Avid readers of Iceland Review Online know that I am a mythology enthusiast, especially when it comes to Norse mythology.
Yet again, I will tell you something about some of my favorite characters of Norse mythology.
A few weeks ago, I finally moved into my first very own flat, located in a residential area in the heart of downtown Reykjavík known as Þingholt. Here, the streets are named after the Norse gods, such as Óðinsgata (‘Street of Óðinn’), Freyjugata (‘Street of Freyja’), Lokastígur (‘Lane of Loki’).
My street, however, is named after the deity Urður: Urðarstígur. I admit that I had no clue who that goddess was.
Said Urður (‘fate’) is usually mentioned in the company of her two sisters, Verðandi (in the becoming’) and Skuld (‘debt’ or ‘future’). The three sisters are the most important Norns of Norse paganism and they decide the fates of people and gods. So it’s better to not annoy them.
Some sources describe the Norns not as goddesses as such but as giantesses.
The Norns live in a hall close by the magical well Urðarbrunnur (‘well of fate/Urður’) and they draw water from the well and take sand that lies around it, which they pour over the roots of Yggdrasill, the world tree, so that its branches will not rot.
There, they spin threads of life, carving runes into wooden poles and measure people’s destinies. The threads show the fate of all human beings and gods. Urður, Verðandi and Skuld are always present when a baby is born and decide its fate.
Urður represents the past, Verðandi the present and Skuld stands for the future. Both names of Urður and Verðandi come from the Old Norse verb verða.
Urður derives from the past tense (‘that which became or happened’) and Verðandi from the present tense (‘that which is happening’).
Skuld originates from the Old Norse verb skulla, ‘need/ought to be/shall be’ and its meaning is ‘that which should become, or that needs to occur.’
Although I am not a believer in paganism, I find this image weirdly romantic and beautiful.
The three sisters appear in a couple of poems of the famous Eddas.
Urður is attested in the poems Völuspá and Gylfaginning, while Skuld appears also as Valkyrie, for example in the poem Gylfaginning:
These are called Valkyries:
them Odin sends to every battle;
they determine men’s feyness and award victory.
and the youngest Norn,
she who is called Skuld,
ride ever to take the slain and decide fights.
In Völuspá it also says:
Þaðan koma meyjar
þrjár, ór þeim sal
er und þolli stendr;
Urð hétu eina,
skáru á skíði,
Skuld ina þriðju;
þær lög lögðu,
þær líf kuru
Thence come maidens
three from the hall
which under that tree stands;
Urður hight the one,
the second Verðandi,
on a tablet they graved,
Skuld the third;
Laws they established,
to the descendants of men,
I find it quite unfair that Urður’s sisters Verðandi and Skuld didn’t get their own streets. I sure hope they are not vengeful...
Katharina Hauptmann – firstname.lastname@example.org