Freya, The Mother of Sweden

By I. M. Knosp

Among the Norse Pantheon many notable deities exist. Thor, Loki, Heimdall, Hoenir, Odin, Skadi, Ullr, and more. Though one goddess that has a bit of a complex history and one that I think deserves a bit more of a deep dive. Is the beloved, complex, and extremely popular goddess of Freya. However, who is Freya? Many have likely heard the name, whether from cursory looks into Neo-pagan spheres, or a brief read of Icelandic myth, or meeting any of the myriad of women and girls who have been given her name in recent decades. Yet I find Freya is often left in an odd place. Sometimes she is so powerful that all the other goddesses are at best aspects of her. While other times she is a minor goddess whose importance is over emphasized. Or even just an aspect of another goddess or god. This complexity is partly due to the nature of the Scandinavian pantheon. Attempts to standardize the fragmented, and contradictory myths of the Icelandic’s and the fragments remaining from Scandinavia proper has led to so many varied conceptions it can seem as if people aren’t even talking about the same deity. So who is Freya? That is the question I sought to unravel.

Freya of Sweden?

The first thing we must do while discussing Freya is look at where she was most prominent. Freya was far and away the most popular goddess in Sweden. While her veneration did spread outside of it, both her and Freyr were the focus of spiritual activities in the area. Representing kingship, magic, witchcraft, seers, fertility of the land and its people, and much much more. The two even after the Church began to move in are mentioned extensively in the folk customs. Indicating that the so called “Vanir” were the most prominent in Sweden and likely Scandinavia for the most part. However, most of our sources find their written origin not in the Scandinavian peninsula, but in Iceland. A land removed from the mainland of Europe, with a drastically changed societal structure, and landscape. Despite this the prominence of both Freyr and Freya remains in the area in myths and folk customs, albeit in the most famous source the Eddas. They are overshadowed by the Aesir gods, many of which have their likely origins from areas outside the countries of Norway and Sweden.

The reason for describing where the cult of Freyr and Freya originates, is that cult centers indicate where a deities veneration was likely strongest. For example Holle’s tends to be Middle Germany, while Perchta was most prominent in the Alps, Brigid was most notably venerated in Ireland, Ares was huge in Sparta, Athena in Athens, Pan never really got off his mountain in Arcadia in terms of sizable spread until long after Christianity came in. In essence while the main seat of veneration by no means denotes a gods entire range, it does allow us to see where the cults heart was. Freyr and Freya most definitely had Southern Sweden and neighboring areas as their primary seat of worship. Deities like Odin would come in later and primarily in the kingless country of Iceland take considerable power at least among the aristocracy. In other words, one of the most important things when discussing deities is that the concept of “Pantheon” is simply a modern conception largely derived from oral and literary epics. This is most noticeable in folklore where deities rarely interact with each other, in comparison to skaldic sagas and Homeric epics where the gods are part of a sprawling complex story.

Frikka, Frea, and Frigga

From here we can now discuss the supposed extensive spread of Freya to other areas, and look at each from the angle of validity and possible equation to Freya. The most notable deities to mention are Frikka, Frea, and Frigga. Like Freya there are several ways each of these deities can be spelled. However, I will first begin with Frikka as she is possibly one that can most easily be discussed.

Frikka also exists as Frau Frick, or the Old Frick, sometimes spelled Fricka. She is depicted often as an ogress who similar to the Wicked Witch in Hansel and Gretel tries to eat children, she possesses a magic wand and a mournful personality.

Like many gods who take part in the wild hunt she possesses black dog fertility spirits as part of her retinue, her more regal form is that of a tall woman in white with storm clouds garlanding her hair.She is also tied into Dragons, especially corn spirits in the form of dragons. While she shares fertility aspects similar to Freya it is unlikely the two are similar, even demonized. She is also too different from Frigg to place as equivalent to Frigg. However, Wagner used the name of Fricka as his version of Frigg in his operas, fusing her with Holda. This can largely dismiss Frikka as equating to Freya.

