The confusion among Nornir, Dsir, Haminjur and Valkyries is so deep that I had to create a special documentation on them. Here it is.


1.
About Norns


Here are the main texts that enable me to assert that the Norns are three giants maiden full of force and knowledge (therefore they know the runes), they promulgate rlg (destiny) and no one can oppose to their word. They are the sole hamigjur of the world, i.e., they take care of the destiny of the world as the hamingja associated to each family takes care of the destiny of the family members and brings them luck.


Vlusp
Verse 8

Teflo tni,

teitir vro [vru],

var eim vettugis [vttergis]

vant or gulli [r golli],

unz rir komo, [kvmu]

ursa meyar

mtcar [mtcar] mik

r [r] Jtunheimum.

 

They play tafl in the hedge,

of cheerfulness full,

was to them naught

lack of gold, [they did not lack gold]

until three come,

giantesses [urs = thurs, giant, jotun] maids

(with) giant strength much,

out of the Jtuns dwellings.

 

Verse 19

Ask veit ek standa,

An ash I know it stands

heitir Yggdrasill,

it is named Yggdrasill,

hr batmr, ausinn

high tree, sprinkled

hvta auri;

with white mud

aan koma dggvar

therefrom come the dews

rs dala falla,

that fall on the dale,

stendur yfir grnn

it stands always green, above

Urarbrunni.

the source of Urdhr.

 

Verse 20

aan koma meyjar

Therefrom come the maids

margs vitandi

much knowing

rjr r eim sal [or s],

three, their dwelling [or out of the sea that]

er und olli stendr;

stands under the tree;

Ur htu eina,

Urdh is named one,

ara Verandi,

the other Verdhandi,

- skru ski,

- they notched (scored) wood -

Skuld ina riju.

Skuld is the third.

r lg lgu,

they set up the laws

r lf kuru

they decided on the lives

alda brnum,

of the children of time (the children of man)

rlg seggja.

they promulgate fate.



Vafrnisml

inn kva:

48.

Hverjar ro r meyjar, Who are these maids [Rask,Bugge: meyiar; Mbius, Jnsonn, Gering:meyjar]

er la mar yfir, who pass by (glide) over the sea,

frgejaar fara? knowledgeable of mind (they) travel [fr-ge-jaar: knowledgeable mind ed]

 

Vafrnir kva:

49.

rir jr Three, (as if) powerful rivers, [Rask: jr, Mbius, Bugge: ior; Jnsonn,: jir, Gering: jir. Gering provides also the 3 manuscript versions with i, , a and specifies that the manuscripts codex regius and codex arnamagnaeanus give . Hence several different translations of this word. I read j-r : powerful rivers]

falla orp yfir fall upon the village

meyja Mgrasis, of the maids [daughters. Rask, Bugge:mejia; Mbius, Jnsonn, Gering:meyja] of Mgrasirs [sonboaster: he boasts of his sons],

[rir j-r falla yfir orp meyja Mgrasis = Three of Mgthrasirs daughters, (as) powerful (as) rivers, fall on the village OR Three, (as) powerful (as) as rivers, fall on the village of Mgthrasirs daughters]

hamingjur einar Hamingjur alone

eira heimi eru of whom (fem.) in the home [of the humans] are

r me jtnum alask. though they with Jtuns brought up.

[sole Hamingjur who are in our world even though they are Jtunn born]



Hamisml

30.

kveld lifir mar ekki an evening lives the human not

eftir kvi norna. after the word of the Norns.
[
No human survives to the Norns word]

Fjlsvinnsml
47.
Urar ori (
to) Urdhs word

kver engi mar, challenges no human

tt at s vi lst lagit. even when be by blunder is placed

[no human challenges Urdhrs word even when it be that it is placed by blunder]

 

Forspjallslj or Hrafnagaldr ins

 

