When the Norns Have Spoken: Time and Fate in Germanic Paganism

When the Norns Have Spoken: Time and Fate in Germanic Paganism

When the Norns Have Spoken: Time and Fate in Germanic Paganism

When the Norns Have Spoken: Time and Fate in Germanic Paganism

Synopsis

"This book argues that, within Germanic paganism, considered not as mere cult but as a system of beliefs, it is possible to identify a conceptually coherent understanding of the idea of fate that has nothing to do with time, but is instead an implicit theses about the nature of truth. Germanic cosmogony - the interrelationship of space, time, and causality - as represented in such precise images as a world-tree, provides the context for analyses of specific metaphors for the operation of fate as woven or spun by such figures as the Norns, the Norse goddesses of destiny. The persistence of a residual pagan idea of fate following the Christian conversion may thus be understood in a new and fascinating light: only with this modification - not obliteration - of fate into God's Providence could it at last become temporalized. One of the most striking aspects of the process of conversion of paganism into Christianity is the manner in which certain key religious concepts were modified, without being totally obliterated from the new religious language. Residual pagan beliefs persevered, at least for a time, notably that concerning fate. The argument concludes that only after pagan fate was transformed into the concept of god's Providence could the problem of death and salvation in relation to God's power be made fully manifest. Fate had become linked with death as a new beginning within Christian eschatology, and was thus, finally, temporalized." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

It has been said that in planning any essay it is essential to begin with a bibliographic inquiry in order to decide whether or not it is worthwhile exploring the subject in question. On this criterion, even a cursory examination of the available literature related to the subject of Germanic mythology, in so far as this reveals anything of the conceptual framework of our ancestors, would reveal a corner of scholarship that would seem to be in robust health. in fact, this secondary literature is now so vast, both in scope and detail, that anyone intruding upon another's special field—as I am here—risks being overwhelmed. and yet in undertaking my own preliminary research, it became increasingly clear that certainly in so far as fate in particular is concerned, although the subject can hardly be said to have been overlooked, the attention devoted to it has tended to treat it as more of a contextual “given” than as a philosophical issue meriting detailed examination in its own right. It is the purpose of this inquiry to confront the question of just what fate means, or what it meant to those people who employed over centuries a range of cognate terms in the Germanic languages for it—“Urðr,” “wurt,” “wurd,” “wyrd,” etc. While attention has been given to the concept of fate as an overall feature of the cosmographies or cosmogonies, it seems that as a properly philosophical question, the fundamental nature of fate (and time) has been unnecessarily neglected. Yet the absolute centrality of the issues involved is undeniable (and, indeed, acknowledged), for the Germanic view of the world is saturated with the effects of the belief in an all-powerful destiny. It has to be conceded that there has been rather more interest in the nature of time—and, indeed, space—as it is represented in (mostly) Scandinavian cosmographies. Now since it is invariably assumed that time and fate are somehow or other inextricably related, not just for the Norsemen but for ourselves, it is somewhat surprising that these often elaborate and ingenious reconstructions of space-time models do not thereby nourish a . . .

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