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 The Norns

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Silver Wind
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PostSubject: The Norns   Mon Sep 17, 2007 6:48 pm

In Germanic mythology, the Norns were a group of supernatural beings who corresponded to the Greek Moirai; they were usually represented as three maidens who spun or wove the fate of men. Some sources name them Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld, perhaps meaning "past," "present," and "future." They were depicted as living by Yggdrasill, the world tree, under Urd's well and were linked with both good and evil. Being frequently attendant at births, they were sometimes associated with midwifery. The name Norn appears only in Scandinavian sources, but the cult of Norn like beings occurs in several European folklores. In Norse literature the Norns are sometimes called dísir.

In Norse mythology, a person’s fate is shaped in his moment of birth. At this crucial moment the family’s female protective spirits, the dísir, take action. One of the dísirs function -and not the least important one- was to assist the woman in labor and help her to deliver her offspring. This particular function has given the dísir a peculiar and important position as agents of destiny. In their function of agents of destiny the dísir have received a special name, Norns. The Norns measured the life of men and plotted their path of life at the moment of birth. It is said that "Nobody escapes the prophecy of the Norns."

With divine power the Norns twine the threads of destiny. They fasten them to the midst of the heavens and throw them out in different directions: the land of the conqueror-to-be is measured out in advance. The belief in The Norns interfering with the birth of a child has in some areas lived on in folk tradition into modern time.

The Norns allotted destiny for better and for worse. As life is in general, it is psychologically understandable that the dark aspect of the the Norns activities dominate the view on them. We seldom meet them as providers of happiness and success. "The Norns decide both good and evil, they have decided immense suffering " reads a runic inscription. The expression "the judgment of the Norns" becomes equal to an unfair destiny, misery and death. In Hamdesmŕl we read

"He who has been called upon by the Norns sees not the night ".

Oftentimes the Norns are named as evil, cruel, fiendish and vile. The original meaning of the word "norna" is a matter of great dispute. In their fate-settling context it has been connected to the Swedish dialect word "norna" (nyrna), a verb that means "inform secretly". Another etymology ties the word to an Indo-European root "ner" which means "twist" or "twine". Behind this meaning of the word lies the conception about the thread of destiny, which the Norns twist and twine. In the cosmic visions in Voluspŕ The Norns appear as universal powers. Their abode is next to the spring at the foot of Yggdrasil. There are three of them, and their names are Urd, Skuld, and Verdandi. Their power is great: they decide the destiny of all humans and the laws of cosmos.

Laws they gave,
Lives they chose
for the children of men,
the destiny of men.

The name Verdandi has no support in the mythical tradition, Skuld is in another context the name of a valkyrie. Of those mentioned in the poem it is only Urd who stands out as a genuine power of destiny. As such she is of particular interest. It is characteristic for the shifts in the belief in destiny that Urd not only was perceived as a personal entity of destiny, but also as the consequence of destiny, as the dark destiny and its result: death.

When pushing down to the root of the word we are dealing with here, we come upon a basic meaning of "twisting" or "turning". At this final point another, in other places existent conception of fate as a wheel, for example the wheel of a distaff, with the rotation of which the course of existence is linked.

Diser (dísir) is the name of a collective of female deities without known individual names. The dísir were worshipped extensively, And the character of this worship gives an ancient impression. They stood close to Freyja- also known as Vanadis- close and in every matter connected to fertility.

In a certain way the dísir seems to have been perceived as the protective agent of the family and in this function to be especially close to head of the family. Their activities are strikingly often tied to actions of war; one part of their being that apparently is of ancient origin.

http://www.blueroebuck.com/norns.htm

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