A cool and rainy Wednesday seems like a good time to recommend a book: “Odin’s Wife: Mother Earth in Germanic Mythology” by William Reaves. It requires some patience. The author goes into deep detail, and some of it will likely be old ground. However, there is much within that makes the book richly worth a reader’s time.
There is a lot about the Earth Herself as a Goddess. Also, the book has many insights on Wodan/Odin. One that jumps out for me is that Continental views of Him would have been very different than our late-age Viking pictures of Odin as a warrior chief gathering souls for the “final battle.” A lot of what has survived and has been passed down to us came from a time when Germanic Polytheist worship had already been pushed out to the edges and frontiers. The North Sea was a far more connected network than many modern folk imagine, and you can be sure that what was going on down south on the Continent–forced conversions, the desecration of holy sites, etc.– was very much in those peoples’ awareness.
The “before” of Wodan has a different feel. The author writes of Him as a God very much associated with blessings and fertility of the land, including citing records of the last bit of the harvest being left to His horse.
That is also the side of Him that I get personally. He prefers that I address Him as Wodan, not Odin, when we talk. Sometimes, yes, He has great wildness about Him, and the blood, passion, and fury of the Wild Hunt. But most often I meet a God Who nurtures the land and loves the forests, Who is wise, mysterious, and comforting.
Deities are not bound by contemporary ideas of linear time. “Latest” is not always “best.” If the Continental rhythms and understandings of the Germanic Deities speak to your soul, you need not try to force yourself and Them into a late-age, fighting-the-dying-light, Viking mold. Those stories can be a stepping stone and help with understanding, but they need not be the end-point.
This subject is on my mind lately after speaking with Baldr recently. Who was He before the Norse Eddas? How did people understand Him in gentler lands, when their faith was not under threat? I have some suspicions–indeed, some answers if I am hearing correctly, but not with a grant of leave to share them either here or now. For those so inclined, though: ask Him… these sorts of questions might lead somewhere powerful, illuminating, and interesting.