England and worshiped four principle deities: Woden, Thunor, Tiw, and Frig. In the Saxon tradition of Witchcraft—the Seax-Wica—as practiced today, the deities worshiped are Woden and Freya (Frig). The Woden of the Saxons was not quite the same personage as the Odin of the Vikings. He was not so concerned with organizing battalions of slain warriors, but more with walking the rolling downs of England and watching over his (living) people.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.