Note about this poem and Slarlj:

dhinns raven galdr (Hrafnagaldr ins) is not acknowledged as a real skaldic poem. It is obviously not as old as the classical skaldic poems. It is however not right to call it forgery since it has been written in the 16th century and added in the Edda corpus by skaldic poetry lovers who wanted to keep their poetic tradition. A famous instance of them is Saemund, whose named has been used for the 19th c. name of the poetic Edda (then called Saemundar Edda). He is well-known for saving many ancient manuscripts and he classed it within the Edda. This poem is found in three serious editions of the poetic Edda, Rasks (1818), Mbius (1860) and in famous Bugges (1867) ( http://etext.old.no/Bugge/ ) classed together with Slarlj as tillaeg (supplements).

 

2.

hrrir skyldi hrrir should

Urur geyma Urr keep

mttkat verja powerfully defend

mestum orra. (of) greatest middle-winter months.

[this verse make of Urdhr the keeper of dhrrir, the mead of poetry source of creativity. This recalls their role of the world sole Hamingjur - orri is the fourth month of the winter, approximately between the 8th of January and the 8th of February]

 

 

2. About the Disir (one ds, several dsir note the accent)


The Dsir are divinities who are closer to humans than Norns are. Moreover, the word ds is often employed to speak of any woman. For example, Reginsml S. 11 calls a girl: ds ulfhugu = a wolf-spirited ds.

They attend some heroes, a bit as the hamingjur attend a family, but they not always bring them luck. They are rather representatives of their destiny, often a dire one. Grmnisml 53 describes a warrior who has been chopped down by the edge of the swords and who thus will join Valhll. It comments: far ro [ = eru ] to dsir = rough are the dsir. In Reginsml 24. the hero is described as surrounded by dsir:
tlar dsir, treacherous dsir

standa r tvr hliar stand they at two sides

ok vilja ik sran sj. and will you sore see.

They are thus not specially beneficial (contrary to what Snorri asserts when he draws the difference between Nornir and Dsir) but they attend a heros fate. Moreover, several poems say say r dsir = your dsir when someone addresses to the hero. Here are three examples:

Atlaml in grnlenzku, S. 28:

ek kve aflima I say cut off

ornar r dsir. the words your [thine] dsir [your dsir cut off the words, i.e., your destiny]
Gunnars slagr s. 9 (thought to be due to Gunnar Plsson 1714-1781, following Viga-Glums saga) says:

Huga ek r dsir Minded I your dsir
Slarlj s. 25 :

Dsir bi r The Dsir bide thou your

drttins mla of the Lords words

vera hollar hugum; (that) they are faithful in spirit;

[Pray your Dsir to stay faithful to the spirit of the Lords words;]



They also have a special role toward the delivering women. As said by Sigrdrfuml 9.
Bjargrnar skaltu kunna, Saving-runes shall (you) know

ef bjarga vilt if you (thou) save will

ok leysa kind fr konum; and loose the child from women ;

lfum r skal rista on the palms they shall carve

ok of liu spenna and on the joint to clasp

ok bija dsir duga. and beg then the Dsir to help.


And this special role makes it possible to understand that the skald who wrote Ffnisml (stanzas 12. and 13) did not confuse Norns and Dsir. As it happens so often in skaldic poetry, he called the Dsir with the name of Norns, because the context eliminated any risk of error. It is obvious that he speaks of the Dsir when he says:
12.

hverjar ro r nornir, who are these Norns

er naugnglar ro who distress-walking are

ok kjsa mr fr mgum. and choose the mothers from the sons?

 

And this is why the Dsir, not the Norns, are said to be of several kinds:
Ffnir kva [
said]:
13.
Sundrbornar mjk Different origins many

segi ek nornir vera, say I the Norns be

eigu-t r tt saman, have-not them family same

sumar ro skunngar, some are ss akin

sumar alfkunngar, some are elf akin

sumar dtr Dvalins. some are daughter of Davlin [a dwarf].

