Now the wonder of the universe, which was set in order by the will of Odin the All Father, is the great ash tree Yggdrasil, the tree of existence, which nourishes and sustains all spiritual and physical life. Its roots spread through the divisions of the world that fill the yawning gulf, and its boughs are above the highest realm of the Gods. It grows out of the past, it lives in the present and it reaches towards the future.
The three Norns make their abode at the roots of Yggdrasil and sprinkle the roots each morning with precious mead from the fountain of life, so that its leaves may be ever green. Thence comes the honey dew, which drips upon the world and is stored by the bees. The three Norns are Urd or Wyrd, and her two sisters, Verdandi and Skuld. They weave the web of wyrd:
I am Urd. I uphold the primal law of the Universe, to which even the Gods are subject. This cannot be changed. I gaze into the well of time at what has already been: the deeds of ourselves and others. These things have shaped the web we weave.
I am Verdandi, that which is becoming, drawing together the threads of the past and the layers of your thoughts and deeds to make the present. By your thoughts and actions you weave your own wyrd minute by minute into the great cosmic tapestry where it is touched by the wyrd of others. Your actions now will weave your future.”
I am Skuld, that which may become, a web of possible outcomes influenced by what has already been. What you call your destiny and your soul are one and the same.
The threads of their woof resemble cords, and vary greatly in hue, according to the nature of the events about to occur. As these sisters flash the shuttle to and fro, they chant a solemn song. They do not weave according to their own wishes, but blindly, executing the wishes of Orlog, the eternal law of the universe which is immutable. They are in nowise subject to the other gods, who might neither question nor influence their decrees.
The Anglo-Saxon noun wyrd is derived from a verb meaning ‘to become’, which, is derived from an Indo-European root meaning ‘to turn’. Wyrd literally means ‘that which has turned’ or ‘that which has become’. Wyrd embodies the concept that everything is turning into something else while both being drawn in toward and moving out from its own origins. Thus, we can think of wyrd as a process that continually works the patterns of the past into the patterns of the present.
In Norse mythology three goddesses called the Norns are responsible for shaping lives out of ørlög, the layers of the past. Their names are Urd ‘that which has become’, Verdandi ‘that which is in the process of becoming’; and Skuld ‘that which must be’.
The idea of fate being woven exists in countless mythologies throughout the world.
In Greece, the three fates or Moirai were Clotho, meaning ‘spinner’ who spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle, Lachesis meaning ‘allotter’ who measured the lifespan of each person with her measuring rod, and Atropos, meaning ‘inevitable’, who cut the thread of life with her shears.
In fairy tales, three fairy godmothers appear to bless or curse a child at birth.
Sometimes the weaver was a solitary creatrix, as in Welsh legend, where she appeared as Arianrhod, whose name means ‘Silver Wheel’, the mistress of Caer Arianrhod, the Spiral Castle which is located in the circumpolar stars that circle the Pole Star. The castle reflects the spiralling skein spun from her wheel, which is the revolution of the stars. Souls resided in her castle between incarnations, while poets and shamans, seeking inspiration, journeyed there in spirit. The spiral shape, which is the basis of the spider’s web, is an ancient and almost universal symbol of regeneration and rebirth.
The spider is the archetypal spinner and weaver. It was associated with all spinning and weaving goddesses, those twisters of fate who spin the thread of human destiny, as well as the world, the stars, the cosmos and the web of energies that joins it all together. Spider patiently spins her web with the skill of a craftsman, sometimes trying repeatedly until she has it right.
In Hindu mythology Indra’s net is a network of threads stretching to infinity throughout the cosmos. The horizontal threads are placed in space; the vertical in time. It is a wondrous vast net, much like a spider’s web in intricacy and loveliness. It stretches out indefinitely in all directions.
Everywhere the threads cross each other, there’s an individual. And every individual is a glittering jewel. Since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. The sparkling jewels hang there, suspended in and supported by the net, glittering like stars. The polished surface of the gem reflects all the other jewels in the net, so that the process of reflection is itself infinite. Every single one of these beads or droplets reflects the entirety of the web as a whole—they carry within them the reflection of all that is.
Every jewel is connected with all the other jewels in the net. A change in one jewel—or person—produces a change, however slight, in every other. Whatever is done to one jewel affects the entire net. Just as you cannot damage one strand of a spider’s web without injuring the entire web, you cannot damage one strand of the web that is the universe without injuring all others in it, whether that injury is known or unknown to them. A single helpful act—even a simple act of kindness—will send positive ripples across the infinite net, touching every jewel, every person in existence.
