Öorlog in Old Norse means primal law. Like other concepts in Old Norse metaphysics, it has a deep root in Sanskrit. Öorlog is akin to to the Sanskrit concept dharma, “a derivation from the root dhṛ, which has a meaning of “to hold, maintain, keep”, and takes a meaning of “what is established or firm”, and hence “law” (Wikipedia). In the Voluspa Edda (Prophecy of the Staff Carrying Woman), the Norns Urd, Verdandi and Skuld write down the laws and choose the lives of all who are born. At birth they speak the öorlog of the new baby who is, in Norse tradition, an ancestor re-born into the lineage.
Their names translate to that which is, that which is becoming and that which by necessity aught to become. Their names carry the concepts of dharma and karma or öorlog and wyrd.
Öorlog is the summation of an individual human inheritance (physical, spiritual, ancestral, environmental and cultural). It includes genetic codes, epi-genetic markers, meta genetic material, memories stored in the brain stem and passed on consciously or unconsciously from one generation to the next. It is “past precedence”. Modern healing communities understand these connections as patients fill out a “family of origin” intake survey answering questions about who in the lineage had heart disease, diabetes, et cetera. In mental health and chemical dependency healing, an even more fleshed out intake survey is done answering questions such as: Who in your family was the communicator? Who avoided communication? Who suffered the loss of a spouse, child, or sibling? Who lived through the Great Depression or the Holocaust? The things our ancestors lived through and the coping mechanisms they developed and the belief systems they held are all part of our öorlog, our own past precedence, the laws our family of origin have come to live by…that which holds our lineage together. Karma relates to this process by describing the act of Skuld, duty, that which by necessity aught to become. Again from Wikipedia, “Karma is related to verbal proto-Indo-European root *kwer- “to make, form”…Karma is the executed “deed”, “work”, “action”, or “act”, and it is also the “object”, the “intent”…” Karma is the action of creating öorlog which you and your decedents, community members, and humanity itself will have to serve. See Inherited Cultural Grief
I describe it by using a spindle. Each of us is born with a spindle of thread spun by parents, grandparents, great grandparents ad infinitum. This thread is our öorlog. We can not un-spin it, but we can look into it, review it, learn about it, and have memories that surface to help explain why some of the spin is strong and some is thin, lumpy, or even broken and tied back in. We can also choose to spin our strand differently. In Old Norse there is no future tense. As with spinning, we are constantly creating past precedence for ourselves and others with whom we are connected. The choices we make can either increase our luck and strengthen our wyrd or decrease it, not just for ourselves but for our descendents, community members, and humanity.
No strand of öorlog stands on its own. Every individual strand is connected to the other strands within the family, community, and culture and to the Earth itself which is a deified being in Norse tradition, Jord. Earth/Jord also has öorlog which can be read in the core sample of a glacier. Humanity is intimately connected to the historical precedence of Jord and of one another. These connections create the web of wyrd.
Wikipedia again: Wyrd is a feminine noun and its Norse cognate urðr, besides meaning “fate”, is the name of one of the Norns; urðr is literally “that which has come to pass”, verðandi is “what is in the process of happening” (the present participle of the verb cognate to weorþan) and skuld “debt, guilt” (from a Germanic root *skul- “to owe”, also found in English shall).
The concept of fate in an Old Norse mindset is not the same as in a post-Christian mindset. Without a future tense, fate is still firmly rooted in that which has already come to pass. So if there is a family history of heart disease, you are fated to carry that potential. It is part of your öorlog and in the web of your wyrd. However, if you make choices with that understanding (food, exercise, regular monitoring) you are not “fated” to have a heart attack yourself. Many of the Saga stories indicate an adherence to a kind of fate that is pre-destined. Written in a post-Christian world, these stories try to explain öorlog and wyrd as a linear rather than circular event. Yet these are stories of heros who come to understand that they are the manifestation of their own öorlog, they are the reincarnations of themselves through their lineage and it is their own Skuld, debt, that they must pay. The concept of reincarnation into our family or aett can not be separated from the concepts of öorlog and wyrd any more than it can from dharma and karma.
We can be said to be fated towards Alcoholism by the precedence of it in our lineage. And indeed we are fated to deal with the dysfunctions passed down by the behaviors of the alcoholic. Yet we can choose not to drink and choose to heal these dysfunctions in our own lives and for future generations. In chemical dependency literature it has been argued that it takes seven generations of consciously healing these dysfunctions to “clean up” the lineage. In healing our own öorlog we heal down the root and form new wyrd. We heal for our ancestors as we are them!
Many Heathens believe that Ragnarok is the fate of Odin and the Aesir. Indeed the volva in the Voluspa uses this poem to describe the past, the deeds of Odin, and the potential of the outcome of these deeds, His öorlog and wyrd. Modern Heathens fear Ragnarok as an unmovable and unavoidable point on a future timeline. This, in my understanding, comes out of a post-Christian mindset, not from a culture with no future tense and a firm grasp on the malleable nature of wyrd through personal responsibility. Heathens also claim Odin as an elder ancestor. In this way, Ragnarok is their wyrd as well as Odin’s. However, if we believe, as in the pre-Christian Heathen mindset, that we are born back into our lineage, then we are Odin on some level. He is born and reborn through us. We can therefore cease avoiding Ragnarok and the deeds that led up to this potential by healing the öorlog and our emotional response to that öorlog, and spin new threads that release Baldr from Hel’s hall in a different and less violent way. This is what, to me, makes Heathenry a living spiritual system rather than one that is dead through adherence to written word and the narrow interpretation of the same. Perhaps this is what he whispered in Baldr’s ear as he placed the unending circle of gold on the funeral pyre.
The gods can not escape their wyrd, the deeds they have done and the repercussions of those thoughts, words, and actions. Neither can humans escape the consequences of our actions in the world, or the debt we owe due to the actions of our ancestors. This is a great gift to us because our pathway of right action, Skuld, that which by necessity aught to happen, is a clear pathway to follow. Things like the Nine Noble Virtues and other great tools for right living are there to help us create öorlog for our decedents that is clean, clear, honest, and respectful right here and now, in the moment of Verdandi. We create the past, not the future. There is no future, only that which was and is becoming.