Thus, whereas Norns are three giantesses, the Dsir are of varied origin and there is an unspecified, but large number of them.
Another objective difference between Norns and Dsir is that there has been a religious ceremony devoted to the Dsir, the dsablt, while we never hear of any Nornablt. Norns are thus further away from humans, they seem to deal rather with humankind and our world tha, with individual fates.
It thus seems that the Dsir look much more as Hamingjur than to the Norns. The difference between the two is that a Hamingja specializes herself in bringing luck to a family whereas the Dsir express destiny, be it good or bad.

 

 

3. The world of the Norns


Have again a look at Vlusp s. 19 and 20 to remember that they live close to Urdhrs Spring which lies just above Yggdrasils roots. They are thus found between sgardh and the worlds located under the Yggdrasils roots. They are said to leave r eim sal [or s] er und olli stendr; (out of their residence [or : out of the salted sea ] standing under the tree). I personally prefer the old version which gives sal but I do not want to enter now a debate about sal vs. s. At any rate, s is obviously not absurd : Their dwelling place is often called Urdhr's fountain and that makes of them water sprites. Morever, remember that in Vafrnisml, s. 48, inn asks Vafrnir:

Hverjar ro r meyjar, Who are these maids [
Rask,Bugge: meyiar; Mbius, Jnsonn, Gering:meyjar]

er la mar yfir, who pass by (glide) over the sea,

frgejaar fara? knowledgeable of mind (they) travel? [fr-ge-jaar: knowledgeable mind ed]


This still increases the feeling that they would be water goddesses. To conclude this argument, note that Ffnisml, s. 11, now without confusing Norns and Dsir, states that Ffnir says:
Norna dm The Norns judgment court

munt fyr nesjum hafa you [thou] must in front of the nesses have (a nes is a promontory that ends in the sea or a lake as in Loch Ness)

ok rlg svinns apa, and rlg of an unwise ape [a big fool],

[you (thou) must, in front of the rocks in the lake, receive the Nornss judgment and (receive) a big fools destiny.]

Thus, it is clear that the world of Norns is primarily a watery world and that, according to Ffnisml, they even give their word while standing above water. This does not recalls the beautiful Greek Aphrodite Anadyomenes, since they are stern judges upright on water.


This place is also a place of intense meditation where magic takes its source. This is why I recmind you of stanza 111 of Hvaml:

 

Ml er at ylja It is time to mumble (charms) [most often translated speak or sing, see Evans comment below]

ular stli from the wise-mens seat [most do not allude to the link between ulr and warlock, see Evans]

Urarbrunni at, near Urdhrs fountain,

s ek ok agak, I saw and was silent,

s ek ok hugak, I saw and was thoughtful,

hlydda ek manna ml; I heard (or : I give way to) the mens words;

of rnar heyra ek dma, of the runes I heard the story

n of rum gu not of advice were them silent [they were not silent when providing advice runes or men?]

Hva hllu at, near Highs hall,

Hva hllu , in Highs hall,

heyra ek segja sv: I heard said this:


This is a place where quietness and awareness enable us to acquire knowledge by hearing the story of the runes. The poem also says to us that the seat of wisdom is close to both

the fountain of Urdhr and the hall of dhinn. A last remark: do not be confused by the skalds style ,when he plays on near to and into in the two lines before the last. We should understand that a line of the thinking ends after near Highs hall and that a new line of thinking starts with in Highs hall, which is connected to verse 112.

It is slightly amusing that the Christian poem Slarlj parallels Hvaml in giving us a description of the Norns world. After asking someone to pray his Dsir to listen to the Lords words, he claims, s. 51, that he visited the Norns world:
norna stli On the Norns chair

sat ek nu daga, sat I nine days,

aan var ek hest hafinn; from there was I on the horse high;

ggjar slir the witch suns

skinu grimmliga shining fearfully

r skdrpnis skjum. out of cloud-dripper clouded.

