Hrafnaguð: “raven god”; name for Odin in Norse mythology
Odin had two ravens named Huginn (Old Norse “thought”) and Muninn (Old Norse “mind”). Every day, Odin would send them out at dawn, and the birds would fly all over the world before returning at dinner-time. They would then tell Odin everything they saw and heard. It is said that this is the reason why one of Odin’s names was “raven-god” (hrafnaguð).
Huginn and Muninn rest on Odin’s shoulders, they are large, ominous looking birds with black feathers and large, sharp beaks. They have been endowed by Odin with powers:
- Their strong wings can lift them high into the sky, allowing them to view the lands below, and are able to fly the entire world of Midgard in a single day
- They have the ability to understand and even speak the language of men
- They have intelligent minds and great observation and are important advisors to Odin
In addition to these powers, Huginn and Muninn also accompany Odin into battle, where they inform him of strategy to use against his enemies as well as helping guide and heal his horse. One such example of their appearance can be seen in the imagery of Ragnarök, the great, apocalyptic battle where Odin is doomed to die. The ravens warn him of the event and remain on his shoulders during the battle.
Some scholars interpret Huginn and Muninn as projections of Odin himself, rather than just ravens he gave special powers. Some support the idea that they are projections of his consciousness. Other scholars believe that Huginn and Muninn are Odin’s fylgjur.
In Norse culture, spirit animals, called fylgjur (literally “to accompany”), are commonly seen in the company of great men and women. These animals were believed to be manifestations of the person’s character. Fylgjur are often tied into a person’s fate as well; they appear just before a climactic moment in the person’s life and are often omens of death.
Ravens embody wisdom and guidance in Norse culture, signifying wisdom – a fitting manifestation of the god many associate with wisdom and knowledge, among many other aspects.