Anglo Saxon Literature
W Y R D
The word wyrd generally means fate in Anglo Saxon literature. It is one of the recurrent themes in many old English works. For example, wyrd is seen as the force that determines the result of events in Beowulf. In another story, “The Wanderer,” wyrd is mentioned several times. In the first few lines, the speaker states that “fully-fixed is his fate” (Norton 100). This shows that wyrd is unchangeable. Then, he goes on to say “Words of a weary heart may not withstand fate” (Norton 100). Here it seems that a person must be strong, brave, and show no emotion in order to be able to cope with wyrd. Later on, wyrd is proclaimed as “mighty” because not even earls are able to escape their deaths. Lastly, we see the power of wyrd: “The world beneath the skies is changed by the work of the fates” (Norton 102). This quote reflects the belief of Anglo-Saxons that wyrd is an invisible, powerful force that controls the outcome of a person’s life.
This final use of wyrd may also refer to the “Weird Sisters.” They are seen in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. The Fates are also an important part of Greek culture. Usually they are depicted as three horrid old ladies who share one eye with which they see the future. They also are seen tending to so-called “threads of life.” Each time they cut a thread another soul goes to the underworld. This portrayal of the Fates can also be related to the “Measurer” in “Caedmon’s Hymn.” The “Measurer” seems to be the one who decides the destiny of a person, just as the Fates: “The Measurer’s might and his mind-plans” (Norton 24). Like witches, the Fates are sometimes shown surrounding a large pot, brewing spells.
Women were given the opportunity to pick their own husbands. The families acted merely as financial advisors. However, in many circumstances, women were married off to members of enemy tribes in order to bring peace. Hence, they were given the name peace-weavers. Women, depending upon social...