Paul F. Wassmann

Odin's Quest After the Runes, a Fundamental Myth of Individuation

In the Poetic Edda a primary narrative of individuation and self-realization is unearthed. The pantheon of the invading Germanic tribes encompassed both patricentric Æsir and matricentric Vanir. Power was shared between antagonistic forces, representing a union of opposites. To transcendent further allfather Odin asked the Vanir goddess Freya to initiate him into the mysteries of the matriarchate. Through this “feminization” Odin assembled bridges between the radically contrasting natures of our left and right brain and creates a dialogue of creative tension that oppose decline into open war. He also sacrifices one eye to get access to the well of knowledge, thus observing at once the inner and outer world. Odin thus also becomes the god of secrets, poetry, and sacred knowledge. Wounded by his spear, his consciousness, he enhanced his consciousness by hanging himself on the word tree Yggdrasil. During this initiation he became aware of and integrated the runes, the symbolic representations of the mysteries of life. Odin embodies the archetype of the wounded healer/wounder. He deals with both ego and persona (he calls himself I and Odin) and his conscious self („I myself“) and the unconscious self („myself“), i.e. essential elements of Jung´s idea of self-realization. Thus, Odin's Quest after the Runes offers humanity a primary narrative of self-realization. Odin’s array of psychic border crossings and the integration of the forcibly captured right brain qualities through the patriarchate are genuinely accompanied with strong and inevitable emotional and suffering aspects, Jung’s chief source of consciousness. Odin’s emotionally charged unification of opposites and self-realization exemplifies individuation, providing a key to comprehend major cultural passages of human history. The self-sacrifice of the hanging god Odin illuminates the advent of modernity, is a driving force that reconciles thinking with feeling and transfers the center of life from ego to self.


Paul Wassmann is a professor emeritus in marine ecology at The Arctic University of Norway. He has been teaching Germanic mythology at ISAPZURICH, C. G. Jung Institute Zürich, the Research- and Training Centre for Depth Psychology according to C.G. Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz and the C-G. Jung Gesellschaft in Freiburg and Dresden. He published the book The hidden pathways of Germanic mythology. On the neglected, demonized, repulsed, and repressed archetypical representations of original Germanic culture. Chiron Publications.


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