Norns (pronouncers) In Norse mythology, the fates, women who determine the fate of each person. Three—Urd (past), Verdandi (present), and Skuld (future)—live near a fountain under the massive ash Yggdrasill, the world tree. “These maidens fix the lifetime of all men,” according to the Prose Edda. “But there are, indeed, many other Norns, for, when a man is born, there is a Norn to determine his fate.
Some are known to be of heavenly origin, but others belong to the races of elves and dwarfs.” They appear in the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, the last music drama of Der Ring des Nibelungen. They also appear in Thomas Gray’s poem The Fatal Sisters: An Ode. In Germanic folklore they appear as fairy godmothers or three spinners.
Taken from the Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
The Norns are the Norse goddesses of fate and guardians of the World Tree. According to Norse mythology, they are the most powerful of all beings. The Norns determine the fate and destiny of all living beings.
Ygdrassil, the World Tree, is fed by the Well of Urd. The Norns live in a beautiful hall by the well and are Ygdrassil’s caretakers. The Norns are spinning goddesses. Ygdrassil is the spindle on which they weave destiny. The Norns are repositories of all knowledge: past, present, and future.
The Norns operate together: they are a unit. Their name may derive from a reference to spinning techniques or twining. The three Norns are:
• Urd, eldest sister, Norn of the Past, who wraps the wool around the spindle
• Verdandi, Norn of the Present, who spins the wool
• Skuld, “Shall Be” youngest of the Norns, cuts the thread, terminating existence
• Skuld allegedly sometimes takes it upon herself to change benevolent fates bestowed by Urd and Verdandi. Skuld sometimes appears on lists of Valkyries.
The Norns figure prominently in old folk wisdom and modern popular entertainment. In the Faroe Islands, white spots that sometimes appear on fingernails and may indicate illness are known as Nornaspor (“tracks of the Norns”). The Norns are a force to be reckoned with in Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. They appear in the manga/anime series Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok where they retain their own names while in the manga/anime series Oh, My Goddess! Verdandi has transformed into the beautiful Belldandy.
Manifestations: The Norns manifest as women but may appear as mermaids. Sometimes Urd manifests as elderly, Verdandi as a woman in her prime, and Skuld as a young girl but sometimes they appear to be of the same age. Skuld may manifest as a Valkyrie.
Rune: Nauthiz. The Norns are associated with runes in general and especially with a modern method of casting runes, possibly based on the traditional tarot three-card spread. Three runes are cast, each representing the voice of one Norn. The first rune describes the past, the second the present, and the third the most likely future outcome.
See also: Fates; Moirae; Valkyries and the Glossary entry for Rune
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.
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