Pagan Blog Project – patron Goddess

Someone asked me last week to speak more about one of my patron Goddess’, so here you go.

Not much is known about Angrboda from the lore, so lets start from the very beginning.

In the beginning were the giants. They lived in two lands, one of fire and one of ice. In the middle, where the fire melted and the ice began to flow, a Jotun grew. His name was Ymir and he slept soundly between the elements and the darkness. From the sweat under his armpits, two more giants grew, a male and a female and from his legs, another giant was born. The only other being uncovered from the ice was a giant cow, who sustained the giants on her milk and licked clean the first God from a block of ice. This God married a Jotun and fathered a son, who married another giantess, who gave birth to Odin and his brothers. Odin and his brothers are bothered by the fact that they are outnumbered by the “savage” giants who were there first, Ymir keeps reproducing in his sleep. So Odin and his brothers put together a plan and eventually slaughter Ymir in his sleep and butcher his body and from the flesh they create the nine worlds. They also create the first man and woman from driftwood.

The giants end up with 4 of the 9 worlds. Muspellheim is the land of the fire giants, and is pretty inhospitable to anyone who isn’t a fire giant. Think of a constant volcano. Niflheim is the land of the frost-etin. Think Antartica times 100. Ymir was created from the poison river of Niflheim, Elivagar, melting in the heat of Muspellheim. These two were the first, created from primal elements, and are the basis for all the other worlds. The third land is Helheim, Hela’s land of the dead, where anyone who didn’t die in combat ends up. The Aesir had hoped to wrestle control of this land from the Jotun’s but alas, wyrd will not be denied. The fourth of the giant’s lands is called Jotunheim. It is filled with primeval forests, animals that long went extinct from our land, and many many many giants.

In the middle of Jotunheim is a magical cesspool. It is literally a sinkhole of magic, described as almost radioactive, with the ability to mutate and transform its inhabitants. After generations of births, the giants who live in the Ironwoods are a strange lot. There are quite a few shapeshifters, seers, witches, healers, intersexed and trans gendered individuals and deformities. In the Ironwoods, there are 9 tribes, each vying for control of the tribes and the magic.  After a fierce battle between Farbauti the Cruel-Striker, Chief of the Lightning Clan (and Loki’s father) and Angrboda, the Hag of the Ironwoods and Chief of the Wolf Clan, Angrboda now holds the title of “Chief of Chiefs” and controls the Ironwoods.

Still with me?

Angrboda met Loki. She fell for him, he for her. She was quite a bit older than him but they adored each other and she took him as her consort. They lived in her hall, on the outskirts of the Ironwoods. After awhile, having lived together and not having any children, Angrboda decided she wanted babies. So she and Loki moved to a hut in the middle of the Ironwoods and proceeded to use the strange magic to give birth to three children. The oldest was Hela, half human and half dead, destined to rule Helheim and fight against the Aesir at Ragnarok. The second child was Jormundgand, a were-snake who currently circles Midgard and is destined to kill and be killed by Thor. The third child was a werewolf, Fenris, who stayed more and more in wolf form as he got older. Fenris is chained with dwarf chains in a cave, until Ragnarok, when he will kill Odin and Tyr, and be destroyed himself. Fenris is a god of dark chaos and has no control over himself, is purely primal. Between the three children, we see a common theme. In Jormundgand we see creation and rebirth, in Hela we see death and in Fenris we see chaos and destruction. So Angrboda is the mother of chaos, death, destruction and rebirth.

Later in the Lore, we start to see Angrboda interact with the other Gods of the Aesir. Angrboda knows the prophesies of Ragnarok, she is a seer after all, and has begged Loki to keep the 3 kids a secret and not tell anyone. But Loki and Odin have become blood brothers and Loki can’t keep a secret, so Odin knows about the three children hidden in the Ironwoods who will bring about the end of the world. And he decides to do something about it. he sends an invitation to Angrboda to a feast, to speak about Loki. And since he is hiding somewhere with his younger wife and hasn’t seen the kids in who knows how long, she agrees. When Angrboda shows up at the hall unarmed, Odin locks the doors of the feast hall and burns the building to ashes with her inside.

Odin then flies to Jotunheim. He tries to pick up Hela, but is a little freaked out by her half-rotting side and instead grabs Fenris and Jormundgand. Not knowing what to do with a snake, he tosses her into the ocean and binds her to the waves. Fenris, he brings back to Asgard and tries to tame and raise as his child, but no one can control Chaos anymore than they can control Death, and so Fenris ends up chained in a cave and Tyr ends up with one less hand. And Hela journeys to Helheim to wait for her mother’s ghost.

