Odin' s Sacrifice
The Highest Branches
Odin ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal and dried herring before once again beginning his ascent of the great world tree. Today's climb was as difficult as all the others had been, but by now Odin was resigned to the difficulties, and fully realized that the climb to the top of the world tree was actually the first part of his ritual sacrifice for knowledge. Odin climbed throughout the morning without a rest, and stopped only once at midday to eat a small bite of food. As evening fell Odin, who had made great progress on this day, left the trunk of the tree and stood out on one of Yggdrasil' s many branches. The branch extended out far beyond All - Father's scope of vision, and even the leaves that Odin knew must be growing on the tip of the branch could not be seen. As Odin looked down he saw below the blue sphere that is Midgard. Connected to Yggdrasil by one of its upper roots the great blue ball hung like a berry from a bush. From the blackness of empty space it shone as brightly at night as did Mani who was just now slowly coming up over the edge of the great round world.
Odin smiled as he thought back to when he, along with his brothers Vili and Ve, killed the Giant Ymir and made from his body and blood the mountains, the earth, and its deep oceans. Although Odin could not see the descendants of Ask and Embla going about their daily activities from this great distance, he knew that his children were well and happy in their new home. The Jotuns might very well be angry with the Aesir for what they did, but Odin considered Midgard to be a cosmic masterpiece...... almost as beautiful as their own golden realm ! As Odin bedded down on one of Yggdrasil's long arms, he fell asleep bathed in both Mani' s grey light, and Earth' s beautiful blue light.
The next day began much the same as all the others. Odin awoke to the calls of what seemed to him to be a million birds, ate his meager breakfast, and then began to climb once again. Odin knew that he was nearing the end of his journey because the branches that extended out from Yggdrasil were beginning to become more narrow, and as he looked up he thought he could actually see the ends of a few of the upper branches, with their bright green leaves outlined against the blackness of the void .
As Odin slowly made his way up the narrowing trunk of the world tree he noticed something running towards him. At first Odin thought it might be another dragon like Nidhogg, and grabbed for his spear. As it came closer, however, he realized that it was much too small to be such an evil creature. The animal, which though odd looking, Odin had decided was a type of squirrel, stopped a few feet away, and stared at him. Odin laughed ! " What type of creature are you little one, and what is your name ? " All - father asked. The squirrel looked very nervous and rather annoyed as he answered the huge being: " MynameisRatatoskandIamonmywaytospeaktothedragon.Ihaveanimportantmessagefromtheeagle! "he shouted as he tried to run around the being who blocked his way. The squirrel only made it halfway around the obstacle before he felt a tug on his tail.
Odin lifted the squirrel with one hand while he clung to the trunk with the other. The squirrel found himself dangling only inches away from the face of the strange being who held him . Then Odin spoke : " I would like you to tell me once again, but slower this time, who you are, and where you are going ? ! " he demanded. The squirrel involuntarily swallowed nervously before beginning. " My name is Ratatosk. " he said slowly. " I have been given an important message from the eagle, for which I must deliver to the dragon who lives below the world tree's roots. " he continued. Ratatosk looked nervously at Odin and squirmed. " Theeaglehastoldmehedoesnotcare...." Odin lowered the squirrel down so they were nose to nose. " Slower my little friend, slower ! " he reminded him. When Ratatosk nodded that he understood, Odin placed the squirrel back on the world tree.
Ratatosk to a long cleansing breath. " Let me start from the beginning. " he told Odin. " A while ago the eagle helped a being to injure one of Nidhogg's serpent friends ! And needless to say the dragon is very VERY ANGRY ! The eagle, who does not care for the dragon, or his slithering serpent friends, has sent me to Yggdrasil' s deepest root to tell Nidhogg that he is glad that one of his serpent friends was injured. " the squirrel finished. Odin smiled. " And how long has this hatred been going on between the eagle and the dragon ? " Odin asked. The squirrel laughed ! " For as long as I can remember I have been carrying insulting messages up and down the length of the world tree between them. " Ratatosk told him. Odin joined the squirrel in laughter. " Would you do for me a small favor my little friend ? " Odin asked. The squirrel gave Odin a concerned look. " If I can !? " Ratatosk answered. " Tell Nidhogg that Odin sends his regards ! " he said with a chuckle. The little squirrel laughed so hard he almost fell off of the tree ! " So you are the one who injured the serpent ! " he exclaimed. Odin gave the squirrel a wicked smile. " Yes ! " he replied. " Then I will be more than happy to deliver your message ! " the squirrel told Odin. Then with a wave of his hand Odin motioned for the squirrel to pass. As Ratatosk ran down the tree he yelled back : " IwishIhadmoretimetotalkbutIambusybusybusy! " Odin just shook his head and laughed.
