Orlæg

Last week, we began by looking at the concept of Wyrd. We covered the understanding that only the past was real, and refuted the idea that the future was pre-destined. The only destiny that is truly inescapable is death, but the the nature of Wyrd is such that certain futures become nigh-inevitable. That inevitability is, in part, a function of a concept of wyrd known as Orlæg.

Orlæg is an Old English term that, like wyrd, Bosworth-Toller defines as Fate. It is a compound word, formed from Or- (O.N. Ør; O.S Ur-, Or; O.H.G. Ur-; From Proto-Germanic *uz- meaning up, or out) meaning first, primal, original. The second word that forms the compound, læg, means "that which is laid, law." Thus, we have a word that is understood to mean fate, but the compound is "original law." I think the two meanings are very much intertwined and the literal meaning of the word, over time, gave way to meaning destiny. To examine this, we will need to build on the concepts we worked with last week.

Last week, I presented a explanation of Wyrd where the situation of the present is informed by the past, and that the pressures of past actions, those things that you have done, that your parents, that those in your vicinity, have all driven events to a single point in space time, where you find yourself right now. And that given those parameters, you have a certain number of actions available to you. Other actions are unavailable, impossible to take. Last week, I stated that you can choose to take a left or right at the road, but you can never take that same action again.

These parameters, these things that limit our ability to engage in an action in accordance with our will, is orlæg. Orlæg defines what is, and is not possible. It is Law, and the first law at that, the immutable law that only the Gods can alter. Orlæg was laid down in illo tempore, in that time, in the mythic time, when the Gods first shaped the world. Everything in that first Act, that moment of sacrifice, that first gift from the Gods, to the Gods, was laying out the Orlæg for the Universe. That first act of creation informs every act that follows it. In fact, every act of creation is an imitation of that first act. Every act of creation is on some level a violent act. Even those creations that exist solely in the mind are difficult acts that are couched in terms of violence; one wrestles with an idea until it flows out onto the page. Every act is a shaping act, built on that which has come before. If we build a table, we build it out of wood that we violently cut down, and then shaped into boards before cutting them to length and fastening them together.

Remember, Wyrd is the pattern itself, and the process by which the pattern continues. Orlæg, laid down at the beginning of the pattern, defines what the pattern is, was, and can be. Last week, I mentioned that people form a pattern, that is to say, that they have Wyrd, but to not forget that, on some level, that is an abstraction, a way of focusing on a smaller pattern which is made up of the greater whole.

Orlæg works the same way. When the three Gods came upon the first humans, they were drift wood:

Unz þrír kvámu
ór því liði
öflgir ok ástkir
æsir at húsi,
fundu á landi
lítt megandi
Ask ok Emblu
örlöglausa.

Then from the throng     did three come forth,
From the home of the gods,     the mighty and gracious;
Two without fate     on the land they found,
Ask and Embla,     empty of might.
(Bellows Translation)

"Two without fate," that is, lacking orlæg, the gods then grant them the gifts of soul, sense, and heat. In doing so, they create a being, and in the creation of that being, orlæg was laid down. This Act of Creation, while not the first act of creation, was nevertheless a first act of creation, therefore, orlæg was laid down. When we are born, we receive Orlæg from our parents, in repetition of that act. This is both in the form of physical traits: eye color, hair color, aptitudes and intelligence, but also, from them, we are imprinted with certain patterns that inform our character and that we never manage to overcome, they are as much a part of us as those genetic traits that are also part of our orlæg.

Like Wyrd, Orlæg is without morality. Orlæg and Wyrd are really one in the same. It is useful, however, to understand them under different terms, to categorize them so as to understand the impact of the results of wyrd as opposed to the process of it. Orlæg is the structure of wyrd in the same way that a structure defines a style of poetry. You cannot write a sonnet without conforming to the definition of what a sonnet is. Orlæg may be individual or it may be universal, but it exist and by its nature is either a gift to be celebrated or a challenge to be endured and, if possible, overcome.

With this series, I am trying to explain these concepts at both the micro and macro levels. I want those who read it to understand how two words, both translated and defined as "fate or destiny" could have come to mean so. When Wyrd has turned, when the flow of it is against you and you reach the edge of what Orlæg allows, what happens next is inevitable. You meet your destiny. The manner of which was not foreordained, but that you meet it is; because it is bound up in the very nature of the world, a world where life is born from death, and to death it must eventually be returned, so that new life can return; everyone and everything that was created from that is bound by that creation in turn.

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