The three sisters who are called the Norns, or goddesses of fate, are not part of either of the divine families ( although they do seem to have some affinity with the Vanir ).
They formed a separate group and are considered to be subject to nothing save the dictates of necessity ( occasionally personified as their mother, Wyrd ). These goddesses represent time itself and are therefore thought of as women of differing ages. Urd, the Norn of the past, is thought of being very old and decrepit, always looking backwords to the way things were. The young and vibrant Verdandi, Norn of the present, looked fearlessly ahead, while Skuld, the mysterious Norn of the Future, is depicted as veiled, holding a scroll that had not yet been opened. Two of the Norns, Urd and Verdandi, are said to be more kindly than their sister Skuld, who often undid their work, angrily scattering the almost finished patterns before they had come to fruition.
The Norns dwell at the roots of the great world tree, Yggdrasil, and it is part of their job to sprinkle it with water drawn from the well of fate to ensure that it developed as destiny demanded. Principally, though, the Norns wove the web of Wyrd that set out the fates of gods and humans. Legend has it taht they wose designs so awesome in scope that if one of them stood on a mountaintop in the farthest east and another waded far into the ocean in the farthest west, the full extent of their pattern could still never be fully seen.
The concept of three prophetic “witches” survived the pagan period in Europe and entered folklore both as the three good fairies who bestowed gifts on Sleeping Beauty and, in a more sinister guise, as the three “weird sisters” of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.
“Thence come three maidens who much do know;
Three from the hall beneath the tree;
One they names was, the second is,
These two faishioned a third, named Shall be.
They established law,
They selected lives
For the children of time,
And the fates of men.”