The Norns who spin the threads of fate in Norse mythology, and the ancient Zoroastrian view of destiny,


 

One of the key concepts of the worldview of the Norse and other Germanic peoples of pagan Europe was their unique view of destiny.

The starting point for understanding the Norse view of destiny is the mythological image of Yggdrasil and the Well of Urðr, the Well of Destiny

Yggdrasil is a tree that stands at the center of the cosmos and holds the Nine Worlds, the dwelling-places of humans, gods, and all other beings, in its branches and roots.

Another name for Yggdrasil or the world tree is Irminsul, and refers to the pillar of Irmingott.

The Avestan Airyaman is a cognate of Irmin or Irmingott. Yasna 54, the concluding hymn to the poetic gathas of the ancient seer/prophet Zarathustra, is dedicated to Airyaman the god-force of “nobility” or the “noble fellowship.”

The world tree Yggdrasil or pillar of Irmin Gott grows from the Well of Urðr or the Well of Destiny. In the Well of Urðr, live the Norns the three sisters who spin the threads of fate for gods, mortals and ALL the beings who live in the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil.

Old Norse urðr, Old English wyrd, Old High German wurt, Proto-Germanic *wurðiz were the words that defined fate/destiny in pre Christian Europe.

However, unlike the pronouncements of the Greek Fates, what the Norns carve into water ripples is only a possible form of destiny, and not the necessarily absolute, final form.

The forms carved by the Norns can be reshaped. All beings have some degree of power over their own destiny and the destiny of others. Everything and everyone uses this power in some small way, merely by being a stopping-point in the course the water of the Well of Urðr takes as it cycles through the well and the world tree.

The Norns may be the shapers of destiny par excellence, but they are far from the only beings capable of altering the course of destiny as it flows through the Well of Urðr and Yggdrasil. Just as no life’s course is entirely determined by the Norns, no life’s course is entirely free from the influence of the Norns and one’s fellow inhabitants of the Nine Worlds.

Accordingly, there is no absolute free will, just as there is no absolute unalterable fate. Instead, life is lived somewhere in the enormous range of possibilities that lies between these two mysterious forces.

The imagery of the Water and the Well are central to understanding the concept of fate in ancient Indo European view of fate. Destiny is this mysterious, unknowable force that like water, cycles between past, present and future. In this water/well imagery, fate not only causes the past to exert its influences upon the present, but also includes the influence of the present upon the past and, thereby, the potential for a new and different present and future.

It shall be added that the Zoroastrian fire temples with their eternal flames are always built near a sacred well, waterfall or lake.

Discerning and shaping one’s own destiny is central to the ancient wisdom of Zoroastrianism. For this very ancient faith is all about the triumph of light and the spirit.

Godhood is the brilliant wisdom or wondrous creativity that overcomes limitations and obstacles. In Zoroastrianism, Godhood is defined as “discovery, learning and new horizons, the odyssey/ progressive journey of consciousness, mind and will power.”

The supreme god of “learning, discovery and mind power” Ahûrá Mazdá, by his thoughts, brilliance and music has first ordered cosmos. Each of his thoughts gave rise to the Brilliant Immortals. The light, brilliance of these Immortals is a special force that awakens the Titans/Gods within. Through the wisdom of the Immortal ahûrás (æsir,) mortals can obtain powers/virtues with which they can shape/reshape destiny, and nature splendidly.

In the poetic gathas of the ancient seer/prophet Zarathustra, past, present, and future all happen at the same Moment in eternal time of the Immortal Gods, and are like the different shores of the same ocean.

While the idea of Greek Fates and Indic Karma show very close similarity to each other. The views on fate and destiny are the same in ancient Zoroastrianism and Pre Christian Norse beliefs.

I shall conclude by adding that urðr, the word in Old Norse that designates destiny comes from Proto-Germanic *wurðiz. The root of Germanic *wurðiz hails back to Proto-Indo-European *vert or *vérete/o: “to turn, rotate, come to pass, become.”

Avestan as one of the most ancient and earliest languages of the Indo European peoples, has few roots that are cognates, such as Avestan vart “to turn, set in motion, come to pass, become.”

In the Zoroastrian sacred lore, vart is closely associated with the verb varz “to work, have power, strength, energy to achieve a change/result.”

The emphasis of the magical word play here is that the turning of events always comes with the power, energy, opportunity to achieve a desired result and reshape destiny.

Other verbs associated with vart “to turn, set in motion, become” and varz “to work, have power, energy to achieve a desired result,” are the verbs vard “to grow, become energetic, worthy,” and varš to “rain.”

Again, we see an allusion to the water imagery and fluidity of reality. Truth is that reality is extremely fluid, and our focus, vision, and intensity of intent determine our reality and the power to reshape destiny.

ardeshir

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One Response to The Norns who spin the threads of fate in Norse mythology, and the ancient Zoroastrian view of destiny,

  1. zaneta garratt says:

    very interesting article, very well researched, I would agree with the life philosophy presented here

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