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.”