The Three-fold Witch, Angrboða; the One Who Brings Grief.
The full and insidious sweep of Angrboða’s influence has long been lost to myth and time. In the skalds she is remembered only as the Witch of the Ironwood, mother of Loki’s monstrous children: Jörmungandr, Fenrir, and Hel.
In truth Angrboða’s past is littered with aliases, sabotage, and prophecies that tugged the tangle of Loki’s thread all the tighter into the Pattern. Her machinations set into motion ripples that transcended the ending of the Age.
From Humble Beginnings
A daughter of the frost jötunn Hrímnir, she first came to the Aesir among the nine attendant women who served upon Freyja, the Vanir goddess who brought with her the art of seidr. In those days she was known as Aurboða, the wife of Gymr, with whom she shared a young and beautiful daughter. She learned the art of sorcery at Freyja’s feet, and followed her all the way to Asgard and the halls of the ruling gods. A natural dreamwalker and channeler, Aurboða used both skills to dexterous and manipulative advantage, serving her own mysterious ends.
In Odin’s court she ingratiated herself among the Aesir, attending upon Frigg and becoming an adopted wish-maiden and messenger to Odin himself, yet it is also suggested she sowed discord and unrest amongst the gods by inclement and unobtrusive measure. Many years passed during which she remained a trusted handmaiden among them.
Indeed none would suspect her, until her plans were ready to unravel like a tapestry before the gods.
Forgotten Mother of Heroes
Among her early machinations she is said to have travelled to Midgard on behalf of Frigg, presenting herself to the royal queen Rerir as the wish-maiden Ljod, and bringing an apple of fertility to answer the woman’s prayers for a child. The resultant son of this gifted magic was called Völsung, who the tale states was born full grown after seven years of gestation, and was destined to become a great ruler. With him, Ljod mothered the great line of semi-divine Völsungs, including the hero Sigmund, whose own heroic deeds would go on to inspire Beowulf in the following Age.
The Völsung were said to have inherited many unusual characteristics from their matrilineal line, including an ability to shape-shift into wolves. This is how werewolves came to infest and ravage the forests of Midgard, murdering men and leaving a legacy that was the ancestral origins of the creature Grendel. Yet the Völsung were also regarded among the greatest hero dynasties in Norse mythology, and later generations ensured the protections of a sword which once bore the epithet god-killer.
The Lovelorn God
Freyr’s sudden temptation to sit upon the All-Father’s throne was no coincidence. Nor was the vision he witnessed once seated there incidental, for the lovely Gerðr was Aurboða’s own daughter back in Jötunheimr. So snared in instant love, Freyr immediately began to pine over the beautiful goddess of the aurora borealis, eventually agreeing to send his servant to woo her.
The gates to Gymr’s Halls were guarded by fierce dogs, and Freyr’s manservant was initially stopped by a herdsman sat upon a mound outside. But despite the warnings of her own maids within the walls, Gerðr herself came outside to treat with the Aesir stranger. She resisted the offer of apples of youth and gleaming gold, until the negotiation finally fell to threats, both to harm her person and snare her mind in Compulsion. When she finally agreed, it was in exchange for the legendary sword of Freyr, enchanted so as to wield itself, and reputed to kill gods.
Thus did such a weapon end up in the possession of Aurboða’s line.
And thus too was Freyr’s fate at Ragnarök sealed.
Thrice Burnt, Thrice Reborn
She that war remembers, the first on earth,
when Gullveig they with lances pierced,
and in the high one´s hall her burnt,
thrice burnt, thrice brought her forth,
oft not seldom; yet she still lives.
Aurboða’s time in Asgard came to an end when she was apprehended by Thor and publicly vilified in Odin’s hall. The exact reasons for this are unclear. Some suggest her acts as spy and saboteur were finally revealed after she betrayed Freyja into Jötunn hands, necessitating her rescue by her husband Odr. Freyja was strange a while afterwards, refusing to look up, as vacant as if she recognised no one. The Aesir suspected seidr had been worked upon her mind; a grievous crime.
What is clear is that while the gods debated her guilt, Aurboða used the moment to reveal to Odin and his kin the secrets of a prophecy that so utterly terrified him, his first reaction was to spear her clean through.
The Aesir have never spared any love for the jötunn, and her punishment did not end there. They called her Gullveig-Heid and burned her on a pyre, not once, but three times.
And three times, she arose.
