I know that I hung upon a windy tree for nine whole nights, wounded with a spear and given to Odhinn. To my own self given.
Verse 137 of the Havamal speaks of sacrifice for a higher ideal; in this case, the epic is speaking specifically of sacrifice in order to gain knowledge of the runes.
However, we should remember that the word ‘rune’ itself means “Mystery” and “whisperings” thereof. So the Havamal is speaking of sacrifice for the sake of knowledge. But what is most interesting is that it is not speaking of the sacrifice of something, but of one’s self to one’s self.
To my own self given.
So, what is this sacrifice? Quite simply it is sacrifice in the pursuit of opening one’s self up to new avenues of thought, new understanding, and contemplation regarding our world, both within our personal sphere and the greater reality around us.
Such a sacrifice involves the dedication of nothing less than time. Time to study and reflect upon ideas and values, which we may have adopted uncritically, without truly evaluating them. Indeed one could argue that this is exactly what Odhinn himself is engaged in. “Hanging” from the tree as a suspension all other activity for contemplation.
While the sacrifice of time requires no pain or great ritual it is perhaps the most precious thing we can sacrifice. Taking one’s time to truly study a subject and take in all that it has to offer, whatever the subject is, requires us to give over our time — our life — in a world that demands so much of us already.
Yet, if we stop to pause for a moment, we realize that many of these demands on our time serve only to waste it. If we are to step foot on the path to the higher man or higher woman, we must make the harder choice of sacrificing our time in the pursuit of wisdom, understanding, and the eternal Mysteries, to build our knowledge base and to develop a greater worldview and a greater understanding of our true self.