The Norns Picture

The norns (Old Norse: norn, plural: nornir) are a kind of dísir,[1] numerous female beings who rule the fates of the various races of Norse mythology. An English tradition talks of the Weird Sisters, (sometimes Wyrd Sisters or Three Weird Sisters), where Wyrd is the English form of Urðr, one of the named norns, whose name means itself "fate".

According to Snorri Sturluson's interpretation of the Völuspá, the three most important norns, Urðr (Wyrd), Verðandi and Skuld come out from a hall standing at the Well of Urðr (well of fate) and they draw water from the well and take sand that lies around it, which they pour over the ash Yggdrasill so that its branches will not rot.[2] These norns are described as three powerful maiden giantesses (Jotuns) whose arrival from Jötunheimr ended the golden age of the gods.[2] They may be the same as the maidens of Mögþrasir who are described in Vafþrúðnismál (see below).[2]

Beside these three norns, there are many other norns who arrive when a person is born in order to determine his or her future.[2] There were both evil and good norns, and the former caused all the evil and tragic events in the world while the latter were a kind of protective goddesses.[2] The belief in the norns as bringers of both good and evil would last beyond the christianization, as testifies the rune inscription N 351 M from the Borgund stave church:

Þórir carved these runes on the eve of Olaus-mass, when he travelled past here. The norns did both good and evil, great toil ... they created for me.[3]
While the name Urðr (Wyrd, Wierd) means "fate", Verðandi is derived from the Old Norse verb verða which means "to become" and Skuld is related to the verb "shall".[2] There is no foundation in Norse mythology for the notion that the three main norns each represent the past, the present and the future.[2] Moreoever, the idea that there are three main norns may be due to a late influence from Greek and Roman mythology, where there are also spinning fate goddesses (Moirae and Parcae).[2] The origin of the name norn is not certain, but it may derive from a word meaning "to twine" and which would refer to their twining the thread of fate.[2]

There is no clear distinction between norns, fylgjas, hamingjas and valkyries, nor with the generic term dísir. Moreover, artistic licence permitted such terms to be used for mortal women in Old Norse poetry, or to quote Snorri Sturluson's Skáldskaparmál on the various names used for women:

Woman is also metaphorically called by the names of the Asynjur or the Valkyrs or Norns or women of supernatural kind.

(text by wikipedia)

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