The Asatru Ritual Day, Part 3
Who and what are the Norns?
The answer to this question will be explained in different ways, by different people. Since no one alive has ever met a Norn personally, we have to go by what has been recorded in antiquity, but more importantly -- we have to approach this from an intuitive standpoint. The written record, in combination with our own individual intuition will bring us somewhere near the truth, as close as we can get for such ancient beings as the Three Sisters.
Here are the things we know: They are reported to be related, like sisters are. They are not of the Gods, neither Æsir or Vanir, rather they are of ancient Jotunn or Giant stock, among the very first of sentient beings according to the Norse cosmology. They are known to be associated with the runes in that they have access to runic energies unlike any other beings. The runes are an element of the universe even older than the Norns, but for some reason these Norns have a direct connection. That is why it is said that the Norns weave the fates of both men and Gods.
We have not discussed runes yet in this series of articles, so for the uninitiated, just know that they are essentially the fabric of the universe itself, depicted in stave forms that we can recognize. They are used for divination, for magick, and as an alphabet. They will be discussed in great detail in future articles.
We know that Urdh is the Norn that specializes in what has become, or the past. She is also reported to be the younger of the three. Verdandi is the middle sister, and she is in charge of what is becoming, in other words, the present. The oldest sister is Skuld, and she is the one that is in command of what may become--the future, or possible future. In Nornic law the future is plastic, and can be altered by our choices.
In divination, the question is asked of the Norns. They understand the question and know the answer because of their understanding and command of the runic energies. They then "reveal" the answer to us, through the runes, in accordance with their specialty of past - present - future. Our personal connection to the runes will aid us in the interpretation.
The things we don't know: The actual origin of the Norns is not known; who their parents are, what the circumstances of their creation were, how and why they wound up in this very specialized field; being the weavers of fate. What are their favorite colors, etc., etc., We don't need to know these things...or else we would. The things we don't know are not productive or relevant, so we shouldn't dwell on them.
We practitioners of Ásatrú ask a lot of the Norns. We consult the runes regularly to gain understanding of our mundane lives, we ask for help to make the right decisions. We make runic tattoos and charms and yet, not very many kindreds that I know of have any sort of ritual to honor the Norns. Heathens at large have just come to expect that they will be faithful in revealing the things we need to know. But what about our gift for a gift philosophy?
That is why my kindred has adopted the practice of making offering to the Norns, acknowledging and thanking them for their faithfulness.
As you can see, there are many various depictions of the Norns; some see them as three old crones, others as three sexy triplets standing on a bed of human skulls...? Whatever. The important thing is that they are recognized, and honored by name.
In our ritual day so far we have warded the space, we have made offering and thanked the Land Wights, now we will acknowledge the Norns.
A member of the Gothar (clergy) assigned to this task will have prepared a suitable offering; most often it is mead or ale. Sometimes there are three little wooden bowls, one for each sister, sometimes it is done straight out of the bottle. Like the Wights, the deeds of the Norns are praised, thanks is given, and each offering is made on the Horg or Altar by name. Then all the participants yell in unison "Hail Udrh", "Hail Verdandi", "Hail Skuld", as each offering is made.
In my kindred, after this is done we all draw one rune from the boli. The rune that people draw is for them, the energy they need to be mindful of for that day. Then all the numbers of the runes people drew are tallied, the sum of these numbers is condensed to another single rune and that becomes a group rune, the energy of which will take our kindred from now to the next event. That rune is usually sung (in a slow chant) later in the day.
That is how we honor the Norns, again, this is a practice developed by one kindred, all kindreds practice a little differently. In the next article we will start exploring the elements of the Blot itself. The primary, most formal ritual of the day. Honoring the Wights and Norns has gotten us in a spiritual state of mind, we are ready now, for the Blot to commence.