Iormungand – Another Strand in the Web

In my previous article I discussed the dark goddess Hela and her under-rated significance. She represents the element EARTH in an “Elemental Quadruplet” that includes Loki Fenrir and lormungand (the Midgard Serpent). It is Iormungand and the element of WATER that I shall consider this time.

In modem runic and Norse literature the Midgard serpent goes by many names and variations of spelling: Jormungand, Midgardsormr, Jormungandr, lormungand, etc, and for my intents and purposes I use “Iormungand” (the relevance of which will be explained later).

Iormungand, with Hela and Fenrir, is the child of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. In distinct contrast to its parents and siblings lormungand’s form is serpentine; it is the world serpent that lies in the sea surrounding Midgard, its tail gripped in its own mouth. Out of the Norse context this image is known as Ouroboros and is found throughout the world in various cultures and beliefs. In most instances the meaning remains the same, that of an eternal cyclic force, destructive in essence but essential as a part of nature. This is true in the case of lormungand and even modem mainstream Norse practitioners begrudgingly admitthe vital role the serpent plays.

Mythos

In the Norse myths the children of Loki (and Loki himself) have a two-fold nature. On the one hand they are individual beings with individual natures, but a closer inspection reveals that behind each figure lays an overwhelming sources of power. With Hela it is the very soul of Prima Mater, and with Iormungand it is the power known in modem terms as entropy. Within mainstream Satanism entropy is given the wide embracing name of “Satan”, but names are Just names so when we use the language and heritage of our blood, entropy is Iormungand.

Iormungand causes change. In order to instigate this change its nature is chaotic. Because of this chaotic nature Iormungand is an oft-times unstable and malevolent force as is illustrated throughout history. When great periods of instability arise, be it war, revolution, natural disaster; this is lormungand writhing, thrashing its tail upon the shore. Why he does this is obvious: “Blood alone moves the wheels of history” (Benito Mussolini)… The force of Iormungand prevents the waters of humanity from growing stagnant.

The necessity of Iormungand is shown in the Norse myths by the very fact that the gods can never capture or bind the great serpent. Furthermore, Wyrd itself does not allow lormungand to be destroyed. The diligent reader of Norse tales will recall the account of how Thor caught the serpent while fishing with the giantHymir, as he tried to drag it up from the waters of Midgard. Hymir, in what I see as an appreciation of Wyrd, cut the fishing line allowing lormungand to escape and thus fulfil his role. Thor in a machoesque act was attempting to destroy a vital part of the workings of nature and nature itself, manifested as Wyrd, would not allow such an act to occur. When Thor finally did slay Iormungand at Ragnarok he too lost his Life, proving that removing the force of the serpent incurs a disaster of far greater proportion than its existence provides. lormungand is chaos; it is entropic but still controlled. It is not mindless anarchy or nihilistic destruction but rather another vital strand in the labyrinth that is the Web of Wyrd.

Ior Rune

Iormungand is inextricably linked with the rune IOR hence my preference for that spelling. IOR embodies many of thc attributes of lormungand, but also introduces a different concept: in contrast to the destructive and entropic side of the serpent is a beneficial and accessible side.

I have shown previously as in the case of Hela that the dark figures of Norse belief are equally useful to magick as the Aesir and Vanir are. With Iormungand the magick here is a binding and protective variety. This is illustrated by ivy, one of the plants associated with IOR. Like the serpent it symbolises, ivy entwines itself around life, causing change by bringing death and therefore allowing new life to begin; all this time the ivy remains evergreen (eternal) and constant. But ivy displays the contrast of Iormungand by acting as a protector as well as assassin. When ivy grows on the walls of a house it protects the inhabitants from malicious magickal attack (such as the use of the Nithsong/Niding Pole). In imitation of this, traditional Norse carving and decoration invoke the protective powers of Iormungand and ivy through serpentine and entwining designs that ensure the safety of the inhabitants.

The more malicious aspect of Iormungand’s magick is binding magick. Of course maliciousness depends on the practitioner’s intent and their idea of what is right and wrong, bannful or beneficent (ahh, the qunandary of the wiccan rede). Binding magick has a well documented existence, though not necessarily connected with IOR, ivy or Iormungand. It was used in battle to render enemies helpless. Odin as father of victories had particular patronage of a binding known as the Warfetter (Herfjottur) which confused the victim, making him vulnerable. As with the Nithsong, the Thurisaz and Isa runes were often used to enforce the binding. In most cases, the binding was a psychic one, applied like a curse and with result equal to a physical binding on either body, mind or both.

Binding related to war and battle would use Odin and the applicable runes, while those used by magickians and vardlokkur (warlocks) would invoke lormungand and the runes of IOR and NYD. NYD is relevant because when overlaid with its mirror image (thus intensifying its power) the IOR rune is formed.

Gender

ln conclusion, I wish to consider the gender of lormungand. In many authoritative books on Norse magick, lormungand is the non-gender specific “it”. I have continued this in order to remain non-committal on the subject. However, I would like to present the premise that Iormungand is feminine, in nature at least, if not strictly physically. My reasons for this come from several points, the most relevant being the rune IOR which has a female polarity. Furthermore, the NYD rune has a female polarity, so doubled as IOR it is twice as potent.

Another point is the widespread use of serpents as a symbol of Prima Mater, such as Tiamat from the Sumero-Babylonian mythology, or various Celtic goddesses – for e.g. Bride (Brigit/Brighid). It has been suggested by short-sighted ‘New Age’ writers that the serpent was the venerated, benevolent “pre-patriarchal” symbol of the goddess that was later demonised into a negative symbol by those ‘male bastards’ (sic). This blinkered theory illustrates once again the new age desire for all smile, bright light, pagan bunnies and rainbows. They fail to realise that far from being negative the monstrous image of the serpent presents the very nature of the goddess. R J Stewart illustrates this well when he states:

“It is often assumed that the mother goddess of the ancient world were large, ample, friendly, fertility figures. This is seldom true. The great goddesses of pagan religion were often terrifying and mysterious beings... In many ways the attributes of ancient feminine powers or archetypes reveal a deep insight into reality.”

(Celtic Gods, Celtic Goddesses”)

With this in mind, Iormungand seems to possess those attributes which would aptly qualify as feminine. In doing this the gender of the “Elemental Quadruplet” is perfectly balanced: the feminine earth and water of Hela and lormungand, and the masculine fire and air of Loki and Fenrir.

By Abaaner A° Incendium


Editorial note: This article appeared in “The Flaming Sword”, No 3 (August 1994).