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The Havamal

English Translations

English Translation by Henry Adams Bellows (1936)

English Translation by Lee M. Hollander (1928)

English Translation by Olive Bray (1908)

What is the Havamal?

The Havamal is a 164 stanza long Icelandic poem found in "Codex Regius" or "Royal Book". The poem is written in the perspective of Odin as he tries to provide wisdom. Rather than providing wisdom in a utopic sort of way, he gives wisdom for a messy and generally realistic world.

There are a few themes or "sections" throughout the Havamal.

Stanzas from 1 to about 79 fall into the "guest's section", which provides general and practical advice for people in terms of ethical conduct.

Stanzas from about 84 to about 110 fall into the "Odin's love advice" section, which provides Odin's advice for love and stories of his attempts to woo. It's pretty easy to tell that the Havamal was written hundreds of years ago due to the attitude in this section. Havamal stanzas 84, 90, and 102 are especially on the "yikes" side of things. Please do keep in mind though that the Havamal is not considered "holy scripture" by any means. These were poems written many hundreds of years ago as a general set of advice for people of the time. With that said, while the times make the words understandable, that does not make them okay. We can understand context and choose not to emulating it. "Understandable, but not acceptable."

Stanzas from 111 to 137 fall into the "Stray-Singer" section, where Odin provides advice to someone called "Loddfafnir" or the "Stray-Singer". This section is relatively similar to the "guest's section".

Stanzas from 138 to 145 fall into the "Odin's quest for the runes" section, where Odin sacrifices himself in an attempt to learn the runes.

Stanzas from 146 to 164 fall into the "list of magic chants" section, where Odin essentially brags about knowing 18 different spells and describes the effects of the spells without mentioning how to cast them.

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