Three Norns by Palentino at the entrance of the Ribe Viking Center in Denmark.
Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld. I've written of them on various pages but its time I mention them here. They are generally ascribed as weavers of fate- the sacred tales they spring from describe the creation of individual and community wyrd as a woven strand(s).
Most of the time, these ladies are ascribed to concepts such as the past, present, and the future. It's a pretty simplistic approach but I find some errors in that particular line of thought.
Urðr, and it's Germanic cognate wyrd, essentially means that which has come to pass. Verðandi is simply the present tense of the Old Norse Verða, 'to become'. It typically is interpreted as that which is in the making or becoming. Skuld is the trickier concept, this word has a Germanic root of skul meaning 'to owe.' It can point to debt or guilt.
What we have here are some pretty deep concepts far beyond past, present, and future. Often we look at the concept of wyrd as what is to happen but wyrd itself requires all three Norns to fully activate as a theological premise.
I prefer a different approach to wyrd and the three Norns. We have Urðr, the past, the foundation, that which sets the stage for Verðandi. This Norn isn't the present, she isn't the now. You've already read those words, they are now the past. Verðandi is the becoming which is continually evolving and never remains still.
Here, as I noted, is the trickier aspect. Skuld. If you saw these three as a branch, it is at Skuld the branch would fork. We have two options, the will and the should be. We can ask ourselves at any given time in the becoming, 'What 'will be' in opposed to what 'should be'?' The 'will be' is the direction one is heading, it is where your feet and head are taking you. Are they aligned with the 'should be?' The goal of any human truly needs to be to align the will be with the should be.
How does this correlate with the meaning of the word Skuld 'to owe?' Simply put, we all have a path, a destiny, a fate. We chose it ourselves, it was placed upon us, it was in the cards, use whatever method of description works for you. We owe ourselves and others to align with the should be. The concept of debt or owing is often glossed over, individualistic and independent people don't feel comfortable with the idea of being born into this life with pre-destined duties or obligations. It messes with their concept of free will and choice which is a topic I'll discuss on a later date. For now, let's just focus on getting to the should be.
How do we get there? Sometimes it is common sense. Drink heavily? Doesn't matter the Urðr of the situation, right now there is too much alcohol happening. The will be is obvious to most; relational problems, employment issues, DUIs, liver cirrhosis, even alcoholic dementia if bad enough. Change the becoming and that will alter the will be to a should be of a healthier life.
Sometimes discerning the should be is more difficult. Should you marry this individual, should you take this job offer, should you buy this house, you get the point. What looks good in the becoming may not be the best ultimate course. Meditate, do the research, seek advice or counsel, divine; whatever works with your own construct.
Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld, are far more than past, present, and future. Take the time to explore them and change your forked branch to a smooth, tightly wound strand.
Three Norns by Timothy Schmalz. Click the picture to go to his site.
A woman went to visit family that lived far far off. When she got there, she stopped in at her Opa's. He was sitting on his porch wearing his usual white robes. She looked at him and her heart swelled at the sight of his kindly, life lined face, and brilliant white hair.
He took her hand and they went for a walk down the meandering path into the brush. After walking in silence for a time he said, 'Child, what do you see?' She looked around for a time and thought, Opa likes thoughtful answers, and finally said, 'Life, I see life.'
He nodded sagely. 'What else?' She looked closer and noted amidst the burgeoning bustle of life the decaying flowers past their prime, insects eating other insects, a dead bird rotting in the soil under brush. 'Death Opa, I also see death.'
He stopped and looked at her, 'What will you do of this?' She thought of the world she came from, her land with its hustle and bustle and shameful rape/ignorance of Mother Earth. 'I don't know, I don't know what I can do.'
'This then,' he said, 'is something to think on.'
I wanted to honor Tyr for a friend of mine the other day. During my morning devotion I let Loki know, He nodded but immediately deferred me to Heimdallr and went on with His other issues.
During my devotion to Heimdallr I mentioned I was going to honor Tyr later. He looked at me questioningly. I did meet Tyr quite a few months ago via Heimdallr, we had discussed Fenrir and I was to think on a few things and come back to him. I just hadn’t been ready yet.
I told Heimdallr my intent wasn’t the conversation waiting, I wanted to honor Tyr and pray for the strength of a friend in need. He nodded. I started on my adorations but He cut me short. I had an appointment and he told me I needed to ensure I had plenty of time to get ready.
