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Destiny Wyrd Urd: 3 Maidens of Norse Mythology

Don’t annoy a Norn, as she has your destiny wyrd urd in her hands!

Wyrd, Urd, and destiny are all words that essentially mean fate.

In Norse mythology, there were said to be three Norns who held the fate of each and every god, dwarf, human, and supernatural being in the 9 Worlds in their hands. No matter what they did, their fate was always predetermined by Urðr (“Became”), Verðandi (“Becoming”), and Skuld (“Is-to-be”).

Whatever their fate, warriors being warriors and Viking stock could choose to meet their fate with bravery and make the most of it, even if they were doomed to lose. Or they could blame their bad luck on the evil nature of the Norns, like the water-dwelling elf Andvari who blamed the Norns for turning him into a pike!

But who were the Norns, and did they really determine the entire fate of the world around them?

How Norns and Destiny Wyrd Urd Fit Together

At the center of Norse mythology is the Yggdrasil – the tree of life, which supports and encompasses the whole universe.

At the base of Yggdrasil is the Well of Udr and the Norns live in a hall there.

In a way, the Norns have the fate of the universe in their hands as their job is to collect the moist earth and water from around the well and use it to ensure that Yggdrasil stays green and healthy. If they did not do this task every day, then the tree would begin to rot.

Hugin and Munin: The Ravens of the Mind

As well as determining the fate of the universe, the Norns also decide the fate and life span of every single. This is etched into the tree of life.

Although not goddesses, their very personification of being the past, present, and future made them immensely powerful and revered.

Interestingly, there is no clear distinction between norns, valkyries, or Asynjur, other than being women, as Snorri Sturluson describes:

Woman is also metaphorically called by the names of the Asynjur or the Valkyrs or Norns or women of supernatural kind.”

Apart from the three famous Norns, there were likely many other nords whose role would be to visit newborn babies. They would decide how long each child would Iive, the order in which good and bad things happen, and weave it into their preordained life thread.

As it was believed there were both malevolent and benevolent norns, a common practice was to serve norn porridge to a woman who had just given birth. This would show respect and try to bribe favor with the Norns so that they’d bless both the child and mother with good health and long life.

Mentions of the Norns in Norse Mythology

The Norns are mentioned frequently in Skaldic poetry and in the Prose and Poetic Eddas, often having the blame placed on them for the bad things that happened in people’s lives.

Jormungand: The Norse World Serpent

For example, Helgi Hundingsbane has to kill Sigrun’s father and brother before he can marry her. In Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, he blames the norms that it had to happen that way.

In another unwanted situation in Sigurðarkviða hin skamma, valkyrie Brynhild blames evil norms for her deep yearning for Sigurd’s embrace.

But perhaps the most significant predetermined fate was Ragnarok – the complete destruction of the universe. Although the point in the future that this was to happen was unknown, seers prophesized that the gods would meet the giants in battle, and they would lose, and the whole universe would die with them.

Runes and Destiny Wyrd Urd

The Norns are entwined deeply into Norse mythology and are probably the source of the runes as well. Of course, runes still depict fate, even in today’s day and age.

There is a Nordic folk song that was created by piecing together parts of the Norse Hávamál (a collection of poems from the age of the Vikings). It does a great job of explaining how destiny wyrd urd is part of the living fabric of Norse mythology:

An ash I know it stands- It is named Yggdrasill.

High tree, sprinkled,

With white mud;

There from come the dews-

That fall on the dale!

It stands always green, above-

The source of Urdhr.

There from come the maids,

Much knowing;

Three, their dwelling,

Stands under the tree;

Urdh is named one,

The other Verdhandi,

– They notched (scored) wood –

Skuld is the third.

They set up the laws,

They decided on the lives,

Of the children of time (‘the children of man’).

They promulgate fate.

Have You Heard About the Wyrd?

The Wyrd is a symbol that represents the whole rune alphabet, ley lines, and Yggdrasil itself!

The Vanir Gods and Goddesses

Although not a well-known Norse symbol, the Web of Wyrd represents the past, present, and future interconnections.

Its importance, keeping within the destiny wyrd urd theme are:

  • The myth is that the Wyrd is woven by the Norns, and another name for the symbol is Skuld’s net. As we already know. Skuld is one of the Norns.
  • It incorporates the number nine, which is heavily relevant and important in Norse mythology. It has nine staves that indicate all the possibilities of life.
  • Wyrd is not just about one life, but the interconnectivity of experiences and energies within the universe and today’s connotations to the world wide web have not gone unnoted.

Destiny Wyrd Urd And its Connection With Water

Water is the life force of the world, as nothing can exist without it. It runs through the whole Norn and Yggdrasil saga.

Urdh means’ fate’ and Ur also means ‘water’. The well is also called Urd. So water interconnects everything from well to the worlds contained within the Yggdrasil.

The circle of life is represented by the water of the well nourishing the tree. The dewdrops from Yggdrasil’s evergreen leaves replenish the well, and destiny follows the watercourse.

How Fate Was Perceived in the pre-Christian Norse Era

In today’s worldview, we see fate and karma as already written in the stars, and there is no escape from what is meant to be. And it is easy to draw these same conclusions from the stories about the Norns.

Niflheim: The Norse Realm of Ice

But it unlikely that the Germanic people of the time took the meaning that literally. The fluidity of the past, present, and future is not absolute. There is always regeneration and the unknown factor of what other people do.

We are all subject to others’ actions and ourselves and hence have some part in forming our own destiny and others. This is done both passively or with intention.

Shaping destiny was a significant part of the Germanic way. One should also note that that norns (without the capital N) was a name for people who practiced magic, showed that they believed they could change the outcome of their lives.

Similarly, the inhabitants of the nine worlds would be influenced by the Norms. Still, not entirely, such is the intricate web (wyrd) that would make the flapping of butterfly wings in Midgard be felt in Asgard.

Basically, there is no absolute free will or unchangeable fate. Still, instead, our lives play out within the infinite range of possibilities of these extremes.

What lessons can we learn from Destiny Wyrd Urd Today?

You can’t completely control what happens to you.

You can only control the way you react to the hand life has appeared to have dealt you.

Who Were the Norns in Norse Mythology?

You can do it with positivity and honor like Odin, or with dishonesty and trickery like Loki.

That is your choice and will sway your fate, or destiny wyrd urd.

It is happening right now. You are living it – it can’t be halted, but you can shape your life through it and define how it will impact you.

My name is Mike and for as long as I can remember (too long!) I have been in love with all things related to Mythology. I am the owner and chief researcher at this site. My work has also been published on Buzzfeed and most recently in Time magazine. Please like and share this article if you found it useful.

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