When I was younger I was fascinated with the stories of the Greek Gods and Goddesses. So much so, that I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to their Norse counterparts. However, with the stories of Thor and the Avengers being so prominent in the movies, and my fondness for Tom Hiddleston (who makes Loki the star of the show as far as I’m concerned), I decided that now was the time to get a little more up close and personal. This, of course, sent me down yet another rabbit hole, or in the case of the Norse Goddess of Sorcery, to Asgard.
This particular post was tricky from the start, as there was conflicting information on exactly who was in charge of the Sorcery and Witchcraft end of things. The video I have below ties both Freya and Frigg together, ultimately blending them together as the same entity. For the purposes of this post I will focus my attention on Freya since she seems to have deeper roots in the pagan religion of the time. From the start, the research had me pulling out a few books I had yet to read through, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman being one of them. I also referenced The Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic by Claude Lecouteux and Dictionary of Northern Mythology by Rudolf Simek. These books were extremely helpful in getting me up to speed with the characters.
As I mentioned, for today’s post I will go through what I found on Freyja (Freya) but then will chat a bit about Frigg and another Goddess I thought I should touch on, Hel, the Goddess of the Underworld.
Origins of Freyja
The Norse Mythology pantheon was broken into two main clans, the Æsir and the Vanir. These groups of Gods and Goddesses were thought to have formed after the icy land of Niflheim and the fiery land of Muspelheim clashed. It was from this initial battle that the first sign of life arose, the giant Ymir, who Odin and his brothers of the Æsir eventually killed. It was Ymir’s body parts that formed the mythological universe we are familiar with today. There is also a third “clan” to note, the Jotnar, who are giant-gods of chaos. They are in a constant state of war with Æsir.
The Æsir (main Gods and Goddesses) went to battle again (that seemed to be their thing) this time with the Vanir, the Gods and Goddesses of fertility and nature. Despite the antagonism between the groups, they eventually formed a truce. The two families each sent members to live in the other cultures, which is how Freyja and her twin brother Freyr of the Vanir, ended up under Odin’s rule.
The name Freyja translates to “Lady or Woman” in Old Norse. It is thought that prior to the conversion to Christianity around the year 1000 CE, the people of Iceland paid this goddess homage. She is one of the most important Goddesses in Norse Mythology, in that she functioned as the fertility and harvest goddess, with ties to wealth and magic. She provided transition to warriors who had fallen in battle by hand picking the deceased to take back to her home Fólkvangr. Odin was able to send the other half of the warriors to Valhalla by way of the Valkiries which Freyja was said to control. The rest of the folks were sent to Helheim and spend their days with the Goddess of the Underworld Hel.
Freyja’s husband is listed as Ódr and has similar attributes to Frigg’s husband Odin. Odr was known to leave Freyja for long periods of time as he traveled on his long journeys, which left her a little lonely. She was said to have cried tears of gold in his absence, which ties in with the wealth and magic end of things. However, since Freyja was also known for her beauty and wanton lust, it probably wasn’t a good idea on his part to leave her alone for so long. Freyja was tied to just about everything related to sexuality and was an irresistible object of lust to many, especially the giants. Ódr made it home at least twice, since Freyja bore him two daughters by the name of Hnoss (meaning jewel) and Gersimi (meaning treasure). There are those references to wealth again!
Freyja’s Myths and Legends
The main stories I could find about the goddess generally featured a night with Freyja as the cost for pretty much anything the Gods asked for. Guess that is what she gets for being such a catch. In a story entitled Freya’s Unusual Wedding in Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, Thor’s hammer is stolen and he asks Loki for his help to retrieve it. Loki heads over to Freya’s and asks to use her magical cloak of falcon feathers, which she agrees to. He uses the cloak and finds the Ogre that took the hammer, asking him what it will take to return it. The Ogre says if he can have Freya as his wife, he will return the hammer. Loki heads back to give the news to Thor, who in turn saw no issue with this and told Freya to get herself ready. Suffice it to say, this didn’t go over well with Freya who took back her cloak in disgust. They finally decided the best course of action was to dress Thor like a bride and adorned him with Freya’s necklace the brisingamen. The guise worked enough for Thor to get his hammer back and kick some Ogre fanny.
Even though Freyja drew the line at marrying an Ogre, she didn’t shy away from using her wiles to get what she wanted. Ultimately, she obtained her prized possession that way. The necklace called brisingamen was said to have caught Freyja’s eye, and she had no problem paying the four dwarves the price they ask for. She thought sleeping with each of them was a fair price to pay, and she was often portrayed in artwork wearing nothing but the necklace she received for services rendered.
