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Web of Wyrd: The Symbol of Fate Explained

I have been asked a lot lately about the more modern symbol used within the Norse Pagan community known as the Web of Wyrd so today I will do just that. The symbol itself first appeared in print in the 1990s but the term Web of Wyrd or spining the web of Wyrd (fate) can be found mentioned in several poems and Sagas such as the Helgakviða Hundingsbana I – The First Lay of Helgi the Hunding-Slayer, Darraðarljóð (Song of Darraðar) and Völundarkviða – The Lay of Völund. It can also be said that this symbol is made up of the entire Elder Futhark Runes which can easily be seen.

The first known appearance of the symbol occurs in German occultist Jan Fries’s Helrunar: A Manual of Rune Magick (1993, Mandrake of Oxford). Two versions of form A occur within the book: Form A.1. appears on the book’s cover, A.2. on its title page, and A.1. appears again on page 326.

The book itself contains a variety of references to English occult figure Aleister Crowley, typical of English language European occult circles in the early 1990s. While Fries’s book contains three instances of the symbol, nowhere in Helrunar does Fries mention or otherwise discuss it. Whether the symbol originates from this text or was otherwise known in occult (and modern pagan circles) at the time remains unclear. Continue reading HERE.

Wyrd is a concept at the theological heart of Ásatrú and Heathenry. For many of those who practice one of the modern forms of the Old Way, wyrd is a core element of worldview. It stands behind, runs through, and supports our words and deeds. It connects each individual’s present moment to her past actions and to the actions of those around her. It forms a constantly shifting matrix that connects us all as we move through our intersecting lives.

The word wyrd itself comes from the Anglo-Saxon. In the main volume of An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller, the first translation given for wyrd is “what happens,” followed by “fate, fortune, chance.” In the dictionary’s supplement, additional translations are presented: “what is done, a deed, an action.”

The Old Norse cognate for the term is urðr, which An [Old] Icelandic-English Dictionary by Richard Cleasby and Guðbrandur Vigfússon translates as “a weird, fate.” The same word is used in medieval Icelandic literary sources as the name for one of the three Norns who sit at the well under a root of the World Tree and “shape men’s lives.”

The Oxford English Dictionary entry for weird gives a wide range of definitions, including “the principle, power, or agency by which events are predetermined,” “that which is destined or fated to happen to a particular person,” “what one will do or suffer,” and “a happening, event, occurrence.” SOURCE.

Further Resources

The web of Wyrd, the matrix of fate (Skuld’s Net)

The Web of Wyrd Symbol, Meaning And Origins Explained

The Web of Wyrd

Web of Wyrd & Fate

The Web of Wyrd – Yggdrasil – The Tree of Life



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Njordr: Norse Sea God of Wealth and Sailors

Being a man of the sea myself I have always felt my strongest connections to the Gods and Goddesses of the sea and one specifically I wanted to feature today is Njordr (Njörðr in Old Norse). Njordr is the sea God of wealth (specifically at sea), the sea and seafarers. Still to this day in such places as Iceland where fishing is very much an essential part of life, Njordr is considered a very important God of the sea. Njordr is well know in the Eddas for his relationship with Skadhi. I have always felt Njordr is not discussed as much as he should so I compiled in my opinion the best online resources for you to explore.

Njorð is of the race of Vanir and is the father of Freyr and Freyja. He is the god of the sea. He calms storms, aids ships in distress, and causes favorable winds to blow. As with the other Vanir, Njorð is a fertility god, capable of providing good fortune in the form of safe sea voyages, wealth, and land.

When hostages were exchanged at the end of the war between the Æsir and the Vanir, Njorð and his two children came to live in Ásgarð with the Æsir. The mother of Freyr and Freyja was probably Nerthus, Njorð’s sister. Æsir disapproval of such practices prevented her from coming to Æsir with the rest of the family. Later, Njorð married a second time. Snorri Sturluson tells the story in Skáldskaparmál.

