The Norns (or Nornir) were the Norse and Germanic fates, the demi-goddesses of destiny. The Æsir often sought their council. They are similar to the Moirae and Fates of Greco-Roman myth. As in the Germanic mythological tradition, they were known to be three sister goddesses: Clotho ("The Spinner"), Lachesis ("The Decider"), and Atropos ("The Inevitable").
The original Norn was undoubtedly Urðr, a word which can be translated to mean "Fate". Urðarbrunnr, which was situated at the base of the great cosmic tree Yggdrasil, is named after this Norn. The two additional Norns that are known by name are Verðandi ("Present" [or "Necessity" in some versions]) and Skuld ("Future" [or "Being" in some versions]). All three Norns live near the Well of Urd at the base of Yggdrasil.
It was believed that the Norns decided the destinies of gods, giants, and dwarfs, and were responsible for the fates of every individual human being. The Anglo-Saxons referred to Urd by the name of Wyrd, and in England there was maintained a belief in the tremendous powers of the three sisters long after the arrival of Christianity. For instance, in Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth, the Three Sisters on "the blasted heath" were obviously inspired by the Norns and other mythological fate goddesses.
It would seem more than possible that the Norns were also originally conceived as spinners. However, in Germanic mythology, the Greek and Roman concept of the Fates spinning an individual length of yarn for each mortal life does not appear.
According to Norse mythology, nothing lasts forever, and even the great Yggdrasil has been said to decay one day. The Norns try to stop or slow this process by pouring mud and water from the Well of Urd over its branches. The magical liquid stops the decaying process for a short time.
In other versions pertaining the Norns, they were thought to give assistance to birth, and that each person has their own personal Norn.
|Gods and goddesses in Norse mythology|
|Gods||Andhrímnir • Baldr • Bragi • Dellingr • Freyr (Ingunar-Freyr • Yngvi) • Forseti • Heimdallr • Hermóðr • Hǫðr • Hœnir • Ítreksjóð • Kvasir • Lóðurr • Loki • Máni • Meili • Mímir • Móði and Magni • Njǫrðr • Óðinn • Óðr • Týr • Ullr • Váli • Víðarr • Vili and Vé • Þórr • Ægir|
|Goddesses||Bil • Eir • Freyja • Frigg • Fulla • Gefjon • Gerðr • Gersemi • Gullveig • Gná • Hlín • Hnoss • Iðunn • Ilmr • Irpa • Lofn • Nanna • Njǫrun • Rán • Rindr • Sága • Sif • Sigyn • Sjǫfn • Skaði • Sister-wife of Njǫrðr • Snotra • Sól • Syn • Vár • Vǫr • Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr • Þrúðr|