From Dreaming in Smoke and Fire:
What do you think is the symbolism/significance of Odin giving an eye to the Well of Mimir as opposed to some other sacrifice?
– Do you think this may or may not have affected his decisions and the potential outcome of Ragnarok?
– Does this affect your enjoyment of pina coladas?
I can see Dreaming is on a pina coladas kick, but the quick answer is no, it does not affect my enjoyment of them. I mean, it might if I had enough, but I’m sure enough pina coladas and anyone’s enjoyment would be affected by the potential outcome of Ragnarok. Don’t mix thinking about Ragnarok with alcohol. Bad things ensue, I am sure.
The significance of Odin giving His eye to the Well, to Mimir, is that He is willing to do anything to ensure He has the power, coming from wisdom, to achieve His ends. Truth be told, all of the sacrifices Odin makes, from His offering His eye to Mimir, to His Hanging on Yggdrasil, to His hanging between two fires as described in the Grimnismal, to sacrificing the solid ground His gender may have stood on to learn seidr (and I think spá) with Freya, His sacrifices are to give Him the power and ability to do what He knows must be done. No less than Loki’s many gifts, are Odin’s many gifts needed to see all the Gods, Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun, through the hard times. No less than Thor’s might, Freyr’s prowess or Skadi’s skill are Odin’s gifts needed to see through the hard times. He goes through pain and torture to attain His goals, and in my experience, and the experience of others who hail Him and follow Him close, He asks much the same of us.
That He gives half of His vision to lay in the Waters of Wisdom is indeed rife with significance and symbolism. One eye to see in the Worlds as it presents itself, another to see in Wisdom. He sees all without from His throne, Hlidskjalf and hears all from His Ravens, Hunin and Munin. His drinking from Mimir’s Well, His sacrifice to Mimir is indicative of the lengths He is willing to go to achieve Wisdom, and alongside it, the Power to do what is best and, more important, necessary for the survival of Gods, and the Beings of the Nine Worlds.
Keep in mind He came to Jotunheim at that time leaving everything, from Sleipnir to His spear, His helmet and armor, aside. He then riddles with Vafþrúðnir, betting His head against the wisest of Jotun to find Mimir’s requested sacrifice in the first place. As Vafþrúðnir tells Odin, no one has yet to make that sacrifice. He has to lay one of His two eyes in the Well of the wisest of all Beings. So He drank from Mimir’s well and saw the future. More importantly, He saw why things happened as they did. Whether one sees Odin as actually still seeing through His given eye or it merely being there as a symbol of His sacrifice in the Well, He gave what no other would for Wisdom. It is a piercing Wisdom that see through veils and bullshit, that cuts away the dross and lays bare the truth as it is.
The symbolism of Him sacrificing His eye, His full vision, is very different from, say, Tyr’s sacrifice of His right hand. If the eyes are indeed windows to the soul, and given we see the liche (body) as part of the soul, then Odin’s sacrifice of His eye has powerful symbolism. He has given a window to His soul, a way for Him to see the Worlds around Him for insight and Wisdom. Tyr sacrificed His oathing hand to bind Fenrir; the symbolism is far different, but no less poignant. Where Tyr bound a danger to all the Worlds (and particularly Odin), Odin unleashed Wisdom, seeking ways to avert annihilation. If nothing else, Tyr’s sacrifice gives Odin the time to gain that Wisdom, to gather the forces, to do what is necessary to avoid the demise of everything. Neither one is a failure; both are needed for the Worlds to be remade at Ragnarok, and both are said to die during the event. They both give Their all to help the threads of Wyrd continue. Both do as Their Wyrd requires, and the Worlds live on.
So for me Odin’s sacrifice of His eye indicates the lengths He is willing to go, the dedication to a course of action, the strength He employs that action with, and the reward such action brings. There is Gebo, despite the pain He goes through to gain that Wisdom, and the pain the Wisdom itself brings. That reward for His pain allows Him to do the necessary Work at hand, giving Him the ability to see that everything that must be done through to the end is, in its own time, done.