What is Urd?

Urd is, of course, the eldest of the Norns, the Lady who owns our history and memory. Her well contains waters that cycle throughout the Nine Worlds, and I firmly believe that our physical water here on Earth is part of it. Actually, I believe that Jord, the Earth, is Urd’s granddaughter by way of Nott (Night). It makes sense though. The waters of Urd’s womb are also Her wells…. and Jord has Her own vast amount of water in Her body, and memory and time has shaped the Earth… you can see how it is connected in the lore.

Urd is also the Old Norse word for Wyrd, the Germanic law of cause and effect. So, Wyrd is not only a concept, but also an entity… as is Urd. The Norns water Yggdrasil from Urd’s well, Urdabrunnr, and then dew from the tips of the branches fall back down to the well at the roots, completing the cycle. Urdabrunnr therefore contains all of life and the potential for life in the Nine Worlds, as water here on Earth flows in and out of living things everywhere, for as long as those living things have existed. The water we drink has been in and out of dinosaurs, the first cellular organism. It’s a bit gross to think about in a physical sense, but pretty awe-inducing in a metaphysical sense. We really are all one.

The lore states that no one knows from where Yggdrasil’s roots run. I don’t either, because if the Gods don’t know, how should a mortal know? I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that the Well runs from Ginnungagap, the Yawning Gap from which Midgard sprung. Ginnungagap as the Primal Void, it contains nothing and everything, chaos and silence. It howls for eternity, and it’s the most primal of all howls. It’s an incredible paradox and one that is difficult for beings (especially mortals) to comprehend. How can a thing be empty and yet full of everything and BE everything all at once?

We can skip over to our Indo-European cousin, Buddhism. Buddhism teaches that everything is essentially empty in that nothing has permanent qualities. The universe isn’t empty is a nihilistic sense, because Buddhism acknowledges that All is One, it’s just that it’s not permanent in that nothing has an unchanging essence. Many schools of Mahayana Buddhism go ever further to say that there is no such thing as independent arising, meaning that things never come from just itself, in a vacuum. Everything and everybody is what and who they are currently because of everything else acting around you. Does that sound like Wyrd? I think so.

It’s liberating and yet scary to fully realize what Wyrd is. On one hand, it’s a way to counter the sickness of isolation. Your mind may want you to feel cut off from the rest of humanity and the Earth, saying that you are alone and that no one can possibly love you, or even see you. That’s a very modern illness, where the mind fixes upon the illusion that there is no true community, and that it’s “every man for himself.” Everything in the universe has affected you, and there’s no such thing as a true vacuum, so how can you think that? Modern life with its dependence on individuality (making true independence an illusion) and depression can cloud the true nature of the universe as One. It sounds so New Agey, but it’s true-we are all connected and One under Wyrd. We cannot separate ourselves from it, so we cannot separate ourselves from others.

What’s scary about it? The scary part is that every choice you make also affects the cosmos. Not necessarily profoundly, but we are co-creators in our decisions. Our will may be shaped by every previous circumstance, but we can still take myriads of directions. The waters of Urd and Ginnungagap cannot do this in Their form-this is why I think that They take forms in life. The undifferentiated Source and Void is like a drop of water-the individual molecules that comprise will never stay together to be a distinct physical entity. Instead, they flow and shift and slide and embody all sorts of motion and will inevitably end up on different sides of the globe, constantly changing shape. Of course, it’s inevitably that they will come together again too, given enough time! This, I think, is part of the mystery of water. It is fluid. It changes. It is contained within all of us. It IS us. But it is not easily differentiated as an individual thing.

This piece is inspired by this article here. It has inspired me for a long time, and it confirmed what I had thought since I was fairly young: we are all One, but different. Given that the author is a chaos magician as well as a heathen, it makes sense. The chaos magic symbol represents how magic and potential all come from the ultimate Source, which is chaos (or, at least that’s how I understand it-I’m not a chaos magician so I’m probably getting it wrong somewhere!). Ginnungagap could be seen as a Norse equivalent to the Greek Chaos, the primordial void. I don’t think any mortal can really plunge themselves right into Ginnungagap, as their embodied form is so alien to it; however, we can detect that like darkness, all things come from it. It’s just pure potential. So, everything exists but everything doesn’t. It’s like the Norse version of Nagarjuna’s playground.

