Part I: The first Óðr
Part I: The first Óðr


Fróði, son of Ævar, was probably born between 672 CE and 677 CE. Not much of his early life (before his Óðr) is known that isn't based on retroactive speculation some years after his death. Due to his early association with Visby, Gotland, it is assumed by most historians that he was born there. What is certain is that Fróði was born into an obscure Bóndi clan which in Norse society denoted craftsmen, small landowners or merchants. Accounts of Fróði shortly after his Óðr do state that he was “youthful in appearance despite small grays in his hair” indicating he may have been around his 40s. He was also described as handicapped with a soft and timid voice, but possessing amazing guile and charisma. At some point prior to his Óðr he had also been taught to read and write in Elder Futhark runic script. Literacy in Scandinavia, even in native runes, was extremely rare in the 7th and 8th centuries.

The occurrences leading up to, during and after his Óðr is much more well attested. His parents seem to have died sometime before 712 CE and Fróði did not have any known siblings. However, he was a relatively popular figure within the merchant class of Gotland - many of whom would later facilitate the spreading of the word of his Óðr much further than it would have had he been but a simple local Seer.

In the summer of 712 CE he and a small crew of sailors were transporting cargo within a Knarr that may have consisted of salt, metal blades and different kinds of coins to trade with the Karelians, likely in exchange for furs. Fróði himself seems to have also been involved for quite some time in the copper trade between the Norse and Baltic peoples. He was known to be fluent in “their tongue” (likely Old Eastern Baltic) as well as that of the Karelians.

While on this voyage a great storm raged. Lightning struck the sail of the Knarr which forced the small crew to drift towards one of the rocky pieces of land around the Ahvaland islands (possibly a rock near Kökar). The Knarr’s sail was damaged beyond repair, there was no wood on the rock or a large enough fabric on the ship to replace it. The Norsemen were hopelessly marooned on the island for several months and subsisted off seal meat while awaiting possible rescue by Finnic seal hunters or another passing ship, but none came before wintertime.

Forced to use the corpse of their ship as kindling, the crew slowly began to lose hope. Soon the last of their wood had been spent and a fearsome amount of snow blew over their heads. When they were finally found by seal hunters the following spring, only Fróði had survived and miraculously had not suffered from any effects of frostbite. The experience, however, had a great spiritual effect on him. It is recorded that he was kept conscious by the appearance of Skaði, the goddess of winter. She commanded Fróði to recite galdrs and retell the Sagas of the Æsir. He would later refer to this as the beginning of his Óðr.

Upon returning to his wife, Yrsa and daughter, Ulfhild in Visby the following Summer in 713 CE, he was plagued by episodes of catatonia which he feared would be interpreted as possession. He revealed to his family his encounter with Skaði and the nature of his visions. His wife consoled and reassured him that she believes what he is saying is true. This initial instance of Óðr was followed by a three-year pause during which Fróði felt depressed and further gave himself to meditation and spiritual practices.

Óðr resumed. Skaði appeared once again, reassured him and commanded him to begin preaching: "The All-Father has not forsaken you, nor is he upset."

“Óðr (pronounced roughly “OH-thur,” with a hard “th” as in “the”) is an Old Norse word that has no direct equivalent in modern English. The word, and the wonderful concept to which it refers, is as little understood today as it was ubiquitous in pre-Christian Germanic mythology and religion.

Óðr is generally translated as something along the lines of “divine inspiration” or “inspired mental activity.” While such translations will do where óðr is only mentioned in passing as part of a larger discussion, they gloss over the richness and dynamism of the word and its connotations, and are therefore inadequate for lengthier considerations of óðr such as the one in which we happen to find ourselves just now.

The word had cognates – words that mean the same thing and have the same linguistic origin – in the other Germanic languages, which attest to its universality throughout the ancient Germanic world. For example, in Old English it was wod, and in Old High German it was wuot. All of these originally stem from the Proto-Germanic *woþ-, which in turn stems from the Indo-European *uat-. Words from other branches of the Indo-European family of languages that were based on this root include the Latin vates, “soothsayer” or “poet,” and the Old Irish fáith, “seer” or “prophet.”

Other Germanic words that originated in this same root – to cite but a few of the many – include Old English woþ, “sound, song, voice, poetry,” and woþbora, “poet, orator, prophet;” Old Saxon wodian, “to rage, to be raving mad or crazy;” and Old Norse øsa, “to make raving mad or crazy.” Even the name of Odin himself is derived from this word (Old Norse Óðinn, “Master of Óðr“). Hence the famous remark by the eleventh-century German historian Adam of Bremen: “Wodan, id est furor” (“Odin, that is, furor”).

Óðr is a force that causes people to create or perform any of the arts; to pronounce a prophecy; to enter an ecstatic trance, as in shamanism; to produce scholarly works; to enter into the battlefield frenzy that was the hallmark of Odin’s elite warriors, the berserkers and úlfheðnar; or to become possessed or go mad.

Óðr is a power that overwhelms and infuses one’s being to its core, which ousts one’s mundane consciousness and turns one into a frenzied, ecstatic vessel for some mysterious, divine agency that is palpably present in the act. This could certainly happen in the realms of life with which we associate the relatively neutered modern English world “inspiration,” such as the arts and acts of clairvoyance, but it could also happen in cases where we wouldn’t typically use “inspiration,” such as scholarly writing, the fury of the warrior in the heat of battle, or insanity (and here we must bear in mind that “’madness,’ to earlier peoples, did not mean loss of control; it meant control by Someone Else: inspiration or possession”).”

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Huh does this mean a more centralized Norse Religion. A Prophet would help in that. Also I wonder how this is going to effect the Geatish-Swedish Wars going on right now. Could the Goths of Scandinavia finally have a chance (even though I personally find the swedes more 'cool')?
Odr = Inspiration or Epiphany? I'm guessing the catatonia is some kinda hangover from the trauma of being stranded on on island in the middle of a Baltic winter.
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Great first chapter btw, love that you're treating it as a proper religion and not just some vehicle for conquest
A Norse Muhammad?

I hope he won't forsake the Aesir, to be honest - a CK2-esque systematization of pre-existing beliefs, with some Baltic and Finnic influence thrown in, would be cooler. :p
Odr = Inspiration or Epiphany? I'm guessing the catatonia is some kinda hangover from the trauma of being stranded on on island in the middle of a Baltic winter.
It is pretty much the generic "shaman" template; someone undergoes a crisis, usually involving an injury or disease; when they recover they have these sorts of ties to the spirit world; a particular patron entity is pretty usual.
Very interesting linguistic information provided, and a very interesting start to this TL!

So would Fróði be the Óðri (Inspirer?) in this case? Especially if it semantically becomes akin to Prophet?

Fróði sá Óðri has a nice ring to it, very musical.
Interesting it hit on the right time, while the Franks are still fighting the Frisians and at a point where the Frisians and Saxons are still Pagans. Of course it also develop without the clear inspiration of Christianity. Which I think you indicates pretty well with it focus on shamanistic inspiration. I hope this element of mysticism survives in the religion.
Óðr (pronounced roughly “OH-thur,” with a hard “th” as in “the”) is an Old Norse word that has no direct equivalent in modern English.
Well wode or wood (long oo) does still exist poetically even if the concept has been replaced mostly by mania.

But that nitpick aside a very interesting start.
Ah, I saw this earlier today but forgot to add in my praises.

Now that everyone else has snatched my words, I shall only say that I am curiously intrigued.