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Wyrd

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An article detailing "Wyrd", a concept of "Fate".

Wyrd is a fundamental Anglo-Saxon concept. The word, wyrd, is related to the Old Saxon wurd , Old High German wurt , Old Norse urur.

It is an ancestral word to the modern day English word weird. It means that which has turned/ that which is turning (some people substitute turned/turning for happened/happening). The concept is often hard to describe, frequently misinterpreted and occasionally difficult to grasp. Here is a modern definition for Wyrd: fate personified; any one of the three Weird Sisters. (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn) Even this seems inadequate in describing wyrd. A key point to recognize is that Wyrd is not a set in stone type of fate, as seen in other early cultures. Fate was not fatalistic, or predestined under the concept of wyrd; rather it was believed that wyrd is continually happening and changing.

Related to Wyrd, the phrase "Three Weird Sisters" will often pop up. The reason for this is that Wyrd often was used to refer to the Norns (whom were Norse Goddesses/personifications of fate and destiny). Awhile back I wrote an article describing the Norns. The entire article can be read at the following link (be sure to remove any spaces that may appear):

http://www.spellsofmagic.com/read_post.html?post=361262

It's rather lengthy and so I will not reiterate the entire thing. However, this is a key section: " Because the Norns were personifications of time, each sister represented a different age and character. Urd (Wurd-"Weird") appeared as an old and decrepit woman.. Verdandi, the second sister... Skuld, the last sister.. ." There is discussion and debate over whether Urd, the oldest of the Norns, was the personification of Wyrd. Others suggest Wyrd was all three of the sisters, and even some would say that Wyrd is the mother or origins of the three. The Norns were similar to the Greek Moirai or Fates. Often the Norns were shown threading and weaving a cord, which represented the destiny of the cords owner. The Norns did not necessarily make the fate that was shown on the cord occur, they simply weaved it to represent what it would/could be.

The functionality of wyrd can best be summed up using a spiders web as an analogy, which is quite popular: Each section of the web is a discreet part of the whole, yet the tiniest ensnared insect will set the entire web vibrating. Whether the spider wins her dinner depends on how skillfully she has woven her web, how quickly she reacts, and the chances of the captured insect to struggle free. The web is wyrd, but what the actors do upon it will decide the outcome. (http://www.octavia.net/anglosaxon/Wyrd.htm)

Now imagine that in this web, each connecting thread meets another at a node. Let these nodes represent people, places, events. Some directly come into contact with others. Some build upon others to reach wherever they end up. And others are related only through a distance of symmetrical path. This shows the connectivity and complex nature of Wyrd. In this way, wyrd is not just a piece of flat and lifeless cloth like the Greeks believed the Fates spun. It is alive, intersecting and twisting in various ways, including everyone, everywhere, at all times. This means that the past plays more of a role than just being something already written or done. Under wyrd, you choose what happens, and those choices overlap and build upon each other.

Similarity to the fatalistic view of fate, Wyrd does have an ending of sorts. However, these twists and endings do not always mean the literal ending of life or our fate. They may simply call for a change, the ending of something that has come to pass, and the finishing of some event or happening. These twists are inevitable, and all throughout wyrd. Though, the form of how or why or when or what this ending or twist will be can often be apparent when looking back at the nature of wyrd. We have a choice, and thus depending on the choices we make- the ending or the form that this twist comes in may be altered.

So, Wyrd is weird. Wyrd is hard to summarize. Wyrd is difficult to grasp and understand fully. But it is also a learning experience, a way for us to try and understand our relationship to fate and how these things are related and function.

 

Sources:

Myths of Northern Lands by H.A. Guerber

Norse Mythology: Great Stories from the Eddas by Hamilton

http://users.lmi.net/maxdashu/kindreds/wyrdsis.html

http://www.tomgraves.org/wyrdfate

http://www.englatheod.org/wyrd.htm

http://www.wyrdwords.vispa.com/heathenry/whatwyrd.html

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