Frea, there are two notable examples I’ve seen of the word Frea being used. The first and most notable is the story of how the Lombards got their name. Involving women disgusing themselves with long beards, and Godan being turned around by Frea so that he faces the Lombards. During this instance Godan gives them their name and victory. This one I would separate away from Freya not because of any etymological disagreement, by any means they even seem pronounced the same though here is where the main issue comes in for this story. While many will try to claim Odin and Frigga/Freya as the deities pictured here. A rather sound argument can be made that the two deities here are merely called “God” and “Lady” in essence there is no confirmation that these were even the names of the gods, so much as means for Paul the Deacon to relay the tale. So at best we have a male and female deity of what is now a Northern Italian Germanic Tribe. The other tale featuring Frea is that involving Walpurgisnacht. Where Wotan as the Devil takes his bride a goddess of Spring here known as Frea. This example may indicate Freya, though one thing to take into account is that I could not find the raw tale involving these two deities, as such it may be an attempted reproduction converting the devil to his most likely figure in Northern Germany as Wotan or Woden, and his bride as a goddess associated with Spring and Fertility, in doing so the name Frea was chosen. However I highly doubt that Freya’s cult did not reach the Northern shores of the continental Germanic’s, the question is more how far and how impactful it may have been.

A 7th century depiction of the Founding of the Lombards, depicting the gods Godan and Frea.

Finally I come to Frigga, also known as Frigg. The two goddesses are often equated due to their similarities. However, I would say it is more likely the two fulfilled similar roles in different tribes and similar to the unseating of Freyr in the eddas, the same was done to Freya. This would’ve caused confusion as two prominent goddesses traditions were warped around each other. Frigg eventually for whatever reason won out as Queen of the gods, and is married to Odin in the eddas. There is a recording of Saxon gods, among them the goddess Friga. Which the recordings describe as alternatively titled Frea, and even described as a hermaphrodite. I doubt this is the case, rather more likely is that Frigga like Odin was originally of a differing tribe from the Scandinavians and instead was integrated in later stages.

She likely finds her origins more in the Saxon’s homelands. More than likely many tribal deities contained names that could be translated as “beloved” or “Lady”, for what other name would you call a prominent goddess in the language. Frigga, Freya, and Freyr likely were venerated here, though unlike in Southern Sweden where Freyr and Freya were primarily venerated, here Frigga took prominence. As the other two were more minor gods in the area they could be interpreted by an onlooking Christian as the same deity. Resulting in the both male and female nature of the deity, from the eyes of an outsider.

Freya & The Vanir

From here I would say that Freya’s veneration spread across much of the Northern half of the Germanic’s up into Iceland, and across much of Scandinavia, but the further from her cult center she went the less important she became. With the Southern Half likely not even hearing of her and having different gods and interactions by and large. With the range largely established from here I can discuss the importance of Freya with an emphasis on her homeland and primary worshipers in Sweden.

Like any deity Freya had both a primary geographical range and primary tribal worshipers. Though like other gods she went where her people went and the veneration of her spread with them. Just as Holle spread to Pennsylvania with the Pennsylvania Dutch, and Ullr ended up being prominent in Greenland, as settlers relied heavily on hunting to sustain themselves, so too has Freya’s veneration spread far and wide. Yet, to deny that Freya was indeed primarily a Swedish goddess would be simply fraudulent. In Scandinavia archaeological sites and geographic toponyms show that the six gods that were most highly venerated were Thor, Ullr, Skadi, Njordr, Freyr, and Freya. With four of these being Vanir, one being a part Jotun and Aesir, and the other being a full on Giantess. I will say that the Aesir were not especially prominent at least for long before the Church came in.

Many fields bear the name of Freyr and Freya. The emphasis of the two gods of Fertility in Southern Sweden makes sense, as that area would’ve been far more suited to farming, while Njordr and Skadi became more prominent further West in Norway, where mountains and sea would be the most notable part of the landscape. Like Freyr and Freya Skadi and Njord were most definitely not contained there and the cult of the three “Vanir” gods was clearly connected. Though the prevalence of a deity directly corresponds to their relevance to the people.

