Lot 1038: Viking Odin and Spear Patrix Die
December 7, 2016
Harwich, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 10th-12th century AD. A rectangular patrix die, slightly widened to one side, with raised image of the bearded, one-eyed face of Odin surrounded by a double roped border with a lozenge decoration showing incised detail underneath the face, possibly representing a spear. Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate. 30.17 grams, 74mm (3"). Property of a London businessman, from his grandfather's collection formed after World War II; thence by descent 1972. Supplied with a positive X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate. There is no doubt that the one-eyed face on this artefact is that of Odin, the king and ruler of Asgard, the realm of Viking gods. Odin's importance is recorded in the earliest written sources about Germanic tribes, when he was known mostly as Wodan and compared by Romans to their god Mercury; his character evolved through centuries, but his prevailing association was as the god of death, magic and war. Odin's obsession with possessing all knowledge is documented in many later poems. He lied to a giantess to obtain the divine poetic mead, dressed as a woman to gain the understanding of a special kind of magic, and hanged himself on the world tree Yggdrasil to discover the secret meaning of runes. One of his most famous sacrifices was his eye to the well of Mimir. Odin was not only unpredictable and ruthless, but a very powerful patron of Viking nobility, worshipped by warriors, artists, kings and berserkers. The mounts made with this patrix die, were most likely used to strengthen the connection between the wearer and the skills that Odin could grant him. The unusual triangular decoration underneath the face may represent gugnir, the famous spear made by dwarfs, who were tricked by the god Loki; alternatively, the incised detail might be the stylised face of Loki himself.
Condition Report: Extremely fine condition. Excessively rare.