Zeus and Odin Zeus is the ruler of the Greek gods. He is the son of Cronos
and Rhea, in fact the only son of these two to survive to adulthood. Zeus had
been hidden by Rhea so that Cronos would not swallow him like he had all of
his other offspring; he had been warned that one of his children would
eventually overthrow him. Rhea sent Zeus to the island of Crete where he was
raised. Zeus eventually killed his father. After he killed Cronos, he restored life
to his brothers and sisters. He then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon and
Hades to see who would become ruler of the various parts of the universe.

Zeus won the draw and became the supreme ruler of the gods. He is lord of
the sky, the rain god. His weapon is a thunderbolt, made for him by the
Cyclopes under the direction of Hephaestus, which he hurls at those who
displease him. He married a succession of spouses with whom he had many
children including: Athena, The Fates, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, and Hermes.

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His last, and most well-known wife is Hera but he is famous for his many
affairs. Odin is the leader of the Norse gods and has a myriad of names
including Allfather, Ygg, Bolverk (evil doer), and Grimnir. He also has many
functions within the myths including being a god of war, poetry, wisdom, and
death. However, he is not considered the “main” god of each of these
functions. Odin’s symbol is his magical spear named Grungir which never
misses its mark. He also owns a magic ring called Draupnir which can create
nine of itself every night. It was this ring that Odin laid on his son Balder’s
funeral pyre and which Balder returned to Odin from the underworld. Odin
also has two wolves, Geri and Freki, and two ravens, Hugin (thought) and
Munin (memory). He sends his ravens out every day to gather knowledge for
him. Odin was destined to die at Ragnarok; Fenris-Wolf swallowed him.

Knowing his fate, he still chose to embrace it and do battle, showing the true
warrior ethic. He is the god of warriors and kings, not the common man.

Among his children are:Thor, Hermod, and Balder. He is married to Frigg, the
goddess of marriage. The first obvious similarity between Zeus and Odin is in
their appearance. Both are very large men, but they are not depicted as fat
men. Both look very powerful and foreboding. They also are both shown as
having beards. A beard represents manliness, in a very basic way as facial hair
is something that every man can have. In this sense the beard as a signature
feature of these gods brings in a sense of attachment to the people within the
societies that worshipped them. If they had a different signature feature, for
example wings, this would remove the gods from the common man. The
beard is something ordinary people can relate to. It may also be of note that
the stereotypical view of Vikings and Norsemen almost always includes
beards on the men. Maybe they were trying to emulate their head god or
maybe the god was “created” in the image of the ordinary man. Here is the
direct comparison. Zeus and Odin were respective rulers over the gods in
their mythologies. Zeus was known for upholding the law and social order. In
fact, one of his titles was Zeus Horkios which literally means “the Guarantor of
Oaths.” This is quite similar ot Odin’s recording of all the laws, contracts and
agreements onto his spear which he was bound to uphold. They both had their
palaces in the sky to some extent. Mt. Olympus was very high (in the
mythologies; the real Mt. Olympus is a mountain, but not very high.) It is also
important to note that when the three brothers (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades)
were deciding which part of the world each would get, Zeus chose the sky.

There are many stories of Zeus looking down from Mt. Olympus into the lives
of other men. This is also the case with Odin. He could watch other people,
gods and mortals alike, from his throne Hlidskialf in Asgard, Asgard being the
palace in the sky where the gods met. So there are distinct similarities
between Asgard and Mt. Olympus: both were in the sky, both allowed for the
observation of the rest of the world, both were the meeting place for the gods
in their respective mythologies. The actions of the two gods are very important
to look at as well. Zeus is well-known for going off into the world of mortals
and trying to have “relations” with the mortals. Often times he would change
shape in order to accomplish this. He took such forms as a bull, swan, golden
shower, and a quail, for example. This shape-shifting was also a typical action
of Odin. He changed himself into animals occasionally, such as a snake or an
eagle. (Interestingly, Zeus is often depicted as an eagle!) But, more often than
not, Odin changed himself into “The Wanderer.” In this form he was known to
wear a long grey cloak and a wide brimmed hat that covered or cast shadows
over his missing eye. In this form he attempted, on many occasions, to have
“relations,” often spawning offspring. There is one story of Odin and Rind
where Odin must change his shape multiple times to meet the needs of Rind
who he is wooing. He transforms from captain of her father’s army to a smith
to a warrior and finally is accepted into her arms only after taking his natural
form as a god. This raises one important difference between the two: the
attitudes of the two respective wives of the gods, Hera and Frigg. Hera is
well-known for her jealous and vengeful reactions to Zeus actions. However,
Frigg does not have the same reaction. To see the development of this
thought, see the wives’ page. Another commonality of the two gods is their
interaction with mortals. In both their visiting and aiding of these mortals Zeus
and Odin identified certain people that they considered great and offered them
their assistance. This supports the theory that these mythologies, because they
were serving generally less-advanced societies (industrially, socially and
intellectually), created gods who would come down and physically interact
with mortals, gave the gods a sense of tangibility to the society. At this point
could a society have been able to accept a flawless, omnipotent being,
especially one on a cosmic level, rather than a physical level? If a god could
come to a man and physically aid him, that would be an incentive to believe
and worship. Both of these gods have a specific symbol of power. Zeus has
his lighting bolt, and Odin has his spear. Both of these items have a somewhat
negative interpretation. Lighting is a destructive force and a spear is a weapon
used to kill. In our society, gods are usually displayed to have a very positive
light surrounding them and a weapon may seem strange to us as a symbol of a
god. We must also see that the gods both used their respective weapons by
throwing them. Maybe this is the beginning of the thoughts of a cosmic entity
— the gods did not have to be physically there, but could project their
intentions from afar. The fact that both of these symbols were destructive in
one form or another raises a few questions: Were these cultures looking for a
destructive god? Were they still at a state that a primitive personification of
man was desired as a god? Were these societies looking at chaos and
destruction as being more important in the society than order? It may be that
the fear that they invoke will have people thinking that they can be punished,
and if they are punished it will not be a simple slap on the wrist, but rather a
spear or lightning bolt hurled at them. So I believe that this fear was used
when the myths were being originally fashioned so that one would be
intimidated to believe and worship. One last thing to be considered about
these two gods, and their manliness, is that both of them were very fertile.

They were both fathers to many offspring, thus spreading their wonderful
qualities around to other beings. What I think these societies needed was a
powerful man, one who was warlike, strong, large, intimidating and prolific.

This was they type of god that one in those times could fear and respect, and
therefore worship fairly easily.