Weird, huh?

The Anglo-Saxons had this awesome concept called “wyrd”. So say it like “weird” (cos that’s where the word comes from: Shakespeare adopted it for his witches in Macbeth) but flatten the “e” sound and harden your “r” a little. Wyrd is a heathen concept, and is often translated simply as “fate” but it’s more complicated than that. It comes from the verb “weorthan”, which means both “to become” and “to happen”. And somewhere between those two words (which hint at both personal agency and random-shit-you-can’t-control) lies the meaning. Wyrd refers both to universal destiny: the uncontrollable factors around us that we are caught up in and can’t ever really escape; and personal destiny: the actions we take in every moment to become what we are going to be next. So wyrd is both woven for us and by us.

The best analogy I can think of is this: you’re out at sea on a sailing boat. You have no control over the weather, and there’s no point pleading with the sky not to storm because the sky won’t listen and wouldn’t care anyway. But what you can do is set your sails the best way possible to get through the storm: those actions you take shape what will become of you. Wyrd is the same idea, but applied to Life.

I like this idea so much I had it tattooed on the inside of my left fore-arm yesterday. The lettering is an early medieval scribal form used for Old English manuscripts like Beowulf and The Exeter Book (the “w” looks a bit like a “v” with a tail). It’s my first, and will probably be my only tattoo. I still feel quite giddy that I did it. Fear me!

So, that’s quite a complicated and long-winded explanation and I’m not going to repeat it. If people ask me what it says, I’ll direct them here. Or maybe I’ll just tell them it says “pwnd”.

Thanks to Scott at Wild at Heart for being so kind to this cleanskin n00b. Here are pictures:

Before

During

After

9 responses to “Weird, huh?

  1. What a great word and concept. An awesome tattoo too and I bet you acquire more, it is an addictive experience!

  2. I love the story behind the word ‘wyrd’, Kim. A beautiful concept. It was brave of you to go ahead and get a tattoo, and a unique one at that. She/he did a good, clean job. I bet there are only a handful of people in the world who have such a word in mediaevel script as a tattoo. I like the way it relates to your writing and to your life. You’ll be explaining what it means to everyone for the rest of your life. I guess you’ve seen this site about wyrd, but it might interest your blog readers: http://www.wyrdwords.vispa.com/heathenry/whatwyrd.html.
    Joanna :))

  3. Brilliant! Looks great and what a lovely thought.
    I had a Celtic inspired design done at Wild at Heart and I am incredibly happy with it.

  4. It looks great! As both a long-time fan of your writing and someone who studied medieval lit at college, I love the tattoo. Tell the truth, though: did it hurt? I’ve been wanting to get one for years … maybe now I’ll be brave enough to do so!

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