Loki returns to the Ironwoods to see his family and finds the hut empty and his children gone. Slowly, he figures out what happened and goes slightly mad with grief. He tries to convince Hela to come home, but she has begun to collect the dead around her and he can see that she belongs in Helheim. His other two children are beyond his grasp. The only thing left to do is rescue Angrboda’s heart from the ashes of the fire and try to use the magic of the Ironwoods to save her. And as each member of the tribes gives up a little of their blood and soul and magic to the heart, Angrboda is reborn.

(To read a beautiful rendition of this story, try Angrboda’s Children by Raven Kaldera. He’s pretty controversial but the story is just gorgeous.)

So who is Angrboda to me and why do I chose to follow her as a Goddess? She is a wisewoman, a seer, a shaman, a shapeshifter, a priestess. She births chaos, death and rebirth. She teaches deep, primal magic, hunting, prophesy and sometimes even sex magic. She is the great wolf mother and is fiercely protective of her tribe.

She came to me when I was talking to Odin. Odin is a well-known shamanic god, having done the whole, eye-in-the-well, hanging-on-a-tree-bleeding thing. And I was interested in learning more about being a shaman. So imagine my surprise when Hela’s mom smacks me upside the head. There is more that one shamanic god in the Norse tradition, seidhr is not the only way to prophesize. Some of us have Etin blood flowing through our veins and we seek to reclaim the lost lore.

She is strong and fierce and neither kneels nor backs down from the truth for anyone.

She is a survivor.

I am a survivor.

All Hail the Mother Wolf.

 

A Call to Angrboda by Elizabeth Vongvisith

“O hail to you, Chieftain of the Iron Wood folk;
Yours is the rulership kept strong with your will.

O hail to you, mother who gave birth to Death;
Yours is the spear that never errs in flight.

O hail to you, wrathful one, maker of sorrows;
Yours is the furious rage that gives no quarter.

O hail to you, mother of wolf and serpent;
Yours is the love shown in strength and firmness.

O hail to you, defender of Jarnvidr;
Yours is the courage that does not doubt itself.

O hail to you, wise Hag of the holy forest;
Yours is the knowledge that is ancient and depthless.

O hail to you, sorceress-queen reborn by magic;
Yours is the heart that can never be destroyed.”

 

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. Cat says:

    Thank you for writing more about Angrboda!

    “After generations of births, the giants who live in the Ironwoods are a strange lot. There are quite a few shapeshifters, seers, witches, healers, intersexed and trans gendered individuals and deformities.”
    I knew there had to be something very interesting about the Jötnir! I’ve been getting curious about them recently but am only at the very beginning of my exploration of Northern Tradition stuff so I’m grateful for any pointers. Please tell me that there is some source material on this that I could check out…

    1. lcward says:

      Unfortunately there not a whole lot of lore about this, simply because the Lore focused on the Aesir and Vanir. (BTW, even amongst them, there is a lot of blurring of gender lines. Frigga really runs Asgard, not Odin. And Freya, the “love goddess”, gets first pick of the dead warriors and trains them just like Odin does in Valhalla.) So you have UPG and PVPG. Yes, Raven is leading the charge in the way of having posted a lot of info, but there is also a facebook group that I belong to, where I can say “Hey guys, have you ever encountered…” and get a lot of yes’ and a lot of raised eyebrows. There is a new wave of spirit-workers working to rebuild the lore and tales of the giants, there are more and more of us being told that we have Etin blood in us. And yes, in Norse lore, it is quite common for the Gods to sleep with humans and have offspring.

      The interesting thing I find is this: when I talk to a Deity and mention something that is semi-passive, especially to the “Females”, they tend to roll their eyes and tell me that that is from the Aesir perspective. Hela sitting in the snow waiting for her mother’s ghost? Not cause Odin made that decision, but because it was an initiation, an initiate going out into the wilderness alone and waiting for a vision, so to speak. Angrboda dying? Not about the act of her dying, but about the act of the Ironwood Tribes sacrificing for their leader in order for her to be reborn. No one is passive. No one gets acted upon. Each has their wyrd, each chooses their path.

      On a side note, I forgot to write about how Odin killing Angrboda sets in motion the chain that gets Loki chained in a cave. Thats what happens when the “man” thinks he knows best for everyone. Even the Gods don’t get to change fate.

