Freya | Norse Mythology


Freya, also Freia or Freyja (Old Norse "mistress"), is the name of the Norse goddess of love and marriage.

She is considered the second goddess of the Norse pantheon after Frigg, with whom she is often equated or confused in modern receptions.

She has a similar function to Venus of the Roman pantheon of gods and Aphrodite of Greek Olympus.

Freya's Function

Freya belongs to the Vanir, one of the two deities of Norse mythology. Her brother is Freyr, her father is the sea god Njörd, her mother is called Skadi, daughter of the giant Thiazi.

Her husband is the god Óðr in the Eddic mythology. With him she had daughters Hnoss and Gersimi (both names are synonyms and mean "preciousness"). Freya is considered the "most eminent of the goddesses" (Gylfaginning, ch. 23).

She is also the goddess of fertility and spring, happiness and love, and the preceptor of magic (seiðr).

Freya possesses a collar forged by dwarves, brisingamen, a chariot drawn by forest cats, and a falcon's robe with which to glide through the air like a hawk.

According to the poem Hyndluljóð, she also rides the boar Hilisvini. Freya also appears in the Gylfaginning. Afterwards, she cries golden tears when Oðr leaves her. According to the Grímnismál, her court is called Fólkvangr

Her hall is called Sessrúmnir. According to the Ynglinga saga Snorris, she taught the Aesir magic. But her main role is that as leader of the Valkyries, she is at home on the battlefields and may claim half of the fallen warriors, while Odin (the supreme god, god of war) is entitled to the other half in Valhalla.

The weekday Friday (ahd. frîatac, ae. frīgedeag) is probably strictly speaking not derived from the North Germanic "Freya", but from "Frija", the South Germanic name form of the Germanic goddess Frigg, which is to be distinguished from the latter depending on the reading of the (sparse!) sources.

However, in Old Norse there were both the names Freyjudagr and Frjádagr as names for Friday, once referring to Freya and the other time to Frigg. (Cf. Friday)

Freya plays a significant role in the Eddic texts Hyndluljóð, Lokasenna, and Þrymskviða. In Grímnismál she appears as the goddess of death, and in the Völuspá she shimmers through the song of Od's bride (Óðs mey).

The sorceresses Gullveig and Heid, who in the stanzas before ignite the war between Aesir and Vanir, are also thought to be hypostases of the goddess Freya.

According to Snorri's Gylfagynning, whenever she attends a battle, she receives half of the fallen, the other half falling to Odin.

Since there are no South Germanic (e.g. German or English) traditions about Freya and the South Germanic people still associated the day of Venus (Friday) with Frija/Frigg, it is assumed that Freya forms a Viking Age detachment of the aspects love and love magic of Frigg.

For this the following episodes are described in the Edda and the Gylfaginning: The necklace of Freya, the brisingamen necklace, had been made by the dwarves Alfrigg, Dvalin, Berling and Gerr, the price of the acquisition was that the goddess spent four consecutive nights with one of the dwarves each - to the displeasure of Odin, who forced Freya as punishment to instigate a war among the people.

Another report said that Loki, at the drinking party hosted by Aegir, insulted all those present and accused Freya of having had love affairs with all the Aesir in the hall. It remains to add that Loki languished in unrequited love for Freya.

However, the literary elaborations of Freya during the Icelandic Renaissance of the 13th and 14th centuries are not authentic sources on the pagan figure of the goddess.

In modern times, she has completely supplanted the goddess Frigg in the Icelandic treatment of the ancient sagas. In an illumination in a 17th century paper manuscript, however, she appears only as a faithful family mother.

Sources about Freya

Particularly well-known sources about Freya are two poems of the Song-Edda. In the Lokasenna ("Abusive Speeches of Loki"), the god Loki accuses her of having had intercourse with every god and mythological figure.

In the Þrymskviða ("The Song of Thrym") she has a tantrum when the demand of the giant Thrymr (aisl. Þrymr) is to marry him in order to release Thor's hammer Mjolnir from the giants, which is important for the continuation of the world of gods. Freya also appears in the Gylfaginning and the Grímnismál.

Freya's Places of worship

Danish as well as Swedish place names go back to the goddess. For example, Fröjel on Gotland is a Viking-era port and cult place of Freya (Swedish: Fröja), where a Fornborg and a Trojaburg (northern: Trojeborg) still refer to the ancient function of the place, which was also a Thing place. In Denmark, in Jutland Frøslev, on Zealand also Frøslev and on Lolland Frejlev are such places.