The concepts of innangarð (inyard) and utangarð (outyard) have found their way into modern American Norse Pagan practice. Their historical use refers to a division between familiar tamed lands (civilization) and the unknown wilderness. Imaginably, the difference between the inner-yard and the outer-yard was a very real, tangible experience for the Norse people, who lived in geographic locations with uninhabitable mountain ranges, frozen northern wastelands, enormous ink-black oceans, long and dark winters, and other foreboding features.
Things that are inherently untameable have a way of instilling a sense of awe and reverence in us, though. We can feel the same sense of expanse staring into the depths of space. While the inner-yard promises safety, comfort, and reprieve, the outer-yard promises secrets, mystery, danger, but also adventure.
In modern American Norse Heathenry, the inner-yard can refer to environments purposed for our living, including our settlements and the spirits associated with human habitat (car wights, house wights, etc). The outer-yard, therefore, refers to the wilderness, places beyond our ability to inhabit, the Otherworld(s), realms we don’t belong to, and all spirits therein.
Establishing right relations with the outer-yard is crucial for cohabiting peacefully with it, as it’s an inescapable part of reality. This involves respecting the nature of the outer-yard for what it is. We don’t explore the depths of the ocean and expect oxygen; likewise, we don’t expect the outer-yard to bend to our needs or play by our rules. We are guests of the outer-yard, and while we can visit it and learn great things from it, its fundamental nature is not crafted for humans, nor will it ever be.
Overlap between the inner-yard and the outer-yard creates liminal spaces, places of great spiritual significance.