The Norns, the goddesses of Fate, dwell by the Well of Mîmir («Memory», «Reminiscence»), alias the Well of Urðr (“Esteem”, “Honour”, “Stone”, found in the terms “Wyrd”, “Weird”). This well is no other than the caves or dolmens in which the dead rest, the menhirs they lie underneath, the cairns under which they sleep. The Well of the Norns is no other than the graves of the Noble dead; Valhöll (“Hall of the Fallen”).
The sacrificial tree itself is growing on the burial mound, and its roots grow into the Well of Urðr. Völuspâ stanza 19;
«An ash I know standing, it is called Yggdrasill,
a high tree sprinkled with shining drops;
from thence comes the dew which falls in the dales;
it stands ever green over the well of the Honour.»
To learn from the Norns man must visit the dead; he impersonates the pale god of death, Ôðinn, the god who escorts the dead to Hel, and on Halloween brings a body of a dead (the mistletoe, the body of Baldr) to gain access. This golden bough, this wand, is used as a key to open up the grave. He who carries such atamsvöndr, a wand used for taming (called by that name in Skîrnismâl stanza 26), is let in. He enters…
Hâvamâl stanza 109;
«It is time to speak from the seat of the Sage;
hard by the Well of Honour
I saw and was silent, I saw and pondered,
I listened to the speech of men.»
Völuspâ stanza 20;
«There are the Maidens, all things knowing,
three in the hall which stands beneath the Tree.
One is named Honour, the second The Coming –
who engrave on tablets – Shall the third.
They lay down law, they choose out life,
they speak the doom of the sons of men.»
He meets the anthropomorphised Honour of the dead, played by an actress (a sorceress), and also her sisters; What is and What shall be. He must pass their tests, he must answer their riddles, understand their secrets and know the true meaning of their sacred verses. He must be Chosen by them in order to be reborn again. In order to rightfully claim the Honour, the hamingja, of the Noble dead resting inside. If he succeeds he is born anew. Mother Earth herself gives birth to him, as he leaves her womb (the burial mound) screaming, shivering, trembling, shaking, as the Sun rises on the first day of the month of Valaskjâlfr (“the trembling of the chosen/fallen”). He is no longer just a man, but he has become a god, Vâli (“chosen/fallen”), and he has become the Noble dead from the grave. He can now rightfully claim the valuables from the burial mound and the name of the dead. He can now rightfully claim his hamingja!
The Norns (by Ludwig Burger);
The man or woman, or more often the boy or girl, is nothing before he or she has gone through this initiation ritual. He or she has no honour; no past, no present and no future. To become part of the hamingja of your kin you must go through this ritual, to bind yourself to eternity. Those who fail are swept into the oblivion by the Norns, the Valkyrjas (“the ones who chose the fallen”, i. e. “the ones who are to decide if you deserve to be chosen or not”). Those who fail get no names for themselves; no hamingja, no Honour. They remain mere mortals.
When he has become Vâli he can leave (be reborn from) Valhöll (the burial chamber) every day1 (=every time period lasting a life), fight and be killed, with no other consequence than him being reborn the next “day” (the next time a kinsman is initiated and becomes him in a new life, a new shape), able to stand and fight again. There is no true death for him, only rebirth. He has become an immortal! A god, Vâli, because he has been chosen by the Norns – who gave him a past, a presentand a future. A hamingja.
Valhöll and Âsgarðr (“the spirit garden”) are not “Heavenly Realms” as such, but located right here on Earth, amongst us, but they are only accessible for those of us who have become gods or goddesses. They are only accessible for those of Jarl’s kin (the European race). They are only accessible for the man with ahamingja.
The Norns Watering the Tree of Life.
This is the meaning of destiny in Scandinavian mythology. This is what the Norns, the goddesses of fate2, tell us. The web they are said to spin, the threads of life, is what makes up the hamingja; the honourable deeds, the glorious achievements, the courageous decisions taken in life, the brave acts, the Noble life, the divine wisdom: the spiritual light emitted, from your own spirit unto others. The Norns use the water from this well of memories to water Yggdrasill, the tree of life. Life grows and becomes stronger and better by the Honour of man. HailaR WôðanaR!
1Day (No. dag) from dagr (“day”), originally meaning not just “day”, but “life”, “limit”.
2Fate in Scandinavia is not a fate which takes revenge on the individual (like Nemesis) and which can be seen to interpose in the fortunes of men: it is instead a sweeping world-force set free, left to work itself out in the life of the universe. It knows no law except that of consequence, and obeys no impulse except that of nature. It renders the events of life as inevitable as the Sunrise.
Images of Valhöll/Hel from different parts of Europe.