Category Archives: Religion

Web of Wyrd


Norns under Yggdrasil by L B Hansen

Welcome to the March, and my final, article for ‘The Pagan and the Pen’.

The topic this month is the ‘Web of Wyrd’, rather fitting I think. You will see what I mean as we go on. Today, I’ve asked Austin “Auz” Lawrence to give his comments on what the ‘Web of Wyrd’ is, but first, a little about Auz.

‘Austin Lawrence is active in the Pagan community of Ontario, Canada.  He has worn a hammer continuously for the last 14 years.  Austin is a civil servant with a Master’s degree in Anthropology.  He is a member of the American Vinland Association and is an oathed goði, who serves sometimes as a Heathen officiate for rites of passage, an advisor to seekers on resources and lore, a counsellor to friends in local kindreds, but mainly as a land steward for sacred space and as a facilitator of gatherings. Austin is one of the coordinators of Canada’s largest Pagan gatherings, the Kaleidoscope Gathering.  He is also a steward of Raven’s Knoll, a campground at which Pagan and Heathen gatherings are held, where sacred sites have been established for the use of our community.’


Hail to you.

In Heathenry, concepts of fate and predestination are complex and varied.  In the modern context, as probably in the ancient world, there are many different opinions on the subject and much misunderstanding.  Edain has invited me to provide you with a few words introducing to you how I view the concept of wyrd.

The Word Wyrd

The word wyrd is a noun in Old English from the verb weorþan, which means “to become.”  In Old Norse the term is urðr.  The term harkens back to a common root word in all Germanic languages, and has been reconstructed as the Proto-Indo-European root *wert– “to turn, rotate.”  It is associated with the Old English weorþ, with the meaning of “worth” in the sense of “value, amount due” as well as “honour, earned esteem.”

The Norns

The single concept of wyrd was the main focus of most writing in the Anglo-Saxon regarding fate, likely because it was appropriated and re-defined to more closely match Christian theology after the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons.  Wyrd is also the most basic concept of fate that is elaborated in Scandinavian belief through a more mythologically complex understanding of fate.

In the Old Norse tradition, there are three mythological women that personify fate.  In Gylfaginning 14, Snorri Sturluson,* writes: “Under the ash near the spring stands a beautiful hall; three maidens come out of this hall whose names are Urd, Verdandi, and Skul; these maidens determine the life of men; we call them norns.”

The names of the three Norns are often roughly translated as Past, Present, and Future.  However, their true nature differs in important ways from a common understanding in modern English.  From the verb verða (to be), comes the name Urðr for “became” and Verdandi for “becoming,” as well as Skuld with the sense of “shall be, intended, debt owed.”

The action of the laws of fate that the Norns embody is portrayed through the metaphor of women continuously weaving in passages of the Völuspá, and throughout skaldic literature and later folklore.  It is by weaving that the Norns lay down ørlǫg.  The term comes from the word ór with the sense of “out, from, beyond” and “primal, ancient” combined with the word lǫg with the meaning of “law” and the sense of “layers, precedent.”  Ørlǫg is both a process of becoming and a completed thing.  (In Anglo-Saxon contexts often the term wyrd comes to stand for some combination of ørlǫg and urðr.)

The Norns are not known to be related to either the Æsir gods or the adversaries of the Gods the jotunar.  Nor do any clear accounts of their origin exist.  The Norns personify time and action, yet they exist outside of time.  Even the most powerful of the Norse gods, Óðinn – he who rules the home of the gods in Asgarð and created the world from the jotun Ymir’s body – will eventually die because of the course of events.  The forces of fate that the Norns embody, apply to everyone; even a god that gave shape to the world we live in.  As one Old English poem states it: “Wyrd bið ful aræd.”  (Wyrd remains completely inexorable.)

Time, Wyrd and Ethics

In modern English, concepts of fate and predestination are terms with roots in the Romance languages, often now infected with Christian theology.  In Romance languages past tenses are conjugated as compounds, while future tenses are single word conjugations.  In Germanic languages, the past tense is a single word conjugation, while the future is a compound conjugation.  Bauschatz observes that this distinction embodies a fundamental difference in how fate is viewed in the two worldviews.  In essence, the Germanic worldview weights ‘fixed reality’ to the past, while Romance language cultures weight ‘fixed reality’ to the future.

