a bird in the hand pendants

Viking Gilt Odin and Ravens Pendant, 10th Century AD

Silver-gilt pendant showing a male figure (Odin?) with hands around the necks of two large birds.

Odin is the god of poetry, wisdom, lord of the dead and is known as the All Father as the head of the pantheon of gods in the Scandinavian world. With his brothers, Vili and Ve, Odin created the cosmos out of the giant Ymir, whom they killed. Odin was married to Frija and their son,Thor, became one of the most important of the gods; he also had two other sons, Vali and Vidar, gods of vengeance, as well as Baldr, one of the most beloved gods.

Odin’s most important characteristic is his wisdom. One of the most intriguing myths tells of his acquisition of wisdom through self sacrifice on the world tree Yggdrasil. This is recounted in the Havamal: ‘I know that I hung on the wind-swept tree nine entire nights, wounded with a spear given to Odin, myself to myself on that tree, of which no man knows of what roots it runs. I took up the learned runes.’

Odin lives in Valhalla, or 'carrion-hall’, where slain warriors sport each day and night. He is therefore the god of the dead, and Snorri Sturluson says that Odin could awaken the dead to learn secrets from them. As lord of the dead he is associated with ravens, carrion animals of the battlefields. He has two, named Hugin, meaning 'thought’, and Munin, meaning 'memory’. At the beginning of each day the two birds fly around the world observing the world of men, and each evening return to Odin to perch on his shoulders and recount all that they have seen.

Odin presides over the banishing of the Midgard serpent and Hel to the outer ocean and the underworld, respectively, as well as binding the wolf Fenrir. Odin is destined to die at Ragnarok when the Fenrir wolf will be free. The universe will be destroyed only to reemerge from the fires and chaos.

Neo-Babylonian Chalcedony Cylinder Seal, c. 750-600 BC

Engraved with two deities flanking a tasseled crescent-standard on a stepped podium, a bearded god to the right, probably Ninurta, the god of hunting and war, wearing a globe-topped horned headdress and a long robe, a sword at his back, one hand upraised, the other holding a leash attached to the composite winged monster upon which he stands, the monster with a lion head, bull horns, bird talons and a scorpion tail, a goddess to the left, wearing a globe-topped horned headdress and a long robe, her hands raised in adoration, standing upon a gazelle; a goat, a large crescent and a star in the field behind her, a fish before her, six dots, a wedge, a mace and other attributes in the field before Ninurta; mounted as a pendant in a 19th century gold setting.