welcome to the second year of the Pagan Blog Project! This year’s project will be slightly different in two ways: first, there is now a page where bloggers can both post their weekly entries, as well as connect to others in the forum; and second, since I’m focussing my practice on Loki, I have decided to try and attempt to post a Northern Tradition-related topic in the first week for each letter, followed by a Celtic or more general topic for the second week. This way, if you’re only interested in one tradition, it’s easier for you to keep track of relevant posts.
In the first post of this year, I will focus on Angrboda, the Hag of the Iron Wood, Loki’s first wife.
As She is a Jotnar, most practitioners don’t subsume Her under Gods or beings worthy of worship. If you only browse the internet for five minutes, you’ll find many pages that express a certain dislike, if not outright hate towards Her.
This is because as Loki’s first wife, She gave birth to Hela, goddess of death, the wolf Fenrir and Jormungandr, the Midgard serpent, and (according to some sources) also to the two wolves who will swallow the sun and the moon at Ragnarök. Her children are regarded as abominations, as monsters – Fenrir will be Odin’s killer, and Thor will die in a fight with Jormungandr. Further, concerning Loki, there is the implication that He sired monsters with Her before moving on to Sigyn as a “real”, proper wife (Krasskova 2008: 159). And finally, since Loki is blamed for the death of Balder and the coming of Ragnarök, anything and anyone associated with Him cannot be a ‘good’ person to worship.
Loki and His two wives, Sigyn and Angrboda
However, to Her worshippers – and there are quite a few, see e.g. the online shrines maintained in Her honour – She is not an evil witch or old hag, but a mother figure. After all, She is mother to almost the whole Rökkr pantheon. And further, the word hag, when related to hagia, describes Her as a wise woman (1).
Also, Angrboda should be of concern to everyone who follows a Northern Tradition path, since She did not only bear “monsters”, but is also mother to Gerda, Frey’s beautiful wife.
A myth tells us that Angrboda was thrice burned by the Aesir because She lured Freyja, Whose messenger She had become, away from Asgard. After the third burning, Loki consumed Her heart (which He seems to do with quite some of His followers/wives) and gained the ability to give birth.
As Gerda’s mother, She has relations to the Vanir, who felt that an attack on Angrboda was also an attack on Them; however, the Aesir refused to pay the appropriate wergild, and thus the first war between the Gods ensued. Whether you do or don’t follow the interpretation that it was Angrboda’s plan all along to create discord between the Gods is another matter that I won’t go into detail here, but I’m interested in your opinion in the comments.
If you want to get to know Angrboda, you will discover a strong-willed, straightforward, no-nonsense woman Who requires you to make a firm stance. She doesn’t tolerate whiny people and expects you to work hard on yourself (Krasskova 2008: 160).
As a mother, She isn’t one to cuddle close to, but one who advocates a “wolflike”, pragmatic mothering (1); in contrast to the more gentle mother goddesses, She is lending help to the “inner adolescent”, the inner problem teen (Krasskova 2008: 161). She is very protective of Her “pack”, although She doesn’t allow everyone to join Her. However, Her selective criteria aren’t your looks or your ancestry, but what you’ve got inside of you (2).
If She takes you under Her wing, Her gifts are motivation and protection. She tells “different” people that they are perfect the way they are, and She is a good role model for strong women and women in positions of leadership. Finally, She is also a good associate for queer and trandgender people as well as for the polyamorous (1).
If you decide to worship Her, there’s a list of suggestions for an altar to Her that Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera have compiled in their wonderful book Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner (and, for some reason, most of Loki’s followers seem to end up solitary):
colours: russet, dried-blood red (She is often described as a red-haired warrior), dark green
symbols: wolf, nine stones
altar suggestions: wolves and wolf skins, nine stones or other objects for the clans of the Iron Wood, jet, flint knife, oak bough, thistles, agrimony, lupines, the rune Ac
food and drink: Jack Daniels whisky, red and white meat, especially game
service offerings: do something challenging for yourself; another source mentioned donating to local wildlife/wolf preservation funds
contraindicated: whining; placing Her altar next to anything Aesir or Alfar (Krasskova & Kaldera 2009: 228).
So how do you see Angrboda? Is She the Hag of the Iron Wood unworthy of our worship, or is She Loki’s beloved first wife, and should therefore be included in our practice?
Krasskova, Galina and Raven Kaldera. 2009. Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner. A Book of Prayer, Devotional Practice, and the Nine Worlds of Spirit. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press.
Krasskova, Galina. 2008. Feeding the Flame. A Devotional to Loki and His Family. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press.
list of links with poetry about Her: http://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/angrboda/writing.html
Loki and His two wives: http://www.northernpaganism.org/assets/images/Angrbodapics/trumps06-LokiAngrbodaSigyn.jpg
Loki and Angrboda: