The Creative Exploration of Language

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Translation from Old Norse; source text from An Introduction to Old Norse by E.V. Gordon

Odin spoke:

What was I dreaming       when daylight broke?

To ready the hall             for the host of the slain.

I bade the Einherjar,        up they must rise,

To straw the benches       and the beer mugs wash.

Valkyries with wine          shall welcome a king!

At home I await              the hero’s coming,

The lordly man                who makes my heart glad.

Do you hear, Bragi?          A host of thousands

Hurries here to my hall.


The benches creak           as if Balder it was

Who sought the hall of Sigtýr.


Your words are foolish      wisest Bragi,

And well you know why.

The clashing and clanging is for King Eirík;

It is he who comes to Odin’s hall.

Sigmund rise quickly!       Sinfjǫtli as well!

You must go to meet the king.

Bid him welcome             if it be Eirík.

I will await the hero here.


Why await Eirík                if others may come?


He has made red             many a land

And he bears a bloody sword.


If you thought him brave why thwart his deeds?


Because I know not,

When the gray wolf comes to the gods’ abode.


Hail now, Eirík!                Here you are welcome. 

Go into the hall, healthy in wisdom.

One thing I must ask:       what others follow,

Lords from the lightning-field?


Five kings there are          and all I can name;

I myself am the sixth.











Death Card

Our years hold many deaths,

A series of bloody dismemberments.

We float above,

Looking at the shambles,

At the blood and the bone;

Dreaming of what we might become.


Örlog has long been one of my favorite words from Old Norse.  It has that bolted-together quality that I love about compound words in the Germanic language family, but it also has an air of mystery about it.  In my opinion, it just looks interesting, even if you don’t know what it means.

But I am interested in meanings and, as it turns out, örlog means fate.  However, the relationship between the words is not direct as it so often is across languages (consider dependent, an English word derived from French and Latin roots, and its German equivalent abhängig, which is constructed in exactly the same manner: de- and ab- both mean “from”, while –pendent and –hängig both mean “hang”).  This implies that the concept of fate was different in Northern Europe as compared to the Classical world centered around the Mediterranean.

Fate ultimately comes from the Latin word fari (“to speak”) via its derivative fatum, which means “that which has been spoken”.  This fits very well with the Classical conception of fate as something has already been determined.  For example, the Fates in both Greek (the Moirai) and Roman (the Parcae) mythology are composed of three goddesses who represent the weaving, measuring and ending / cutting of the “thread” of individual human lives.  The metaphor here is that the Fates have determined what is to happen and made an irrevocable decision in relation to how it should happen.

In Norse mythology there are also three Fates, but they are called the Norns and are connected to the passage of time: Urð (past), Verðandi (present) and Skuld (future).  This metaphor seems different to me: the Norns don’t determine what is to happen or how it should happen, they simply describe how the world works.

A breakdown of Örlog supports this interpretation of the Norse conception of fate.  It is composed of two separate words:

ör– this means “primal” and is cognate with the modern prefix ur- which is found in modern German and, to a lesser extent, English.

log– this means “law” (final “g” in Old Norse tends to turn to “w” in English, as in the Old Norse word útlag, which means outlaw in English).

So, örlog is a “primal law”.  Rather than fate being seen as something that has been determined, the product of a process, as in the Classical conception, the Old Norse word implies that the ancient Scandinavians saw fate a force that drove a continuous process which can be summed up as: life.

In other words, to the Norse, the world just works the way it works and events aren’t foreordained, but rather continuously created according to unalterable laws.


New Poem in Upcoming Anthology

I am excited to announce that my poem “Freyja” will appear in the upcoming anthology Garland of the Goddess: Tales and Poems of the Feminine Divine being published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina.  The expected release date is later this summer and I will update once it is available.

Thanks for reading,

S.R. Hardy

New Poem in Eternal Haunted Summer

I have a new poem in the Winter Solstice issue of Eternal Haunted Summer, called “Faith, Like a Plague”.  Check it out.

Thanks for reading,

S.R. Hardy