He then held out his hand. I took it and went through the swirling grey I’ve grown accustomed to and found myself on a rough, rocky ledge near the ocean. ‘Another beach,’ I mentioned. ‘Yes, ‘ He smiled, ‘it’s a border.’ He led me along the ledge, jumping down rock edges traveling along and edging closer to the water. Usually He just walks in His easy, long legged pace and I have to keep up but this time at every ledge He turned and helped me down. I grinned, teasingly asked Him why He was being such a gentleman, ‘I like having you in my arms.’ I blushed and we continued on.
We eventually came near the water . He stopped and made a small hand motion; in front of me a glowing Tiewaz appeared on the rocks. I knew what was happening, our Nordic gatekeeper Heimdallr had opted to facilitate a meet rather than just have me honor Tyr on my own.
I walked forward on my own and saw Tyr walking towards me in the distance. Tyr looks very much the warrior to me. He has scabbards and leather and hides, His body is muscular and scarred. He has a sense of firmness tempered with the kind of gentleness that only comes from great strength.
We met and said hello. I told Him why I was there, that I hadn’t come to disturb him but to make a petition for a friend for strength and comfort. We talked briefly on this, I thanked Him and turned to go but He stopped me.
He said, ‘I can see Fenrir’s marks on you.’ I looked down. I have some mixed feelings on this. Loki and Heimdallr have both directed me to Fenrir at times and I know I will be working with Him more. I know this, at least here on Midgard, to be controversial. He put His hand on my shoulder and said, ‘It’s alright. I spent much time with Fenrir.’ He looked at His stump. ‘I’ve made my own sacrifices to Him, looks as though you have your own cutting to do.’
I began to tear, there are some emotions there. He sat me down on the rocks and we looked at the water. He put an arm around my shoulders and kindly said, ‘Everybody forgets, or hasn’t realized, that in order to bind Him, in order to know what to sacrifice to ensure He caused no harm, I had to know Him. We had to have a rapport.’
He paused a moment to let the words sink in, ‘In order to do what needed to be done, I had to love Him.’
Fenrir’s role is typically just seen as one of the monster, the ravener that needs be bound and forgotten. We must remember that mythology has messages on many levels. Every one of us has a small Fenrir within, we all have our dark spots. To just ignore they exist, to deny those patches within does not do ourselves justice, respect, nor love. We all have internal rages, jealousies, and episodes of lonely despair. They are a part of us just as Fenrir is a part of the Nordic mythology. To manage our own tempests we must accept these troubles. We must develop a rapport with them, we must embrace and love them, in order to know what needs to be sacrificed to manage and control the beast within.
Narvi and Vali are the sons of Loki and the Asynjur Sigyn. I’m going to write some musings on their relationship, not whether the events that occurred to them were right or wrong. If you aren’t aware of the story, Loki angered many of the Aesir. In revenge they captured Him. After this the Aesir turned Vali into a wolf who in turn killed his brother Narvi. It was Narvi’s intestines that were then used to bind Loki to three rocks to await Ragnarok. Sigyn stays by His side forever protecting Loki from a painful venom dripping from a snake.
Now that you have the basics of the story, let’s turn away from that issue and look at Narvi and Vali’s brotherhood. First, what is brotherhood? It’s the relationship between brothers. It is the relationship between men who consider themselves to be brothers such as in various organizations. Brotherhood is also termed to mean a feeling of closeness in a group that considers themselves to be family.
“It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea” ~Dylan Thomas
We’ve all grown up in families. Even if we didn’t have a brother or brothers we have had friends with brothers. They can be close or distant. In either instance, brothers know each other intimately. They know the minute details of each other’s emotions and reactions. Great joys and pains can be inflicted by one brother on another.
The Aesir turned Vali into a wolf. Wolf symbology is varied but there is a large portion of folklore that is directed towards wolves being greedy, ferocious, vengeful, and monstrous. Vali was turned against his brother; I see this as being driven insane. He ripped into Narvi and killed him. Though horrific, there is a poetic sense to this. Who best to rip into another’s very innards than a brother? Who best knows how to truly inflict pain and horror than our own family?
We also can’t forget the rest of them. The events between the brothers destroyed the family. The sire, Loki, bound in grief and pain by the murder of one son by the other. Sigyn, wife and mother, forever trying to keep what is left of the family together, trying to protect Loki from the pain. A whole family ripped apart by two brothers.
Diehard lorists won’t agree with this paragraph. But let’s think on this a moment anyway. When we look at collective UPG on Narvi and Vali, what is often experienced is two brothers who greatly love each other. Narvi is usually seen as more open and very protective of his brother Vali. Shyness, reluctance to come forward, and a sense of vague horror is seen of Vali. We can only imagine what goes through Vali’s mind reliving the horror of what he committed in his memory. Yet at the same time we can feel a serene joy at the forgiveness Narvi exhibits. He seems protective of his brother, he doesn’t place the blame for his pain on Vali. If anything, Narvi strives to protect Vali from the pain of his actions.
