The northern tradition is famous for its proclamations of doom.  If you’re a fan of Vikings  you’ll be familiar with the shield-maiden Lagertha who, with a misty and far away look in her eye proclaims many a time that the Gods have fated it thus (she is awesome by the way, even if a bit heavy handed with her smiting).  For a people who relied upon the ferocity of their warriors it was ideologically practical to view death in battle as the ultimate and fated end of a true heroic journey.  But what more do we know about the northern tradition concept of destiny and how does it apply in our lives today?


Many people are familar with the term ‘wyrd’ which loosely means ‘to come to pass’ and later took on a meaning of ‘to be decreed or fated’.  Rune readings and seidr rites tend to focus on the reading of Wyrd.  Orlog is closely related to ‘wyrd’ but to my mind wyrd is fluid and changing whilst orlog is much more fixed.  You might think of  wyrd as a river and orlog as the river bed.  Orlog is built up of our deeds, and the deeds of our ancestors.  In the modern world you might think of ‘privilege’ as a form of orlog.  If you are born into an affluent and socially powerful family you inherit privilege – you have done nothing to earn it but you can reap the rewards and have a better shot at a happy and successful life than someone born into a family lacking wealth and power.  What the Vikings knew, but what we have perhaps forgotten, is that it can take just a single generation for orlog to be lost or won.  To gain power, or keep what you have inherited requires strength of character which takes us to Skuld.

Skuld – that which must be

Skuld is one of the three Nornir (northern tradition ‘fates’), her name can be translated as ‘debt’ or ‘obligation’.  The modern English ‘should’ stems from the same root but it has lost some of the richer and older meanings related to necessity, obligation and the speaking of intentions (the world ‘shall’ as in ‘You shall go to ball’ speaks to this more positive, affirmatory side.  To me, Skuld epitomises the part of us that is able to act with, and influence destiny for example:
  • I set an intention, I follow through on it.  I build trust in myself and in those around me that I am someone to be reckoned with.  I gain in luck and stature.  I set a new intention and repeat.
  • I set an intention, I don’t follow through.  I lose trust in myself and those around me doubt my word.  I lose opportunities and respect.  I set a new intention feeling less confident that I will fulfil it.  I repeat.
We can arrest a negative spiral of destiny at any point by picking a smaller, easier intention.  Follow through on that, build trust – then set a bigger intention.

Do I have to do good deeds to build a good destiny?

Now this is an interesting one.  Some commentators say that the northern tradition concept of wyrd differs from that of karma because there is no inherent ‘good’ or ‘bad’ only an accruing of like to like e.g. I do an honourable deed, I gain honour; I do a dishonourable thing, I gain dishonour.  Now you might argue that we would choose to do good deeds because we would rather attract honour than dishonour and wyrd therefore inherently encourages good deeds.  Having done a lot of meditation and reflection on this my current conclusion is that it all comes down to values.  Within the northern tradition it is essential to define and hold to a consistent set of values.  Some people might value power, some wealth, others harmony, others collaboration.  It doesn’t necessarily equate that if you do ‘bad’ deeds ‘bad’ deeds will happen to you – if you value power above harmony you won’t mind being disliked, vilified or even being punished as long as you remain powerful.

Do we still have a destiny?

I don’t know about you but I certainly feel as if there were some events in my life that were pre-ordained.  Not in a sense of ‘Maggie will meet a tall, dark and handsome stranger and live a long and happy life’ but a sense that there are people I was destined to meet and work with, lessons I was meant to learn, experiences I was meant to have.  My personal belief is that there is a part of my soul that seeks out and knows these moments when they come.  This destiny is an intertwining of my soul journey with the soul journey of others.  Is this upheld in the northern tradition?  Maybe.  Think of the God Baldur doomed to die and take up residence in the underworld.  Perhaps this descent into darkness and foretold rebirth is part of his soul’s journey?  It cannot be denied that he chose to take part in a game whereby the other Gods chucked objects at him just to check how truly impermeable to danger he was… On a grander scale, however, there is a collective destiny.  This is shaped of the interplay between the dominant values in our societies and our ability to hold to those values.  The dominant values of the twentieth century were power and production and they have shaped the destiny we share today.  I believe the twenty-first century still holds within it the opportunity for us to take action – imagine if harmony and collaboration were the dominant values this century concluded with?  So as we draw closer to the end of the second decade perhaps ask yourself which values you are championing with your intentions.  Every time you achieve an intention that expresses your values the destiny that waits for you sits up and takes notice.

In the Hearthspace this month

Conversations with Wyrd, 6th November
Training and group practice using the Hagalaz spread

Hearth Hygge, 13th November
Skuld, Loki and that which must be.  
Live training video and informal group discussion

Embodiment and meditation, 20th November
Training and group practice using the Nauthiz rune

Inspirations, 27th November
Discussion of this month’s theme: hygge

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