I think I shall be using the third week of each month’s Pagan Experience to talk about Angrboda, based solely on my own experiences with Her, and my research. This week I’ll talk a little bit about how I met Her and who she is.
I have been some sort of pagan or another most of my life – for the most part, after my initial dabblings in Wicca, I settled for the generic ‘eclectic pagan’. Nothing seemed to fit well.
About five years ago, after months of asking the Universe for guidance…Odin showed up on 6th Avenue. Cream coloured suit, nice hat. Big beard. It was terrifying. I basically ran away screaming (not in that moment. He showed up three weeks in a row. On Wednesday. Dude. Be less subtle.) and asked him to come back later, when I was in a better position in my life. Eventually, He did.
That was the start of me as a Heathen – Odin showing up like “Y U Mad bro, you said come back later?” and since I’m a woman of my word, I started to figure out what He was doing there. I was bumbling along well enough for the first few months, figuring things out. Then, I asked Him to help me find the knowledge I needed.
I got exactly what I asked for, which was not fun. My entire life was shattered. I had already been teetering at the edge of a nasty depression (I had seen the signs coming, and found a therapist in Philly, finally, several months before this all happened), and He very kindly tipped me over the edge. By the time the dust settled, I’d lost both my partners, fell into the worst depression of my life, and had no idea what to do.
I joked, later on, that it was the tag team of Odin and Loki that got me where I needed to be – Odin took a giant hammer and shattered me, and Loki helped me painfully pull it back together. I mean, it involved throwing salt on it and shoving it in my face, but I am dense and it worked. I started in earnest doing all the shit I thought I’d been doing in my 20s. I made my first set of runes. I studied. I prayed. I wasn’t, however, moving fast enough for my Lady – in fact, she wasn’t even in my field of view.
To be blunt, She pretty much showed up, grabbed me by the throat, and fucked me into submission.
It was one of those things that’s funny in hindsight – all the missed messages. There was a recurrent theme during some of my meditations the previous year – “The wolf is at the door.” I thought it referred to my partner at the time, who is rather lupine. I’d been getting woo by four smacked with signs like that, but it took a while to piece it together.
Our relationship started by me promising to set up altar space for her by a certain time, and I damn well did. I’ve kept every promise I’ve made to Her. Wolf-mamma is like that. You make a promise, you keep it. It’s not even ‘or else’. Or else what? If you can’t keep a promise to Her, you’re not worth Her time. She has absolutely no patience for bullshit.
That was two years ago. I have been Hers ever since.
So. Who is She?
Angrboda, whose name means “She who brings sorrow”, “She who offers sorrow”, “She who brings grief” (which always makes me think of Ayesha, She who Must be Obeyed!) is known as the first wife, or mistress, of Loki.
She is attested to in Gylfaginning:
XXXIV. Yet more children had Loki. Angrboda was the name of a certain giantess in Jötunheim, with whom Loki gat three children: one was Fenris-Wolf, the second Jörmungandr–that is the Midgard Serpent,–the third is Hel. But when the gods learned that this kindred was nourished in Jötunheim, and when the gods perceived by prophecy that from this kindred great misfortune should befall them; and since it seemed to all that there was great prospect of ill–(first from the mother’s blood, and yet worse from the father’s)-then Allfather sent gods thither to take the children and bring them to him. When they came to him, straightway he cast the serpent into the deep sea, where he lies about all the land; and this serpent grew so greatly that he lies in the midst of the ocean encompassing all the land, and bites upon his own tail. Hel he cast into Niflheim, and gave to her power over nine worlds, to apportion all abodes among those that were sent to her: that is, men dead of sickness or of old age. She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great. Her hall is called Sleet-Cold; her dish, Hunger; Famine is her knife; Idler, her thrall; Sloven, her maidservant; Pit of Stumbling, her threshold, by which one enters; Disease, her bed; Gleaming Bale, her bed-hangings. She is half blue-black and half flesh-color (by which she is easily recognized), and very lowering and fierce.
This is one of the very few mentions of Her by name. From here, we get very little, but very important information about Her: namely that she bore three monstrous children to Loki: Hel, Fenrir the Wolf, and Jormungandr. Based on this, we are able to pull further information from other sources to identify Angrboda in the lore.