Just as certain deities like Tyr seem to have had prominence in Denmark but clearly spread further out then there, So too did the cult of these Vanir gods. Though I can’t help but wonder if the “Vanir” is in fact merely a way to distinguish between gods that had been in Sweden longer than other incoming European gods, or if the distinction even really existed. As it doesn’t truly appear anywhere before the writings, with the distinction all but meaningless in German folklore.

Fertility, Magic, and Death

Freyr was the preeminent male deity in Sweden before the cult of Odin, representing Kingship and the fertility of the land. He is often equated to Ing, and was the god of the Yngling tribes. It is certainly possible that Ing and Freyr are different deities, with the title Yngvi-Freyr simply being the name “Lord” tacked on to emphasize the deity. Much like Tyr’s name appears in many kennings such as hrafntyr or Raven god for Odin. To add to this is that the Ingaevones were descended from the god Tuisto, by his son Mannus. Though whether the Yngling’s and the Ingaevones were the same tribal grouping is unknown. While Freyr ruled as king, Freya was far more at home in the spiritual space. While Freyr brought fertility and prosperity, Freya did her part for such things as well and governed the more feminine sphere of magic. As well as women’s work especially in regards to their own fertility, being the vital energy needed to produce offspring and helping through childbirth. A role she would come to share with Frigga later on.

From here one could infer the possibility that Freyr and Freya formed a divine couple where Freyr was the king and Freya was the fertility of the land. Perhaps this was before the genealogies were done to make them siblings, or perhaps in a vein similar to deities such as Zeus and Hera and that whole line, that the two gods simply didn’t think much of it. Genealogies rarely were consistent and varied wildly even among highly “civilized” people like the Greeks, so the possibility that the twin nature of the deities was a later addition as a result of a more standardized form of the myths is not out of the question, as various cults were sewn into the pattern of the Olympian pantheon, perhaps the same was done for the Scandinavians. Freya was also the goddess of sex and pleasure similar to Freyr.

Perhaps this even tied into her role in both fertility and magic, as well as the sacred space. It is not out of the question that female wise women may have served a sexual role as well as an advisory one. Given that Freya is also considered the goddess whom officiates sacrifices it would not be out of the question that Freya was invoked in many cases akin to Janus in Rome, as a sort of by way between the people and the gods. Though this last bit is stretching.

The Völva most certainly tied back into Freya, many mythical ones appear, in many cases knowing things that even Odin doesn’t. With him even seeking some out or bringing gifts to learn information from them. In one case supposedly bringing them back from the dead. It is Freya who teaches Odin Seidr and also Freya who is said to teach many of the gods magic. In this role especially among the Völva Freya is the goddess most tied to these shamanic (Witchcraft) practices. She was likely not the only deity to be so, but at least in Sweden she was likely the most prominent at least for a time. Perhaps much like Odin with Sleipneir Freya too journeyed the realms, perhaps in her feather cloak, flying through them as a falcon or hawk or perhaps atop Hildisvini. There is no way to know, as it is incredibly rare to see Freya in a tale where she is given considerable autonomy for such actions. Though she is seen as fairly capable when she is, in her search for Odr as well as her aiding of Ottar we may find her role in the shamanic practices of both wise women and warriors.

Freya and Freyr governed the fertility of both animals and land. When the church moved in while it took hundreds of years to get the Swedish to even tacitly lay down their heathenism, they eventually found a way and placed the Virgin Mary and likely St. Gertude over her. As the fertility of the fields became the domain of the Virgin Mary, while St. Gertude supposedly took over the death elements of Freya. With St. Gertude having the dead lodge with her the first night. This was likely to split the difference between the Christian afterlife and the heathen halls.

Many women would go to Freya as would many warriors, as Freya was the leader of the Valkyries and had first pick over the slain. Able to choose before Odin could for his Valhalla, her hall Sessrumnir therefore seated both warriors and women. This makes one wonder how old the connection is between Odin and the Valkyries and if it was not a later addition or if these were parallel tales of two separate Shamanic warrior traditions, and their respective gods.

Valkyrie and a Dying Hero by Hans Makart

Given that Freyr ruled over Alfheim, it is certainly possible that originally both Freyr and Freya served as lords over afterlives. As elves are often seen as the same as ancestors, or at least there is considerable overlap. With Tomte being ancestral deities made into their current gnome-like form over the course of several centuries. Freya clearly had prominence in female circles, and possibly the Disir were a group specifically associated with her similar to Freyr’s rulership over Alfheim and by extension the elves.

