- An excerpt from Æfinrúnar book 1
Now that we have examined the gates themselves, it is important for us to look at why a Nine Square Grid was used and what purpose it serves. We know that the number nine is the holiest of numbers in Teutonic Polytheism, and many believe that this is due to it being the number of months in a pregnancy. If we consider the connection this may have to the Nornir and to the Underworld, this may very well be the case. But before we look into the nature of birth in connection to this, I would first like to further demonstrate its connection to fate and death in its relations to combat and war. In Njals Saga we have an interesting poem, called Darraðarljóð, where Valkyrjur are depicted as weavers of battle in the same way the Nornir weave fate. However, rather than weaving cloth, the Valkyrjur use a much darker medium:
Sjá er orpinn vefr
dǫrr að skǫftum,
en ǫrum hrælaðr.
Skulum slá sverðum
The web is made
of human entrails,
are the heads of men.
for spindles we use,
our loom ironbound,
and arrows our reels.
With swords for our shuttles
this war-web we work.
This weaving has been noted by archaeologists in pendants and Valkyrja images found in Scandinavia and dating to the Viking Age (793–1066), which depict the Nine Square Grid as a saddle cloth, or simply have the grid itself. The theory is that the grid is this very cloth woven from the entrails of men in the above verse, but it is possible it goes much further than this. Combat was seen as very much a game of chance, one that could lead an army to victory, or to death. Only the Gods could decide which were allowed to win, and only the Valkyrjur could choose the slain. This made combat and war very much linked to the concepts of fate and destiny, and as such would be a part of the larger Web of Wyrd. We would see this grid also in single-combat, as described in Saxo (Gesta Danorum ch. 4) where we find squares drawn onto the dirt to mark the battlegrounds, and we can relate this to the squares of the tafl game, which traditionally was played on a 9x9 square grid. That the grid would be associated with fate in general, rather than simply war, has been demonstrated, but this does add to the element and shows how far-reaching the idea is within the ancient culture.
In the Kjalnesinga Saga ch. 2 we see a description of an altar with iron laid on it. Could this mimic the iron gates of Hel with their creaking hinges? Could the iron laid on top of it be a lattice pattern in the form of the Nine Square Grid? Interestingly enough, the Hindus, our Indo-European cousins, utilize a Nine Square Grid in their altars, and assign each square to a particular deity. We propose that the grid does this in relation to the Underworld and possibly its features, but mainly it would be used as a ceremonial layout in connection to fate and the Web of Wyrd. We see from the historic record that our ancestors worshipped in sacred groves, such as the ones mentioned by Tacitus and Adam of Bremen, and in this case we again compare our cosmology to these groves held so highly by our ancestors. When one prays at the roots of the tree they are literally standing upon the placement of the Underworld within the cosmological model. In this case the lore becomes manifest within the ritual as you are replicating the movements of fate, the stars in the sky, the manipulations of the elements, and the lives of the Gods themselves. The grid becomes a doorway to that visceral experience, and should therefore be regarded as the principal feature and purpose behind ceremony in general.
To further this, we look to the Oseberg Ship burial, which has provided us with a wealth of finds that have fascinated the world. The burial itself is believed to have been that of a priestess and her servant, and many of the objects within it are thought to have been ceremonial in one respect or another. Just as a warrior would be buried with his weapons and other symbols of his station, so too would the priesthood. In considering this possibility, we look at the finds that contain Nine Square Grids in consideration of our thesis here. That some of these finds include rúnar is certainly fascinating and leaves us much to contemplate, as well as the tartan pattern cloths that were discovered as well. Could the tartan also reflect the Web of Wyrd with its grid pattern? Could this be the origin of all tartans? The answers cannot be given, but it is certainly an intriguing question to ask, and would give these designs a much greater significance than heretofore known.
Among the finds was a small statue displaying a figure in seemingly deep meditation (cp. the account above from Færeyinga Saga), with a Nine Square Grid prominently displayed upon his chest. Within the grid lie four Ár or Jera rúnar, a 9x9 square grid in each corner, and several Nine Square Grids in the center. Because of the rúnar displayed we have named this symbol Árgrindr or “The Gate or Grindr of Ár.” The rune itself translates as “Year” or “Harvest,” which may give it some relation to the yearly cycles of time that were a major part of our ancestral ceremonial practices.
In examining the relationship, we find that the sacred gates have a relationship to the Nine Square Grid and the ritual practices of our ancestors, and from this we can begin to develop a greater understanding of the purpose behind ritual practices and why they were relevant within the ancient culture. We can also look to developing our own sacred grounds using the architecture and patterns given to us through these accounts and archaeological finds. In doing so, we build a stronger foundation of ceremonial practice that weaves its way through the many facets of these religious beliefs: the cosmological, the philosophical, and the hierological. By weaving the many strands within the events we develop in honoring our Gods and Goddesses, we pay homage to their concept of destiny and take our own place within the vast Web of Wyrd.
With this information we can consider the grid in the layout of any of our sacred spaces and consider the Underworld for our directional considerations. From a simple shrine all the way to the greatest of temples, we can use this symbol as a building block upon which the ceremonial home of the Gods exists. Compartive Indo-European reseach and archaeological discoveries of ancient religious compounds have confirmed this. At the same time, in looking at the symbols of the items that are placed upon the altar or Stalli/Hǫrg, we believe that the layout would mimic the Underworld and its cosmology. Therefore, we have used this notion to determine placement of objects upon the altar using the grid as our basis.