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  1. Etymology
  2. Attestation
    1. Old English sources
      1. Maxims I
      2. Nine Herbs Charm
      3. Rune poem
      4. Solomon and Saturn
    2. Royal genealogies
    3. Toponymy
    4. Calendar
  3. Folklore
    1. Wild Hunt
  4. Other traditions
    1. Norse Heathenry
    2. Continental Heathenry
  5. Modern practice
  6. References
Woden, as imagined by Midjourney AI
Woden, as imagined by Midjourney AI

Woden is a god in Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, typically associated with wisdom, healing, magic and the runic alphabet.


Woden is a learned borrowing from Old English Wóden, a direct evolution from the Proto-Germanic theonym *Wōdanaz. *Wōdanaz is itself a derivation from the adjective *wōdaz meaning “delirious”, from the Proto-Indo-European root *ueh₂t- “possessed, seer”.

The same Proto-Indo-European root seems to form an isogloss amongst European languages wherein Celtic and Germanic branches also derive terms relating to poetry, for example Welsh gwawd “poem, satire” and Proto-Germanic *wōþō “song, poem” which gives Old English wóð “song, poetry, sound”.12


Old English sources

Maxims I

Maxims I contains a reference to Woden, intended to denounce him in favour of the Christian god.3

wóden worhte wéos, wuldor alwalda
rúme roderas,4

Woden wrought idols, the glorious almighty
[wrought] the spacious skies

Nine Herbs Charm

There is a direct reference to Woden in the Nine Herbs Charm, which is a healing charm described in the 10th century CE medical compilation Lacnunga.

wyrm cóm snícan, tóslát hé man,
ðá genam wóden VIIII wuldortánas,
slóh ðá þá nǽddran þæt héo on VIIII tófléah
þǽr gaændade æppel and áttor
þæt héo nǽfre ne wolde on hús búgan.

A snake came crawling, it bit a man.
Then Woden took nine glory-twigs,
Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.
There apple brought this pass against poison,
That she nevermore would enter her house.

Rune poem

The Old English rune poem is a poem most likely composed in the 8th or 9th century containing stanzas on 29 Old English runes, forming part of a Germanic tradition of rune poems. Each stanza, of two to five lines each, describes the rune’s name with what appears to be a riddle.56

ᚩ (ós) byþ ordfruma ǽlcre sprǽce
wísdómes wraþu and witena frófur
and eorla gehwám éadnys and tóhiht7

god is the origin of all language
wisdom’s foundation and wise man’s comfort
and to every hero blessing and hope

Owing to the earlier date of Christianisation in England, the Old English rune poem is heavily Christianised in comparison to the Icelandic rune poem. This surfaces especially in this stanza in which the Latin word ōs meaning “mouth” was superficially imposed as the meaning of the rune to mask its original Old English meaning of “god”, which is most likely a reference to Woden.5

This original meaning is echoed in the Icelandic rune poem’s equivalent stanza for the Younger Futhark rune ᚬ (óss, also meaning “god”) which is explicitly equated to the Old Icelandic epithet algingautr, “aged Gautr” referring to the Norse Odin.

Solomon and Saturn

Solomon and Saturn is a collection of Old English poetic works that form a dialogue between Solomon, King of Israel, and Saturn.

saga mé hwá ǽrost bócstafas sette,
ic ðé secge mercurius se gygand

“Tell me who first created letters,”
“I tell thee, Mercury the giant”

According to Interpretatio Romana, Woden would have been routinely identified with the Roman god Mercury.8

Royal genealogies

Woden is referenced in various accounts of Old English royal lineage, such as in Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.9 In these accounts, Woden’s euhemerisation served to legitimise power without damaging the social hierarchy of post-Christianisation England.10

Duces fuisse perhibentur eorum primi duo fratres Hengist et Horsa; […]
Erant autem filii Uictgilsi, cuius pater Uitta, cuius pater Uecta, cuius pater Uoden,11

The first leaders are said to have been two bothers Hengist and Horsa; […]
They were sons of Wictgils, whose father was Witta, whose father was Wecta, whose father was Woden.


Woden’s influence survives through a minority of English toponymy, forming the derivational basis of such placenames as Wednesbury, West Midlands from Wódnesburh (“Woden’s borough”) and Wensley, North Yorkshire from Wódnesléah (“Woden’s woodland”).

Another such site of interest is Adam’s Grave, known to the Old English as Wódnesbeorh (“Woden’s Barrow”),12 a Neolithic long barrow in Wiltshire, southwest England.13 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records two battles at the location in 592 and 715 and there is a wealth of folklore local to the site.1214


Woden gives his name to the third day of the week, wódnesdæg “Wednesday”, as a calque of the Latin Mercurii dies in accordance with Interpretatio Romana in which Woden was identified with the Roman god Mercury.


Wild Hunt

Main article: Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt is a folklore motif that is present within English folklore. Many people link the Wild Hunt to Woden, placing him as a leader of the supernatural procession and referring to the hunt as Woden’s Hunt amongst other names.8

Other traditions

Norse Heathenry

This section is to be written.

Continental Heathenry

This section is to be written.

Modern practice

This section is to be written.


  1. Kroonen, G. (2013). Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. 

  2. Vaan, M. (2008). Etymological dictionary of Latin and other Italic languages. Leiden: Brill. 

  3. North. (1997). Heathen gods in Old English literature. Cambridge University Press. 

  4. Bosworth, J. (2014). Wóden. In T. Northcote Toller, C. Sean, & O. Tichy (Eds.), An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online. Faculty of Arts, Charles University. Retrieved 9 August 2022. 

  5. Osborn, M. (1981). Hleotan and the Purpose of the Old English Rune Poem. Folklore (London), 92(2), 168–173. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1981.9716203  2

  6. Dickins, B. (1915). Runic and heroic poems of the old Teutonic peoples

  7. Bosworth, J. (2014). ós. In T. Northcote Toller, C. Sean, & O. Tichy (Eds.), An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online. Faculty of Arts, Charles University. 

  8. Ryan, J. S. (1963). Othin in England: Evidence from the Poetry for a Cult of Woden in Anglo-Saxon England. Folklore, 74(3), 460–480.  2

  9. Fahey, R. (2015). Woden: Allfather of the English. Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame. 

  10. Rowsell, T. (2012). Woden and his Roles in Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogy. 

  11. Bede. (ca. 731). Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. Book I. 

  12. Historic England. Battle of Woden’s Barrow AD 592 (221229). Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 9 August 2022.  2

  13. Historic England. Adam’s Grave: a long barrow on Walker’s Hill. Retrieved 9 August 2022. 

  14. Adam’s Grave. Haunted Wiltshire. Retrieved 9 August 2022.