If it wasn’t split by gender which given Freya’s battle and death god aspects seen in her getting first pick of the slain, and leadership of the once bloody Valkyries, seems unlikely. Perhaps similar to Freyr’s ruling of the Elves, Freya had her dominion over dark elves or dwarfs.

This would make some interesting interpretations of her story of receiving her torc, which may have indicated her rulership over the dwarfs. Though this has never really come up otherwise so it seems unlikely this was the case, I will mention it nevertheless as a torc must be given not bought, and the greater its majesty the greater the respect. Given Freya is meant to be irresistible with the brilliant adornment of Brísingamen the torc was clearly of high quality and value.

There were once holidays to the elves with Alfablot and to the Disir with Disablot. It seems certainly possible that these were overseen by two separate deities perhaps Freyr and Freya. Though again this would be oversimplified and if this was once the case it is hard to prove, and stands in the realm of conjecture.

Elves by Nils Blommer 1850

Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun’s

From here I wish to discuss Freya and her interactions between the three main groupings of deities. The Aesir, the Vanir, and the Jotuns. Each sub-section of gods, even if the distinctions are less important than may appear, have a different way of viewing Freya and a different way of utilizing her. The first thing to speak about though is the tale of the Aesir-Vanir War. In the war the Aesir and the Vanir are shown to be at war, though in the case of the version relayed by Saxo Grammaticus it is depicted in a rather jumbled version wherein the Aesir actually fight the giants, and its hard to distinguish exactly where or for whom the Vanir fought. Another version mentioned in the Edda’s is more straightforward, though the detail is scarce. Freyr, Freya, and Njord are sent as hostages in order to keep the peace, and Kvasir is made of the gods spit. In a third version from Snorri Sturlson’s Ynglinga Saga, Odin leads the Aesir against the Vanir and when the two reach a stalemate the two exchange hostages. The Vanir trade Freyr, Freya, Njord, and Kvasir. While the Aesir send Mimir and Hoenir. In all three cases the trade is made, though as mentioned above I do wonder how old this myth is and if it doesn’t merely delineate the cults of old Scandinavia and those that moved in. Regardless, this is the beginning of Freya’s direct dealings with the Aesir, as anything other than a force she fights on the battlefield, with her great magical prowess. At least according to the myths at our disposal. From here we can see the actions of the Aesir towards Freya and also the distinction between them and the Vanir.

From here the Aesir are shown to highly value Freya, though her role is less relevant. She is demoted no longer a queen, one must wonder why such a valuable goddess would be traded, especially given the general disregard she seems to be shown. While she is certainly powerful, and the gods don’t intend to lose her. Most of the time the gods are more than happy to use her as a bargaining chip either to try to trade her for Mjolnir’s return, or as payment for the building of the wall around Asgard. Though each example involves trying to get her back or avoiding giving her away entirely. In the case of the theft of Mjolnir the very mention by Thor that she should go to the giants, offends Freya and she fears for her reputation should she comply, her anger is such that Asgard shakes and her torc splits apart.

Both of the above examples are of the Jotun’s trying to get Freya for themselves, which I will cover shortly. Odin has no problem with sexual relations with Freya, he will also hold any discrepancies over her head such as her receiving her torc from the dwarfs, which is often interpreted as for sexual reasons, though it is possible it initially was more a conflict of interest, if Freya has power over another realm, it undermines the power of Odin and the Aesir. Though again this part is conjecture. Odin uses Loki to get her necklace, but when Freya finds out while she agrees to and fulfills Odin’s terms she takes the necklace from him without any concern for reprisal. She is not weaker or less important than Odin, though her current role has placed her as such.

In another tale involving Loki and the theft of Freya’s torc, Heimdall is the one to retrieve it for her. Allowing for a more generous and helpful side from the Aesir in regards to Freya. Though some have speculated that Heimdall is also a Vanir god, however, this is debated. Freya’s relationship with the Aesir is not without issues, and at times it seems as if she behaves despite them not because of them. Freya’s relationship with her own tribe is far more positive. She is defacto female head of the Vanir. Her magic prowess was instrumental in their side of the war against the Aesir. She has good relations with Freyr and Njord.