One tug pulls the whole net, one tug connects you to the whole net.
It was not until the mid-20th century that quantum physicists first identified an “energy field” which seemed to lie at the heart of existence. Science identified it as an omnipresent energetic substructure and they called it the Zero-Point field.
Matter springs forth into physical reality from the wave nature of the quantum field. Everything in our universe, no matter what its size, is part of and is comprised of the zero-point field. Matter itself is made of waves. All matter in the universe is interconnected as and by quantum waves which have no boundary. They are infinite.
The brain is like a quantum computer. If thought and memory exist outside the confines of the body (as part of the totality of the zero-point field) and physical structure synchronizes with the information and frequencies it interprets from the zero-point field, this means that your consciousness and the thoughts you think determine your physical reality.
Interacting With Wyrd
Imagine a patterned piece of cloth being woven on a loom. The horizontal threads (the woof) are woven in in layers along the vertical threads (the warp). The horizontal threads represent layers of past actions. The vertical threads represent a time line. The colour of each horizontal thread as it is woven in will add to the pattern that is already established and influence the pattern that emerges. The threads already woven in cannot be changed, but the overall pattern is never fixed. Existing designs can be expanded into new forms. New designs can be added. Everything we do adds one more layer to the pattern.
Our past affects us continually. Who we are, where we are, and what we are doing today is dependent on actions we have taken in the past and actions others have taken in the past which have affected us in some way. And every choice we make in the present builds upon choices we have previously made.
We interact with wyrd (that which has become) to create certain personal patterns which affect and are reflected in universal patterns. Those universal patterns, in turn, exert forces which shape our lives.
Imagine that the woman next to you has just really insulted you. How you react is going to depend on the patterns of your wyrd already in place – you personality characteristics, social conditioning, past experiences with being insulted, your relationship with the person who has insulted you, even your hormone levels.
To the extent that your reaction is determined by these patterns, wyrd is shaping your life at that moment. You might choose to slap her, shout at her, or walk away. But no matter which way you chose to react to the insult, your reaction will add to the patterns in place and constrain your future actions (if you are insulted a second time, your reaction will be determined in part by how you behaved when you were insulted the first time.) So, at the same time you are caught up in experiencing certain patterns of wyrd, you are creating them.
Moving from the personal to the universal, your reaction will also add to the patterns affecting the behaviour of the person who insulted you. As a result of your response, she may change her behaviour towards others which will, in turn, change her personal wyrd, and so on.
Ultimately, each little choice we make affects universal forces which can come back to affect us in strange ways. The larger patterns of wyrd created by individuals in a particular time and place is the source of the zeitgeist (spirit of the age) which informs the beliefs and behaviour of everyone in a society. Thus, “that which has become”, wyrd, both creates and is created by individual actions, states, and choices.
If we imagine the universe as a big spider’s web and imagine that each node where two strands meet represents an event (or a person or a life) we can visualise the interconnectedness of things. We can see how some things are directly connected whereas others are more distantly connected through a series of links. We can also see how nodes which are closely connected from one perspective (following a single strand from the centre outwards) can be distantly connected from another perspective (following the spiral that continually expands its radius as it moves from the centre).
Furthermore, we can see that if we were to disturb any part of the web — say by blowing on it or shaking it, the entire thing would reverberate – though the parts closest to the disturbance would react the most strongly.
We affect the web with our thoughts and actions.
We can also affect the web by using magic. When something vibrates at a certain frequency, whether a thought, sound, colour, crystal, perfume etc. any object near it will begin to vibrate with the same frequency, and we can use this to vibrate the web in the way we want, and this is something we will look at in the future.
Furthermore, by reading the vibrations and patterns of the web, we can predict outcomes. Imagine you were to witness a raven swooping out of the sky to peck out the eye of a warrior. You would say that the flight of the bird was connected directly with the wound. But if you had observed the flight of the same raven the day before the attack you would see no connection with the warrior’s injury. Nevertheless, the pattern of the raven’s flight at noon is bound to the pattern of its flight at dusk, just as surely as the progression of night and day. One can read the pattern and see what the future has in store.
Text © Anna Franklin 2017
Illustration © Anna Franklin, The Pagan Ways Tarot, Schiffer, 2015