When Þjazi, the giant who kidnapped Idun, did not return home after giving chase to Idun and her rescuer Loki, Þjazi’s daughter Skadi began to worry for his safety. Soon, she realized that he must be dead. Swearing vengeance, she took up her father’s arms and traveled to Ásgarð.

Heimdall saw her approach and sounded a warning. Several of the gods went out to meet her. Having no wish to prolong the feud, the gods asked if she would accept wergild (gold as payment for her father’s death).

Skadi said she would settle instead for a husband of her choice from amongst the gods. The gods agreed, provided that Skadi chose her husband by looking only at his feet. Continue reading HERE.

Njörd’s desire of the Sea (1908) by W. G. Collingwood
Njord Sea God Norse Mythology

Ship Herd

The gulls bring word of you who widely fares

to tell the fishes where to find our net;

they’ve come from Noatun to claim their shares,

like you at home both in the dry and wet.

Within your waters play the Sisters Nine

who bask in rising Sunna’s brilliant blush,

as waves frolic in the golden shine

until the purple nightfall’s gentle hush.

O tranquil Lord of seven surging seas,

send wind to fill our sails, and grant us all

to pass to our ports with grace and ease

over the depths of Ran’s and Aegir’s Hall.

And let us in the midst of storms be stout,

firm as an anchor in the shifting sands,

that change and stay the same, tide in, tide out,

beneath your briny realm that bounds the lands.

© 2009 Michaela Macha of Odin’s Gifts

Further Resources

Njordr Online Shrine

Njord

Norrøn mytologi Njord

Njord: The Tumultuous Marriage of a Norse God of the Sea and a Goddess Giantess

Norse Mythology for Smart People: Njord

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Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore

It has been a while since I posted a book recommendation so here we go with this true literature gem. Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology and Magic by Claude Lecouteux is a book filled with such great details and images it is one I refer to often as a great resource. Not only does this encyclopedia give brief yet detailed descriptions of every know God and Goddess of the Norse and Germanic pantheons but also of places, creatures and other things from the Böxenwolf, the Werewolves of Northern Germany, to the Goddess Sinthgunt, Goddess of the Cosmos and time, plus so much more. This brilliant book is one I highly recommend for the personal library of anyone who has interest in this subject.

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Úlfheðnar: The Wolf Spirit Warriors

The Úlfheðnar (Ulfhednar) from Viking age history was actually chronicled during the Viking Age and they have been described with definite specifics. A fascinating “Special Forces” of the Viking forces during raids and even on homelands these warriors were said to have a spiritual ability to shapeshift into Wolves. Many like to adopt the title of Úlfheðnar in modern times but my personal opinion is that is as ridiculous as someone calling themselves a modern Viking. I will expand on this opinion in a future Blog post. Now I for one am of the Wolf Spirit animal kind and give much respect to that which is why I feel this post must be looked upon as what once was and preserved with due respect.

The oldest extended description of Viking beast men comes from a 9th-century poem called Haraldskvæði, describing the army of Harald Fair-Hair:

   I’ll ask of the berserks, you tasters of blood,
   Those intrepid heroes, how are they treated,
   Those who wade out into battle?
   Wolf-skinned they are called. In battle
   They bear bloody shields.
   Red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.
   They form a closed group.
   The prince in his wisdom puts trust in such men
   Who hack through enemy shields.

The four Torslunda plates, Knut Stjerna (1874–1909) – Knut Stjerna, “Hjälmar och svärd i Beovulf” (1903)

The Ulfhednar wore wolfskins (Wolf-shirts, vargstakkar) over coats of mail, and unlike the Berserkers, who fought as squads, entered combat singly as guerrilla fighters. There were also the Ulfhamir, the wolf-shirts, who are believed to have fought, like the Berserkers, without armor.

Some had hammered, metal plates on their helmets used to magically protect them. There is a carving from the eleventh century showing these warriors. It depicts a wolf-mask with a human head looking out and armed with a spear.

