The importance of the Norns in the Odinic world view is seldom appreciated by historians and mythologers. Most commonly they are merely equated to the Greek Fates (Past, Present, and Future). Although the two trios of weavers undoubtedly stem from the same mythological source, I believe that the concepts which they represent are quite different. I do not intend to make extravagant claims about Germanic beliefs, I can, however, present the realization which arises as a result of the training experienced in the Norwegian tradition in which I was initiated.
If we look at the etymology of the names of the three Norns (Urd, Skuld, and Verdandi), we can go a long way toward grasping the concepts they embody.
"Urd" is cognate with "Wyrd", the Anglo-Saxon word for the unseen influences behind events. It also suggests the primal or ancient. "Wyrd" has come down to us as "weird" with only a small part of its original meaning. Urd is depicted as being the guardian of a bottomless well. Urd's well is the primal source and Urd represents the unmanifest potential, everything arises from the unmanifest, and returns to it. All possibilities exist therein.
"Skuld" translates directly as "should". This is because Skuld represents that which can be inferred. Given the present indications we can predict what should happen, but we can take steps to avert the outcome. If there is free will, no system of prediction can be foolproof. Hence we have "Should" and not "Shall".
"Verdandi" denotes that which is becoming or manifesting, the present moment. Verdandi represents the dynamic process of "coming into being" which we percieve as the manifest world.
In our system Skuld can also include "that which should have been", so that the manifest decays back through Skuld to return to the unmanifest. We can see that rather than simply having a representation of linear time, we have a concept of all things being in a state of change.
To our perception, there are three realms of Wyrd: That which we cannot perceive, Urd. That which we perceive directly, Verdandi. And that which we can infer by logic or by divination, Skuld. All things exist within the Wyrd and are interconnected by it, hence the symbolism of a web or woven strands. Everything has its effect on everything else. Our Wyrd is a web of interconnections within a larger web. Working our True Will requires the ability to move with freedom within the constraints of our Wyrd, bearing in mind that our every action changes our Wyrd. By understanding the Norns, we can come to understand our Wyrd.
This concept is a vital part of our system, and it comes into play in all of our work from Rune Magick to martial training. In our system, we relate Urd to meditation. In meditation we look deep into the well of the unmanifest within, when thought stops we can perceive our connection with the Wyrd, this is the source of our True Will, our individuality and real power.
Skuld relates to active training, where kills are honed but situations are hypothetical. Our actions in the world at large are in the realm of Verdandi, where we are fully in the present and acting without hesitation. A Master remains in all three realms simultaneously.
The Norns and the Wyrd are a ubiquitous background upon which we interact with the Gods, and to which even the Gods are subject. It is perhaps this background nature which makes us tend to take them for granted.
I hope that this small contribution from our system will help in furthering the power of the mighty Runes of Grim.