[the witch-suns, fearfully shining, clouded by dripping down clouds]

We see that a Christian whose head was still full of Pagan stories the Norns world is lightened by a strange sun from which clouds rain down. The claim that he sat nine days on the Norns chair parallels dhinns nine days suffering when he was hanging from the worlds tree. You must also realize that the Hvaml says that dhinn was hanged in a vindgameir and that meir means tree and gallows as well. The gallows are also called dhinnhorse, thus Slarljs high horse is yet another allusion to dhinn. The Christian skald seems to hint at some common feature among the Norns and dhinn, all of them demons by his book.

 

 

4. What differences among Norns, Dsir and Valkyries?


First thing, there is no reason why the Norns or the
Dsir could be even compared to the Valkyries. Valkyries are dhinns servants who carry out his demands on the battlefield. dhinn, not them, chooses who will die. The best proof of what I am stating is Sigrdrfas fate who has been so heavily punished because she refused to obey one of dhinns orders.
I already produced several poems that draw a clear line between the Norns and the
Dsir. The only large confusion is due to Ffnisml (verses 12. et 13) which calls Norns the Dsir. As I said already, I believe it to be a poetical effect of the Skald who used norn as a heiti (= an equivalent word) for Ds, a classical figure of style in skaldic poetry. The skald knew tha any knowledgeable reader would immediately spot his heiti, and appreciate this fine point.
Inversely, no skald ever uses the way of speech: your Norns while I gave you three examples of your
Dsir.
Besides, here are a few ways of speaking of the Norns and the
Dsir:
Reginsml
2 : aumlig norn a wretched norn [
shaped my fate]
Ffnisml 44 : [
Everything happens ] fyr skpum norna in front of the fatality of the Norns
Sigrdrfuml 17 : [
Runes are carved ] nornar nagli on the nail of the Norn
[
and adds that the Dsirs help has to be obtained for a healthy delivery.]

Sigurarkvia in skamma 7 : ljtar nornir skpu oss langa r. awful Norns shaped my long throe (longing).
Grgaldr
4.
[Possibly] skeikar Skuld at skpum you [or he] swerve(s) then Skuld at shaping [your destiny]
7. [
I sing magical words so that ] Urar lokur haldi r llum megum, Urrs [or weird] protections hold you all around.
Gurnarhvt 13 : grm vark nornum, angers was I at the Norns.
Hlskvia 32 : illr er dmr norna. bad is the Norns sentence.

People complain of the Norns, they even hate them , they however always are the ones who shape destiny. Inversely, this is never stated of the
Dsir, except what I already pointed at, people simply complain of them:
Reginsml 24 : tlar dsir treacherous dsir
Grmnisml 53 : far ro dsir, rough are the dsir,

Finally, Hrafnagaldr ins speaks of the three types of Goddesses and it says of them:

1 : vsa nornir r valkyrjur Norns show wait impatiently the Valkyries.
6 : ds forvitin the inquisitive ds

All in all, you can see by yourself that there is only one good reason for confusing Norns and Dsir: this is the (perhaps too much) clever heiti found in Ffnisml (verses 12. and 13.).

 

 

Supplementary references

 

 

David A. H. Evans

produced a detailed discussion of Hvaml in the VIKING SOCIETY FOR NORTHERN RESEARCH TEXT SERIES (A. R. Faulkes and P. G. Foote Eds.), 1986. Here are his comments of verse 111.

