An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.




Also see The Leylines of Nuremberg
 and Report on a Regression Session on the Leylines of Nuremberg

The Three Norns
© Craig Mullins

9 January 2004:
Author's Note

Nuremberg, once known as Nornenberg, Norn's Mountain, is where the three Norns were said to live.  They answered to no one.  The two great deity-families of the Nordic-Germanic world, the Vanir and the Aesir, were themselves subject to this ancient female triad, for the Norns were older than the oldest god.  Among themselves, the oldest and original Norn was Urd -- other variants of her name include Wurd (Old High German), Wryd (Anglo-Saxon, commonly translated as "Fate"), Weird (English), Urth, Urtha, Urdr, Urda, Ertha -- our word "earth" is derived from her.   She was the Norn of destiny.

The second sister was Verthandi, "Being," or the one who governed the present moment.  The third was Skuld, often translated as "Necessity," as in the "necessity" of repaying "a debt that all must pay" -- i.e., death.  Thus, Skuld was the death-Norn who determined the length of each life.  It was said that when Doomsday arrived, it would be Skuld who would lay the death-curse on the whole universe.  Interestingly, shamanic-bard-poets known as skalds were Skuld's servants -- in their hands was the creation of visionary literature.

The three Norns were known collectively as Die Schreiberinnen, "the Writing Women," who wrote the on-going book of Destiny in which they revealed the deep secrets of the universe.  They were the "three mysterious beings" of the Prose Edda -- High-One, Just-as-High, and Third.  Sometimes they were depicted spinning the webs of fate but this is a Graeco-Roman influence from myths of the Three Fates, or Moirai.  The Norns originally carved records of each destiny into staves of wood.  They were writers, not spinners.

They lived in a womblike cave under Yggdrasill, the great ash that was the World Tree.  Near their cave was the cosmic wellspring of life, destiny, and justice -- Urdarbrunnr, the "Well of Urd."  To preserve the life of the World Tree, the Norns annointed it daily with white clay from the spring and gave it pure, shining water from the well.  This water later fell back to earth as dew -- when harts (deer) grazed on the dew-moist branches, their milk turned to honeyed mead, the elixir of life, which feeds the gods and warriors of Valhalla.  The gods themselves gathered daily around Urd's sacred Well, for this assembly-place was the gods' court of law where they solved problems and  settled legal disputes.  Led by Odin, most arrived on horseback except for thunder-god Thor, who liked to wade through the rivers en route to Urd's Well.

The Norns were said to live under a mountain where the German city of Nuremberg (or Nurnberg) was founded. As Katherine Neville writes:

...The original name of Nurnberg was Nornenberg -- Norns' Mountain -- where, in the ancient Teutonic myths, the three female fates called the Norns sat in a cave within the mountain, like judges, spinning, weaving and cutting the fate of every man. Nurnberg was also chosen by the Allies after World War II for the Judgment at Nurnberg, where Nazi war criminals were tried and sentenced....
That this would be the site where former Nazis were brought to justice strikes a profound resonance with those skaldic visions in which the gods' own court of law was held around the Well of Urd.

Selected Bibliography:

Davidson, H.R. Ellis.  Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Penguin Books, 1964.
Davidson, H.R. Ellis.  Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe. Syracuse University Press, 1988.



Here you'll find a link to a huge old map of the city of Nuremberg.

Aerial View

SamuelProut (1783-1852)

                                                          Two Views of Nuremberg

Nuremberg, 1945
© Margaret Bourke-White

Nuremberg Roofs
Steve Fazzio
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Text and Design: ©Copyright 2004 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

9 January 2004, 11:15am: created as page 2 in this series.
Completed & launched: 22 January 2004