Both of whom receive high praise from the other gods as “The Greatest Among us” or “Perfect”. The gods Hoenir and Mimir it is important to note do not live with the Vanir in most of the myths, as mentioned above they were supposedly traded in Ynglinga saga for Freya and her family. So whether this was something that was reversed or the hostages only went one way in other versions is up for debate. In either case Freya’s relationship with the Vanir is one of high respect, and her abilities were highly valued. Which while true with the Aesir, there is an undercurrent of disdain that seems to arise from the myths, though if this was a part of the myths or a result of the Christian writers I could not say. It is notable that the Vanir have never tried to get Freya and her kin back, at least in extant myths. Though the giants are incredibly eager to do so.

The giants try several times to get Freya for themselves. Hrungnir even drunkingly threatens to destory Asgard, take Valhalla back to Jotunheim and make off with the beautiful goddesses Freya and Sif. In another tale Freya, along with the Sun and the Moon, is the prize for a jotun who agrees to build a wall around Asgard. Though he is eventually foiled by Loki, as the gods had no intention of losing Freya or the sun and moon. A third example involves the theft of Mjolnir, with the promise of its return in exchange for Freya. Though this ends in the hilarious tale of Thor dressing as Freya in order to get the hammer back from the jotuns, the original plan was to send Freya to them. Freya is lusted after by the male giants, save Loki who has some level of disdain for her, though she is willing to give him her falcon cloak to rescue Idunn.

In Wagner’s opera’s Freya is stolen, in this tale she is fused with Idunn and as such with her gone the gods begin to age. It is unlikely that Freya and Idunn are identical goddesses, though it saved on cast members for Wagner. Instead it is likely Freya’s beauty and power are things the Aesir wish to keep on their side. As Freya will survive Ragnarok, and her magic and power would likely turn the tide against the giants, even with Thor on their side. As even Thor does not wish to cross Freya. Likely the possession of Freya who while not exactly highly respected by the gods, is well known by her sheer power, with her home being impenetrable save by Loki’s shapeshifting into a fly.

It is clear she is strong enough to be a threat on another side of the war. In regards to female Jotuns though Freya is generally insulted, called all manner of names that mock her for her supposedly promiscuous nature. This possibly ties into her role with the giants, as the males, especially those who do not tend to act feminine at times like Loki, desire her greatly, largely for her beauty. While the females are likely not fond of their men desiring a woman of another tribe so greatly. Between all of them the Vanir clearly treat Freya the best, while the Aesir and Jotun’s tend to prefer to have her on their side and at least in regards to the Jotun are in awe of her beauty.

Hyndla, Freya, and Ottar (disguised as Hildisvini)

Freya, Odr, and Brísingamen

Now we come to the tale of a god who is barely mentioned but is incredibly important to Freya, that of her husband Odr. While many will claim Odin is identical to Odr, pointing to etymology and both gods tendencies to wander. I doubt this is the case, rather I think the two became more conjoined over time. Odr is the father of their daughters Hnoss and Gersemi, but he is gone so often that Freya weeps for him.

Her tears turn into red gold if they touch land though if they touch the sea they turn to amber, which is likely due to the Amber in the Baltic sea. A similar origin of “amber tears” is found in the Baltic myth of Jurate. Though the red gold is a bit harder to place, the fact she weeps so hard in her search for Odr to me indicates he is rarely at home. Which considering that Odin and Freya are both typically in Asgard in stories or legends it seems unlikely the two are one and the same.

While Odr has little to no legends himself, Freya is said to search all over for him. This is said to be where many of her names come from such as Mardoll. Gaining them as she goes around searching for him. Some say Odr is a god while others say he is a mortal man. This may indicate that the reason she is separated from her husband is that he spends time on earth and then spends time with her before reincarnating, and she must search among the people for him all over again.

