His name derived from the German wut, “to rage,” which defined his identification with the dynamic forces of creation and destruction over which he had almost complete control. Also known as Odin, Wodan, Vodan, and Votan to the Germanic peoples of Northern Europe since deeply prehistoric times, he was chief deity of Asgaard, the abode of the gods in the Norse pantheon. He was also the great culture-creator and culture-bearer, who invented the civilizing gifts of poetry, literacy, wisdom, the arts, law, and medicine and brought them to mankind. Sometimes he appeared among mortals dressed in the great cloak and broadbrimmed hat of a traveler, his spear made to resemble a walking stick. At such times, he was the Wanderer, who roamed the world. He was known as the most potent sorcerer. Secret magic enabled his godhood and brought supernatural power to anyone with whom he shared some of his runic mysteries. In the cyclical myth of Ragnarok, the “Breaking of the Gods,” Wotan perishes or disappears in a worldwide conflagration extinguished by a universal flood. Eventually, the cycle begins all over again.
The West Africans of Dahomey still worship Vodun, a powerful sorcerer who brought their ancestors great wealth and wisdom from over the waves, but soon after returned to his palace at the bottom of the sea. Before he departed, he confided his wisdom to a secret spiritual society of select initiates. In his honor, they named the cult vodu, which signifies various deities called upon in their ecstatic rituals. The Gold Coast was the main source for black slavery, so when the enslaved cultists arrived in the New World, their vodu beliefs went with them, and thrive today in the “voodoo” magic of the Caribbean.
Directly across the Atlantic from West Africa, the Quiche Mayas of Mexico’s Lowland Yucatan region venerated the memory of Votan, a tall, bearded, fairskinned, light-haired man-god. He landed at Laguna de Terminos with his family and followers from the East in a great ship, then built the first stone cities in Yucatan, taught written language to the Mayas’ ancestors, and instituted the sciences of astronomy, medicine, and government.
Nunez de la Vega, the Bishop of colonial Yucatan in 1691, made a deep study of the Quiche Mayas’ religion, all the better to convert them to Christianity. He learned more about the mythic Votan than any Spaniard before or since, and was so impressed with the legend’s historical credibility, he concluded the ancient culture-bearer had been a son of Noah! When his native informants recounted that Votan knew of “a great wall that reached to the sky,” de la Vega assumed it must have been the Tower of Babel. But he realized that a biblical interpretation of the foreign hero did not entirely mesh with the Indians’ story.
Among Votan’s titles was, according to the Bishop, “El Corazon de los Pueblos,” meaning “the Heart of the Cities.” After the Deluge and his subsequent arrival on the shores of Yucatan, he was said to have recorded details of the catastrophe, his survival, and prophesies for the Fifth Age following the Flood on a deer hide hidden in a sacred cave. Later, he went to the city of Palenque, where he transcribed this information onto golden sheets, which were dispatched to the great capital at Teotihuacan. There, they were preserved at the Temple of the Jaguar. Thanks to de la Vega, the Mayas’ Votan is adequately described as an alien civilizer.
Votan was known to another Yucatan tribe, the Chiapenese, who claimed they were the first human beings in Middle America. To them, he was the grandson of a man who built a great “raft” to save his family from the Deluge that ravaged the world. “He came from the east,” they said, then went on to found a great city known as Chan. On Peru’s north Pacific coast lie the ruins of Chan-Chan, a pre-Inca megalopolis. In fact, wall friezes at its Palace of the Governor display a pyramidal city sunken beneath the sea. The Chiapenese recounted that seven families arrived with Votan from over the “Ocean of the Sunrise.”
The occurrence of this figure on three continents forms a curious triangle. His name appearing at such widely separated locations is remarkable enough. But that three peoples as culturally different from one another as the Norse, Dahomey, and Mayas should share complimentary aspects of his myth exceeds mere coincidence, indicating an experience common to them all. Wotan/Vodun/Votan is not found outside the areas mentioned, so he was not part of some extra-historical phenomenon common to humanity in general. On the contrary, his appearance is very specific, as is his myth, among just those peoples dwelling close to the ocean who were obviously visited by the same “Wanderer,” a culture-bearer from some central point and from which he impacted the three continents separately. Today, that central point is only open sea, where several thousand years ago there flourished a maritime Asgaard.
These intercultural connections through Wotan are reinforced by his early characterization in Norse myth as god of the winds. So too, the Egyptian equivalent of Atlas was Shu, likewise portrayed as controller of the winds supporting the heavens. The Aztec Ehecatl—containing the indicative “atl” of Atlas—who was said to have arrived on the shores of Mexico near Vera Cruz, was the wind-god depicted in sacred art holding up the sky. Additionally, Wotan wore an azure cloak and was venerated as the patron of sailors. In Plato’s Kritias, the maritime kings of Atlantis wore sacred blue robes. The palatial estate of Wotan in Asgaard was, of course, the famous Valhalla, originally, Valhal. Remarkably, both the Quiche Maya and Chiapenese Indian versions of their Votan portray him arriving from his Atlantic home, known as Valum. Reason rebels at the dismissal of comparisons between the Norse Wotan-Valhal and the Central American Votan-Valum as “purely coincidental.”
In what may be correlating evidence, Rene Guenon, one of the greatest mythologists of the 20th century, reported that Hindu priests preserve traditions of Atlantis. In a description of the Atlantean written language, astrological glyphs stood for specific characters. They referred to this kind of “astral-alphabet” as Watan or Vatan. Was that alphabet named after a culture-bearer from Atlantis? Since the Atlanteans were supposed to have been the inventors of astronomy-astrology and continued to excel fore mostly in that science, their use of astrological symbols for letter values is credible.
Wotan, Vodun, Votan, Watan, Vatan, Valhal, Valum—their interrelating themes seem to describe the same Atlantean figure.