Wyrd is a very complex concept, and I’m sure that I can’t do it justice within the space of a single blog post. In a way, it is the concept of fate, but a fate broken into distinct parts. There’s hamingja, or personal fate, and orlog, which is a communal fate, and then there’s wyrd itself – which I would say is the intertwining of personal and communal fate.
Hamingja, in a way, can be thought of as a person’s luck. The hamingja you possess is responsible for the good and bad things that happen in your life – at least to a certain extent. Everyone is born with a different amount of good hamingja and bad hamingja, and it can be thought of as a very complex version of luck.
What I find fascinating about hamingja is that our actions can increase or decrease the amount we have, but we never really know what the state of our hamingja is. When a lot of good things are happening in our lives, it’s a good bet that we are using up our good hamingja. And when bad things are happening, we happen to be drawing from the reserves of our bad hamingja.
While we can increase our hamingja – for better or worse, through our actions – I think there is a finite amount of hamingja, and when we completely deplete our hamingja, that is when death occurs.
Another facet of hamingja that I personally find interesting is that a person can experience negative events, drawing from the reserve of bad hamingja, without ever having done anything immoral. For me, this answers the question of why bad things happen to good people, and vice versa.
I feel that this answers the question of why some people grow up in abusive households and others don’t. I think that those who go through difficult childhoods are drawing from their bad hamingja reserves early on in life, so that they can draw almost solely from their good hamingja pools in later years.
Of course, this is just how I personally believe that haminja operates, but I feel it makes the most sense when viewing time and fate as a circular or spiral pattern rather than as a linear one. If time spirals back in on and around itself, then fate, and the components of fate (like haminja) should work in the same fashion as time.
Now, there is another aspect to wyrd, and that is communal fate, and it is sometimes referred to as orlog. This refers to the way a community’s fate is shared. The best example I can think of is the recent flooding in South Carolina. Each of the communities affected by the flooding were affected by the orlog of the community.
In the same way an individual can increase good and bad hamingja, I believe it is possible for a community to increase good and bad orlog. The actions of a community create the orlog of that community, and each individual of the community is affected by the communal fate when good things happen as well as when bad things happen.
What gets interesting is when hamingja and orlog combine. Orlog creates a shared fate, so everyone in the community experiences the same event, but hamingja is individual, so each person in the community will experience that fateful event in different ways. To use the flooding in South Carolina as an example, those with a strong pool of positive hamingja may have been caught up in the flooding but escaped without any physical harm to themselves or any property damage to speak of. On the other hand, a person pulling from their reserves of negative hamingja may have been severely injured or their property was completely destroyed. In both cases, the two people were experiencing the orlog of the communal event (the flooding), but they experienced the communal event differently due to the difference in their pools of positive and negative hamingja.
As I’m sure is obvious at this point, wyrd and its two main components are extremely abstract and complicated ideas, and this is what I have worked out for myself. Not everyone views orlog and hamingja in this way, of course, but I feel that the way I have chosen to view wyrd has given me a more solid understanding of life.
Now, the entire reason I even brought wyrd up is because of the incident that I experienced yesterday evening. As I was driving a friend home after we had eaten dinner, we were rear-ended. There was no vehicle damage, and no one was injured, and the car accident was caused by the woman being distracted by the crying of her one-year old child.
Within the framework of wyrd, there is a myriad of ways to look at this event. To create a baseline for the event, I will operate on the assumption that the impact itself was caused by negative hamingja and the lack of injury to those involved as well as the lack of vehicular damage was caused by positive hamingja. I will also view the accident as having occurred during the communal event we all know as 5:00 traffic.
The people involved were myself, my friend, the woman who hit me, and her one year old son. The impact itself could have been caused by the negative hamingja of any one of the four of us, even the one-year old boy. I could have been drawing from my negative hamingja, which caused the accident. Or, my friend, who had never been in a car accident before, may have been drawing from his negative hamingja. The woman may have been drawing from hers, or the one-year old may have been drawing from his negative pool.
The same thing could be said for the positive outcome – no bodily injury and no vehicular damage. Any one of the four of us could have been drawing from our positive hamingja in order to negate the negative hamingja that caused the accident to occur. It is in this way that the accident, which may have been an event caused by the communal occurrence of 5:00 traffic, balanced itself out through the hamingja of the four people involved – an intertwining of orlog and hamingja at work.
And this is a large part of the reason I find wyrd so fascinating. It eliminates coincidence from the playing field entirely, so it can be said that whatever is meant to happen will happen, whether we are prepared for those events or not. If we are meant to be involved in a car accident, the accident will occur (rather, I should call it an incident, considering the lack of coincidence I am speaking about). However, the outcome of these events are determined by the interaction of orlog and hamingja, so there is never any way to know for sure whether the overall outcome from an event will be positive or negative.
However, it is because we are able to increase both our individual hamingja and communal orlog through our individual and communal actions that we are able to work as wyrd-shapers, the way Odin and Loki work as wyrd-shapers.
Odin shapes wyrd by being a God of death, as He tends to choose warriors to join Him in Valhalla, and, according to the lore, He does this most often by cutting a person’s life short. In my view of hamingja, essentially what Odin does when He acts in this capacity is drain a person’s pool of hamingja more rapidly than it would drain on its own during the course of that person’s life, and that is the reason it is so dangerous to wear the Valknut and walk His path. It isn’t necessarily the case that He will choose to drain the hamingja pools of those who swear their lives to Him more rapidly, but it is a strong possibility, and it is better to avoid tempting Odin to interfere with your wyrd unless you are sure that is what you want to happen.
For my part, I am sworn to Odin, and I wear the Valknut with the full understanding of what it means to do so. I am aware that it means that Odin could choose to call me to His side sooner than I may be ready to go, but that is His choice. I don’t live my life in the fear that He will do so, however, because that would, first of all, make me a very poor warrior, as warriors need to possess the resiliency to stare death in the face when necessary.
Now, as to Loki’s role in wyrd-working, He is both the god of change and of luck. In a way, He is the wyrd-god, and He helps to shape both hamingja and orlog. There are some theories that connect Loki etymologically to the word luck, and I am inclined to agree with that assessment of His personality, even if others disagree.
But even if you look at Loki as solely the god of change, rather than as the god of both change and luck, it is easy to see the way He influences wyrd. Changes in our lives are caused by events and our reactions to those events, so whether we are drawing from our positive hamingja or our negative hamingja, Loki has a hand in creating those changes.
There are other gods that are involved in the shaping of wyrd, of course, but I’ll leave discussing Them for another time, as this has already become a rather lengthy post.