Freyja’s Ties to Witchcraft
Freyja had the gift of prophecy and she taught Odin and the Gods of the Æsir the shamanistic magic called seðir. This type of magic not only allowed for one to determine the course of fate, but there were ways to work within the magic to produce alternate outcomes. In the Viking Age, the völva was a sorceress who traveled from town to town performing acts of seðir in exchange for food or lodging. It is believed that Freyja took on this role for the Gods of Æsir. What is interesting is that unlike Hecate in Greek Mythology, the magic that Freyja tapped into allowed for destinies to be altered, so it makes sense why she had so many followers.
Her ties to the afterlife are also something that connects her to witchcraft, as we have seen similar traits in the Greek Goddesses we have met so far. While she wasn’t necessarily the Goddess of the Underworld (that title was given to Loki’s daughter Hel), she was considered the Queen of the Valkyries and helped to transition the souls of those who died in battle. There were three places that the dead could ultimately go, the hall of Odin – Valhalla, the hall of Freyja – Fólkvangr or Helheim under the jurisdiction of Hel.
Freyja’s magic included her ability to shape-shift and she had a magical cloak made of feathers that gave the gift of flight to anyone who wore it. She was also known to ride around the cosmos in a carriage drawn by her cat familiars, and was also fond of rabbits, boars, and oxen.
A bit about Frigg
Frigg is the wife of Odin, and hostess to the Vanir Gods and Goddesses who came to live with them. Like Freya, she is known as the Goddess associated with love and marriage, and was also believed to have the power of prophecy. There are subtle differences between the two, in that Frigg represented love and marriage in a more traditional sense, where as Freyja represented a more open sexuality and lust. The possibility that the more orthodox religions split the fertility goddess into two separate entities when they came into power makes sense. The older Gods and Goddesses that were prayed to for so long, were still needed to give folks a sense of comfort while being conformed into a new religion. It seems that the Gods and Goddesses of old went through some changes as well to make them more palatable.
There are references to Frigg having the gift of prophecy, but not having the power to change it, which could also be tied to the changes the church was making at the time. There is a story in which she sees the death of her son Baldur, and did all she could to keep him safe, but to no avail. Sadly, the trickster Loki and the mistletoe plant had a part to play in his demise.
The other difference is that she was Queen of Asgard, whereas Freyja was daughter to the King of Vanir. However, both husbands were often absent, and both Frigg and Freyja were known to have a wandering eye.
A bit about Hel
According to myth, Hel is the daughter of the giantess Angrboda and the trickster Loki. Why Loki ever got with a giantess whose name meant “anguish-boding” I will never know, but that is what happened. Anyway, she features in the story The Death of Baldur, after Baldur has a run in with the mistletoe and is sent to the Underworld. It is said that Baldur will remain there until Ragnarok when chaos spreads and the warriors all return to fight beside the Gods.
She is described as half black and half flesh colored, which is often depicted in artwork as half living being and half corpse. Her siblings are the monsters Fenir and Jormungandr, and with their monstrous parentage, they were sent where they could do the least harm. Hel’s name means “hidden” in Old Norse, so sending her to rule over the underworld in that case makes sense.
All the dead, other than warriors who died in battle, would find themselves in Helheim. While it is possible that the concept of Hell was derived from this mythology, Helheim was not a place of torment for all who were sent there. It was up to the Goddess Hel to decide their fate, and in fact, most continued on with what they had done in life, sleeping, eating, fighting and the like. It was seen as a continuation of life in a different realm.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about these Goddesses, I know I sure did! I have included some clips below as well as some other links that will give you more information on Freya and Frigg should you be interested. As always, feel free to link to more resources in your comment below. In the meantime, stay tuned for future segments!
We will be travelling to other places around the globe to check out Goddesses of Witchcraft in other cultures. To make it easy, I have started an index of my #MythicalCreatureMonday posts which you can link to here.
Just as a reminder, my prequel, Twist of Fate, is free on Amazon Kindle until May 11, 2020! You can grab your copy at this link: https://www.amazon.com/Twist-Fate-Prequel-Power-Four-ebook/dp/B07S6KT99M/.
Happy reading! XO
The Divine Lady Freyja
Frigg and Freya are the same Goddess? – Norse Mythology
Other Websites you might want to check out:
Saunders, Chas, and Peter J. Allen, eds. “HNOSS (Norse mythology)” Godchecker. Godchecker.com, Aug 07, 2018. Web. April 16, 2020.
Saunders, Chas, and Peter J. Allen, eds. “GERSEMI (Norse mythology)” Godchecker. Godchecker.com, Aug 06, 2018. Web. April 16, 2020.