The Holy and the Weird

By Kent Meyers

Beowulf’s people must have formed the word out of wind and whisper and the howl of wolves: wyrd, akin to Old English weorthan, which means “to become,” and also to Old Norse urthr, which means “fate.” This is what etymology tells us — as if we grow into our weirdnesses, becoming ever more distinct and strange as we age, fated toward mystery. “Weird” is one of those deep, enchanted words we moderns have dried of all but surface meaning. But Shakespeare had the Old English sense in mind with his three weird sisters around their bubbling kettle, aware of fate and time’s unfolding, certain of Macbeth’s betrayal and of the impossible, moving woods.…

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