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Advice from a Norse God: Wisdom from the Hávamál

Just like today, people in the Middle Ages were fond of giving advice. These works ranged from Mirror for Princes, which was aimed at royalty, to more popular pieces such as the Maxims of King Aldfrith of Northumbria. Even the Norse culture had their own version of an advice book, which purportedly came from the God Odin.

The Hávamál (Sayings of the High One) is part of the Poetic Edda, a collection of Old Norse poems that survive in a 13th century manuscript. The various verses found in the Hávamál were collected from different sources, and some date back to the 10th century. They are presented as being words of wisdom by Odin, who according to Norse mythology was the Allfather of the gods and ruler of Asgard.

In its 164 stanzas, you can find advice being given about proper ways to show hospitality, being generous, how to be wise, how to deal with women, and ethics. The final sections talk about runes and charms. Here are ten proverbs from the Hávamál:

havamalThere are several translations of the entire text of the Hávamál – you can find them here, here, here and here.

See also

‘How Can His Word Be Trusted?’: Speaker and Authority in Old Norse Wisdom Poetry

Translating the Poetic Edda into English

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