Angerboda and The Dark Mother Figure across Cultures.

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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Almost every ancient culture and/or religion acknowledges a “Dark Mother” kind of figure who is often confused with a Goddess of Evil and/or Death.
Quite the opposite is true. But life comes with the price of death and the Dark Mother is all three: maiden, mother and crone, abundantly giving, nourishing but also merciless in her destruction in order to bring renewal. She is the Mother of necessary but painful change and knows but duty and the higher good instead of motherly love for love’s sake.

We have Lilith or Malkah-ha-Shadim in the (pre-)Jewish (and Christian) religions, Maha-Kali in Indo-Germanic spirituality, the Mórrigan in the Celtic and Angrbodha in the Germanic tradition. Just to name a few.

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Let us look a little closer at Norse Angerboda or Angrbodha, a Frost-giantess whose rune is Isa, and who is the mother of almost the whole Rökkr-pantheon that will bring about Ragnarök, destruction of this world to create a new one.

She is also referred to as the “Mother of Monsters”, “Hag of Ironwood” and “Packmother”. The latter for once because she is a devoted mother who pursues her childrens’ interests incessantly and ruthlessly for the higher goal of Ragnarök.

The_children_of_Loki_by_Willy_Pogany

She also earned that name because several of her children are wolves. The most popular of them probably gargantuan Fenrir and in turn his children Hati and Skoll who chase the sun and moon and hence give us the gift of daylight and moonlight.

In the Aesir’s view she is the “Mother of Monsters” who brought forth not only Fenrir but the Midgard serpent – Jörmungand – and the Goddess of Death – Hel. All these children were fathered by Loki and play a pivotal role in the evolutionary great leap which the Norse apocalypse is.

Some Heathens and Germanic or Norse Pagans, especially Rökktatrúr, believe that Angerboda is the same as the cosmic cow Audhumla who was a key figure in the creation of the nine worlds which the Norse multiverse consists of. Audhumla means both “void darkness” as much as “nourisher”.

(The prefix “An” in Angerboda already indicates her maternal nature and significance. In Sanskrit “Ana” means mother and so Anath is the Mesopotamian (Dark) Mother Goddess. Egyptian Goddess Anuket/Anukhet was the giver of life and later merged with Dark Mother Goddess Nephtys, the devourer. In the name Anukhet we can still trace the Ankh – the symbol of life.

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In England we have Black Annis who much like Indo-Germanic Kali devoured her prey and sewed clothes from her victims’ hides and intestines. This reminds a tad of what Loki did with his companion Angerboda, mother of three of his children: he ripped out her heart and devoured it in order to partake of her greatest gift: the gift of life by death; and hence Loki was able to give birth from that moment on as well. (He gave birth to Sleipnir shortly afterwards, Odin’s eight-legged horse).

Angrboda (as much as most of the Rökkr-Gods) is widely misunderstood and misrepresented, even by Pagans and Heathens unwilling or unable to give up the monotheistic mindset they were often raised with. The actions of these Gods are often depicted as vile, chaotic and nonsensical. Yet Angerboda for whom fostering children with Loki was but part of her wyrd (personal fate and life obligation) did not just bring forth three of the most powerful creatures who would help create a new world, she was also married to the giant Eggdhir with whom she had Gerda. Gerda was so beautiful that Freyr, a Vanic God who had joined the Aesir Gods, took her as his wife. Thus Gerda, remembering where she came from and her obligation, was able to secure the Sword of Victory for the Rökkr Gods.

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The message of the Dark Mother/s is constant change, challenge, relentlessness, unfettered love for “the cause” and also unselfishness. It might be hard to understand for some that Angrbodha’s rune is Isa – ice, halt, consistency. Paradoxically, it is this “frozen”, i.e. consistent mindset, that is responsible for upheaval, new beginnings and change.

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Wenet the Swift One – and other Hare Deities

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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To the ancient Egyptians God/dess permeated everything. There was no living being that was not in correspondence with at least one deity and everything and everyone was interrelated through deities. There was one divine source but a plethora of Gods and Goddesses, these deities were the building blocks of life.

In early times the cult of (the God) Toth knew four main creator deities, two with frog-heads and two with serpent-heads. Today we do not know how this came about exactly, but one of the serpent-deities was later turned into a hare Goddess, Wenet, meaning “The Swift One”.

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Wenet’s male counterpart, sometimes interpreted as companion, was Osiris in the guise of  hare-headed “Un-Nefer”,  meaning “Beautiful Renewal”. As Un-Nefer he was sacrificed to the river Nile every year, in order to facilitate the renewal of land and crops. (The latter bearing similarity to the Norse Goddess Eostre from which our modern/Christianized “Easter” as well as the “Easter Bunny” derived.) The hieroglyph “Wn” (=Wen) itself stands for the essence of life – it depicts a hare over flowing water.

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Unsurprisingly, Wenet was believed to bear restorative and regenerative magical qualities, she was a symbol of renewal, fertility, protection (against “overwhelming” powers), as well as a symbol of swiftness of movement and mind.
But that is not all. She is also the Goddess of the Otherworld as “The Book of Toth” (Toth, amongst other things, is also the God of the judgment of the dead.) asserts, and there are scrolls on which she is depicted guarding the Underworld’s entrance. In that particular role, her title is “Lady of the Hour”. Coffin texts often speak of Wenet as the one granting the souls a “scepter” on the journey to their new (after)life, most likely standing for authority, as well as “firmness of the head”, possibly meaning strength.

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Hares or Hare-Deities in general were the archetypal symbols of femininity, associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity, and rebirth. But in every culture they are also ambiguous, paradox if not downright contradictory. They are feminine but also androgynous, cowardly and courageous, of rampant sexuality and virginal purity. (See Virgin Mary example below) The Hare is also the messenger of the Great Mother Goddess, carrying Mother Moon’s messages to her children at night (Yoruba, Egypt, etc.) Hares are also often known as ambivalent trickster deities in Asia and Native American Tribes (like Algonquin/Ojibwe/Winnebago/Menoimini/Ottawa God Nanabozho). There are many folk tales in which they are pitted against creatures much larger, stronger and mightier than them, but the hare perseveres every time, even if sometimes by questionable or borderline immoral means.

The hare and Hare-Deities in other cultures:

Mother Hare

Menabosho is an Algonquin spirit or God of the dead.

Eostre/Ostara is the Celtic/Norse Goddess of renewal, spring, fertility and rebirth.

487428_495872893783530_770232264_nFreya, despite her Fylgjas being cats is also often linked to hares. Probably due to her being a Vanic Goddess.

Both Artemis’ as well as Aphrodite’s sacred animal is the hare (amongst others).

Depictions of the Virgin Mary with a hare at her feet symbolize the triumph of the spirit over flesh, or basically: life over death.

Virgin Mary rabbit
(Well…on this one she’s petting a hare, whatever that means…why Mary, you bad girl, you…)

Before Odin replaced our individual Germanic tribal High Gods and Goddesses, (Frau) Holle/Hulda was the leader of the Wild Hunt, a large group of hares bearing torches illuminating her way.

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Hares and Rabbits in (children’s) literature:

Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit (in Alice in Wonderland)
Richard Adams’ Watership Down

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