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Reply To: The Air We Breathe


Hello Mary and All,

Mary-it is Johanna. It is the German spelling. I would like to respond to your query about Odin and his relationship to the word breath in German-Atem or breathe -Atmen. Yes, it is related to the mythic figures in Norse lore. It is the gift that Odin gives to humans-the primal gift and yes, life. Out of the breath comes the life-he [Odin, Othin]  breathes us into existence. I think of another idea here -wyrd , word and Johannes’  Gospel and what he so poetically speaks in the opening lines:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

There in is the connection between the word and primal life and breath. What at once also strikes me is that it is the first and the last thing we do-draw our first breath at birth and our last at death. And all of this is connected to time -corporeality and temporality. In another sense too, then the gods are connected to us-they who spoke the word of life into being are there too at the beginning and the end. Odin in Norse lore brings destiny to us humans and that is given by the word-all that can be communicated by breathing-we must do this to be able to speak. That in turns leads me to consider how wearing masks does the opposite-I cannot speak with it on, it is a kind of censorship that silences any future birth of thought and being. We also create masks all the time-hidden behind them, although Campbell notes that  behind the masks of the gods  we can experience transcendence.

This one small item to protect ourselves from an even smaller living danger has stimulated so much thought about the profundity of life. Ironically, without this gift from Odin, we could not have this conversation. I think I and we shall return to this consideration over and over again.