      1. Cat says:

        These kinds of things are exactly what I was hoping to find when I suggested to myself a (re)reading of mythology/lore with a queer-feminist eye (see my blog post “G is for Gender (of humans and deities)”). I never would have thought of Hela or Angrboda as passive! Just because someone doesn’t run around banging people over the head all the time doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything…

    2. lcward says:

      Also, (this reply having been written second) its never bad to read the Eddas. Even though you have to dig for references to giants, its still an interesting read.

      And… I had a thought. Hela isnt about being virginal but more about being sexless…. or… I forget the word. Not celibate, she doesnt identify much with being either gender at all. Asexual? But even that isn’t quite right, still focused on sex and not gender.

      1. Cat says:

        I’m actually reading a German translation of the Poetic Edda these days. I won’t claim to understand everything, but I recognize bits and pieces I’ve read about elsewhere. (Yes, there are annotations, but I wanted to save those for the second reading.)

        Your comments about Hela’s gender make a lot of sense to me, even if there isn’t a perfect term for all these nuances.

        And for the nitpicking, linguistic, gender studies record (yay!): I believe that androgyny as the presence of both strong masculine and feminine characteristics is different from androgyny as an absence of either strong masculine or feminine characteristics. The first one would be “high-gender androgyny,” the second one would be “low-gender androgyny.” (I wish I had some celebrity examples to illustrate what I mean…)

      2. lcward says:

        I love your language!! High-gender vs low-gender androgyny. My brain is all warm fuzzies for this conversation.

        Let see… high-gender might be…. like Prince, where you can pinpoint both specific male and female attributes in one person. Both present strongly in a persons character. Low-gender might be more like Marilyn Manson. The average person might ask “is that a man or a woman?” Does that fit?

        Hela also commented that we are tied to a binary language, in which we have no way to define anything else outside the male/female dichotomy. We are beginning to with sexuality: we have queer, gay, femme, butch, dyke, fag/got, poly, bi, and so on, some of those being actively reabsorbed into our sense of identity as we speak. But gender is hard. We have male and female, tied to reproductive roles. But then how do we define a woman who has had a hysterectomy? Or a trans-gendered man who gives birth? If we include trans vs cis in the argument, where does a transgendered man with a uterus lie? Or a man without testes or a penis? We have no language yet, its still being built.

        I know you dont see the Goddesses as passive. 🙂 The lore does read that way though. Silly Odin, fighting his wyrd and getting people killed.

  2. ladyimbrium says:

    Isn’t Hela supposed to be kind of androgynous? I’m not very familiar with Norse lore, but I think I remember that from a comparative session. I found this fascinating. Again, although the Norse teachings don’t call to me specifically I still enjoy learning about other folks’ perspectives.

    1. lcward says:

      Androgynous… genderless… its hard to describe Death in a gendered way. Androgyny is the combo of male and female. But Hela isnt…. She is half skeletal. I mean, how gendered is that? Yeah her human half is very very androgynous, but thats only half of her, if that makes sense. I say “her” because thats how she defines herself but its not in any typical way. Very hard to explain. Pretty much no definition of female I can find would apply to her.

      1. ladyimbrium says:

        Linguistic nitpick: something that is both male and female is a hermaphrodite. Something that is neither male nor female, but indeterminate is androgynous. It sounds like perhaps we just don’t have the right terminology for a lot of things- Hela is outside our language structure. It’s an interesting thing to see, at least for me.

      2. lcward says:

        You are right. I should have said androgynous means a combo of masculine and feminine traits, not male and female. 🙂 Thanks. Since I have no idea how to discuss her physically gendered attributes, the discussion of her characteristics is a bit easier. She is laughing at us by the way… its kind of disconcerting.

  3. ladyimbrium says:

    She’s not the first to laugh and she won’t be the last I’m sure. Discussions of gender and our perspectives thereof are one of the topics I can get a little wired up about. For… reasons. It just goes to show how tedious my time at work can be if I have the time to nitpick linguistics regarding something wholly outside my experience. I love my job, honest. 😉

    1. lcward says:

      And I never mind being corrected. The English language is such a brat, there are so many tiny things we miss. I love discussing gender, as a women’s studies major, it fascinates me how much we take for granted.

      1. ladyimbrium says:

        I may quote you on the English language being a brat. Funny and oh so true.

      2. lcward says:

        🙂 Any time.

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