7/19/2008

The Norns

Name: Urd (Urðr, 'Fate'), Verdandi (Verðandi, 'Necessity') and Skuld (Skuld, 'Being')
Location: Scandinavia
Sphere of influence: Fate
Famous portraits: None contemporary

These three goddesses were part of the dísir, a group of female deities in Norse mythology in Scandinavia before Christianity - not all of them known by name. It is not known how far back this belief goes, and if it was always these three. Some view Urd as the real goddess of fate and the others as additions.

They were said to live in a hall at the roots of the tree of life, Yggdrasil, close to the well of Wyrd (UrðarbUrðarbrunnrted.

According to the belief systems of the Scandinavians each person had a fate created at one's birth and in which the Norns were very active. The Norns twined the threads of life, of one's fate. Their doings shaped what happened to the person, and when you died. There was no going away from the Norns and that makes it easy to have a rather gloomy view of them. We do not know much of how they were viewed by the ancient Scandinavians - apart from how they were described in for example the Poetic Edda.

They had however other things too, for example they were thought to assist at the birth of children and that each person had his or her own Norn (though not the famous ones then).

The cult of the Norns are a strictly Scandinavian thing, but there are many other European traditions of similar ideas. The English name is Weird or Wyrd sister (weird as in derived from the name Urd and not from the word for 'odd').

There are no known, contemporary pictures of the Norns. The painting here is from the national romanticism of the 19th century. Why Verdandi is painted with wings is not known - it has nothing to do with the mythology in any case.

There is a Japanese manga that uses the Norns called 'Ah, my goddess' about the three of them living in today's world. But due to how Japanese is spelled Verdandi is renamed as Belldandy.

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