This side of the story is often overlooked by those who study the lore. It is a sidelight, the brothers are merely collateral damage. They aren’t. Their story has its own importance. We can see what happens to communities and families when personal, intimate details (the guts) are drug out into the open. We can see what happens when man turns against man, often for no reason other than external events that actually don’t have anything to do with the two.
We also forget the prophecy regarding Ragnarok. Before that horrible event, it is said siblings will turn against siblings. Here we have two siblings set against each other in order to gain the bonds which will hold Loki till the day of Ragnarok. The war is set in motion here, sib against sib.
We can tell our sons stories of Thor and the value of protecting the weak. We can share stories of Tyr and his tale of honor. But let’s not forget Narvi and Vali. Two children our own offspring can relate to. Two brothers who show the dangers of insensibly turning on each other. Two brothers who can teach of forgiveness.
Narvi and Vali can be used as models for our own sons. Heathen children need role models, they need stories to learn from. Here we have, combined between lore and gnosis, a story of two brothers. One becomes enraged, the reason isn’t important and could be applied to anything going on within our child’s life. The enraged Vali then uses the family tie and destroys his brother Narvi.
But there is hope. Brothers are brothers, through thick and thin. Narvi goes on to forgive Vali. They never forget what happened, but they can move on, they can be brothers again. This is what brotherhood is about. They knock each other down and then go have tea.
My sons know of Narvi and Vali. I hope they can remember them when they experience that crazed anger that only brothers can have for each other. I hope they can remember the damage that can be inflicted at those times and will temper themselves. If they don’t, I pray they remember the forgiveness which is within them.
"We are all brothers under the skin- and I, for one, would be willing to skin humanity to prove it." ~ Ayn Rand
Thorrablót. A relatively unknown feast; one which I’ve been curious about. You see, in my general trovings on the internet and in other areas for information on this event it was clear to me that I wasn’t getting the whole picture. It seems most authors skim over what this feast means.
In general, one will find writings such as this, excerpted from the 2012 Troth Almanac, pg. 11 and written by Patricia Layfayllve¹:The Anglo-Saxons termed January Æfter Geola, “after Yule,” which certainly describes the month’s placement in the Northern European calendar. Both the Old Icelandic and the Old Norse named this month Mörsugur (“suet-sucker” or “fat sucker” month) and also divided in two. The first part of January was also called Jól (“Yule”), which might be a remnant of the Yule celebrations having been in January. The latter half of the month was called Þorri, most likely recognizing Þorrablót. In Old High German January was called Harti-mánód, roughly “month of severe frost.”
Thorrablót as a tradition has survived into the modern era. Some modern heathens use this festival as a blót to Thor himself. Thorrablót was typically held in Iceland after the thirteenth week of winter, and was a festival featuring a feast followed by songs and games. Given its timing, much of the food traditionally presented at Thorrablót--hakarl (putrified shark), blóðmör ( blood sausage or black pudding), hrútspungr (ram’s scrotum with testicles), and svið (jellied sheep’s head)—were what was left of winter’s stores. Most were pickled or fermented in some way, and were subsistence foods. A traditional heathen may also want to guard against the guests’ breath after such a meal.
From what I have found, this is in general true and very good information. It isn’t a past festival however, Thorrablót is still celebrated in Iceland and Norway. It is traditionally held the first Friday after January 19th , this year starting the 20th. The celebration lasts through the first two weeks of February in restaurants and common areas. Traditional fare is served along with special, fresher preparations for the more timid gastronomiques.
What caught my eye was the constant swerving around or authorial avoidance of what Thorrablót actually meant. This feast is mentioned in the lore and I’ll go ahead and tell it’s story here from the appendices of the Icelandic Saga, Vol. III by G. Dasent. ²
Thorrablót, contrary to popular opinion and usage, is not a blót to Thor. It is a blót to Thorri, otherwise known as King Snow or Thorri Snaerson (Snow-son). Thorri’s lineage is mentioned in this way. There was a man named Fornjot who had three sons. They were Hler, Logi, and Kari. Yes, we are talking the giants Hler of the seas (Aegir), Logi of fire, and Kari who rules over the winds. Kari was the father of Jökull whose name means frost or glacier. Jökull, in turn, sired Thorri. The Orkneyingers’ Saga of the same book adds in one more step- Jökull having sired Snær (Old King Snow) who then sired Thorri.
