The English word “weird” comes down to us from an Anglo-Saxon and Germanic etymology. The Anglo-Saxon word “wyrd” was defined as destiny, and in the 15th century the English word “weird” was still defined as “destiny”, or “having the power to control fate.”
Today the word “wyrd” is used among the Nordic heathenry. They consider it a word of pre-Christian etymology relating to the concepts of fate, and have created an entire theology around the ability to mold one’s personal destiny. Linguistic scholars, on the other hand, are less certain of a pre-Christian origin to the religious use of this family of words. They see its use in early Christian literature as vibrantly and as early as in any religious Pagan predecessor.
The etymology of this word is of less importance than the interesting fate that has fallen upon the word “weird” down through the centuries. There was a time that we might have spoken of things “weird and wonderful.” The connotation was one of dark and awesome mystery. At best, this finds a place in fantasy literature today. But the word “weird” now holds nothing more than a sense of common silliness, or of social awkwardness. A weirdo is just someone who doesn’t quite fit in.
On the one hand, I don’t yearn for the days of early modernity with the witch-hunts, or the current African and Asian variations of them. On the other hand, I do yearn for a sense of mystery and awesomeness (in its truest sense of inspiring awe) that comes with the word “weird.” Maybe the Nordic Heathen are wise here in using the Anglo-Saxon spelling “wyrd.” It calls us back to a medieval definition, which remembers that there are mysteries in the world that find their satisfaction not in answers but in searching – not in comfort but in the discomfort of adventure and life’s tensions. This is place where the darkness of the Psalms still made sense:
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. (Psalm 18:6-11)
I know that I am not alone in yearning for the sense of adventure found with following God into mysterious places – weird and wonderful places. I am not alone in feeling as though I am one born out of time. That I would have fit better into days with deeper mystery. Days unencumbered by today’s false sense of salvation in science and economics – the new bland gods careening us off toward a dystopian future of engineering our children before they are born, or farming our elders into social projects to prepare them for death instead of giving them purpose in shepherding us through this life, or gauging our value by economic status and relative health.
I am looking for those who feel a bit displaced in this world: the exiles, the aliens – the “wyrdos.” You are the people who fit in places like Burning Man or the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, and yet, simultaneously, like myself, you do not fit. You fit, because it is a land of exiles and seekers like yourself. You do not fit, because somehow you are still an exile among the exiles. You fit, because adventure and mystery is more comfortable than comfort itself. You do not fit, because you really are on a journey through every place you visit, and the destination is still a long way off.
For quite sometime, I have been telling people that I am looking for weirdos to join me in festivals and mission projects around the globe. But when I say that, I am talking about “wyrdos” in the ancient sense – not weirdos in the modern bland and common sense. I think there a lot more wyrdos out there than many people would expect. And if you are a wyrdo – I am looking for you. Perhaps we can meet in wyrd and wonderful places sometime soon.
If you would like to support the ongoing mission to the wyrd and wonderful places in the festivals and subcultures of the US, UK and beyond, you can help by joining us, by prayer and/or by donation. The upcoming three-month long 2017 summer of outreach from Wales, Cornwall, and England to Prague will cost around $5,000, and I am in need of raising that amount in the next two months. You can join me as one time donor or in ongoing monthly support.
Weird is wonderful at Forbes online.