In Tyr journal volume 3, there is an article from the hand of Nigel Pennick about the “Web of Wyrd”, three fates, Norns, etc. In this article he mentions the term “Ørlög” a couple of times, but he seems to mix up this term with “Heilagr”.
In this short text I use different spellings for the word, when quoting Pennick I write “Ørlög”, which is probably the most correct spelling, but not too easy to type. Besides, a final -r to the end would probably be even more correct. Easier to type is “Örlogr”. In this way you will at least see when the tem comes from Pennick of from me. On one occasion also Pennick writes “örlog” which seems to be on purpose, almost as if it is the singular version of the word, but that would be a weird idea.
The first time the term “Ørlög” is mentioned, Pennick gives it the meaning of “the “primal law” laid down by the Norns”, which is a very good explanation, save for the last part. Some writers seem to see “Örlogr” to be fate and maybe therefor Pennick connects it to the Norns, but it is not the Norns who ‘made’ “Örlogr”, they are merely an expression of it. “Örlogr” is the Primal Law, the (Sanatana) Dharma of the Hindus, the ‘expression’ of the Divine on earth. This has little to do with the other explantions that Pennick gives, such as “the history of all events”. A longer explanation is:
Ørlög refers to both the structural ways that the cosmos works (the co-called Laws of Nature), and to the events and things that have existed in the past. Ørlög is the source of the present, and allthough it is in the past, it has not disappeared.
I had never heard the idea that Örlogr is some kind of ‘accumulating’ thing, a ‘making of the present’ or how to explain it. In my idea Örlogr is ever present and always the same, since it is Divine.
A little further Pennick speaks about “our own ørlög” and “human ørlög“, explanations that are out of the question in my idea of the concept.
These last two explanations seem to refer more to “Heilagr“, a term not mentioned in the article. This term is much harder to describe thus that it makes sense to our modern minds, but I will give it a try.
Pennick seems to think that “Örlogr” is personal, or at least, have a personal ‘side’ to it. This is of course impossible if it is the Divine Law. Personal and group “Heilagr” on the other hand, is perfectly possible. “Heilagr” can be seen as a mysterious ‘force’ that connects people, such as a family (family “Heilagr” is called “Ćttheilagr” or “Ættheilagr” which means something like “family well-being” (heil)). This means that if the personal “Heilagr” of a person is damaged, this also effects the “Heilagr” of his family and that is why honour was such a great good in Germanic societies.
A good translation of “Heilagr” is “(Divine) force that radiates from within”. If a person is honourable and works according to “Örlogr”, (s)he ‘gets’ “Heilagr” and improves the “Heilagr” of his/her family. “Heilagr” can (should!) be ‘developed’ and sustained by living according “Örlogr”. A person’s “Heilagr” even remains after his/her death and a disgrace in the family effects the forefathers and foremothers as much as the living relatives.
I will make a long translated quote from the first version (2003) of Stefaan van den Eynde’s Asatrú, inleiding tot een traditionele religie (Asatrú, introduction to a traditional religion), so you will know where I get my coffee!:
Heilagr is a transcendental concept that manifests on various levels, under which the personal. We can describe it as a non-physical Divine substance that can make part of every human and which can live on after the carrier dies. The force and radiation of someone’s personal heilagr is proportionate with the degree of his living conform the Primal Order [i.e. “Örlogr”]. […]
The individual heilagr moreover, is indissoluble connected with the jointly heilagr of the family – the family heilagr. […] It will be clear that the heilagr of a king should radiate over his entire domain.
This goes on for a little more, but I hope you get the idea.
The bottom line is: “Örlogr” is Divine Structure of things, a Primal Law which ‘says’ how things should go and be. The more accordingly we live to “Örlogr” and therefor the more we fullfill our Destiny, the more and the better “Heilagr” we develop, because the less wrickles we produce on the Divine Ocean. “Heilagr” is the Divine that we ‘work out off of ourselves’ and which is both personal as shared and because of the latter, our forefathers had a very different view of life than us individualised modern men. We say don’t even think if our actions affects our family or fellow man in any way, nor do we remember that indescent behaviour (in whatever way) effects our well-being (on a level we are not even aware off!)