But Aurboða was not unprepared. By now she was Freyr’s mother-in-law, and thus a Vanir by right of marriage. By the laws and customs of those people a blood-price must be paid for the attempt on her life. Thus erupted war between the Aesir and Vanir peoples, which waged violently over a number of years until a truce was finally called. The reparations finally resulted in the exchange of hostages, including the Vanir twins Freyr and Freyja, who afterwards came to live permanently in Asgard.
Notably, among the destruction and chaos wrought, was the Asgardian’s famed wall brought to low rubble, necessitating repair.
Mother of Monsters
Loki, scorched up
in his heart’s affections,
had found a half-burnt
Loki became guileful
from that wicked woman;
thence in the world
are all giantesses come.
After her long tenure in the god’s stronghold, Angrboða was banished, and came instead to dwell in the Ironwood, a place in the deep wildlands of Jötunheimr. There she raised three children by Loki, each monstrous, and each causing unique aberrations in the Pattern which would eventually end the Age and send shudders of chaos through the entire Wheel. Whether Angrboða compelled his attentions through sorcery, or he was a willing accomplice in her schemes, is unknown, but he was said to sometimes dwell with her, and cared greatly for the children they sired together.
When Odin finally discovered their existence, it was once more his son Thor he sent to hunt Angrboða down and drag her before the Aesir. There, in exchange for her freedom, she agreed to give up her children to the gods.
What relationship she maintained with them after this is unknown, however it is likely she found access to Hel, as Odin is said to have spoken with her there.
Yet more children had Loki. Angrboda was the name of a certain giantess in Jötunheim, with whom Loki begat 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 fed 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. … The Wolf the Æsir brought up at home, and Týr alone dared go to him to give him meat.”
The Old One in the Ironwood
A certain giantess lives east of Midgard in a forest called Ironwood. In that forest live trollwives called Iarnvidiur. The ancient giantess breeds as sons many giants and all in wolf shapes, and it is from them that these wolves are descended. And they say that from this clan will come a most mighty one called Moongarm. He will fill himself with the lifeblood of everyone that dies, and he will swallow heavenly bodies and spatter heaven and all the skies with blood. As a result the sun will lose its shine and winds will then be violent and will rage to and fro.
After the loss of her children, Angrboða dwelt together with a giant, who was gýgjar hirðir, her guardian and watcher. He had charge of her monstrous herds, was hostile towards the gods, and also guarded a mound in which lay a sword brought to the Ironwood. This duty gave him the epithet Eggþér, which means sword-guardian.
Meanwhile Angrboða’s influence did not cease, even from the shadows. She is thought to have incited the rivalry between the brothers Höðr and Baldr over fair Nanna’s hand, likely manipulating from the dreamworld. After Nanna changed her mind and chose Baldr for her husband, Höðr in his grief was plagued by nightmares, and blinded himself in an effort to be free of them.
Baldr too was visited by dreams of his future.
Though afraid of her words long ago, Odin was nonetheless compelled to discover more, and sought her out many times in many guises over the years, including once in Hel’s realm of Niflheim to ask the meaning of his son’s dreams. She told him Hel’s halls were dressed in gold because they awaited the shining one, that the blind god would slay his brother, and that to assure vengeance Odin would sire a son on Rindr.
Finally, she told him it was the last time they would speak before the Twilight of the Gods descended.
These last manipulations urged Odin to one of his most heinous and hypocritical acts, using seidr to force Rindr into lying with him, a crime so reprehensible Odin was cast out from Asgard himself for ten long years of banishment. Later, when Frigg sent all the gods out from Asgard to ensure all would cry for the return of Baldr, it was Loki or Angrboða, in guise of the giantess Thökk who shed no tears, dooming the beloved son of Odin to incarceration with their daughter Hel.
Angrboða’s final act before the descent of Ragnarök was to convince her cousin Skaði to release Loki and Sigyn from the realm of the Finn, and to break the wards of Fenrir’s dream prison, adding a final glyph to his binding: the trolkors.
On Odin’s pyre, Angrboða was burned three times; one for each of her subsequent lives throughout the Ages. Her soul manifests in times of peril, and is born into the 1st, 2nd/3rd and 5th Ages.
1st Age: Nesrin Aziz
2nd Age: Lilis Moiraim, an advisor of no real note in the Age of Legends who used her position to sabotage the forces of the Light.
3rd Age: The Forsaken, Merihem
5th Age: Naamah, Angel of Prostitution, instigator of the fall of the Watchers, which ultimately led to the earth being wiped clean in the Flood.
6th Age: Angrboða, Norse jötunn integral to the final destruction of the gods of the 6th Age.