How Odin gained the wisdom of the runes
One day Allfather Odin, before he was called The One-Eyed, sat upon his high seat Hlidskjalf, flanked by his ravens and wolves and pondered the nine realms of the world tree Yggdrasil.
He witnessed many things but none intrigued him more then the mysterious Well of Urd in Jotunheim, land of the giants. Odin could see also that the great well's wisdom was guarded by three powerful sorceresses called the Norns who carved strange symbols upon the trunk of the World Tree.
In his lust for all wisdom Odin donned an old blue cloak and made himself look like an elderly, greying man. Then he set forth from Asgard, kingdom of the Gods, disguised as the mysterious wanderer Ygg. Odin's pursuit for wisdom had taken him far and wide and now he was off again, this time seeking the power of the Norns' strange symbols and the wisdom they could tell.
Odin arrived among the roots of the Old Tree, and then journeyed through the mists until he came upon the Norns at The well of Urd.
"Who are you that wanders into our domain?" One of the wise women spoke as Odin approached.
"I am Ygg", Odin lied, "a traveler in these lands and only seeking hospitality."
"No one finds this place without intent of finding it," the Norn said with a slight chuckle in her voice. "What do you seek from us Odin, son of Bor?"
"How can you know my true name?" Odin angrily questioned.
The wise women laughed and said, "We are the Norns. We know all about the gods, giants and men. We know their children as well!. We have carved all their destinies with the Runes on the trunk of Yggdrasil."
" We know you Odin and we know that you seek the Runes in your insatiable thirst for wisdom," another Norn said.
"If you are worthy the Runes will come to you. Look into the reflection of our well to seek them. We, as the Runes, come from the time when all was Fire and Ice and Ginnungagap," said the third Norn. " You do remember those times, Ygg?" she asked with a bit of sarcasm.
Days passed and Odin saw no Runes or clues in finding the knowledge of the Runes in the wells dark reflection. He cursed and fretted and for a moment envied human beings as they could sacrifice to him and he would come to their aid. What aid did he have though, and to whom could he sacrifice?
Then a great realization came upon Odin as he stared into the well, seeing only the great trunk of Yggdrasil above him. An epiphany. He realized that HE was the only sacrifice worthy to be made. Odin to Odin, himself to himself.
That dark night in Jotunheim the Allfather hung himself from the Old Tree and pierced himself with his own spear in sacrifice.
For nine nights without food nor water he hung gazing into the well of Urd until his last breath left his body and briefly he saw the realm of Hel beneath the roots of the Great Tree. He woke suddenly finding the Runes clearly dancing on the waters of the Well of Urd.
Odin fell then from that Windswept Tree screaming in triumph and pain, and that scream reverberated throughout all the Nine Worlds.
Odin returned to Asgard, his kingdom, with the Runes etched forever in his memory. He was glad to be back in his own realm but could not stay complacent. He sat back on his high seat, Hlidskjalf again in no time, pondering the Runes and all the Worlds below Him.