Angrboda/Aurboda/Gullveig/Heid/ Hyrrokin
Hrimnir's Daughter/Gymir's Wife
"Thrice Burnt and Thrice Reborn, Often, Not Seldom, Yet She Still Lives"

By William P. Reaves, author of “Odin’s Wife” (2018)

“The narrative of Snorri's Edda is based for the most part on old mythological poems, in particular Völuspá ("The Sibyl's Prophecy"). But there are discrepancies of one sort and another between the poems, and the other fragmentary sources about the pagan religion are either disjointed or terse and difficult to interpret. Völuspá is a collection of vivid poetic visions, and was probably rather enigmatic originally; in addition, it was in a poor state of preservation in Snorri's time. We have to be content with an imperfect and patchy understanding of the old religion. But this does not entitle us to assume that the religion itself was correspondingly primitive or incomplete. We must bear in mind that no extensive direct information about the pagan religion was recorded until fully two centuries after the conversion to Christianity, and the generations which had come and gone meanwhile were, or were supposed to be, hostile to these pagan heresies.”


"It seems an inescapable conclusion that stories told in prosemust always have existed alongside stories told in verse. Many of the heroic lays are shaped in such a way that it is evident the poets assumed more knowledge of the subject-matter on the audience's part than the poems themselves encompass: a whole legend is there as a backdrop to the verse." 


from “Icelandic Manuscripts: Sagas, History, and Art”  by Professor Jónas Kristjánsson, translated by Jeffrey Cosser; The Icelandic Literary Society, 1996.

From the dust jacket:

“Professor Jónas Kristjánsson, the author, is the former Director of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavik, which is responsible for the preservation and study of most of the manuscripts. A leading authority on Old Icelandic literature, he has published numerous scholarly articles, prepared editions and lectured on Icelandic literature in many parts of the world. His “Eddas and Sagas”, a more detailed survey of Old Icelandic literature, is also published by the Icelandic Literary Society.”

Voluspa 21-25 speaks of a female being named Gullveig whose subsequent burning at the hands of the Aesir leads to a war between the Vanir and the Aesir. Scholars cannot agree on who or what Gullveig is. Some identity her with Freyja, the only goddess we know among the Vanir, while others simply see her as a symbolic representation of the power of gold to cause greed. The difficulty in identifying Gullveig is compounded in that the name is only found here. Snorri makes no mention of her at all. Instead, what he does say actually confuses the matter more. 



Immediately following the Gullveig verses in Voluspa, we find the following two verses:

Then went the powers all
to their judgment-seats,
the all-holy gods,
and thereon held council:
who had all the air
with evil mingled?
or to the Jötun race
Od´s maid had given?

There alone was Thor
with anger swollen.
He seldom sits,
when of the like he hears.
Oaths are not held sacred;
nor words, nor swearing,
nor binding compacts
reciprocally made.

The placement of these verses immediately after the Gullveig episode in Codex Regius would seem to indicate they were related conceptually with them. The fact that the Aesir burned Gullveig at the stake may well be related to the inquiry of the gods asking who gave “Od’s maid” (Freyja) to the giants. Gullveig herself may well have been the culprit.


We know of no myth were Freyja actually ended up in the hands of giants and only one where Freyja was promised to a giant, that being the myth of the giant-builder who constructed Asgard’s wall. In Gylfaginning 42, Snorri tells the tale of the giant-builder, and incorporates these two verses as evidence. Oddly, he makes no mention of the Van-As war or Gullveig, although he otherwise quotes the poem Voluspa extensively. Instead, Snorri places the builder-episode “right at the beginning of the gods’settlement, when the gods had established Midgard and built Asgard”. Again, there is no mention of the Van-As war in connection with this event, or Gullveig, although Codex Regius devotes some 5 verses to them. These verses do not appear in the Hauksbok manuscript. Thus we must look elsewhere for the identity of Gullveig.


We find another possible reference to Freyja actually having fallen into giant hands, and there, she is indeed “given” to the Jotuns by a trusted servant.


In Book Seven of Saxo’s history we meet the young hero Ottar (Odr) and his beloved Syritha (Syr). In these characters, previous scholars have seen Freyja and her husband Oðr. Snorri informs us that one of Freyja’s many by names is Syr (Sow). Snorri informs us that Freyja’s husband is named Odr, and Hyndluljod speaks of her lover in boar-form, named Ottar. Clearly, Saxo’s Ottar and Syritha are a memory of Odr and Freyja.

