Well, the bank holiday weekend brought with it some fresh inspiration, or perhaps simply the impetus to act on an idea that had been swimming around in my imagination for a while now. I decided to tackle a new figurine in clay, this time Odin, the All Father from Norse mythology.
Odin is considered the ruler of the Asgard realm, home to the Aesir Gods within the Norse pantheon. He rules from Valhalla, whose halls house fallen warriors, lifted from the battlefield by the Valkyries. From his throne he is able to look out across the nine kingdoms of the Norse cosmos, and with the help of his two ravens – Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) – he is able to know all that happens across these realms.
There are many stories of Odin, but He is most well known for hanging on the world tree, Yggdrasil, until in a near death state he receives the wisdom and power of the runes.
Although a God, Odin does not always take a kingly or even a Godly guise. Odin the Wanderer often appears as an old man, moving across Midgard (our physical earthly realm) amongst humans, dressed in a cloak and a wide brimmed hat and carrying a traveller’s staff. It is in this humble guise that he ventures to the Well of Mimir, where he exchanges one of his eyes as the price for a drink which allows him to see into the past, present and future of humanity and the Gods.
Odin is a figure that I have been intrigued by for a long time and have enjoyed building a closer relationship with. He seems to embody so many archetypes, to have so many faces and identities. He is known as a God of battle and war, regal and powerful, yet as psychopomp he is a leader and carer of dead souls, as seid-worker he is considered to have a magical and strongly feminine identity, and as the wanderer we see a humility that allows him to move freely among people as one of them, even aspects of the spiritual seeker in his pursuit of spiritual wisdom. He is a complex being who we can relate to on many levels. But back to the clay work…
I drew mainly on the images of Odin the Wanderer, but also on a number of ancient representations. While in Sweden over Yule I came across a small pendant, similar to this one from Northan Viking Age Jewellery:
It really reminded me of the English chalk figure of the Long Man of Wilmington:
When I got home I looked up the Long Man in a book I have called The Lost Gods of Albion and found that there was believed to be a connection between this hill figure and the Odinic cult within England. I knew then that this had to form part of my representation of Odin. So, I started work on a figure, with some kind of idea of the face of this God that I wanted to portray, but as usual still making most of it up as I went along :D.
It took me pretty much three full days to make this piece and it turned out to be one of the most technically challenging that I had attempted for quite some time, involving lots of props and supports. Probably just as well I didn’t realise that when I started out or it might never have happened :D! However, there is something about making a figurine which is different to making anything else. Seeing a person emerge from the clay, trying to find their face and expression within it represents a whole other set of challenges that I don’t have to consider in the same way when making a pot or a decorative piece. The result is, I hope, something faithful to my inspiration and feeling of this figure. The pictures below show Him in the state He is currently in, still in unfired clay after having been nail bitingly moved from wooden batt to kiln shelf for slow drying :)!!