Viking Karma ~ Part II in Guest Post by DCP

See Part 1 Buddhist and Heathens for some background if you wish.

Web of Wyrd ~ For Developing Potential

Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel! (Fate goes ever as she shall) -Beowulf

Central to Buddhism is the concept of karma, or the philosophy that one’s own intentions and associated actions affect the world around them.  Those actions, through affecting the world, will be visited back on the originator as beneficial or detrimental outcomes (please forgive my paraphrasing if it be too simplistic or partially inaccurate; karma is difficult to summarize in a single phrase). 

Asatru has its own concept of karma developed over hundreds of generations by our Germanic predecessors (bear in mind Asatru is not strictly Viking; it draws its philosophy and cosmology from all Germanic peoples including the Vikings, Goths, Saxons, Geats and dozens of other tribes dating to prehistory).  Asatru karma is divided into two interdependent concepts, wyrd and ørlög.

Wyrd (pronounced like, and actually the Old English root of the modern word “weird”) is the process that continually shapes the patterns and direction of our lives.  Wyrd is the engine that drives the events of our lives forward, but it is also the path that our lives take.  Wyrd is the culmination of life’s formation in the moment, and is directed by one’s actions.  Wyrd is influenced by the second concept, ørlög (my Old Norse is rudimentary at best, but I believe it is pronounced “oor- lay” or “oor-lug”).  If wyrd is the engine that drives life forward and the road it follows, ørlög is the infinite set of circumstances that help shape the path’s direction.  Ørlög is the unique set of personal circumstances and experiences that determine your outlook and the choices you make.  

In a hiking analogy, ørlög is the terrain surrounding the path; it is the weather that we experience along the way; it is how comfortable our hiking boots are; it is whether we are hungry, thirsty or tired along the way; it is even how much our parents enjoyed or hated hiking and how their opinion affects our hiking experience.  All of these factors will influence our choices on our “karmic hike” and affect our hike’s outcome. 

As Asatruar, we strive to “take our hike” with courage and determination, for we realize that there is no stopping or ignoring our wyrd.  No matter what happens on our journey, we must constantly move forward, aware that our decisions and actions affect our experience, and the experiences of those around us.  If ørlög and wyrd present us with challenges, if there is a steep hill in our path, if it is raining, if we run out of water, or even if we don’t enjoy our hiking partners’ conversation, it is still our job to “Viking up” and continue forward.  After all, not only do our actions bear on the immediate positive or negative experience on everyone’s journey, but our responses to the events along the journey are also being watched by our gods and our ancestors.  Personally, I am not comfortable with the idea of simultaneously being detrimental to the world around me AND pissing off Odin, Thor, and hundreds of generations of my forefathers simply because my boots are too tight.          

Here is an excellent and oft cited article on these Norse concepts of fate:

Thanks again DCP!  Much metta your way for posting and describing your spiritual path!  Cheers!


8 thoughts on “Viking Karma ~ Part II in Guest Post by DCP

  1. Despite your plea for mercy, I can’t help but point out your definition of karma seems seriously lopsided, and it reverberates through-out the post. I say lopsided because it sounds like half the truth, focusing the way we create/change/act in the world to the exclusion of how the world conditions our activity and even the possibility of our activity in the world. As a description it sounds kind of ego-centric, in the way it seems to route karma through a special locus that we identify with.

    • Well, I never professed to be a Buddhist, much less understand the intricate nature of Buddhist karma. If I have misrepresented the Buddhist version of karma it is simply through a lack of understanding or an inability to articulate myself.

      But bear in mind that the Asatru concepts of wyrd and orlog are qutie a bit different from Buddhist karma, and we view our place and actions in the world and the moment differently. “Karma” is simply the closest conceptual idea and is where I was trying to draw a parallel. There is much less “good’ versus “bad” in Asatru; the “goodness” or “badness” of our actions is much more dependant on our past and present circumstances (our orlog) and our actions in the moment.

      • “Karma” is simply the closest conceptual idea and is where I was trying to draw a parallel. There is much less “good’ versus “bad” in Asatru; the “goodness” or “badness” of our actions is much more dependant on our past and present circumstances (our orlog) and our actions in the moment.

        I think you draw a good parallel. In Buddhism there is very little “good” or “bad” karma. Karma just is karma. Its a plaque build-up that hampers our growth. The actions we take affects those around us and their future actions as well as our own. The colloquial use of “karma” tends to muss stuff up, I think.

        What Joe is saying is that karma works both ways and can affect a much larger stage then we tend to view.



        • Yeah, “good” and “bad” are probably not the right words or concepts I’m striving for. Beneficial or detrimental may be more appropriate. All of these concepts are extremely difficult to articulate and absorb, and it IS the first day of holiday break.

          Keep trying to broaden the Buddhist horizons to my heathen eyes, folks. Rome (or in this case the great temple to the gods in Uppsala) wasn’t built in a day…

  2. I have at times wondered how it was I drifted into becoming a Buddhist: now I know – I had a Viking (Norwegian) grandfather and an Celtic (Londonderry) grandmother!
    Thanks DCP for bringing an interesting view to my attention.

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