Similar masks are used by shamans, acting as spirit receptacles when worn. One of the by-names of Odin, Grim, means ‘the masked one’ and the old Norse warriors wore a literally grim visage when going about their business.

The Ulfhednar used the superhuman strength of the wolf as their basis for martial arts. Their techniques were fraught with dangers, especially for the uninitiated.

From the Volsunga Saga we can learn some secrets about the Ulfhednar. Sigmund and his son put on wolf skins, agreed to follow certain rules when they fought, ‘They spoke in wolf-language,’ both understood that speech. The wolf-language is a form of ‘call’ like the Kiai of oriental martial arts, which has a momentary lowering of the blood pressure of opponents, allowing the warrior to strike. “The Beserks bayed…..the Ulfhednar howled!”

The tradition of the wolf-warriors is not just Nordic. A wolf-like cult is also ascribed to the Celtic race. From the Irish book, “The Wonders of Ireland”, “For by an evil craft they can at will change themselves into the shape of wolves with sharp tearing teeth.”

Feats of arms attributed to members of these warrior clans, and also others bearing names of wolf and bear, are legendary. The greatest Anglo-Saxon poem is about a wolf-cult warrior; “Beowulf”. Beowulf is a compound name composed of the Saxon fertility god, Beow and the wolf. SOURCE

Úlfhednar, Wolf Warriors

Beast Men: Berserkir and Úlfhéðnar in the Viking Age

Úlfhéðnar, Werewolves, Warriors and Winter Sacrifices

About Ulfhednar

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Uppsala – History, Legends and More

The Temple of Uppsala

Around the year 1070, Adam of Bremen described the great pagan cult center of Uppsala, Sweden in his work Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, the most famous source to pagan ritual practice in Sweden. It was written with the agenda of showing how barbaric and immoral were the practices and religion of the pagans, in defense of the still somewhat fragile position of the Christian church in Sweden at the time. Thus it cannot be read as an objective source to paganism, but rather as a strongly biased attack on paganism. Yet it is one of the only sources we have, and must make do with. The temple of Uppsala is described in the fourth book, chapter 26:

“This people have a widely renowned sanctuary called Uppsala. By this temple is a very large tree with extending branches. It is always green, both in winter and in summer. No one knows what kind of tree this is. There is also a spring there, where the heathens usually perform their sacrificial rites. They throw a live human being into the spring. If he does not resurface, the wishes of the people will come true.

The Temple is girdled by a chain of gold that hangs above the roof of the building and shines from afar, so that people may see it from a distance when they approach there. The sanctuary itself is situated on a plain, surrounded by mountains, so that the form a theater.

It is not far from the town of Sigtuna. This sanctuary is completely covered with golden ornaments. There, people worship the carved idols of three gods: Thor, the most powerful of them, has his throne in the middle of the hall, on either side of him, Odin and Freyr have their seats. They have these functions: “Thor,” they say, “rules the air, he rules thunder and lightning, wind and rain, good weather and harvests. The other, Odin, he who rages, he rules the war and give courage to people in their battle against enemies. The third is Freyr, he offers to mortals lust and peace and happiness.” And his image they make with a very large phallus. Odin they present armed, the way we usually present Mars, while Thor with the scepter seems to resemble Jupiter. As gods they also worship some that have earlier been human. They give them immortality for the sake of their great deeds, as we may read in Vita sancti Ansgarii that they did with King Eirik.”

The following is largely quoted, or abridged from the book Frey’s Offspring: Rulers and Religion in Ancient Svea Society by Olaf Sundqvist (2002) p.  94-136. Most of the evidence and copious examples have been truncated or omitted. Please refer to the original text for details:

“Gamla Uppsala is one of the most complex archaeological monuments in Scandinavia. The finds are sufficient for it to be considered a central place during the entire Late Iron Age. The mounds, boat-graves, traces of hall(s) and the wall to the north indicate the presence of a ruling stratum at least from the 5th or the 6th century. These finds, together with the phosphate values at the Eastern Mound and the Middle Mound, may also indicate ritual activity. Archeological analysis shows the site has been settled since the Roman period. It is an important site from at least the Migration Period up to the Middle Ages, though it may have experienced some troughs during the 9th century, after the hall on the southern plateau was burnt down.” SOURCE

Offering by Johann Lund 1831, depicting a horse being led to a statue of Thor for sacrifice.