Heimlich A. Laguz says that “We live to give their [the waters] irrepressible essence form and flushing life.” This is a powerful concept. The waters contain all potentiality and will inevitably be in all of us. However, even though water has its many wights contained within it, the Waters of Memory want to also experience life and its myriads and myriads of ways to be incarnate. And that is Life. We are One in the Waters and the Void, yes, but our manifestations are also different from one another too. The differences contribute to the whole of the universe and serve as a balance. We can’t all just be pure potential-that’d be like the Big Bang. The Big Bang gave rise to stars, planets, life… I think that pure unlimited potential and chaos can’t exist on its own without the flip side of differentiation. It may be some immutable law of some sort. We’re recycled as water is recycled, the Waters of Urd’s Well are recycled, but they are able to experience the joy and pain of incarnation in us. Further away from the Source, we become more and more differentiated (which looks like the chaos magic symbol and the Big Bang) and I think that’s where we can get hung up on feeling separate from everything around us, but if we look into the Source then we’re One. Both are wondrous, by the way… I don’t think that we need to forsake our individual identities to become more spiritual. Every species on Earth has a different function, and even though we’re all ultimately related doesn’t mean that we have to overlook all diversity. Diversity is what keeps balance, after all. Pure chaos isn’t that conducive to life, and so I think differentiation is useful and inevitable.

What does this have to do with Urd? She is the keeper of memory and Wyrd (and is Wyrd Herself), and she tends to the waters in Her well and helps to spin the threads of our fate. She is a distinct entity and not just a concept, although She DOES hold a concept. I think it was She who ordered time in the beginning… not that there’s really such a thing as time, as a human construct, but things happen, and that’s a fact of the universe. I think time, or the flow of occurrences, was a lot more chaotic in the beginning. Looking at the Big Bang, such a different set of circumstances than today and highly concentrated energy fluctuating would probably lead to “time” flowing differently than it does today. To be conducive to life, it probably had to calm down and become more orderly.. which is what I think Urd did. She didn’t make it linear, as linear time is an invention of Judeo-Christianity, but She probably made it into a smoother cycle. The ancient Germanic way of looking at time is cyclical, like most agricultural peoples. Motion for motion’s sake won’t create life, but order in motion will. No wonder Urd is a frost giant! Many heathens believe that the primordial fire and ice union that created Midgard is representative of the Big Bang. Ice is solidified matter, the quality which can lead us to be differentiated conscious beings, and fire is energy and entropy. Combine matter and energy, you got life. And everything else in the universe. Urd can then be seen to solidify being, which She does through Wyrd. Water flows quickly, ice does not. Wyrd and Urd is our keeper. She forms us.

I realize that this all sounds rather monistic, which many heathens don’t believe is a valid way of looking at divinity and the universe. However, I don’t view this monistically in a monotheist type way, but rather as an acknowledgment that we’re all related and have divinity within. We’re all separate entities, and that’s the whole point of this post. We’re separate, but related and interconnected. Just because we’re all made of matter and energy that probably all came from one source at one point in time does not negate polytheism. It’s just what is. Ginnungagap and Urdabrunnr and its waters are life source-we are but the manifestations of that life source. Does this life source have a consciousness of its own? Maybe. Is it personal? I’d say not, because it’s just too big. It becomes personal only when manifest as being. When not manifest, it’s just Ginnungagap. And chaos. Which isn’t bad. It’s the most sacred thing there is, as it is the One Thing, but yes, it’s still the size of the known universe and all of the Gods and their worlds and beyond. There’s no comprehension down to a human level besides the relationships we form with other beings.

There’s been debate among Hindus for over a good couple thousand years as to whether or not the divine is personal. Some posit the Godhead is impersonal and is akin to a force, while others believe it’s personal and is manifest in their primary deity. I actually think these are not mutually exclusive. Call me a bit of a pantheist, but divinity is within everything, and is both simultaneously personal and impersonal in that we all have the waters within us (flow of memory), yet we are all individuals who can be as radically different from one another as can be with many different agendas and natures.

Regardless, Her waters are healing, as they contain all life and everything that was and will be. They contain the present. They contain our being as it is right now. What a joy that is.


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