There is another tale that combines both the story of Freya’s torc and the story of Freya’s search for Odr, this tale comes from Bavarian folklore and is called Woud and Freid. While the figures cannot be confirmed to be Freya and Odr. Or Even Odin and Freya. It must be said that the tale echoes the two stories strongly. In it Woud and Freid are two powerful magic users, a king and queen of the land. Woud had a long flowing beard and eyes that flashed with fire that could blind you if you looked into them too long, he wore nothing but a loincloth and a belt to accompany it, the belt kept him the sole ruler. It could not be removed as his shoulders and hips were far too broad. Freid on the other hand wore a sarong, and had beautiful thick hair that covered her and shimmered in the light, when she would bend down to drink from a stream her hair would sparkle and her skin resembled the beauty of pure snow.

From here the tale is fairly recognizable. Freid is terrified of losing Woud and consults dwarfs who practice magic, they agree to make a necklace that will make her irresistible to anyone who wears it, though they demanded her love in exchange. When Woud found out he was furious and left with the necklace, which was full of precious jewels.Freid woke up and was horrified that both Woud and the jewels were gone, she pursued Woud across the world and at night would sit and weep tears of precious pearls. When time had run its course, Woud and Freid found each other. She showed him the pearls she had wept for him, and when he counted them they were the same number as the jewels on the necklace.

Woud took her back for in all his travels he had never discovered a more beautiful woman. This causes me to wonder if the tale involving the necklace was not originally one involving Odr, which given its highly Christianized origins, could in fact be the case. This could’ve been the result of her devotion to another being whether that was her lover Ottar, Freyr, or the dwarfs. Her natural promiscuity led him to leave her, and it will not be until long in the future that she will find her beloved. That’s one possibility at least.

As mentioned Brísingamen is a magnificent Torc, potentially indicating some level of rulership. Some will indicate it is symbolic of the spark of life, or of Freya’s dominion over the land. In essence Freya must be promiscuous if she is the goddess of the fertility of the land, one could argue she must symbolically marry the king. As a result the marriage of Odr and Freya may have been doomed from the start, as her very nature and role requires her to be unfaithful to Odr, though despite this Freya still loves him and wishes for his return.

Those Darn Cats?

Freya also possesses several animals. She possesses the Battle Swine “Hildisvini” a clear reference to her fertility aspects. But what of the cats? Freya is said to have tomcats that pull her chariot. Though the word that was translated to Tomcat “Fress” could mean any number of animals including both Martens/Weasels, and most notably Bears. The cats won out largely due to the association with witches that Freya gained in the middle ages. More than likely in my humble opinion, Freya’s cart or chariot was drawn by bears, this would tie into both her fertility and magic aspects. As the bear is often seen as a wise and magical animal, and would make an interesting tie in to the tale of White Bear King Valemon, often considered a rendition of the myth of the Fertility Goddess and Bear/Wildman god.

White Bear King Valemon and a Princess who is a likely stand in for a Fertility goddess

The Bear is said to be the teacher of magic, medicine, and is often considered the consort of the earth goddess.

Freya would as such be far more at home with bears, and they would cause Freya to fit a bit of a bear mother archetype and serve as far more obvious steeds fit to pull a cart. The cat debate won out long ago, but not because of evidence, but due instead to their association with witches. As such an entire possible angle with which to look at Freya faded and an attempt to trace Freya to cats became the normal line of thought. With the cats appearing in carnival, and a myriad of artistic depictions throughout the years. While it gave a convenient origin for the witches cat, it holds neither more nor less weight than that of the bear or even the weasel. As the word “Fress” translates to Snarler, which could be any number of northern animals. The Weasel argument gains ground in some ways however, as in Westphalia the Weasel was directly tied into Freya.

This may be due to its burrows connecting it to the other world, or because it is such a fierce and swift predator, it also knows how to access places that other animals might not due to its lithe nature. In an odd way it is a very feminine animal, and animals in the weasel family have been common fur adornments for women for quite a while, though whether this is connected remains to be seen.