Resources:

The Viking Age Temple at Gamla Uppsala

The Royal Mounds of Gamla Uppsala, Ancient Pagan Site of Sweden

Human Sacrifices?

The Temple at Uppsala

The Viking temple of Uppsala

Vikings in Uppsala

Pre-Viking Grave in Uppsala Reveals Ornate Sword and Jewelry

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Saxo Grammaticus – Danish Historian

Saxo, who lived in the latter part of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, was probably a canon of Lund Cathedral (then Danish). He was secretary to Archbishop Abslon, who encouraged his gifted protégé to write a history of his own country to emulate those of other nations, such as Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Absalon was able to supply him with a large amount of material for the last few of the 16 books, since, as a warrior archbishop, he had taken a leading part in the Danish campaigns against the Wends of North Germany.

The work is a prosimetrum: in the prose text of six of the first nine books he inserts poems, some quite substantial. The poetry, he tells us, are meant to put into metrical Latin verse some of the narratives he had found in old Danish (and probably Icelandic) heroic poetry, such as the courageous last stand of Biarki and Hialti defending their lord after a Swedish ambush on the royal palace. He begins his work with the ancient myths and legends. Only in Book Nine does he start to introduce recognizable historical figures, after which he proceeds through the lives and activities of Viking kings, like Cnut the Great, ending in 1185 with the earlier exploits of Cnut Valdemarson.

As the first major Danish historiographer, Saxo’s work is a valuable fund of material, even though, like many other medieval historians, his accuracy can be variable, sometimes to the extent of invented episodes. Nevertheless, he is the only source available for the period in places. Needless to say, he favours the Danes against neighbouring nations like the Swedes and Germans (we read a great deal about the treachery of the Holy Roman emperors), and he is keen to trace the rise and spread of Christianity in Scandinavia.

The Gesta Danorum is also the first outstanding work of Danish literature. Although his general style is elegant and complex, he is a consummate story-teller, and when he gets his teeth into a good yarn, he can relate it in a swift and lively manner. These narratives range from heroic tales like those told of the tough old warrior Starkath (who loathes German sausages), to the tender love stories in Book Seven, and the early books are full of dragons, witches, wizards, and tales of the supernatural, including one about a vampire. He often displays a wry sense of humour, as in the story about a drunkard who persistently defies the king’s edict forbidding the brewing and consumption of beer. One of Saxo’s claims to literary importance is his inclusion of the first-known version of the Hamlet story. The fortunes of his Amleth foreshadow those of Shakespeare’s hero in surprising detail. SOURCE

Saxo Grammaticus about Jelling, 1644 edition

The nine books of the Danish history of Saxo Grammaticus

The Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus

Saxo Grammaticus (“Saxo the Learned”)

Saxo Grammaticus – Danish Historian

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Nerthus, The Earth Mother Goddess

Nerthus, the Earth Mother Goddess of the Norse Vanir Gods. Lady of trees and sacred bogs, Lady of the fertile earth plowed up to give us food, Lady who is always veiled, and whose face is death to look upon.

Nerthus still to present time is quite the mysterious Goddess seeing how there is so little known about her. Some feel she is a Goddess just of Germanic tribes but there are some hints and clues that lead to showing that not only is she of the Vanir but may possibly be Njord’s sister and possibly Wife. Despite the mysterious origins of her I feel she is deserving of honor.

Nerthus is associated with Spring, cycles, health, energy, peace and prosperity. Her symbols are fire, chariots and soil.