Thorri ruled over Gothland, Kvenland, and Finland. Gothland is the southern portion of Sweden from which the Goths originated. Finland is oft known as the land of trolls and magic. Of interest, Kvenland is thought to have been around the northern edge of the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea, directly between Finland and Sweden.
Thorri had a daughter Goi (thin-snow) and two sons named Norr and Gorr. Notation is made that Goi was kidnapped and married to a giant named Rolf the Hill. Norr found and invited his sister back home. Rolf followed and became one of Thorri’s men.
The appendix notes a holy day that I have to believe is the progenitor of our modern Thorrablót. The translation linked below reads, “To him (Thorri) the Kvens sacrificed that it might be snowy, and that there might be good going on snow-shoon. That was their harvest. That sacrifice was to be at midwinter; and the month Thorri was called after it.”
This sacrifice is also noted in the Orkneyingers’ Saga in the same book. ³ The difference here is that this text notes Thorri as making the offering.
Now, I’ll admit it is also possible Thorri was a man. I don’t recall seeing it common practice in lore for men to sacrifice to another man but who knows. These are ancient stories handed down and changes over time are natural.. The lineage of Thorri is telling though. With Kari, Logi, and Aeger in his line I’m pointed at the thought Thorri may very well have been a giant.
So with this information readily available one can wonder why modern man has either simply called it a feast day without any reference to Thorri or changed it to a blót to Thor. One thought is that the name of Thorri is similar to Thor and let’s face it, Thor is an awesome God. Why not have one more opportunity to honor Him?
Let’s look at this more closely though. Thor is important in that He helps keep elemental forces in harmony. However, modern man goes beyond this. We don’t really live in harmony with the elements. We want them under control. We want them vanquished. We want to live in our nice 70 degree all year round air conditioned home without any issues with the snow or sleet or winter, the heat of summer, the mud of spring, or the winds of fall. We have forgotten that without the snows, the storms, the heat, and the winds, we lose our natural cycle. It’s as vital to the life of the Earth as our own heartbeat. We NEED these elements. We can blót to Thor all we want but in His wisdom He just isn’t going to go and destroy every Jotnar around. We need to learn to live and work with the elements again and Thorrablót is a wonderful time to start.
Most heathens will admit that the giants (Jotnar) were likely the elemental Gods honored prior to the Aesir or the Vanir. Yet again and again we find it a modern tradition to overlook our forebears practice of honoring the Jotnar. True, there is little record of this practice but I find that plausible- the lore was initially formed through gnosis after the Aesir had already arrived.
It makes the highest sense though. Primitive cultures honored the elements they had to deal with. I feel no shame that my forebears honored giants before they honored Aesir or Vanir. Why should any of us? Why deny such a beautiful heritage- that of honoring the seasons, honoring the snow itself if one lives in a region by which it must be dealt with so intimately and personally? Without snow there would be no life; we’ve all heard of global warming.
So this season, if you choose to have a Thorrablót you most definitely have choices. You can continue the more modern tradition of honoring Thor- a worthy and wonderful God who will protect and guide us through the roughest of seasons. You can also raise a glass to Thorri Snow-son and ask for safe going on snow-shoon. I see no contradiction there. I’d lay money it’s been a while since anyone offered Thorri a beer- he may take notice and you may just find better winter traction in your driving this winter season. Whatever you do, enjoy your blóðmör and hakarl. Stay warm, safe, and be well.
1.The Troth. The Old Heathen’s Almanac 2012
2. Dasent, G. Appendices. Icelandic Sagas Vol. III. Retrieved from Sacred Texts, January 6, 2012. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/ice/is3/is316.htm
3. Dasent, G. The Orkneyingers’ Saga. Icelandic Sagas Vol. III. Retrieved from Sacred Texts, January 6, 2012. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/ice/is3/is302.htm
'Oooh,' I groaned. I rolled over, buried my head into the pillows a bit more. I didn't want to get up. It's Saturday. The weekend. I should be able to sleep in. 'You have slept in.' Sigh- He's right. Normally I get up at 4:30, or try to anyway. It was 6:30 now. I still didn't want to get up though so I ignored the nudging and rolled even further into my blankets.
'Weren't you going to honor the Alcis this morning?' Shit. Sigh. 'I'll do it tomorrow.' I had a moment's respite then, 'Tomorrow needs to be for her. You should do this today.' Errr- I'm truly grumbling now. I really just wanted to sleep. 'Why are you pushing me?' I ask. 'I thought they annoyed you?' A wry grin comes at me, 'They do. But they have been kind and helpful to you. You adore them. You should maintain and cultivate the relationship.'