The way I see it, everything that I am physically (human evolution, the genetic happenstance of my family tree) and mentally (ideas learned through culture, education, being socialized in a family, psychological reactions to life events) is the result of the past.  Although a product of the past that is more than me, I am still a unique being with my own free will.  This free will, however, is constrained by all that I am and all that I encounter in my life.  All of which is the product of the past.  But, part of ørlǫg is our unique decisions.  As we act, so the Norns do weave.

I personally experience the Heathen view of fate in this way: We live in an eternal present that is the sum of all past action.  The past very clearly and definitely exists and cannot be changed, as it is the basis for all reality, what our consciousness views as “right now.”  The past cannot be changed.  The future, however, is not fixed.  (Nor, does it actually ever arrive since it is always “today.”)  But, the future is predetermined in a manner.  The future is constrained by what has occurred in the past, since action in the past is constrained by that “which is,” the wyrd that gives form to all present reality and options.  Due to wyrd things are bound to happen.

There are deeper mysteries and philosophical implications to the Heathen view of fate than anything I have presented here.  It is all rather wyrd and confusing, but life is like that!  What Heathens tend to focus on is trying to embody what they believe is good character in their action, the virtues, since this is what our tradition teaches is the best way to meet the debt that past action has determined is owed.  At the least, as strophe 23 in the Hávamál reminds us, there is no use staying awake at night worrying about the past.  It is better not to worry, get some sleep, and in the morning meet the day as the best person you can be and do something about whatever might be troubling you.

Heilir þeirs hlýddu!

Austin “Auz” Lawrence

* Snorri Sturluson was a 12th century Icelandic politician, poet and antiquarian who wrote down a vast body of pre-Christian Scandinavian lore and myth in what has come to be known as “The Prose Edda.”

Selected Sources

  • The Oxford English Dictionary.
  • The Poetic Edda.
  • Bauschatz. The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture
  • Mitchell and Robinson. A Guide to Old English.
  • Simek. Dictionary of Northern Mythology.
  • Sturluson. The Prose Edda.
  • Zoëga. A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic.

A huge thank you to my special guest, Auz, for taking the time to share his thoughts.  His description and interpretation of the Web of Wyrd is excellent, in my opinion.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed the twelve glimpses into Heathen life during the past year. I’d promised to write articles for one year and then to re-evaluate my time, as I knew many of my writing and publishing projects would be coming to a head after that year. As predicted, my projects are rapidly moving into the fast lane and I will no longer have the time to donate to this column. A huge thank you to the owner and writers of The Pagan and Pen for allowing me to ramble on for this last year and for the excellent company along the way. 🙂

I wish you all peaceful and safe travels along your strands of the Web and hope the Norns give you a wonderful and interesting life.

Blessings to your Hearth,

Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, Best Selling eBook Author and Award Winning Blog Writer.

Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

Contact Edain @ Facebook Twitter YouTube Blogger

Travel and the modern pagan

One of my patron deities is Hermes so the idea of not doing something when I travel, no matter how small, is unthinkable. At bare minimum a prayer to him before boarding a plane for smooth, uneventful travel is a must. Sometimes I’ll find money right before a big trip and will honor him with an offering later. The morning of my last trip, I found a $20 bill on the ground. Given I was seriously broke and traveling on the company’s funds, it was a blessing and then some!

Some people I know have travel altars, others find small ways to make their days meaningful. If you already have an established morning meditation or prayer routine that requires minimal preparation and ritual, keeping it going while on the go is easy. For people performing something more intense for a duration of time such as the Abramelin, I would imagine this would be far more challenging!

When you travel, do you have any special rituals, offerings, or habits you have as a modern pagan? You certainly don’t have to be a devotee of Hermes to appreciate what it means not just to be a pagan on the go, but maintaining whatever practices you have while away from home.

I board a plane in a few hours, and while I don’t do much ritual these days, Hermes will undoubtedly be remembered before/during/after my vacation. 🙂

How about you? I’d love to hear from you. Chime in on how you honor the gods while away from home, especially if it’s for a vacation you rarely get to take.