 

111 On this obscure and much-debated strophe see p. 26 above and Hollander 2, 282-7.

2 ulr seems to mean something like sage or perhaps seer. The word recurs in 134, where Loddfafnir is exhorted not to laugh at a hoary ulr, since the old often speak wisely, and in 80 and 142 the runes are said to have been coloured by fimbululr, the mighty ulr (presumably inn); the association with age also appears in the other two occurrences in the Edda: inn Hra ul, referring to Reginn, in Ffnisml 34 and inn gamli ulr, used of Vafrnir, in Vafr. 9. In other poems the word is applied once to the legendary hero Starkar, once to the wizard poet orleifr jarlsskld, and once by the poet Rgnvaldr kali to himself; it does not occur in prose, but an early ninth-century Danish runic inscription from Snoldelev commemorates one Gunnvaldr, son of Hraldr, ulr at Salhaugar (now Sallev), as though this were a recognized public office. The OE cognate yle is used to gloss orator and also, it seems, scurra and histrio (see PMLA 77 1962)

2). and elcrft (evidently for *ylcrft) glosses rethoric, and in Beowulf Unferth, a courtier of the Danish king Hrothgar, at whose feet he sits, is called Hrogres yle. The Norse verb ylja. which is doubtless derived from the noun, sometimes appears to mean chant, proclaim, as in the present passage. and sometirnes mumble to oneself (especially of the mumbling of spells, hidden wisdom etc.). cp. st. 17 above: there is also a noun ula poetic catalogue, rigmarole. There has been much speculation as to the original function of the ulr: most probably he was some kind of publicly acknowledged wise man, repository of ancient lore and credited with prophetic insight. But since the concept was evidently essentially prehistoric and already obsolescent at the time of our oldest records, certainty is impossible. For further discussion see E. Noreen 2.19-26. W. H. Vogt Der frhgermanische Kultredner APhS II (1928) 250-63. Axe1 Olrik At sidde pa Hj Danske Studier 1909, 1-10. and H. M. and N. K. Chadwick The Growth of Literature 1 (Cambridge 1932) 618-21.

3 Urar brunni at - editors differ as to whether this should be taken with what precedes or with what follows. But since the strophe as a whole is involved in so much obscurity it seems risky to break the regular pattern of Ljahttr by placing a stop after the first long line (i.e. at the end of line 2); the only parallel would be 69, but there a break occurs at the end of line 3 as well. The Urar brunnr is stated in Vlusp 19 to lie beneath the evergreen ash Yggrasill, and Snorri says in the Prose Edda (Gylfaginning ch. 15) that ribja rt asksins stendr himni, ok undir eiri roter brunnr s, er mjk er heilagr, er heitir Urarbrunnr. ar eigu guin dmsta sinn. In a fragment of a Christian poem the tenth century skld Eilfr Gurnarson speaks of Christ as having his station sunnr at Urar brunni (Skj. 144), evidently a Christian appropriation of the concept of the Well of Fate as the seat of wisdom.

.

 

 

Grmnisml

 

53.

Eggman val the edge-mowed slain

n mun Yggr hafa, now will Yggr have,

itt veit ek lf of liit; to you grant I life of little

far ro [=eru] dsir, rough are the dsir,

n knttu in sj, now you do in see

nlgastu mik ef megir. come near to me if you can.

 

Reginsml

 

2.

Andvari heiti ek, Andvari named I

inn ht minn fair, inn named my father,

margan hef ek fors of farit, many heaved I a stream in my travels

aumlig norn a wretched norn

skp oss rdaga, shaped me in ancient times

at skylda ek vatni vaa. that bind I in waters vade.

 

Ffnisml

 

Ffnir kva:

11.

Norna dm The Norns judgment court

munt fyr nesjum hafa you [thou] must in front of the nesses have (a nes is a promontory that ends in the sea or a lake as in Loch Ness)

ok rlg svinns apa, and rlg of an unwise ape [a big fool],

[you (thou) must, in front of the rocks in the lake, receive the Nornss judgement and (receive) a big fools destiny.]

vatni druknar in the water you being drowned

ef vindi rr, if in the wind you row

alt er feigs fora. whole is fey [or death-bound] abyss [or dangerous situation].

[you will be drowned in the water if you row in the wind, the abyss of the fey is complete (for you)]

[[Note: in a manuscript dated 1660-1680, we find a rideilur Rna giving the following explanation with rune Is: feigur: qvi jam fatali morti appropingvat (who already from fated death approaches), forad . puteus hians (abyss, wide hole)] ]

 

 

Sigrdrfuml

 

 

17.

