Vikings fans are rejoicing that the latest version of the video game Assassins Creed is set in a world of Viking warriors and Norse mythology.
In the game, you play the hero Eivor, which can be male or female depending on your preference. At some point during the game, you can devour a mushroom that takes you to Asgard where you transform into Hávi.
Hávi means “High One” in Old Norse and is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the use of mushrooms to ascend. But Hávi is also an alternative name for Odin, the All-Father himself.
Meaning of Hávi
Hávi is a derivative of the Old Norse word Hár, which means High One. It comes from the Proto-Germanic word Har, which means one-eyed, clearly a reference to the one-eyed god Odin.
Calling someone Hár was the equivalent of calling the Roman Emperor Caesar, after Julius Caesar, the first Roman Emperor.
Odin as Hár
Odin appears using the guise of Hár in the Prose Edda. King Gylfi assumes the form of a common man named Gangleri to visit the gods in Asgard. The gods have foreseen his journey and constructed an illusion for him upon his arrival.
Gylfi believes that he arrives in a Great Hall where he encounters three legendary figures, Hár/Hávi (high one), Jafnharr (just as high), and Thridi (third). Each of these is an incarnation of Odin.
Gylfi asks the trio various questions about the identity of the gods and creation. He asks about the creation of the world and the origins of mankind. He asks about how the sun and moon track their course across the sky, and what will happen to the sun at Ragnarok, the end of days.
After this final question, the Hall and the three figures vanish, leaving Gylfi standing in empty grounds. When he returns home to Sweden, he retells the stories that he has been told.
Some scholars speculate that this narrative was designed to safely record a vanishing oral tradition in a Christianizing world.
Odin as Hávi
Odin also speaks as Hávi in the Hávamál, a poem in the Codex Regium, which contains a variety of advice for living.
He starts the poem with a variety of maxims on how to handle oneself as a guest when traveling, on manners, the relationship between hosts and guests, and the sacred laws of reciprocity and hospitality.
This is followed on a dissertation on the faithlessness of women, in which Odin recounts many of his sexual exploits including his love affair with the daughter of Billingr and how he seduced the giantess Gunlod to get access to the Mead of Poetry.
He then talks about morals, ethics, correct action, and a code of conduct, and tells the story of his discovery of the secrets of the runes. He finishes by sharing a few magical charms.
Hávi the Knowledgeable
Hávi is always presented as someone who holds and shares knowledge, and Odin seems to use the appellation in this context.
Whether the makers of Assassins Creed had this in mind when they chose the name for Eivor’s ascendant self, or they just liked the pun, we’re going to enjoy playing Havi in the new game.