Saxo says, in part:

“Then one Ottar, the son of Ebb, kindled with confidence in the greatness either of his own achievements, or of his courtesy and eloquent address, stubbornly and ardently desired to woo the maiden. And though he strove with all the force of his wit to soften her gaze, no device whatever could move her downcast eyes; and, marvelling at her persistence in her indomitable rigour, he departed.

“A giant desired the same thing, but, finding himself equally foiled, he suborned a woman; and she, pretending friendship for the girl, served her for a while as her handmaid, and at last enticed her far from her father's house, by cunningly going out of the way; then the giant rushed upon her and bore her off into the closest fastnesses of a ledge on the mountain. Others think that he disguised himself as a woman, treacherously continued his devices so as to draw the girl away from her own house, and in the end carried her off. When Ottar heard of this, he ransacked the recesses of the mountain in search of the maiden, found her, slew the giant, and bore her off. But the assiduous giant had bound back the locks of the maiden, tightly twisting her hair in such a way that the matted mass of tresses was held in a kind of curled bundle; nor was it easy for anyone to unravel their plaited tangle, without using the steel. Again, he tried with diverse allurements to provoke the maiden to look at him; and when he had long laid vain siege to her listless eyes, he abandoned his quest, since his purpose turned out so little to his liking. But he could not bring himself to violate the girl, loth to defile with ignoble intercourse one of illustrious birth. She then wandered long, and sped through divers desert and circuitous paths, and happened to come to the hut of a certain huge woman of the woods, who set her to the task of pasturing her goats. Again Ottar granted her his aid to set her free, and again he tried to move her, addressing her in this fashion: "Wouldst thou rather hearken to my counsels, and embrace me even as I desire, than be here and tend the flock of rank goats?”


Once captured by the giants, Syritha seems to be in some sort of confused mental state. She is listless and looks to the ground. She will not raise her eyes. Odr cannot get her attention despite his best efforts. Ultimately, the spell is broken by fire.

In Saxo’s story, Syritha is betrayed to the giants by a trusted handmaiden. Yet the author is not quite sure if the handmaiden is a woman, or a man disguised as a woman. This suggests that the handmaiden might have been of an androgynous nature. In our mythology, we encounter two androgynous beings in particular. One male and one female. The female sires children, while the male bears them. They are the giants Loki and Angrboda.

Prose Edda

XXXIV. "Yet more children had Loki. Angrboda was the name of a certain giantess in Jötunheim, with whom Loki got 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.

The poem Hyndluljod informs us how this unusual pregnancy came about:

38. Loki begat the wolf
with Angrboda,
but Sleipnir he begat
with Svadilfari:
one monster seemed 
of all most deadly,
which from Byleist's 
brother sprang.

39. Loki, scorched up
in his heart's affections,
had found a half-burnt
woman's heart.
Loki became guileful
from that wicked woman;
thence in the world
are all giantesses come.

In Helgakvida Hundingsbane I, Sinfjoti and Gudmund engage in a flyting. They insult each other, comparing one another to Loki and Angrboda. From this exchange, we gather additional information, useful to the investigation. They say:


36. Little dost thou remember
of ancient saws,
when of the noble
thou falsehoods utterest.
Thou hast been eating
wolves’ dainties,
and of thy brother
wast the slayer;
wounds hast thou often
sucked with cold mouth;
every where loathed,
thou hast crawled in caverns.


37. Thou was a Vala-crone
in Varinsey,
cunning as a fox,
a spreader of lies.
Thou saidst thou no man
wouldst ever marry,
no corsleted warrior,
save Sinfiötli.

38. A mischievous crone was thou,
a giantess, a Valkyrie,
insolent, monstrous,
in Alfather’s hall. 
All the Einheriar
fought with each other,
deceitful woman!
for thy sake.
Nine wolves we begat
in Sagunes;
I alone was
father of them all.


39. Father thou wast not
of Fenriswolves,
older than all,
as far as I remember;
since by Gnípalund,
the Thurs-maidens
thee emasculated
upon Thor’s ness.

