Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fates, Norns, Faee and Fay

Once fate wasn't something that happened, it wasn't a destiny, rather fate was believed to be something that fairies gave or withheld, their blessings or curses. For they controlled everything that happened, from the fall of rain to the gift of poetry fairies didn't just control fate, they made it. In the words of Jacob Grimm;

Destiny itself is called orlog, or else nauor (necessitas), aldr (aevum); the norns have to manage it, espy it, decree it, pronounce it. It was only when the goddesses had been cast off, that the meanings of the words came to be confounded, and the old flesh and blood causes disappeared.

What we see than is that the Norn, fay, faee, fates are the fairies who control the fate of humans, sometimes in legend they were believed to control all human fate, other times they were believed to only focus on a few special people. Most of the time they were woman but on occasion there were men.

Extracted from Jacob Grimm's Research
Often the norns would enter the castles of future heroes at night and spin their fate, stretching a gold cord in the midst of heaven; one norn hid an end of the thread eastward, another westward, athrid fastened it northward; this third is called 'siter of Neri.” There number, though not expressly stated, is gathered from the threefold action. All the region between the eastren and western ends of the line was to fall the young hero's lot; did the third norn not diminish this gift when she flung the band northward and bade it hold for aye?
It seems the regular thing in tales of norns and fays, for the advantages promised in preceding benefactions to be partly neutralized by a succeeding one.
The Nornagestssaga says: There travelled about in the land Volvur who are called spakonur, who foretold to men their fate. People invited them to their houses, gave them good cheer and gifts. One day they came to Nornagest's father, the babe lay in the cradle, and two tapers were burning over him. When the first two women had gifted him, and assured him of happiness beyond all others of his race, the third or youngest norn.... who in the crowd had been pushed off her seat had fallen to the ground, rose up in anger, and cried 'I cause that the child shall only live till the lighted taper beside him has burnt out.' The eldest volva quickly seized the taper, put it out, and gave it to the mother with the warning not to kindle it again till the last day of her son's life, who received from this the name of Norn's-Guest.
Here volva and norn are perfectly synonymous; as we saw before that the volvur passed through the land and knocked at houses, the nornir do the very same. A kind disposition is attributed to the first two norns, an evil one to the third. This third is consequently Skuld, is called the youngest, they were of different ages therefore, Uror being considered the oldest. Such tales of traveling gifting sorceresses were much in vogue all through the middle ages.

The Edda expressly teaches that there are good and bad norns, and though it names only three, there are more of them: some are descended from the gods, other from elves, others from dwarfs. 

the fate go past, laughing and bestowing good gifts, the first fate bestow blessings, the last one curses. Pervonto builds a bower for three sleeping fate, and is then gifted. Fate live down in a rocky hollow, and dower the children who descend. Fate appear at the birth of children, and lay them on their breast.

There are seven fays in the land, they are asked to stand in for grandmothers, and seats of honor are prepared at the table: six take their places but the seventh was forgotten, she now appears and while the others give blessings she murmurs her anger.

In the German Kindermarchen it is twelve wise woman and the thirteenth had been overlooked.

So in the famed forest of Brezeliande, by the fontaine de Barenden, dames faees in whith apparel shew themselves and begift a child, but one is spiteful and bestows calamity (San Marte, Legend of Arthur p 157-159)

The weaving of the norns and the spindle of the fays give us to recognize domestic motherly divinities; and we have already remarked, that their appearing suddenly, their haunting of wells and springs accord with the notions of antiquity about frau Holda, Berhta and like goddesses, who devote themselves to spinning and bestow boons on babes and children.
Among the Celts especially the fatae seem apt to run into that sense of matrees and matronae, which among Teutons we find attaching more to divine than to semi-devine beings. In this respect the fays have something higher in them than our idises and norns, who in lieu of it stand out more warlike.