Wotan (dialectical and spelling variations produce Wuotan, Woden, Wodan, Wuotan, and Gwodan), known in Norse mythology as Odin, was the supreme god of the Germanic peoples.
Wotan was a nature god as were most ancient gods. Wotan was present everywhere and always in disguise. On his travels throughout the world he wore a big blue coat, which either is or represents the sky. He was present in water and all natural places were held sacred.
The Catholic church turned all Germanic nature gods into anti-gods. Papal propaganda and the zeal of monks to eradicate "heathenism" turned the Germanic god Wotan into a wild warring beast, Freya or Frigg into a witch, the Prussian god Deiw into Deiwel-Teufel, or devil. The word 'devil' in English is not derived from the Prussian god 'Deiw', however.
Despite persecutions by Catholic church, the memory of Wotan persisted in legends and customs. In 1900 the concept of Woden was still current in Mecklenburg. Almost all German Gaue (Latin, pagi) had mountains and other places named after him under such generic names as Wodenesberg, Wuodenesberg, Godesberg and Gudensberg, Wodensholt etc. For many Germans, St. Michael replaced Wotan, and many mountain chapels dedicated to St. Michael can be found.
Wotan is also known as the Allvater, meaning father of all, father of the universe (German: Welt-All (all the world)
Some German sacred formulaes ,known as "Merseburger Zaubersprueche" were written down in c 800 AD and survived. One starts as follows:
- Phol ende UUodan vuorun zi holza.
- du uuart demo Balderes volon sin vuoz birenkit
- thu biguel en Sinthgunt, Sunna era suister;
- thu biguol en Friia, Volla era suister ....
Wotan (Odin), Wili (Vili) and We (Ve) are often mentioned together. "Wille" is the German word for "will"(english) "Weh" is the German word (gothic wai) for "woe" (english: great sorrow, grief, misery) but is more likely related to the archaic German "Wei" meaning 'sacred'