Gudmund can rightly say that Loki was not the “father” of Fenris wolves, because he bore them. Thus, he was “emasculated” and gave birth to the wolves. The giantess Angrboda, as the seed of the pregnancy, was the rightful “father”. They did not have intercourse in the normal fashion. Instead, Loki ate the half-burnt heart of the witch, and was impregnated with her seed. In time, he bore three monsters into the world, as Snorri says. 


The verses above inform us that Angrboda was a giantess and a “valkryie” in Odin’s hall. In Volusngasaga chapter 2, we find another example of this. Here a giantess, Hrimnir’s daughter, acts as maid-servant to Odin’s wife, Frigg. As in Saxo’s tale, a giantess acts as the maid-servant of a prominent goddess.


Volusungasaga, ch. 2:

“Much wealth won in war got Rerir to himself, and wedded a wife withal, such as he deemed meet for him, and long they lived together, but had no child to take the heritage after them; and ill-content they both were with that, and prayed the Gods with heart and soul that they might get them a child. And so it is said that Odin hears their prayer, and Freyia no less hearkens wherewith they prayed unto her: so she, never lacking for all good counsel, calls to her her casket-bearing maid the daughter of Hrimnir the giant, and sets an apple in her hand, and bids her bring it to the king. She took the apple, and did on her the gear of a crow, and went flying till she came whereas the king sat on a mound, and there she let the apple fall into the lap of the king; but he took the apple and deemed he knew whereto it would avail; so he goes home from the mound to his own folk, and came to the queen, and some deal of that apple she ate. 

“So, as the tale tells, the queen soon knew that she big with child, but a long time wore or ever she might give birth to the child: so it befell that the king must needs go to the wars, after the custom of kings, that he may keep his own land in peace: and in this journey it came to pass that Rerir fell sick and got his death, being minded to go home to Odin, a thing much desired of many folk in those days. 

“Now no otherwise it goes with the queen's sickness than heretofore, nor may she be the lighter of her child, and six winters wore away with the sickness still heavy on her; so that at the last she feels that she may not live long; wherefore now she bade cut the child from out of her; and it was done even as she bade; a man-child was it, and great of growth from his birth, as might well be; and they say that the youngling kissed his mother or ever she died; but to him is a name given, and he is called Volsung; and he was king over Hunland in the room of his father. From his early years he was big and strong, and full of daring in all manly deeds and trials, and he became the greatest of warriors, and of good hap in all the battles of his warfaring. 


“Now when he was fully come to man's estate, Hrimnir the giant sends to him Hljod his daughter; she of whom the tale told, that she brought the apple to Rerir, Volsung's father. So Volsung weds her withal; and long they abode together with good hap and great love. They had ten sons and one daughter, and their eldest son was hight Sigmund, and their daughter Signy; and these two were twins, and in all wise the foremost and the fairest of the children of Volsung the king, and mighty, as all his seed was; even as has been long told from ancient days, and in tales of long ago, with the greatest fame of all men, how that the Volsungs have been great men and high-minded and far above the most of men both in cunning and in prowess and all things high and mighty.”

Thus we learn that a giantess, Hrimnir’s daughter was a valkyrie in Odin’s hall and acted as a maid-servant to Frigg. The poem Hyndluljod tells us more about her father, the giant Hrimnir. He is said to have only two children, a son and a daughter. Below, I quote a string of verses as they appear in that poem, because the adjoining information found there may well be pertinent to the investigation as we shall soon see.


30. Baldr's father was
son of Bur:
Frey to wife had Gerd,
she was Gymir's daughter,
from Jötuns sprung
and Aurboda;
Thiassi also 
was their relation,
that haughty Jötun;
Skadi was his daughter.

31. We tell thee much,
and remember more:
I admonish thee thus much to know.
Wishest thou yet a longer narrative?

32. Haki was not the worst
of Hvedna's sons,
and Hiövard
was Hvedna´s father;
Heid and Hrossthiof were
of Hrimnir's race.

33. All the Valas are
from Vidolf;
all the soothsayers 
from Vilmeidr,
all the sorcerers
from Svarthöfdi;
all the Jötuns
come from Ymir.

Heid and Hrossthiof (Horse-thief) are the children of the giant Hrimnir. This statement is joined with the origin of all Valas from Vidolf. We find the name Heid again associated with a Vala in Voluspa. We shall encounter the name Vidolf again as well as the investigation continues.

