I was following up on an article i was working on regardgin the Valkyrie. I had read that the Valkyrie were weavers which I had never heard before. In following this line of research I was getting confirmation that indeed the Valkyrie were weavers which was contrary to my erly childhood memories of Nordic tradition. I decided to contact a friedn fo mine who is from that part of the world. I knwo that the Valkyrie were the daughters of Odin and that they enjoyed messing with warriors in the field deciding who wold win and who would lose, who would live and who wold die. I was surprised that the weavers were actually the Norms and one in particular Wyrd. Anyway here is a great discusion regarding the Norms, I hope yo enjoy it as much as I did.
The importance of the Norns in the Odinic world view is seldom appreciated by historians and mythologers. Most commonly they are merely equated to the Greek Fates (Past, Present, and Future). Although the two trios of weavers undoubtedly stem from the same mythological source, I believe that the concepts which they represent are quite different. I do not intend to make extravagant claims about Germanic beliefs, I can, however, present the realization which arises as a result of the training experienced in the Norwegian tradition in which I was initiated.
If we look at the etymology of the names of the three Norns (Urd, Skuld, and Verdandi), we can go a long way toward grasping the concepts they embody.
"Urd" is cognate with "Wyrd", the Anglo-Saxon word for the unseen influences behind events. It also suggests the primal or ancient. "Wyrd" has come down to us as "weird" with only a small part of its original meaning. Urd is depicted as being the guardian of a bottomless well. Urd's well is the primal source and Urd represents the unmanifest potential, everything arises from the unmanifest, and returns to it. All possibilities exist therein.
"Skuld" translates directly as "should". This is because Skuld represents that which can be inferred. Given the present indications we can predict what should happen, but we can take steps to avert the outcome. If there is free will, no system of prediction can be foolproof. Hence we have "Should" and not "Shall".
"Verdandi" denotes that which is becoming or manifesting, the present moment. Verdandi represents the dynamic process of "coming into being" which we percieve as the manifest world.
In our system Skuld can also include "that which should have been", so that the manifest decays back through Skuld to return to the unmanifest. We can see that rather than simply having a representation of linear time, we have a concept of all things being in a state of change.
To our perception, there are three realms of Wyrd: That which we cannot perceive, Urd. That which we perceive directly, Verdandi. And that which we can infer by logic or by divination, Skuld. All things exist within the Wyrd and are interconnected by it, hence the symbolism of a web or woven strands. Everything has its effect on everything else. Our Wyrd is a web of interconnections within a larger web. Working our True Will requires the ability to move with freedom within the constraints of our Wyrd, bearing in mind that our every action changes our Wyrd. By understanding the Norns, we can come to understand our Wyrd.
This concept is a vital part of our system, and it comes into play in all of our work from Rune Magick to martial training. In our system, we relate Urd to meditation. In meditation we look deep into the well of the unmanifest within, when thought stops we can perceive our connection with the Wyrd, this is the source of our True Will, our individuality and real power.
Skuld relates to active training, where kills are honed but situations are hypothetical. Our actions in the world at large are in the realm of Verdandi, where we are fully in the present and acting without hesitation. A Master remains in all three realms simultaneously.
The Norns and the Wyrd are a ubiquitous background upon which we interact with the Gods, and to which even the Gods are subject. It is perhaps this background nature which makes us tend to take them for granted.
I hope that this small contribution from our system will help in furthering the power of the mighty Runes of Grim.
The foregoing comes from: http://www.mackaos.com.au/Articles/Norns.html
Best regards, Charles
A description of the valkyrie's loom (and weaving material...) appears in Njal's saga. Here is a translation (into English) of the "Song of the spear".
I know I have seen a picture of the loom, complete with skulls, spears and all, but now I can't find it. OTOH, it is quite enough reading about it.
Kerstin that is pretty graphic! I'm with you - I don't think I want to see a picture. Thanls Charles for posting this. I have been delving into my Swedish heritage a bit more lately and this was a great addition for me! Hopefully in my Swedish hand towel class next week we will just be using cotton and linen and not human entrails! :)
Thank you for your post. Is there a tradition of the Norms weaving also. I am curious since there seems to be some corroboration to the information I got from my friend's brother in Sweden. It appears as though Wyrd was the weaver. Actually this is the first I've heard of the Norms so my information is extremely sketchy.
Having made a very short "trawl" through my mythology books, the answer has to be: writers can't really distinguish between spinning and weaving... In some articles, the norns are introduced as "weavers", but the text goes on to describe how Urd "holds the spindle", Verdandi "spins the yarn" and Skuld "cuts the yarn". (The same goes for the other Fates) This also indicates that writers can't really distingush between distaff and spindle, either. (Which can also be seen in the case of Frigg, the norse goddess - her "object" is describes as a distaff (rock) in some texts, as a hand-held spindle in other texts)
All illustrations I've found depicts the norns as spinners, nothing else. However... if writers don't know the difference, why should painters/sculptors...?
You really gave me a great laugh this morning. Your comment "...writers can't really distinguish between spinning and weaving..." is epic. You are right, of course, the fates have always been portrayed as spinners and the human destiny as their thread regardless of the origin of their myth. Thanks Kerstin, I believe you have resolved my miunderstanding.
I don't believe the tasks of spinning and weaving were typically alienated from each other in dark age europe. Spinners were weavers, and weavers were spinners. Women of most social classes above the thralls were expected to be conversant with the preperation and weaving of yarn. The level of technology available didn't make it economically relevant to seperate the tasks into different professions, except in the rare instance of large noble households where particularly skilled spinners and weavers were producing cloth for the nobility or preisthood under the direction of noblewomen.
Concerning the song of the spear, I have read of that in relation to a famous battle in which Sigurd the Stout, Earl of Orkney was killed fighting Brian Boru, a king of Ireland in the year 1014 at the behest of the Norse Earl of Ulster. The apparition of 12 Valkyries riding a chariot into the side of a hill was seen by a norse poet near Olrig in Caithness (my home county). He went to investigate and found a doorway into the hill, where he loitered and observed them singing that song while weaving their gory cloth. Upon finishing they tore it into equal pieces and each rode off in seperate directions carrying a piece, presumably to select the fallen from the field of battle across the water.
Also interesting to note is that Sigurd possessed a Raven Banner, which was woven for him by a female relative of his known as a witch. It was both blessed and cursed, in that it would give victory to whatever force bore it, but that the man holding it would inevitably be killed. It served him well until Ireland, when after several men were killed carrying it, his lieutenants told Sigurd to carry his own cursed rag. He stuffed it under his mail and was soon killed by an Irish spear that pierced him through mail, spear and heart.