We first learn about Nerthus from the Roman historian Tacitus, who was writing in the first century C.E. He called Her ‘Terra Mater’ (earth Mother) and noted that She was worshiped by several Germanic tribes. He describes a ritual setting in which an image of Nerthus stands concealed in a cart within a sacred grove. Only Her clergy were permitted to touch or approach the sacred image. All others were put to death. Tacitus writes that this cart would be driven in a holy procession, after which the statue and its accoutrements would be tended to and cleansed in a special lake (and the slaves who assisted with this would be drowned in that lake). (Simek, p. 230). Simek considers Nerthus to have been a Baltic and/or Danish Goddess, since the tribes Tacitus specifically refers to settled east of the Elbe River. He also associates the ritual washing of the statue and its gear with the sacred marriage, or hieros gamos. (ibid).

Because Tacitus, in good Roman fashion, compares (or syncretizes) Nerthus with the Roman Terra Mater, examining how the Romans viewed their own Earth Mother may provide valuable clues into the nature of Nerthus. (Krasskova, p. 88). The Romans had no sentimental illusions about Terra Mater. She was a nurturing and gift giving Goddess of the earth, but She was also the terrible Goddess of earthquakes, famine, flood, storm, and destruction. There was bounty, but also tremendous danger and outright terror all contained at once in the holy presence of this Goddess. (ibid). Tacitus specifically talks about the mysteries of Nerthus as begetting “terror and a pious reluctance to ask what that sight can be which is only seen by men doomed to die.” (Tacitus, chapter 40). In this, it would seem, Nerthus contains within Herself the embodiment of holy power and perhaps holy terror as well.

In surviving Anglo-Saxon writings, there is a ritual (Æcerbot or ‘field remedy’) for blessing the fields prior to ploughing and planting. Despite its rather late provenance (11th century) in this ritual “Eorðan Moðor,” or Earth Mother is invoked. Contemporary Heathens, particularly those with an Anglo-Saxon focus, look to this rite for one of the Holy Tides: Charming of the Plough, which usually occurs in late February. While few of us today are bound to the earth in the way that our largely agrarian ancestors were, we can still honor its cycles and honor the gift of our own creativity too in such rites. SOURCE

Useful Sources: “Dying for the Gods” by M. Green, “Looking for the Lost Gods of England,” by Kathleen Herbert, “Boar, Birch and Bog” by Nicanthiel Hrafnhild, “Exploring the Northern Tradition” by Galina Krasskova and “Dictionary of Northern Mythology” by Rudolf Simek

The Germanic Kingdoms and the Eastern Roman Empire in 526 CE

Nerthus and Njorun: a Norse Mystery

The Goddess Nerthus

Goddess Nerthus

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Norse Talk: My First Episode

Last week I joined as a guest for the first time on a live Tiktok known as Norse_Talk and the discussion was the Havamal stanza’s 19-22. After that we had an open Q & A with the viewers and it really went great! They have a Youtube channel which the lives are uploaded and are filled with great people I know. I definitely plan to be on more episodes in the future.

Havamal resources

Hávamál
The High One’s Words
A STUDY GUIDE

The Hávamál

Hávamál – The Sayings of Hár

Norse_Talk Youtube Channel

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Landvættir: Spirits of the Land

The Landvættir also known as Wights or Spirits of the land are spiritual beings that have always fascinated me and even have had my own experiences with them ever since I was a child. Much like the Vantavættir (Water spirits) or Hafvættir (Sea spirits) which I also have had experiences with, the Landvættir hold great importance for those who know of them in Norse and Germanic Lore and yes I do believe these Beings do indeed exist. So I felt the urge to share with you all some really great sources that are worth taking the time to have a look at.

