I have always had a soft spot in my spirituality for the All-Father, Odin One-Eye.  He of Thought and Memory, who made a sacrifice of himself to himself, to find the wisdom writ on the things he had made or the things he knew nothing of, depending on which legends or stories or truths you believe.  There is a warm place in my mind for him, because he had the right of the spirit of sacrifice, you see.


Once upon a time (because all the best stories begin with once upon a time, O Best Beloved) there was a man who was a god who was also a man.  There are many stories about him, true and untrue and half-true and never-true and should-be-true and will-be-true.  One of the ones that should-be-true is that he made a sacrifice of himself to himself, to find wisdom that no other man had, so that the might of his mind and spirit could not be gainsaid by any other creature, in this world or any other.  He stayed in his place of pain for nine days (three times three, because three is a number of power, and three threes is the most powerful of all) and when the time was done, he was a new thing, a different man, a changed being.  He had wisdom, to match his thoughts and his memories, and a new seeing to replace the eye he had lost before.  Some say the eye had nothing to do with the tree, and some say they were intertwined so intimately that the tree grew from the eye in the depths of the world below.  Some say he gained a new magic, a new rune, for each day he spent on the tree – some say one for each night – some say three for every day, or every night, some say one magic for every three days or nights, and some say that he gained only one magic in all that time, the magic of knowing and speaking.


I say that for me, they are all wrong.  Old One-Eye had the right of it, and had to learn it the hard way.  All of us who are stubborn hard-headed war-mongering trickster deities do.  We have to bleed to learn, because we are too stupid and convinced of our own cleverness to learn any other way.  We have to bind ourselves to our World Trees to learn the magic of sacrifice.  There is no sacrifice but yourself, because you cannot bind anyone else to the tree.  The nails slide out, the ropes fall off, because you cannot magic anyone but yourself with sacrifice.  No one can be forced to learn from your pain but you.  The magic of sacrifice is this: your blood sings to your blood, calls to your bones, thrums in your brain.  Yours.  Your flesh is yours to burn on your own altar, and no one else’s.  That is the beauty and the price of it.  Your pain will buy pleasure and magic and knowledge like no other: yours.  It is a coin good in no other realm, and a price good for no other treasure.  On any other altar, in any other world, it is ashes and smoke.  Good for nothing but signals and hope that someone else will find the way to a tree.


The magic of sacrifice is also this: in burning yourself on the altar of yourself, you can learn how to make men into gods who are also men.  Old One-Eye had the right of it.  A sacrifice of yourself to yourself, and the price you pay is worth the coin you receive in return.  Knowledge is power, and the only coin worth having is the one that can’t be stolen.