Odin’s Eye: The Story Behind the Symbol

odin's eye
The Vikings say that all-father Odin was so obsessed with knowing everything in the cosmos that he was willing to gain wisdom, a journey that would cost him dearly. Odin lost his eye as payment for wisdom.

Welcome to the Norse (Vikings) mythology. It’s the land of magic and gods, and if you’re a fan of Marvel mythos movies or comics, you definitely know Odin, the father of Thor, the god of thunder.

This article is about him. Odin, the one-eyed god. How and why did he lose his beautiful blue eye (at least that’s what the Norse say)? And the consequences that followed.

But before we consider Odin’s eye, a brief history from the ancient stones (Yes, Vikings wrote on stones) is essential and an excellent foundation to start from.

Who Is Odin?

He is the king god, the ruler of all the Asgardian gods—the father of Thor and Loki (adopted).

Norse mythology presents Odin with his eight-legged horse (Sleipnir) as:

  • The god of battle
  • The god of victory
  • The god of prophecy
  • The god of magic
  • The god of poetry
  • The god of wisdom

It’s clear from the above CV why he is the ruler of the Norse gods. His other name is the all-father god. There are diverse stories about this Viking idol, but what you’ll always expect with all is his appearance -he is the one-eyed god.

Aside from being the Asgard king, Odin is known to be a wanderer, a seeker of knowledge, and willing to give anything to get wisdom.

He once pierced himself with his terrible spear (Gungnir) and hanged on the Yggdrasil tree for nine days to be worthy to receive the mysteries of the runes.

Odin is also a shapeshifter. He learned this magic from Freyja and can transform into any beast or man.

He owns two ravens (Huginn and Muninn) and two wolves, Geri and Freki.

How Did Odin Lose His Eye?

Norse myth speaks of Mimir’s well, or the well of Urd that nourishes the Yggdrasil tree. It’s believed that the water from the well is rich and could make anyone wise – wise at a cosmic scale.

However, Mimir (the well guardian and adviser of the gods) wasn’t ready to have anyone drink from the well of knowledge without a gift.

For Odin, the sacrifice was his eye, and he was willing to give it. It’s believed that Odin’s eyes were the most beautiful, and they could spot a bird from miles away.

Odin gouged out the eye and gave it to Mimir, who gave the now one-eyed god a drink from the well as promised.

The drink, as said, made Odin the wisest god across the nine worlds and with the ability to see and foretell everything that is to happen in the cosmos.

Odin at Mimir's Well
Odin at Mimir’s Well, George Hamilton Frye (1906)

Why Did Odin Sacrifice His Eye?

Why did Odin sacrifice his eye? Because Mimir (the well guardian) wouldn’t accept anything else but an eye.

That’s a surface answer. The truth is, Odin gave his eye for a taste of the Urd waters, enlightening any that drinks it with cosmic knowledge.

It’s not told why Mimir, of all the things he could ask from the ruler of Asgard gods, desired only his eye. And also why Odin, the god of war, magic, and victory, was willing to give his eye without a fight.

However, the Norse believed Odin’s eye was so beautiful and powerful that he could see objects miles and miles away.

Which Eye Did Odin Lose?

The Vikings didn’t see it necessary to specify which eye, so it’s hard to tell which eye Mimir preferred.

Most of the Norse draws show he lost the left eye, but some others depict him without the right eye. However, it’s clear at Mimir’s well, Odin lost an eye.

An interesting question to ask is, what happened to Odin’s eye?

The answer is the same; the Vikings didn’t see it necessary to trouble us with vital information. We’re left with speculations.

Odin and Mimir
Odin and Mimir, source: germanicmythology.com

What Was Odin’s Eye Color?

Odin’s eye color was pale blue, beautiful as the clear winter sky.

Odin’s Eye Symbol

Norse believed that Odin’s eye was a symbol of insight and understanding. It also stands for the sacrifice he made to get the cosmic enlightenment at the Urd well.

It’s interesting that even after sacrificing his eye to know everything, Odin couldn’t prevent his death at the Ragnarök battle or the destruction of Asgard. But what did you expect? It’s a great sacrificial story with an end.


Ana has always been interested in all things Norse mythology, Vikings and tales of ancient Germanic myths. An avid reader of books on Norse mythology, she also enjoys watching movies and TV shows based on Viking culture, and she secretly watched every Norse god-inspired MCU production as well!

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