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The Word of Wyrd
on 1 November 2013
I came across this book by way of a metal album based on it called `Dreamweaver' by Sabbat when I was a teenager. I then eagerly hunted down the book and read it in one session.
At the time I was a bit disappointed. It was a lot shorter than I expected, and didn't seem to go into much detail about where it was set, but I was enthralled by the concept of wyrd, and with the story which served to illustrate it.
Years later, and I still have the same copy which I have read several times now. On reflection the Way of Wyrd is both better and worse than I first thought.
On the one hand, I still think it is a good story, and am no longer bothered by the broad-brush approach to the setting as what is of importance is the spiritual journey of Brand under the tutelage of Wulf the Sorcerer. Also, I am more familiar with Nordic mythology now and appreciate references I did not recognised first time round.
Like others, I also think it is a strength that Brand was not converted to paganism at the end, but was able to reconcile his Christianity with what Wulf had shown him. This added depth to his character and avoided an ending that would have been too pat.
On the other hand, I do think that after all the ordeals along the way, Brand's illumination came too easily at the end.
More seriously, I also wonder if Brian Bates has read too much into the concept of wyrd, importing beliefs and practices from shamanism and Taoism where they don't belong.
Outside of New Age or neo-pagan sources, I've seen very little about wyrd from `proper' historical sources which suggests that wyrd was any more than a form of fate that could be changed by someone with a strong will.
It may be that Brian Bates is right and wyrd was seen as an all-embracing web which connected and acted on all living things, but if so I haven't seen the evidence for it.
That may be my fault, but as I have also read Brian Bates's `Real Middle Earth', and seen how he played fast and loose with historical accuracy, even conflating the Celtic and Nordic worlds in it, you can see why I'm cautious.
As a novel I would give this 4 stars, but as an explanation of what wyrd was to the Anglo-Saxons, I would give it 3. If you are interested in the concept of wyrd, I would read around the subject, particularly from more impartial sources.