In Codex Regius, Voluspa 21-25 reads: 

Þat man hon folkvíg 
fyrst í heimi, 
er Gullveigu 
geirum studdu 
ok í höll Hárs 
hana brenndu - 
þrysvar brenndu 
þrysvar borna, 
opt, ósjaldan - 
þó hon enn lifir. 

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 brough her forth, 
oft not seldom; 
yet she still lives. 

Heiði hana hétu 
hvars til húsa kom, 
völu vel spá, 
vitti hon ganda. 
Seið hon kunni, 
seið hon leikin, 
æ var hon angan 
illrar þjóðar.  ("bruðir" in Hauksbok) 

Heidi they called her, 
whithersoe´r she came, 
the well-forseeing Vala: 
wolves she tamed, 
magic arts she knew, 
magic arts practised; 
ever was she the joy 
of evil people ("brides", "women" in Hauksbok). 

Þá gengu regin öll 
á rökstóla, 
ginnheilög goð, 
ok um þat gættusk, 
hvárt skyldu æsir 
afráð gjalda 
eða skyldu goðin öll 
gildi eiga. 

Then went the powers all 
to their judgment-seats, 
the all-holy gods, 
and thereon held council, 
whether the Æsir should 
avenge the crime, 
or all the gods 
receive atonement. 

Fleygði Óðinn 
ok í folk um skaut, 
þat var enn folkvíg 
fyrst í heimi. 
Brotinn var borðveggr 
borgar ása, 
knáttu vanir vígspá 
völlu sporna. 

Broken was the outer wall 
of the Æsir´s burgh. 
The Vanir, forseeing conflict 
tramp oér the plains. 
Odin cast (his spear), 
and mid the people hurled it: 
that was the first 
warfare in the world. 

Here we learn that Heid is identical to Gullveig, who caused the war between the Aesir and the Vanir. This corroborates the information derived from the poem Helgakvida Hundingsbane I above. There a giantess and a valkyrie in Odin’s hall caused all of the Einherjar to fight. She was deceitful and mischievous. She was the father of Fenris wolves.

Of interest, it is important to note that in the Hauksbok manuscript, these verses are flanked on either side by the verses about the “old one in the Ironwood” beforehand and the verses about the wolf Garm howling before the Gnipna-cave and the giant herder named Eggthir afterward. I shall return to these verses below.


From Hyndluljod 40-41, we learn that Loki bore the Fenris wolf after eating the half-burnt heart of a witch named Angrboda. The heart impregnated him with the Fenirs wolf.


Voluspa informs us that the witch, Hrimnir’s daughter, is burnt and revived three times. Snorri informs us that Loki and Angrboda had three children, Fenrir, Jormungand, and “Hel”. Thus we can imagine that Loki found and at the half-burnt heart each time the witch was cremated. In Voluspa, we learn that the Aesir burnt a witch named Gullveig-Heid in Odin’s hall. The Vanir objected to her treatment and when the Aesir refused to make compensation, a war broke out between them.  We are not told why the Vanir objected to the burning.

In Volusungasaga, we learn that a giantess, Hrimnir’s daughter, is a servant of Frigg, Odin’s wife. And from Hyndluljod, we learn that Heid is one name of Hrimnir’s only daughter. Thus, we have placed Heid in Odin’s hall, as a witch, who has been burnt. From Hyndluljod, we learn he heart was only half-burnt, and that once swallowed it impregnated Loki with the Fenris wolf. From Helgakvida Hundingsbane and Voluspa, we gather that the burning of this witch, not once, but three times, caused a war between the gods, causing all of the “Einherjar” to fight with one another. Grimnismal informs us that Odin takes half of the Einherjar (the heroes fallen in battle) and Freyja takes the other half. If the Aesir go to war with the Vanir, logically their Einherjar would support them.


Saxo, Book 1, informs us that Odin was accused of witchcraft himself after the death of Baldur. Odin worked seid on Rind to secure an avenger for his son Baldur. His people (the gods) rise against him and hold a debate, much like the one described in Voluspa. 