In the Völuspá, (The Prophecy of the Vǫlva), a volva is plying her craft, and sharing her memories of the start and end of the world. The identity of this woman is debated – from the first line of the poem, we can assume that she is a Jotun, or at least was raised by them (stz 2, line 1 I remember yet | the giants of yore, Who gave me bread | in the days gone by). The prophetess ‘remembers’ many things; the creation of the world, the first war (Caused when the Aesir speared and burned the vǫlva Gullveig who was visiting them), and recounts the day of Ragnarok the doom of the gods and destruction of the world, as well as the eventual rebirth, including the fact that Baldur, who at this time will be dead, will return from Hel to lead the remaining children of the Gods in rebuilding the word.
The vǫlva in the Völuspá is generally considered the same as the one in Baldurs Draumer, where the story is very similar – Odin is consulting a wise woman to see whats going on with Baldur’s dreams. Odin has gone to seek out the help of a dead vǫlva to interpret the disturbing dreams Baldur has been having (Baldurs Draumer). He raises her from the dead, and she unwillingly prophecies for him. At the end of the poem, we have this exchange:
12. “Wise-woman, cease not! | I seek from thee
All to know | that I fain would ask:
What maidens are they | who then shall weep,
And toss to the sky | the yards of the sails?”
The Wise-Woman spake:
13. “Vegtam thou art not, | as erstwhile I thought;
Othin thou art, | the enchanter old.”
“No wise-woman art thou, | nor wisdom hast;
Of giants three | the mother art thou.”
The Wise-Woman spake:
14. “Home ride, Othin, | be ever proud;
For no one of men | shall seek me more
Till Loki wanders | loose from his bonds,
And to the last strife | the destroyers come.”
I believe that when referring to the vǫlva as the mother of three giants, Odin is indicating that the vǫlva who has been raised is Angrboda, the only person in the lore thoroughly identified as the mother of three great monsters – it would be assumed the listener of the poem would make this conjecture (in my opinion, this identification of the vǫlva in Baldur’s Draumer as Angrboda; that along with the fact that the vǫlva in the Völuspá is generally considered the same as the one in Baldurs Draumer, where the story is very similarly told. There isn’t anything confirming or denying this aside from the text itself. That the Völuspá prophetess is often identified as Gullveig informs my UPG that Angrboda IS Gullveig – but more on that in another post!)
As well, tying her fate (“For no one of men | shall seek me more”) to the freedom of Loki, who by the end of the world is bound much like His son, Fenrir (“till Loki wanders | loose from his bonds”) also provide a link from the speaker to Loki…the father of the three monsters.
Tangentially, Odin is said to go to the east to raise this dead vǫlva in Baldur’s Draumer:
“Then Othin rode | to the eastern door,
There, he knew well, | was the wise-woman’s grave;
Magic he spoke | and mighty charms,
Till spell-bound she rose, | and in death she spoke:”
If it follows that he is raising Angrboda, dead in the well known grave in the east, placed Her grave in the east, where one would assume she dwelled as well. In the Völuspá, there is made mention of another location in the east
40. The giantess old | in Ironwood sat,
In the east, and bore | the brood of Fenrir;
It is generally accepted this refers to Angrboda – the brood of Fenrir either referring to a brood gotten with Fenrir which is the common assumption; I’ve also thought it could refer to the brood that Fenrir was part of – that is, himself, Hel and Jormungandr.
There is also an interpolation in the Hyndluljóð (The Lay of Hyndla) of a completely different poem called the “short Voluspo” which echos the Völuspá in telling the creation and destruction of the world and listing the Gods and their history. There are some fascinating bits of information in there (such as a single surviving line at stanza 34 “34. Heith and Hrossthjof, | the children of Hrimnir.” – which forms a crucial role in my Angrboda UPG, linking Her as Heith (Heidr, the name of Gullveig after she was burned) to Hrimnir as Her father…which ultimately links her to the Volsung line. But again. Another post.)
The short Voluspo makes some mention of Angrboda as well:
42. The wolf did Loki | with Angrbotha win,
And Sleipnir bore he | to Svathilfari;
The worst of marvels | seemed the one
That sprang from the brother | of Byleist then.
This stanza again refers to the children of Loki – the Wolf, Fenrir, born to Angrboda. Sleipnir was born of Loki’s body to the stallion Svathilfari. The ‘worst of marvels’ is sometimes interpreted as Jormungandr, the World Serpent.