Landvættir are Land-Spirits who are the guardians of particular places or countries. Landnámabók, The Book of Settlements, states that dragon-prows of ships must be removed close to land in fear of disturbing or offending these spirits. Egil Skallagrimsson left a niðstöng, a scorn-pole topped by a horse’s head and inscribed with threatening or offensive runes, in Norway in order to upset these land-spirits so badly that they would drive Eirik Bloodaxe from his kingdom; within a year Eirik was gone, deposed by his brother Hakon. Clearly, these are beings to be reckoned with.” – Somerville and McDonald, The Viking Age: A Reader (Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures: XIV, 2010), pp. 104-105.

Landvaettir-land wights

Land Spirits

Supernatural Beings in Norse Society

Landvaettir

Landvaettir the Land Wights

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The Sámi People: Everything You Should Know

Years ago when I discovered I have Finnish blood it led me to learn much about the Kalevala which actually led me to begin studying the Saami (Sámi) people, their culture and of course their Gods and Goddesses which do vary depending on the region. The variety is due to the fact that these amazing people live in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Someday I wish to visit a Saami town and spend time with one of their Spiritual ones.

For those of you interested in learning about the Saami and their Gods and Goddesses, here are some great resources.

Sami, also spelled Saami, or Same, Sami, Sabme, any member of a people speaking the Sami language and inhabiting ….. and adjacent areas of northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They belong to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic family. Almost all Sami are now bilingual, and many no longer even speak their native language. In the late 20th century there were from 30,000 to 40,000 Sami in Norway and about 20,000 in Sweden, 6,000 in Finland, and 2,000 in Russia.

The Sami are the descendants of nomadic peoples who had inhabited northern Scandinavia for thousands of years. When the Finns entered Finland, beginning about ad 100, Sami settlements were probably dispersed over the whole of that country; today they are confined to its northern extremity. In Sweden and Norway they have similarly been pushed north. The origin of the Sami is obscure; some scholars include them among the Paleo-Siberian peoples; others maintain that they were alpine and came from central Europe. Continue reading HERE.

The Sami vs. Outsiders

By Káre (Kimmi Woodard)

Early History:

According to historians, the proto-Sami were said to have inhabited most of Scandinavia and Northwest Russia. We first hear of them in the year 98 AD from the Roman historian Tacitus in his book Germania. At that time, they were called “Fenni.” Tacitus described them as a primitive hunting tribe who roamed the forests near Germany. In the second century A.D, Ptolemy of Alexandria spoke of a tribe in Scandinavia called the “Phinnoi.” And then in 555 AD the Greek historian Procopius in describing a war between the Romans and the Goths referred to a people called the “Skridfinns” who inhabited Scandinavia. And then once again in 750 AD Paulus Diaconus mentions a people called the “Skridfinns” who kept animals resembling deer. This name then spread throughout Scandinavia, to the Finns, the Russians and later to the Germans, Hungarians, Estonians and other groups. Today, the Sami prefer the name Sami, and their land is called Sapmi.

Viking Age Trade:

In the Viking Age there was a tremendous amount of trade (called the Finn Trade) along the coast of the Gulf of Finland and Bothnia. This area brought seasonal visits from Finns, Russians, and Scandinavian merchants, which eventually attracted the attention of the emerging nation states. It was during this early period that the Finns colonized the southwest corner of Finland. And in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, there was also emigration into Sweden. As the Swedes, Finns and Norwegians pushed northward, Sapmi steadily decreased in size. In this early period we learn that the Sami merchants first traded with the Vikings, and later they traded with the travelers from northern Europe. According to the article “Important Years in Same History,” because of this early cultural contact, the Sami people advanced from a Stone Age society to a society that eventually developed its own monetary system; their currency was named tjoervie. The cultural contact not only benefited the Sami but other groups as well. The contact was often mutually beneficial. For example, it was quite common during this early period for different cultures to borrow words from one another. The Sami language, for instance, has hundreds of loanwords of Scandinavian or Germanic origin, as well as many from Finnish. Similarly, the Scandinavians and Finns have many words from each other. Continue reading HERE.

Saami Deities: List and Descriptions

The Sami People

The Sami in Sweden

Cultures of Norway: The Sami people

The Story of the Sami People & Culture