Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Loki's Children

The Web of Wyrd

The Web of Wyrd is a metaphor for fate and destiny derived from women's spinning. As the individual fibers turn round the spindle, or are woven together as the warp and the woof, by the Norns at the foot of Yggdrasil, they become the thread of our lives, or so Norse mythology tells us. After all what else is the umbilical cord but the thread between spindle and distaff? What else is the human genome?

Weaving is just as appealing a metaphor as anything other religions have been able to come up with to explain the meaning of life - the past in the present (and the present in the past). Henry James uses it in his novella The Figure in the Carpet (1896) and of course nowadays it applies to the www.

Wyrd refers to more than individual lives but to the universe, a vast spider's web where everything is connected and analogically related, so that vast galaxies can resemble cell structures and the genome of living creatures. Macrocosm and microcosm. While science remains fascinated by structural and functional analysis, the old Norse and Germanic world might say that it's the time and purpose that matter too.


Above, that's not a nebula photograped by the Hubble Telescope, it's actually fluorescent stained bovine pulmonary artery endothelial cells. Below is a real Hubble image, of spiral galaxy ESO 510-13, taken by their Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), C. Conselice (U. Wisconsin/STScI) et al., NASA.


The Web of Wyrd can be associated easily enough with runes - in Hávamál, the runes appear to have the power to bring the dead back to life. Odin recounts a spell: "if I see/up in a tree/a dangling corpse in a noose/I can so carve and color the runes/that the man walks/And talks with me."

wyrd Fehu

I have always interpreted these things as totems, which means they depend on the ability to inspire the imagination, whether that be spiritual or secular. Nothing more... Above left is a modern synthesis of all the runes which some today think of as a totem for the Web of Wyrd. It's a fanciful design but pagan ideas have a much more integrated world view than the one bequeathed us by the newer religions. Think of the simplicity of the cross or the crescent moon. To its right is Fehu, one of the ancient runes.

Below are karyotypes and a Viking alphabet, the Younger Futhark. Couldn't resist...



Photo credits - for endothelial cells: IP69.226.103.13; for Futhark: Användare: Den fjättrade ankan.

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