Another interesting stanza follows:
43. A heart ate Loki,– | in the embers it lay,
And half-cooked found he | the woman’s heart;–
With child from the woman | Lopt soon was,
And thence among men | came the monsters all.
It is generally assumed this heart belongs to Gullveig – whom as I have mentioned I connect with Angrboda.
So from the lore sources, we know that Angrboda lived in the East, that she had three monstrous children with Loki (Hence the by name “Mother of Monsters” and “Mother of Wolves”) whom were stolen from Her by Odin (Hel banished to the Underworld, where She has power of all 9 Realms, as Death, Jormungandr thrown into the sea and ensorcelled to circle and Midgard, and Fenrir as hostage in Asgard, until he was bound. We know she is from Jotun stock. We can assume she was a volva, as well as infer that her home was in Jarnvidr – the Ironwood. Some can infer that She is the same as Gullveig, which is harder to infer, but there are some that have UPG that confirm this, or can point to that, as well.
Now as for UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) and PCPG (Peer Corroborated Personal Gnosis) there have been some popular theories on this. The best known are those shared by Raven Kaldera on his site (see the link of his name) and in his published work on the Northern Tradition. He has a shrine to Angrboda which shares some of the stories he’s gleaned (many from the Jotunbok). Along with UPG stories/new myths, the shrine contains quite a bit about Angrboda. It is from Kaldera that we know Her as the Chief of Chiefs the 9 Clans of the Ironwood. Personally, I find many of the tales he shares to ring true. Occasionally I disagree (see: my Gullveig-Angrboda feels), but overall its well worth your time to investigate the information he has gleaned as well.
Two other sources of UPG discuss Angrboda in-depth, and both are rather controversial for a variety of reasons.
The first is a grimoire called the Rokkrbok, which I believe was put out by folks in New Zealand. This book is not in print so far as I can find it, but you are able to obtain a PDF via nautical redistribution (pirating) on the internet, if that your thing. This book takes a rather dark approach, and promote the use of some rather dangerous entheogens, along with a ‘self dísablót’ rite that is essentially ritualistic suicide. I tracked down a copy of this book for my own personal interests, because I track down EVERYTHING related to Angrboda, but its not without its issues. There was some rather unpleasant racial stuff in there as well. (Racial issues as many of you know, being the constant battle in Heathenry. This is a good spot to point out that I am NOT FOLKISH nor do I tolerate racist fuckheads) The one thing I did notice – these are the folks who coined the Rokkr as a name, and the Rokkr system of worship. It is VASTLY different from what American practitioners, particularly on tumblr, call Rokkatru.
The other book that has a bit more popularity is a grimoire called the Gullveigarbok (this one is also out of print – I have not yet located a copy for sale for less than $200 on auction sites. This one is available via nautical redistribution as well. This is another I read cover to cover, because the author (Ekortu, formerly known as Vexior) shares some of the same UPG as me – he too feels that Gullveig and Angrboda were one and the same, and shares some of the other names I feel she goes by, but in my opinion he goes too far. My personal gnosis equates Angrboda with Gullveig, Hyrokkin, Heidr and Thokk. Ekortu also feels that Angrboda equates with Hyndla and Aurboda, points which I disagree. Ekortu also practices a system he calls Thursatru; it is essentially a Satanic/Luciferian/Anti-cosmic system wherein Gullveig and Loki are similar to Lilith and Lucifer – working against the demiurge (in this system, Odin) to bring about true freedom to their followers. However, surprisingly, we do share quite a bit of similar UPG and there is a lot of worthwhile material in this book. I recently purchased, but do not yet have in hand, Ekortu’s new Thursian grimoire, which I will discuss later on.
I would strongly, STRONGLY suggest holding off on reading Gullveigarbok and Rokkrbok and even the Jotunbok by Kaldera until one has spent some time enmeshed in the lore themselves – at least one solid reading of a good translation of the Eddas or at the bare minimum
Damn. So my short introduction to Angrboda turned into 3000 words! Over the next year, I will be posting at least once a month during this project regarding different parts of my experiences and perceptions of Mrs A. Next week when our topic is “A” I will follow up with some ‘How to’ Mrs A, along with correspondences, offerings, etc.