Love & Magic,

Radical Religion

Back in my college days, I squeezed in a module on religious studies. Bits of it I can still remember. One of the points we discussed was why people get involved with religions, and one of the answers the tutor offered was the desire to be part of something.

All religions, so far as I know, have badges of belonging. Signs and symbols identify believers to each other, and may flag them up to others as different. Religious garb both marks folk as part of a group, and highlights them as separate from all others. Paganism has its symbols too, although many of them are also popular with New Agers. You can’t mistake the velvets, silver and pentograms of a female witch. Druids have the Awen symbol /l\ Norse folk wear Thor’s hammer, and so forth. Fifteen odd years ago when it didn’t feel entirely safe to be out, we’d sound each other out by dropping ’blessed be’ into the conversation, amongst other things.

Back in my college days, when I was first coming out as pagan, there was a huge thrill to finding fellow travellers. It didn’t matter who they were or what they believed, but they shared something magical with me – a secret, dangerous sort of truth. Being pagan was exciting. Belonging to something hidden (which is what occult literally means, after all) had an allure to it. Coming out to non-pagans felt like real risk taking. Perhaps it was – I never had any bad experiences, but it was still legal to discriminate against us back then.

Being in a new place, I’ve had all the coming out issues to play with all over again. We’re the first pagan family the school has encountered. They’ve responded with interest, and sensitivity, being relaxed and helpful. I mentioned being a Druid to some folks I went carol singing with. “Ah,” said the one. “We get some Druids at singing camp. I could imagine you there.”

Now I’m part of something that ‘outsiders’ generally have a vague awareness of and are ok about. No doubt there’s prejudice still out there (did I say Daily Wail at all?) but it’s small pockets, not widespread. The word ’pagan’ does not strike fear any more, not into the hearts of sane people, anyway. We aren’t fringe and secret any more. We’re increasingly open and visible. Even policemen can admit to being pagans. It attracts curiosity and the odd questions about naked dancing, and that’s about it.

I wonder if there were people who were attracted to paganism precisely because it represented something outside the mainstream. For teen pagans that air of danger and rebellion was always going to appeal, but its fading. The more comfortable everyone else becomes with us, the easier being a pagan is. How much of the appeal lay in the challenge? How much of the sense of being special came from being socially unaccepted? And how true is that for other, less accepted and more radical faith positions?

Religion. We want to belong somewhere. So many of us get a kick out of transgressing in some way, or having badges of specialness, difference, preference. We all want to be the chosen few, on some level. All of these reasons for seeking faith groups to belong to are very, very human. And at the same time, totally at odds with what all of those faiths are about. Belonging and asserting difference are all about our own individual selves. Spirituality, in all its forms is about reaching out to something bigger than us, external to us, however we conceptualise that.

What’s wrong with being a witch?

I don’t know what angered me more—that tea party candidate Christine O’Donnell trashed witchcraft or that people have a problem with a Wiccan running for political office. I wasn’t the only pagan upset about this.

When I first saw the video with O’Donnell admitting to dabbling in witchcraft, I thought she was a nut ball and was glad she wouldn’t get elected since the majority of conservatives are Christian. But then I realized that by thinking that way, I was being as narrow-minded as everyone else that objects to any non-Christian religion.

Why couldn’t someone with a brain admit to being a witch? Someone who could explain Wicca/pagan practices correctly? Pagans had a chance to have a voice and instead were aligned with Devil worshippers.

So, what’s wrong with being a witch? Nothing, unless witches are truly as horrible as Christine O’Donnell described them. Thanks to her rambling nonsense, witches will have to work even harder to fix an already tarnished reputation among the mainstream population. Pagans do not worship the Devil, they don’t even believe in the Devil. The Devil is a Christian invention. I can see how people get confused, especially when the dictionary doesn’t even get it right. A witch practices Wicca.

It would be awesome to have a Wiccan elected to a political office, but it was obvious from the way O’Donnell giggled and babbled in the video that she wasn’t serious about being a witch, and she didn’t know what she was talking about. And, Ms. O’Donnell, you don’t dabble in witchcraft. Witchcraft/paganism is a lifestyle.

Kelley Heckart

‘Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic’

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