If we combine the two sources, we gather that the Aesir burned the witch Gullveig-Heid in Valhalla, and that the Vanir asked for compensation for her death. When Odin refused, the Vanir accused him of also practicing seid. This angered All-father, and he declared war. The Vanir justly deposed him and came to rule Asgard for the space of 10 years:

“But the gods, whose chief seat was then at Byzantium, (Asgard), seeing that Odin had tarnished the fair name of godhead by diverse injuries to its majesty, thought that he ought to be removed from their society. And they had him not only ousted from the headship, but outlawed and stripped of all worship and honour at home; thinking it better that the power of their infamous president should be overthrown than that public religion should be profaned; and fearing that they might themselves be involved in the sin of another, and though guiltless be punished for the crime of the guilty. For they saw that, now the derision of their great god was brought to light, those whom they had lured to proffer them divine honours were exchanging obeisance for scorn and worship for shame; that holy rites were being accounted sacrilege, and fixed and regular ceremonies deemed so much childish raving. Fear was in their souls, death before their eyes, and one would have supposed that the fault of one was visited upon the heads of all. So, not wishing Odin to drive public religion into exile, they exiled him and put one Oller (Wulder?) in his place, to bear the symbols not only Of royalty but also of godhead, as though it had been as easy a task to create a god as a king. And though they had appointed him priest for form's sake, they endowed him actually with full distinction, that he might be seen to be the lawful heir to the dignity, and no mere deputy doing another's work. Also, to omit no circumstance of greatness, they further gave his the name of Odin, trying by the prestige of that title to be rid of the obloquy of innovation. For nearly ten years Oller held the presidency of the divine senate; but at last the gods pitied the horrible exile of Odin, and thought that he had now been punished heavily enough; so he exchanged his foul and unsightly estate for his ancient splendour; for the lapse of time had now wiped out the brand of his earlier disgrace. Yet some were to be found who judged that he was not worthy to approach and resume his rank, because by his stage-tricks and his assumption of a woman's work he had brought the foulest scandal on the name of the gods. Some declare that he bought back the fortune of his lost divinity with money; flattering some of the gods and mollifying some with bribes; and that at the cost of a vast sum he contrived to get back to the distinction which he had long quitted. If you ask how much he paid for them, inquire of those who have found out what is the price of a godhead. I own that to me it is but little worth.”


In Book 1, Saxo speaks of a time Odin left Asgard and returned. Upon his return, he banishes witchcraft from Asgard. As Saxo tells and retells the same myths in fragmented form, there is good reason to assume that this is a retelling of the same myth (unless we imagine that Odin was banished from Asgard more than once).


“So, returning from exile, he forced all those, who had used his absence to assume the honours of divine rank, to resign them as usurped; and the gangs of sorcerers that had arisen he scattered like a darkness before the advancing glory of his godhead. And he forced them by his power not only to lay down their divinity, but further to quit the country, deeming that they, who tried to foist themselves so iniquitously into the skies, ought to be outcasts from the earth.”


This fits in well with the fate of Gullveig-Heid-Aurboda, as we see in our sources. Voluspa gives us a clue as to what ultimately happened to her. The gods attempted to burn her three times, and yet she lives. Fire cannot kill her. So, the gods ultimately must banish her. We find such a giantess, associated with the worst kind of wolves, in the forests of the east. There she breeds more Fenris wolves, including Hati who shall devour the moon. Voluspa says:

East sat the crone,
in Iárnvidir (Ironwood), 
Fenrir´s progeny:
of all shall be
one especially
the moon’s devourer,
in a troll’s semblance.

33. He is sated with the last breath
of dying men;
the gods’ seat he
with red gore defiles:
swart is the sunshine then
for summers after;
all weather turns to storm.
Understand ye yet, or what?

34. There on a height sat,
striking a harp,
the giantess’s watch,
the joyous Egdir;
by him crowed, 
in the bird-wood,
the bright red cock,
which Fialar hight.


Of great interest to our investigation, the Hauksbok manuscript of Voluspa places the first two verses cited above immediately before the Gullveig verses suggesting that the poet associated Gullveig-Heid with the “Old One in the Ironwood”. The last verse cited above appears immediately afterwards, along with the verse about the wolf Garm howling before the Gnipa-cave. Snorri informs us that Tyr will fight the wolf Garm, leading several scholars to suggest that Garm is another name for Fenrir. 


The Codex Regius manuscript places all of these verses near the end of the poem, immediately preceding the events that lead up to Ragnarok which is why you find them placed there in all modern translations of the poem. However, Codex Regius and Hauksbok are the only two known manuscript versions of the poem, and both are equally valid.

