In Norse mythology, Hugin and Munin are two crows of Odin who travel the world to bring knowledge and wisdom back to their master.
These mystical birds have become symbols of reflection, intuition and insight, all qualities associated with this powerful god.
But what is the story of these two magical creatures?
How did they come to be associated with Odin and why are they so important in Norse culture?
In this article, we'll explore the legends surrounding Hugin and Munin, and discover how these winged messengers dominate many aspects of Norse mythology .
Hugin and Munin, the crows of the god Odin
The two crows sit on the shoulders of the god Odin and whisper in his ear all the news they see and hear; they are called Hugin and Munin. In the morning Odin sends them flying around the world and at breakfast they are back and tell what they have seen. Thus, Odin discovers many new things and that is why he is called "god-raven".
The connection between Odin and the crows is very old and very deep. Already in the 6th and 7th centuries AD, well before the start of the Viking Age at the end of the 8th century, visual representations of Odin on helmets and jewelry often show him accompanied by one or more ravens. .
Odin is referred to as the "raven-god" (Hrafnaguð or Hrafnáss), the "raven-tent" (Hrafnfreistuðr), or "the raven-sacrifice priest" (Hrafnblóts Goði; this is surely a poetic way of describing fallen warriors in battle as "sacrifices" to crows and other carrion birds, with Odin as the decider of who lives and dies in battle).
Crows are called "Odin's greedy hawks" (átfrekir Óðins haukar), the sight of crows immediately after a sacrifice to Odin was considered a sign that the god had accepted the offering.
Why was there such an ancient and intense bond between Odin and the Raven?
The answer largely lies in Odin's roles as the god of war and death. Crows, as carrion birds, were present when a battle was taking place, and were its first beneficiaries.
Killing someone in battle was, in a way, a gift for the crows. The warrior is the "feeder of the crow". The gift of a dead person is also for Odin, due to his role as leader of the dead in Valhalla and the common practice of symbolically sacrificing an enemy host to Odin before a battle. Thus, the association between the crow and Odin was only natural for the Nords.
Yet there is still more to be done in this area. Crows aren't just birds of carnage; they are also exceptionally intelligent birds, and Odin is an exceptionally intellectual god.
Meaning of the Viking Raven
This aspect of the bond is indicated by the names of Hugin and Munin. Hugin comes from the word hugr, "thought". Munin comes from the word munr, which is more difficult to translate, but which can encompass the concepts of "thought", "desire" and "emotion". The names of the two ravens are often translated as "Thought" and "Memory" in popular works on Norse mythology.
More precisely, their names refer to their concrete and visualized form of Odin's "thought". Hugin and Munin, embody Odin's intellectual/spiritual abilities that travel outward in the form of curious, intelligent birds.