Soon Odin came upon a crossroads of branches along Yggdrasil' s main stem . From here Odin could see that the great tree splayed out in many directions, but he could not tell which one of them was the tallest. Upon further study All - Father could see that some of the branches curved off slightly, and therefore could not be the tallest. That still left a least a half dozen branches, however, that were more or less vertical. After much deliberation Odin chose the one that appeared to be the most logical choice. He had only climbed this branch for a short while when he noticed Vedrfolnir circling above him. The pale hawk suddenly swooped down, and landed in front of him on the branch. The hawk did not speak, but shook its head slowly from side to side. "Storm Pale " then flew over to another of the high branches, and puffed out its chest at Odin. All- Father instantly knew what the hawk was telling him. He was on the wrong branch ! Odin carefully climbed back down to where the branches all intersected with the main stem of the tree, and by searching for Vedrfolnir among its leaves found the correct route to the top. As Odin began to take this new route the hawk flew away. All- Father laughed as he said to himself : " Thank you my pale little friend ! "
Odin stopped about halfway up the branch to look around. He now was certain that he was on the right path to the top because ahead of him, and off in the distance, he could see the faint outline of the great eagle as he sat on top of Yggdrasil. When Odin looked out from his position, however, he was greatly disturbed by what he saw. On the upper branches he observed harts devouring Yggdrasil' s tender leaves voraciously. These harts were not the magnificent creatures that populated Midgard. These were hideous, deformed creatures that were munching on the leaves of the upper branches . Once again Odin felt great pity for the world tree. Although Yggdrasil was attacked from above and below, he thought to himself, it forever remained strong and evergreen. His climb had also made him respect the world tree because it sacrificed itself for the nine worlds every day ! " It truly is the noblest of trees ! " Odin whispered to himself.
Just then Ratatosk ran up the branch behind him . " Oh my ! Oh my ! The dragon is very angry ! Very angry indeed ! " he said to Odin as he tried to pass. Odin held out his hand to stop the squirrel, who this time was more than glad to stop for the All - Father. " What is it that I can do for the Lord of the Aesir ? " the squirrel asked. Odin smiled at how respectfully the squirrel now addressed him. " I was wondering what the names of the harts which devour Yggdrasil' s leaves are, my little friend ? " he asked. The squirrel looked at Odin nervously. " Oh my ! I am not certain that I know all of their names, for there are several harts. " Ratatosk replied. The squirrel then thought for a moment. " Let me see.... " the squirrel started as his tail twitched up and down. " There is Dainn...... and Dvalin,.... though some I think call him Dvalar......oh and Duneyr,.......and finally there is........ Durathror....... Yes ! Those are the names of the harts great Odin ! " the squirrel happily assured him. Odin patted the squirrel gently on the head with his free hand. " Thank you, my little friend. Now you should hurry and deliver Nidhogg' s message to the eagle . " Odin told Ratatosk. " Yes, Yes I must be on my way ! Iamalwaysbusybusybusy ! " he shouted back at Odin as he scurried up the narrowing branch. Odin took one last look around at the devastation the harts were causing before he gazed back up to the very top of Yggdrasil. All - Father could sense that the eagle was waiting for him, but he did not know why.
That night Odin ate the last of his food, and drank the last of his water, before bedding down for the night in the " V " of a smaller branch that angled off of the one he was climbing on. Before he closed his eye he thought of what was to come. For everything he had suffered to this point was nothing compared with what he was about to experience. The ritual of sacrifice he would perform beginning tomorrow would test to the limits his beliefs, his knowledge, his wisdom, and most of all his endurance. Just before he entered the world of dreams he wondered if he would ever see his wife Frigga, or return to the golden realm again !
- End Chapter 3
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 4 : Odin' s Sacrifice !