Copies of both manuscript editions can be found here:

The final verse quoted above informs us that “the old one in the Ironwood” has a “watch” (a Shepherd) associated with her. He sits on a mound playing a harp, just before Ragnarok. His name indicates that he is guarding an object. His name Eggthir means “sword-watcher”. Notably, the giant Eggthir also appears in the seventh book of Saxo immediately before the episode involving Ottar and Syritha, although not directoly connected with it.

We have already seen that the giant Vidolf is the father of all Valas, and that Gullveig-Heid is the most prominent of all Valas. The poem Hyndluljod associates their names.  Voluspa devotes a number of verses to her, and as we saw, she causes the gods themselves to go to war against one another. As the mother of Fenris-wolves, and the other wretched children of Loki, Jormungand and “Hel”, she is the origin of some of the worst things in the world.Hynduljod 41 tells us that all such creatures were descended from Loki and this “wicked woman”.


The Old Norse Saga, Thidrek’s Saga of Bern tells us more about Vidolf and Eggthir (Edgeir). Chapter 34 informs us that they are giants and brothers. Edgeir is a guardian in the Isung wood (ch. 134). He is killed by the sword Mimung wielded by Volund’s son Vidga (ch. 195). This will become significant as we progress through the work, and learn that the treasure Aurboda’s shepherd hides is the sword forged by Volund in order to destroy the gods. It is the same sword that Svipdag retrieves and brings to Asgard as a bride-price for Freyja. It is given to Frey, who then exchanges it under duress for the giant-maiden Gerd. At Ragnarok, when Frey meets Surt, he will regret the loss of this sword.

Snorri says: “The cause of his death will be that he is without the good sword he gave Skirnir.”


So we gather that the giantess Gullveig-Heid-Angrboda after her unsuccessful burning is exiled in the east, she is found there as an “old crone” who breeds Fenris-wolves in the Ironwood. Nearby is a shepherd whose name means sword-guardian. He is Eggthir the brother of Vidolf, the sire of all Valas.  His relation Heid, Hrimnir’s daughter, had once been a maid-servant in Asgard. 

In our sources we find yet another giantess, who holds a similar position.


In the poem Fjolsvinsmal, the young hero Svipdag approaches a fortress. Inside is a maiden named Menglad. At the gate he encounters a watchman named Fjolsvidr. Fjolsvidr is a name of Odin according to Grimnismal 47. The watchman has two wolf-hounds who guard the gate. Their names are Geri and Gifr. Odin’s hounds are named Geri and Freki, according to Grimnismal 22. In fact, everything that is said about this castle reminds us of Asgard. It is shaded by the branches of “Mimir’s Tree”, it is surrounded by a high impenetrable wall, and secured by an artistic gate, which house magnificent golden halls. Inside we find beautiful beneficent goddesses, including Eir.

The poem itself tells us that Menglad is no ordinary maiden, but a goddess. She is a healer. Women who have been sick for more than a year, can sacrifice to her and be healed. 


36. Tell me, Fiölsvith! etc.
what that mount is called
on which I see
a splendid maiden stand?


37. Hyfiaberg ´tis called,
and long has it a solace been
to the bowed-down and sorrowful:
each woman becomes healthy,
although a year´s disease she have,
if she can but ascend it.

The goddess Eir, the physician among the goddesses sits ather feet, indicating a subordinate position. As the name Men-glad itself means “Necklace-lover,” we might rightlysuspect that Men-glad is Freyja, owner of the most famous necklace of all, Brisingsa-Men, which the poem Beowulf says is the “best jewel under heaven” Jakob Grimm and other scholars long ago made this identification. 


But more remarkable than finding a prominent goddess at Menglad’s feet, we also find a well-known giantess among the women at her feet. The giantess we find there is Gerd’s mother Aurboda. Angrboda and Aurboda are the only names in the entire Old Norse cannon with the suffix –boda. As we have seen, Angrboda is most likely an alternate name for the giantess otherwise known as Gullveig-Heid.  Thus ity should be mentioned that the name Aurboda may simply be another way of saying Gullveig. Both Aur and Gull can mean “gold” while the suffixes –boda and –veig can both be applied to a strong, fermented drink. Here, we find Aurboda playing a subservient role to the goddess known as “the Necklace-lover” 

Svipdag asks:

38. Tell me, Fiölsvidr! etc.
how those maids are called,
who sit at Menglöd´s knees
in harmony together?


39. Hlif the first is called,
the second is Hlifthursa,
the third Thiodvarta,
Biört and Blid,
Blidr, Frid,
Eir and Aurboda (or Örboda, cp. Örvandil/Aurvandil).


