They are usually depicted sitting on Odin's shoulders, whispering news in his ears. Odin, one of the principal gods in Norse mythology, sends Huginn and Muninn to fly around the world every morning and to collect news for him, and they carry out his bidding.
Huginn and Muninn as birds of carnage and Odin's helpers in battles
There is a very old and very deep connection between Odin and the ravens. There are different explanations as to why these ravens play such an important role in Odin's life, i.e., what makes their connection so significant.
Firstly, Huginn and Muninn can be seen as birds of gore and carnage, as they were regularly present in battles and fights. Warriors who took part in battles and who were slain in fights were seen as "feeders of the ravens" – they would feed the birds with their own (dead) flesh and blood!
But this "feeding" wasn't just feeding; it was an offering made to Odin, who was, among other things, considered the god of war and death, and who was the keeper of Valhalla, the mythical and majestic hall of the slain warriors.
During battles, seeing ravens after offering a sacrifice to Odin was taken as a good sign – meaning that Odin has accepted an offer.
Huginn and Muninn in Odin's shamanic rituals
Another connection between Odin and the ravens is more of an intellectual and spiritual one. Ravens are known to be highly intelligent birds, and Odin is also the god of intellectual and spiritual aspects of life.
Their names, Huginn and Muninn, denote the connection – Huginn means "thought," and Muninn means "desire," "emotion," or "memory."
In many of the scientific works covering the topic of Norse mythology, the name Muninn is translated just as "memory"; however, some scholars find the translation imprecise.
In this sense, sending Huginn and Muninn out to fly and gather information and new knowledge can be seen as a metaphor for the work of a shaman or a sorcerer.
Odin was the great magician among the Norse gods. Source: EyeShotYou / Pixabay
In one of the Eddic poems, Odin, also known as "the raven god," expresses his fear and worry that the ravens might not come back to him.
Huginn and Muninn fly out every day, but Odin can never be sure they will return. Odin expressed worry for both birds; however, he worried more for Muninn.
This is a metaphor for practicing magic or some sort of sorcery – it always involves a certain risk. Putting your mind and memory to a state of trance, necessary for practicing shamanic rituals, carries the danger that one might never return from it and unwillingly stay in such a state.
So Huginn and Muninn flying out can also be seen as another metaphor – a metaphor for Odin's mind that wanders off, with the danger of never returning to "normality."
Symbiosis of Odin, Huginn, and Muninn; wolves Geri and Freki
Odin was also accompanied by the wolves Geri and Freki, and this was seen and understood as a symbiosis that was perfect and necessary for hunting.
Every member (or species) separately has their own flaws and weaknesses, and Odin, as the god in human form, was also considered imperfect.
Odin uniting with the ravens and the wolves constituted a powerful trio – Huginn and Muninn as the eyes, mind, and memory/emotions, wolves as the hunters and providers of meat, and Odin as the intellectual part.
All the members of this relationship would be able to survive alone, but together they become more powerful. The relationship can also be seen as the constant intertwining of humans, nature, and the spiritual and intellectual aspects of life.
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