What is Wyrd?
Ask veit ek ausinn, Heitir Yggdrasil,
Hárr baðmr heilagr, Hvíta-auri;
Þaðan koma döggvar, Es í dala falla;
Stendr æ yfir gronn Urðarbrunni.
An ash I wit standing Called Yggdrasil,
A high holy tree Sprinkled with white clay,
Thence come the dews That in the dales fall;
Stands it always ever green Over Wyrd's Well.
(Gylfaginning 16, Prose Edda)
The Well of Wyrd lies at the base of Yggdrasil. There are two other wells within the Heathen cosmology also at the base of the World Tree. These are the Mímisbrunnr "Mimir's Well" and Hvergelmir "the roaring cauldron." Mimer's Well is the well Wóden gave his eye to have a drink from to gain wisdom. Hvergelmir is the well that all waters of the Nine Worlds are said to flow into.
*Þjar rætr trésins aví upp ok standa afarbreitt...in þriðja stendr Niflheimi, ok undir þeiri rót er Hvergelmir...En undir þeiri rót, er til hrímaursa horfir, þar er Mímisbrunnr, er soekð ok manvit er í fólgit, ok heitir sá Mímr, er brunnunn....þriðja rót asksins stendr á himni, ok undir aeiri rót er brunnr sá, er mjök er heilagr, er heitr Urðarbrunnr;þar eigu goðin dómstað sinn.
Three roots hold the tree up and stand far abroad...the third stands over Niflheim, and under that root is Hvergelmir...And under that root, which is towards the frost giants is Mimer's Well, where wisdom and understanding are, Mimer keeps that well.. The third ash's root stands in heaven, and under that root is a well, that is very holy, that well is called Wyrd's Well, there the gods hold their court. (Gylfaginning 15, Prose Edda)
Þaðan koma meyiar, margs vitandi,
þrár, ór þeim sæ, er und þolli strendr;
Urð héto eina, aðra Verðandi
--scáro scíði--, Skuld ina þriðio;
þær lög löumlgðo, þær líf kuro
alda bornom, ørlög seggia
Thence come the maidens, Mighty in wisdom,
Three from the place, Under the tree,
Wyrd is called one, Another Werðende
Scored they on wood, Scyld is the third;
There Laws they laid, There life chose,
To men's sons, And spoke orlay (Völuspa 20-25)
The final activity of the Wyrdæ, to speak orlæg, is the "speaking of the primal layer." Bauschatz addresses this phrase thusly:
"The prefix or- signifies something that is beyond or above the ordinary. It suggests something of first rate or primary significance, but it does not indicate the scale upon which the significance is to be measured; hence, the rather vague 'above' or 'beyond' quality it imparts. The ørlög is, then, a 'primal law' (in importance), a 'highest law' (in elevation), an 'earliest law' (in time), a 'first law' (in any numerical sequence), and so forth. To take the more literal reading of lög, olög is 'the most significant things laid down,' 'the earliest things accomplished.' "(Bauschatz page)
Enn er aat sagt, at nornir aær, er byggva við Urðarbrunn, taka hvern dag vatn i brunninum ok með aurinn aann, er liggr um brunninn, ok ausa upp yfir askinn, til aes at eigi skulu limar hans treena eða fœna, en aat vatn er sv heilagt, at allir hlutir, aeir er aar koma í brunninn, verða sv hvítir sem hinna sœ, er skjall heitir, er innan liggr við eggskurn.
And it is said that, these Norns there, that dwell at Wyrd's Well, take every day water from the well and with that clay, that lies in the well, then sprinkle it upon the ash, to the end that the tree's limbs shall not wither or rot, for this water is so holy, that all lots, that come there into the well, become as white as the white within an egg shell. (Gylfaginning 16)
by Swain Wodening
Revised by Eric Wodening May, 2004 CE)
Wyrd And Scyld
by Swain Wodening Canote
The impact of Wyrd can be seen everywhere. In nearly every theological construct in Germanic heathendom, including Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Ásatrú, Wyrd plays a role. Just as Wyrd is central to the ancient heathen conception of Law, so too is it central to their conception of Sin or wrongdoing. Three basic principles play a role in heathen conceptions of Sin. The first is Wyrd. The second is mægen. The third is known as scyld in Old English or skuld in Old Norse. In Old Norse the word skuld, meaning "debt, obligation," shows how the heathen conception of Sin was tied to the conception of Wyrd--Skuld is the name of the third Norn in Norse myth.
In Old English the word mægen and in Old Norse the word hamingja appear to have been used as a term for the spiritual energy contained in every living thing in the multiverse. Similar terms used in Old Norse were gipta, and gæfa, both of which could mean "luck, fortune" and both of which are related to modern English gift. Mægen could be loaned to others or even given away. The exchange of mægen could even take place between the living and the dead. Mægen seemed to have been passed down family lines along with the fetch and orlæg. In Waldere I, it is said, "Weorð ðe selfne, gódum dædum" "Worth gain for yourself, thru good deeds."
In the Dark Ages, fines were the primary form of punishment for any given crime. In a sense, the various Anglo-Saxon laws reduce every offence to 'theft,' for which a monetary equivalent can be found. In fact a term for crime in Old English was scyld "debt." The word gylt, our modern word "guilt," packed similar connotations. Other terms such as Old English dolh "injury" are related to words meaning "debt," such as Gothic dulgs. When the Christians first needed a word for "sin" they chose the word scyld. The only other mention of Skuld outside of Voluspa 20 and the Gyfaginning is in Voluspa 30, where she is mentioned in a list of valkyrjur, the valkyrjur as choosers of the slain, were often the collectors of debts owed to Wóden for a promised victory in battle.
Another form of sin was that expressed by Old English synn, our word "sin." Synn may have originally meant "inaction or stasis." A synn may have been a failure to take appropriate action or simply action that did not gain one mægen.This type of sin may have been represented by such Old English words as undæd and misdæd.