40. Tell me, Fiölsvidr! etc.
whether they protect
those who offer to them,
if it should, be needful?


41. Every summer
in which men offer to them,
at the holy place,
no pestilence so great shall come
to the sons of men,
but they will free each from peril.

In Hyndluljod 30, we learn that Aurboda and Gymir are the parents of the giantess Gerd, whom Frey falls hopelessly in love with. Thus Aurboda becomes Frey’s mother-in-law. Thus, it is of significant interest that we find her as a hand-maiden at Freyja (Menglad’s) feet.


30. Baldr's father was
son of Bur:
Frey to wife had Gerd,
she was Gymir's daugther,
from Jötuns sprung
and Aurboda;
Thiassi also 
was their relation,
that haughty Jötun;
Skadi was his daughter.

[As we saw earlier, this verse immediately precedes the verses on Heid and Vidolf, suggesting an association among them.]

The poem Skirnismal confirms this relationship.


6. In Gýmir’s courts
I saw walking
a maid for whom I long.
Her arms gave forth light
wherewith shone
all air and water.

Notably, we also found a watchman sitting on a mound, outside of Gymir and Aurboda’s home, even as we found a watchman on a mound associated with “the old one in the Ironwood” and Gullveig-Heid:

“Skirnir rides to Jötunheim, to Gýmir’s mansion, where fierce dogs were chained at the gate of the enclosure that was round Gýmir’s hall. He rides on to where a cowherd was sitting on a mound, and says to him:

11. Tell me, cowherd!
as on the mound thou sittest,
and watchest all the ways,
how I to the speech may come,
of the young maiden,
for Gýmir’s dogs?

12. Either thou art death-doomed,
or thou art a departed one.
Speech wilt thou 
ever lack
with the good maid of Gýmir.”

Although the poem never specifically states it, it is possible that Skirnir hands the sword Frey gave him over to the giants as a bride-price for Gerd. We are told that Frey gives him the sword, and we see Skirnir threaten Gerd with a “sign-marked blade” once his offer of gifts has failed. This would readily explain the name Eggthir (“sword-watcher”) of Aurboda’s shepherd. See Jordanes’ below as well.

And lastly, we learn one other thing about Gymir’s wife that is relevant to the investigation. A skaldic verse preserved in Skaldskaparmal 25 says:

“Gymir’s spray-cold (úrsval) spae-wife often brings the ship into Aegir’s jaws where the wave breaks.”

If we identify Gerd’s mother, Aurboda, with Angrboda, the giantess also known as Gullveig-Heid, we have a natural explanation of why her heart would not completely burn.Like her it is “spray-cold”, formed out of the same venomous cold waves that shaped Ymir.


And her position as a maid-servant first of Frigg, then of Freyja, and her relationship as Frey’s mother-in-law would naturally would explain why the Vanir objected to her burning. As Frey’s mother-in-law, the Vanir were obligatedto seek compensation for the death of a relative, even by marriage.


Aurboda’s clever plan is thus akin to Loki’s. Loki caused a rift in the close relationship between the primeval artists and the gods. Gullveig-Heid, his female counterpart caused a rift in the gods themselves, pitting the Aesir against the Vanir.



Thus, Gullveig-Heid-Aurboda, the threefold witch seems to be a  female Loki attached to Vanir, even as Loki is attached to the Aesir.


Once we see the bigger picture and understand the character of Gullveig-Heid, we also gain insight into the nature of the magic known as seid. With it, one can alter minds. As we saw, Syritha’s maid–servant placed her mistress in a kind of trance. Fire was required to break the spell. Odin altered Rind’s mind, using seid to have his way with her eventhough she resisted him. A loose verse in Skaldskaparmal informs us that “Odin worked seid on Rind”. In Skirnismal, we find Frey bewitched, wasting a way for love. His only desire is the giant-maiden Gerd, the daughter of Gullveig-Heid, who likely cast the spell on him from her position as his sister’s maid-servant.