[Runes are carved ]

nornar nagli on the nail of the Norn

ok nefi uglu. and on the beak of the owl.

 

Grgaldr

4.

ef at verr, if that would (be)

at inn vilja br, at you your wish abides

ok skeikar Skuld at skpum. and you [or he] swerve(s) then Skuld at shaping [your destiny]

 

7.

ann gel ek r annan, Thus sing/howl I for you secondly

ef rna skalt if you earn shall [if you shall earn (to be)]

viljalauss vegum: will-less in the ways

Urar lokur Urs [or weird] protections

haldi r llum megum, [that] hold you all around,

er sinnum sr. while you in heavy walk.

 

Gurnarhvt

 

13.

Gekk ek til strandar, Went I until the strand

grm vark nornum, angers was I at the Norns

vilda ek hrinda wanted I to kick

strgri eira; the place of their calamity;

hfu mik, n drekku, they [the waves] raised me, did not drink me,

hvar brur, the high waves,

v ek land of stk, because I land stepped [I stepped on land]

at lifa skyldak. to live I shall.

 

Hamisml

 

Hamir kva:

28.

[We killed our brave brother ]

- hvttumk at dsir, - - the Dsir had us whetted [encouraged] -

 

Srli kva:

29.

sem grey norna, as the Norns dogs [wolves]

er grug eru those greedy are,

aun of alin. in destruction the measure

 

30.

kveld lifir mar ekki an evening lives the human not

eftir kvi norna. after the word of the Norns.

[No human survives the Norns word]

 

Hlskvia

 

32.

Blvat er okkr, brir, Baled [misfortune carriers] are we, brother,

bani em ek inn orinn, bane am I of your word,

at mun uppi, that will ever up (known)

illr er dmr norna. bad is the Norns sentence.

 

 

Forspjallslj or Hrafnagaldr ins

 

1.

Alfr orkar, Able is Allfather [inn]

lfar skilja, Elves analyze

Vanir vitu, Vanir [ancient Gods] know

vsa nornir, Norns show

elr vija, begets Ivija

aldir bera, carry the humans

reyja ursar, wait painfully the Thurses

r valkyrjur. wait impatiently the Valkyries

 

2.

hrrir skyldi hrrir should

Urur geyma Urr keep

mttkat verja powerfully defend

mestum orra. (of) greatest middle-winter months.

[this verse make of Urdhr the keeper of dhrrir, the mead of poetry source of creativity. This recalls their role of the world sole Hamingjur]

 

6.

ds forvitin the ds inquisitive

 

 

Slarlj

(a Christian skaldic poem)

25

Dsir bi r The Dsir bide you them

drttins mla of the Lords words

vera hollar hugum; (that) they are faithful in spirit;

[Pray the Dsir to stay faithful to the spirit of the Lords words;]

 

51

norna stli On the Norns chair

sat ek nu daga, sat I nine days,

aan var ek hest hafinn; from there was I on the horse high;

ggjar slir the witch suns

skinu grimmliga shining fearfully

r skdrpnis skjum. out of cloud-dripper clouded.

[the witch-suns, fearfully shining, clouded by dripping down clouds]

 

 

Gunnars Slagr (Gunnars Melody)

(Most probably due to Gunnar Plsson 1714-1781, inspired by from Viga-Glums saga)

 

9. [I saw a spear red with your blood, a gallows ready for Giuki's son]

Huga ek r dsir Minded I your dsir

heimbo gra. a home-bidding build.

Munu ykkr brrum Shall for your brothers
bin vlri. prepared artifice-rules

 

11.

Oss hafa nornir For us have the Norns

aldr um lagit, a time around laid

rfum Gjka for heirs Gjkas

at ins vild. at inns liking.