Though to return to the cats, there is a more modern folktale from Russia that mentions their origin. It involves Thor and the magical cat of Russian folklore Bayun. Thor was fishing when he was lulled to sleep by a beautiful song. He awoke and Bayun was singing to his kittens, Bayun asked for his help as Bayun did not want to take care of the kittens, whose mother had left them. Thor decided to give them to Freya and they grew into the cats that pull Freya’s chariot. While this is likely a newer tale it is still a folk tale that for anybody who favors the cat option can grab a hold of as the origin of Freya’s cats. The cats are unnamed, though they received the names of Bygul and Trjegul from a modern author.

The cats are also described as gray and blue by many modern heathens, possibly alluding to the Norwegian Forest Cat or Lynx. The fact that Tomcat is not a definitive translation does not disprove Freya having cats, it merely makes it multiple choice, the middle ages was more than happy to give Freya swans or geese similar to other love goddesses and following a trend of Swan and Goose Goddesses present in the folklore. So in the end like many things about Freya, her animals are up for debate.

Fólkvangr

Lastly I think it pertinent to bring up the place that Freya rules and her hall. Freya lives in Folkvangr a meadow, that is sometimes translated as “Field of the Host” or “Army Field” though it also translated as “People-field” within it is the hall of Sessrumnir which is sometimes described as a ship. Leading some to connect Freya to the Isis of Suebi and to the stone ships of Europe. Though what I think is very noticeable is that Freya receives not only half of the noble dead from the battlefield, taking precedence over Odin. But is also said to receive plenty of women. Perhaps nobility or perhaps she is the keeper of the female ancestors for mothers night or Disablot. Who can say?

The Amundtorp Stone Ship (Photo by Nicklas Larsson)

The idea that Folkvangr translates to “People-field” draws comparisons to the various “Meadow of the ancestors” legends in Europe and makes me wonder how much Freya may tie into the Norse version. Differing from Hel. As many many halls and gods have dominion over different subsections of dead, in this example of whom in particular went to Freya I am looking at her in a more isolated fashion. More akin to the time when she was less caught up in other deities such as Odin and Hel.

In terms of the possibility that Sessrumnir is a ship it keeps to the pattern of the Vanir gods being tied into the ocean. As Njord is tied directly into sailing and trade and lives by the sea. While Freyr possesses the massive yet compact ship Skidbladnir, which is the best of ships and can be folded into a small piece of cloth to fit into a pocket. Possibly ships were seen as a way to the afterlife similar to the dutch story involving Donnar and the World Snake, where Donnar after defeating the snake is led away on a ship via the sea god.This may be why the Stone Ship burial custom existed, and it merely fell out of favor when the lore was written down. As the other realms are often across the sea in Scandinavian folklore such as in the tale “The Three Princesses of Whiteland” Save to say Freya was not a bit player in the afterlife any more than any other god whose hall was frequented whether Valhalla with Odin or any of the other halls and gods.

Conclusion

I started this discussion of Freya with the intent to discuss her myths, traditions, and aspects especially in regards to her relegation to either Great and near all encompassing goddess or minor deity and aspect. Freya was by no means minor, though she did not merely split into other goddesses like Frigga or Gefjun, nor do I believe she was Gullveig as many will try to claim. She need not be Frikka or the Frea of the Lombards. She is what she has always been, the goddess of Sweden, with her range spreading to Denmark, and Norway. In the modern day Freya’s cult has greatly expanded finding fans in England, Southern Germany, and beyond even out to America. The veneration of a god is not stagnant and the heart of a gods cult is not the only place they may call home. Holle is greatly at home in Germany, but also Holland, and even Pennsylvania where she has her own mountain to call her throne. Freya has done the same. She was carried over with the Vinland settlers, and with the Scandinavian immigrants to America. She is more than enough in and of herself, a powerful and lovely goddess, who is not afraid to be a bit of a lustful and promiscuous being, while also holding a deep devotion to her beloved and missing Odr. In the years to come I’m sure much more will be discovered of this goddess, though it is not by fusing her with Frigga or with Gullveig or any other goddess or god that we find more of her, it is in Freya herself that the key to her tales comes through. I’ve heard she likes strawberries, and well everything that goes with that.

Bibliography

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Stone Ship image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Nicklas Larsson https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Amundtorp_Stone_Ship.jpg

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