This investigation also reveals the prominent role Gullveig-Heid plays in the poem Voluspa. Verse 8 informs us that the gods had no want of gold until 3 giant maids came out of Jotunheim, verses 21-27 speak of the ill effects this threefold giant-maid had on the gods. Her name, found only there even means “Gold-drink” or “Thirst-for-gold” perhaps indicating her role in the end of the golden age. Later as the “Old One” she breeds Fenris wolves which ultimately destroy the gods themselves. Fenrir himself swallows Odin, and his kind swallow the sun and the moon, dying the earth red with blood.



The same idea seems to have survived throughout the heathen age, thus penetrating very deeply into the heathen psyche. Tacitus in Germania, speaks of a similar race, lurking beyond the Finns in the extreme north east. They are the stuff of fables: 

In wonderful savageness live the nation of the Fennians, and in beastly poverty, destitute of arms, of horses, and of homes; their food, the common herbs; their apparel, skins; their bed, the earth; …What further accounts we have are fabulous: as that the Hellusians and Oxiones have the countenances and aspect of men, with the bodies and limbs of savage beasts. This, as a thing about which I have no certain information, I shall leave untouched. 

In the Origin and Deeds of the Goths, we hear that “old traditions” speak of witches and wild-beasts together begetting the fearsome Huns in the east, even as Aurboda begot Fenris –wolves in the east.


XXIV (121) But after a short space of time, as Orosius relates, the race of the Huns, fiercer than ferocity itself, flamed forth against the Goths. We learn from old traditions that their origin was as follows: Filimer, king of the Goths, son of Gadaric the Great, who was the fifth in succession to hold the rule of the Getae after their departure from the island of Scandza,--and who, as we have said, entered the land of Scythia with his tribe,--found among his people certain witches, whom he called in his native tongue Haliurunnae. Suspecting these women, he expelled them from the midst of his race and compelled them to wander in solitary exile afar from his army. (122) There the unclean spirits, who beheld them as they wandered through the wilderness, bestowed their embraces upon them and begat this savage race, which dwelt at first in the swamps,--a stunted, foul and puny tribe, scarcely human, and having no language save one which bore but slight resemblance to human speech. Such was the descent of the Huns who came to the country of the Goths.

And finally, not to be overlooked Jordanes also speaks of a mythic sword found by a shepherd, and obtained by the king of the Huns. It too was the sword of a god:


XXXV (180) Now this Attila was the son of Mundiuch, and his brothers were Octar and Ruas who are said to have ruled before Attila, though not over quite so many tribes as he. After their death he succeeded to the throne of the Huns, together with his brother Bleda. In order that he might first be equal to the expedition he was preparing, he sought to increase his strength by murder. Thus he proceeded from the destruction of his own kindred to the menace of all others. (181) But though he increased his power by this shameful means, yet by the balance of justice he received the hideous consequences of his own cruelty. Now when his brother Bleda, who ruled over a great part of the Huns, had been slain by his treachery, Attila united all the people under his own rule. Gathering also a host of the other tribes which he then held under his sway, he sought to subdue the foremost nations of the world--the Romans and the Visigoths. (182) His army is said to have numbered five hundred thousand men. He was a man born into the world to shake the nations, the scourge of all lands, who in some way terrified all mankind by the dreadful rumors noised abroad concerning him. He was haughty in his walk, rolling his eyes hither and thither, so that the power of his proud spirit appeared in the movement of his body. He was indeed a lover of war, yet restrained in action, mighty in counsel, gracious to suppliants and lenient to those who were once received into his protection. He was short of stature, with a broad chest and a large head; his eyes were small, his beard thin and sprinkled with gray; and he had a flat nose and a swarthy complexion, showing the evidences of his origin. (183) And though his temper was such that he always had great self-confidence, yet his assurance was increased by finding the sword of Mars, always esteemed sacred among the kings of the Scythians. The historian Priscus says it was discovered under the following circumstances: "When a certain shepherd beheld one heifer of his flock limping and could find no cause for this wound, he anxiously followed the trail of blood and at length came to a sword it had unwittingly trampled while nibbling the grass. He dug it up and took it straight to Attila. He rejoiced at this gift and, being ambitious, thought he had been appointed ruler of the whole world, and that through the sword of Mars supremacy in all wars was assured to him."


Of course none of these passages definitively prove that this myth, as outlined here, was known in the heathen-era, but taken together, there is much circumstantial evidence that this story is at least a good outline of a larger myth, well-known in heathen times, as evidenced by the great number and diversity of the sources which seem to refer to it

-William P Reaves