You probably know that Huginn and Muninn are Odin’s ravens. They play a pretty big part in most of the lore about him, including in this summer’s American Gods TV show. But let’s delve into these two birds a little more so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you choose to wear their symbol on your body.
Huginn comes from the Old Norse word for, ‘thought.’ And Muninn means, ‘memory,’ or, ‘mind.’ In Norse mythology, they operate as messengers mostly, bringing word of the world to Odin. but he also really, truly loves them. Indeed, in one of the more touching parts of the Grímnismál, we hear Odin lamenting that he worries about his precious baby birds:
Hugin and Munin fly each day
over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin, that he come not back,
yet more anxious am I for Munin
One school of thought even proposes that the ravens mark Odin as a shaman. Think about it– the god sends his thought and mind out into the world to see what is going on. Doesn’t that kind of sound like someone going into a shamanistic trance? The Norse also held holy the concept of the fylgja, which is not dissimilar to the Native American spirit guide. It’s an animal spirit that accompanies a shaman or a seeker on the path to their fate.
But Odin was associated with ravens long before the Poetic Eddas were written down. We see ravens on all kinds of artifacts that also depict Odin. That should come as no surprise when you consider the nature of this scary smart bird.
Along with other corvids (like crows, jays, nutcrackers, and magpies) are reputed to practice logic. That is, they consider alternative behaviors and their outcomes before they make a decision. This is highly uncommon in the animal world. We have records of ravens examining a complex puzzle for several minutes, then completing it in one go– and in less than thirty seconds. They can remember thousands of locations where they have stashed food or trinkets. They also taunt other animals to test their reflexes and know how best to interact with them. This is particularly important with large carnivores, since many corvids scavenge alongside these bigger, meaner animals, and they have to know the exact moment that lion decides it’s done snacking on antelope and wants to go for some fresh poultry instead.
In short, if you want to wear the sigil of Odin’s beloved familiars, you have to be smart. And not just intelligent, but the clever kind of smart. Huginn and Muninn are the symbols of problem solvers, people who are quick on their feet, and people who know how to take care of themselves. If the raven is your fylgja, consider Huginn and Muninn your friends.
We here at AleHorn put together a couple outfits so you can look as smart as a raven with your new pendant: