One of our all time favorite books, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, will be coming to life in a television adaptation that is scheduled to premiere on Starz this April 30th. Over the course of this week, we will be looking at how American Gods, the real-life gods that inspired the characters, and some of Gaiman’s other work have found their way into the world of tattoos. Once you've become familiar with Odin, be sure to go back and meet Kali and Anubis.
When most people hear the name Odin they likely remember Anthony Hopkins’ role as the king of Asgard in Marvel’s Thor movies, but this god’s legacy stretches much further back than 2008. The earliest accounts date back to the 1st century with works like Tacitus’ Germania, but he’s been a part of pagan religions throughout Europe for longer than we have any written record of. He appears in poems and other forms of folklore, both ancient and modern, and is commonly associated with a number of themes — battle, death, knowledge, and royalty, just to name a few. His high stature in Norse mythology has led to him being honored countless times in visual art, tattoos included.
Odin is portrayed as both a creator of the world and seeker of knowledge. He’s most frequently depicted as a one-eyed old man with a long beard, who wears a cloak and hat, giving him the appearance of a lonesome traveler. He’s appeared in this disguise in numerous drawings, paintings, and sculptures and has permeated the western cultural lexicon in ways that would surprise you. Each time you say the word “Wednesday,” you’re actually invoking his Old English name Woden, and everybody’s favorite wizard, Gandalf from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, is based on the god. Basically, Odin’s influence is just as pervasive now as it was thousands of years ago, so it’s no wonder that he inspired one of the characters in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and is the subject of so many tattoos.
Odin has been reincarnated as every type of illustrative body art. A few tattooists draw reference from famous illustrations of him. Danielle McDonough’s black and grey portrait is modeled directly Georg von Rosen’s painting “Odin the Wanderer” (1895). Others — Eddie Stacey and Ryan Murray — incorporate visual elements from myths about him, surrounding the god with imagery such as his pet ravens, Huggin and Munnin, that fly around the world and report what they see to their master. As seen in the piece by London Reese, Geri and Freki, the fierce wolves often seen at Odin’s side, have stalked their way into tattoos as well.
To see more godly body art, wander like Odin over to these artists’ Instagram accounts. If you desire a depiction of your favorite Norse god, have one of them design it for you. And don’t forget to check out American Gods when it premieres on April 30th.