Who Is Havi in Norse Mythology?

A superabundance of gods and goddesses makes it challenging to keep track of all the characters of the Norse cosmos. [1] It doesn’t help that some of them, like Odin, go by dozens of names. [2]

So readers will be forgiven for never having heard of Havi.

Havi is Odin’s alias in the Havamal, an important piece of literature that translates to “Sayings of the High One.”

The name Havi portrays Odin’s more reflective side, where he shares advice on topics like love and intoxication. 

This article briefly describes the contents of the Havamal, lists some of the many ways Odin is alluded to elsewhere, and explains why he has so many different names in the first place.

Also, see How Old Is Norse Mythology? to learn more.

Are Havi and Odin the Same?

Havi and Odin are the same in Norse mythology. The name Odin derives from the Germanic Woðanaz, meaning the master of ecstacies, whereas the name Havi derives from the Old Norse Hávi, which means high one.

Some people see them as two ways to describe the same quality. However, Odin also has dozens of other monickers, which makes sense upon examining his character.

Who Is Odin?

There are two tribes of Norse gods and goddesses  — the Aesir and the Vanir.

The Aesir rule the more traditionally macho domains like war, conquest, hunting, thunder, and lightning, while the Vanir have dominion over the gentler, more classically feminine realms of fertility, harvest, nature, wisdom, and magic.

Odin, the chief Aesir deity in the Norse pantheon, is also one of its most enigmatic characters because he straddles the Aesir-Vanir divide. 

Not only is he the god of war, death, and hunting, but is also responsible for poetry, magic, and prophecy.

This makes him both masculine and feminine and a shapeshifter like Loki, the trickster god.

Like many other chief deities, Odin is usually depicted as an old man with a flowing white beard. He is portrayed as a fearsome warrior and battle commander, epitomizing the robust masculine qualities the Norse admired. 

His dominion was Valhalla, the famous realm of the Norse afterlife where the bravest Norse warriors went after their deaths and the highest honor for a Norse citizen. 

Once in Valhalla, the Norse warriors expected to enjoy a perpetual feast that was only interrupted by glorious battles in preparation for Ragnarok, the end of the world.

During Ragnarok, Odin himself would lead the Norse in an epic battle against the agents of chaos. 

Their cause was doomed from the outset, but that didn’t matter, as an honorable death by Odin’s side was the ultimate distinction for a Viking.

These aspects of Odin emphasize his classical qualities, placing him squarely on the side of order.

Perplexingly then, in other stories, Odin is sly, self-serving, and sometimes an effete seeker who goes to great lengths to attain wisdom, sacrificing an eye on one notable occasion in his quest for knowledge. 

He is also associated with intoxication, which isn’t surprising considering that the names Havi and Odin are associated with “an elevated state of being.” 

Additionally, from a classical perspective, his indulgence in magic and prophecy would have elicited disgust for being “unmanly.” [3]

Such aspects of Odin’s personality contrast with his manly, warrior-like qualities, causing confusion and setting the stage for his many names. 

Why Odin Is Known by Many Names

The multifaceted nature of Odin’s character makes it easy to see why he had so many names. 

But it is also important to remember that the Norse passed down their tradition by oral transmission and heavily relied on songs and poems. 

Among the many conventions of skaldic poetry was the use of kennings  — a poetic method of alluding to things by indirect reference. Inevitably, a sophisticated character like Odin produced a plethora of names, the most famous being All-Father  — the father of all.  

Some of Odin’s Other Names

Besides being known as Havi and the All-Father, Odin had dozens of other names. They included:

  • Atrid, meaning rider.
  • Baleyg, for flame eye.
  • Bolverk, which translates as evil worker.
  • Farmagud, the god of cargo.
  • Fimbulthul, mighty poet.
  • Fjolnir, or wise one.
  • Gangari, meaning one who wanders.
  • Glapsvid, or quick to deceive.
  • Hangagud, god of the hanged.
  • Haptagud, the god of prisoners.
  • Harbard, in reference to his grey beard.
  • Har, meaning high.
  • Herfodr, the father of hosts.
  • Herjan, the warrior.
  • Hnikar, the overthrower.
  • Hrafnagud, or the raven god.
  • Hropt for sage.
  • Jalk, meaning gelding.
  • Langbard (a reference to the length of his beard).
  • Omi, which means shouter.
  • Oski, the god of wishes.
  • Sann, the truthful.
  • Sigfodr, meaning war-father.
  • Sigtyr, or war god.
  • Skilfing, the tremble.
  • Thund, the thunderer.
  • Vafud, the wanderer.
  • Valfodr, meaning father of the slain.
  • Ygg, or the terrible one.

Where Is Odin Referred to As Havi?

Odin is called Havi in the Havamal, a collection of mythological poems from the 13th-century Icelandic text known as the Poetic Edda. [4]

Believed to have been initially composed in either 9th or 10th century Norway, the Havamal is an important work of North Germanic wisdom literature.

The Havamal: The Wisdom of the High One

The Havamal, which means ‘Sayings of the High One’ in Old Norse, is a compendium of 164 aphorisms attributed to Odin himself. 

Ranging from the gnomic to the homely, they cover a range of topics, including Odin’s quests for love and runes, odes to intoxication, and practical advice for lovers. [5] They also discuss how to conduct oneself socially.

For a culture usually associated with brutality, the sections detailing how to properly receive guests into a home are particularly touching.

They include suggestions to offer visitors water and towels and to prepare a fire for them if it is cold outside, portraying a more sensitive and sophisticated side to the Norse. [6]     

The Havamal in the Context of Norse Literature

The Norse did not maintain a written record elaborating their belief system, and most records surfaced after centuries of orally-transmitted stories.

As such, it is likely that many stories did not make it to written records. 

Additionally, over time, many pagan texts were destroyed by accident or suppressed under pressure from zealots in the Christian church.  

Against this context, the Poetic Edda, which contains the Havamal, is among the few surviving relics of a highly sophisticated early-medieval European culture. Only rediscovered in 1643 CE, its author remains unknown. [7]

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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