Clearly I'm not going to sleep anymore anyway so I get up. It is still pitch black outside so I sit and meditate for a time. I have a sense for honoring the Alcis at dawn. There is no rule that says I have to and I haven't always. But I sure like to. It just feels right. So I wile the time away; I get my devotional poetry, set aside the wine and eggs. I collect the candle and the blot bowl and I wait.
I'm in the Pacific Northwest and as is typical of this time of year the early morning sky is charcoal grey. Without an electronic gizmo of some sort it can be difficult to determine the actual time of dawn and I don't want to fire up the computer so I just wait until I sense it is time.
I go out to the little mini grove of pear trees. I give respect and lean down within the space and clear some foliage clutter. It has been windy, I reposition the horse and untangle some of the ribbons from the tree limbs. I then quickly step back. Over time the Alcis have firmly but gently set limits on me. Initially I was allowed to clamber all over Them and their grove. But now I am to behave with more decorum, more respect. I am not their priest. I am the only one here and as such can clean their space but I am to no longer tarry within. It is similar to how one would allow a three year old some liberties but as the child ages they are taught manners.
So I stand outside the grove for a moment. I've placed the blot bowl, the eggs, candle, and wine. I light the candle and just stop a moment. This morning feels like kneeling. Sometimes I stand, sometimes I sit, sometimes I kneel. Kneeling is called for this morning.
I kneel and read my devotion. The sky is still grey, as I read the wind slowly picks up from the east which I am facing. I pour the wine, crack the eggs, and finish my devotion. As I complete the last hail I look up, the skyline has suddenly become belted with the pinks, blues, and purples of dawn.
The wind has risen more; it is now enough that the bamboo wind chimes are vigorously clinking musically. I quiet my mind and hear Their voices through the sound.
'We're glad you are here.'
'Thank you for cleaning the space.'
Teasing, laughing- one has to remember They are youthful Gods.
As usual, they rarely come without rendering some assistance. The past few days have been emotionally rougher than some others.
Another tease and joke about a personal matter. I blush, duck my head, and then one leans down more seriously, 'We watch you. You have it going on!' [huh?] and then a short pause with a more direct look, 'Never give up.'
I realize it is time. I thank them and rise. It is wet out- typical of my region. The frost giants have scattered their remnants of a glittery dew. It is safe to leave the candle for now in the dim dawn's belt. I do so, I can see it from my window flickering in the waning murk providing me a bit more of a connection to Them.
I adore the Alcis.
Alcis, we hail you!
Great are your blessings, graces from Twins side by side.
The dokana is your symbol, a doorway, an entrance and an exit, life and death, beginning and ending. Duality is yours in the hidden grove where priests dressed as women hold up the sacrificed hart and dance to your name.
You box and run, cherished are your athletes.
You ride and hunt, cherished are your horsemen.
You heal and nurture, cherished are your faithful.
Vanir Gods, youthful Gods. You gently lead with your ancient wisdom and for this we honor Thee!
Hail to your cycle, your Jera, your reminder of summer and winter.
The call of the bull elk sounds, we enter Frost-time, be our pillars of support. Let us feel your blessings of the season, let us huddle in your comfort, the knowing of your divine presence.
At Dellingr’s door I lie before you the mead, the egg, the blood of the bull, the harvest of the fields. Accept my offering, my devotion.
For various reasons I opted to honor Aegir today. I admittedly don't know Him well so I wrote a simple prayer and packed up some cookies I hoped He would like.
I went to Deception Pass State park here in Washington. The bridge passes over a sill where waters begin their mix with the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. The Puget Sound does have areas of depths up to 1000 feet but where I was we're looking at only about 150.
Lord of the Northern Seas
I honor your welcoming
Husband of Ran
Sire of Nine
I honor your gift
Your fertile lands beneath the waves
I honor you with gift in kind.
I tossed a bunch of Cranberry Nut cookies over the bridge, watching for police as I was, ahem, right across from the 'No Throwing Items over the Bridge' sign. Oh well. Watching the cookies descend was a little dizzying- the bridge is 200 feet off of the water.
I gave a moment of silence and felt the subtle acceptance one can sometimes feel. He seemed somewhat amused, or maybe He is just frequently happy, I don't know Him well enough. 'Thank you little one,' I heard.
On the way home I treated myself to an oyster burger from a little shrimp shack on the corner of Hwy 20 and Deception road- you can't miss it. The business is truly a shack, not even a name sign. But fresh oysters shucked right there- delicious! I saluted the bounty from His fields as I ate.