View Full Version : Frigga and Freya

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, 09:39 PM

Germanic goddesses, travelling around and visiting houses, are chiefly thought of as mothers of the gods from whom the human race learned the affairs and arts of the household as well as of farming: spinning, weaving, sowing and harvesting. These labors bring peace and calm into the land and the memory of this persists in delightful traditions even more firmly than in wars and battles, which most goddesses, like women generally, avoid. But as some goddesses also take kindly to war, so do gods on the other hand favor peace and agriculture; and there arises an interchange of names or offices between the sexes.

Among the goddesses of the Norse religous system, of whom unequivocal traces are forthcoming in the rest of Teutondom, we first encounter Frigga, Odin's wife, and Freya, sister of the god Freyr, a pair easy to confound and often confounded because of the their similar names. The forms and even the meanings of the two names border closely on one another. Freya means the gay, joyful, dear, gracious goddess. Frigga, Wodan's wife, signifies the free, beautiful and amiable one. With the former is connected the general concept of Frau (woman, lady), with the latter that of fri (wife, mistress).

Frigga, as wife of the highest god, has rank before all other goddesses. She knows the destinies of men, is consulted by Odin, administers oaths; she superintends marriages and is entreated by the childless.

In some parts of northern England, in Yorkshire, especially Hallamshire, popular customs show remnants of the worship of Frigga. In the neighbourhood of Dent, at certain seasons of the year, especially autumn, the country folk hold a procession and perform old dances, one called the giant's dance: the leading giant they name Woden, and his wife Frigga, the principal action of the play consisting in two swords being swung and clashed together about the neck of a boy without hurting him.

The distinct trace of the goddess in lower Saxony is worth noting where she is called Fru Freke by the people and appears in the roles which we allot to Frau Holle. Then in Westphalia, legend may derive the name of the old convent Freckenhorst, Frickenhorst, from a shepherd Frickio, to whom a light appeared in the night on the spot where the church was to be built; the name really points to a sacred hurst or grove of Frecka fem., or of Fricko masc., whose site Christianty was perhaps eager to appropriate.

A constellation of the heavens, Orion's belt, is called Fraggiar rockr after the highest goddess. But the constellation also means Mariarock, Marirock in Danish because Christians applied the old name to Mary the heavenly mother.

Freya, from whose name comes the sixth day of the week, is after, or alongside Frigga the most honored goddess, indeed her cult seems to have been even more widespread and important. She was married to a man called Odr, not a god, at least not included among the Aesir, but who forsook her and whom she, shedding tears, sought all over the world among alien peoples. Freya's tears were golden, gold is called after them, she herself is gratfagr, beautiful in weeping. In children's tales, pearls and flowers are shed with tears or laughter. But according to the oldest evidence, Freya appears warlike. She drives to the battlefield on a wagon drawn by two cats, just as Thor drives with two goats, and she shares with Odin in the slain. She is called supreme head of all Valkyries. As a consequence it seems a remarkable similarity that in legend from Christian times, besides Wodan, Holda or Berchta also take up unbaptized, dying children into their host, i.e., as pagan goddesses they take the souls of pagans.

Freya's dwelling is called Folkvangr, Folkwang, the fields on which hosts of the (dead?) folk gather. This possibly resembles St. Gertrud, whose minne is drunk for the souls of the departed; with Gertrud the souls of the dead are given hospitality the first night. Freya's hall is called Sessrymir, roomy in seats, taking up hosts of people. Dying women believe they come into her company after death. Thorgerd in Egils saga refuses earthly nourishment; she thinks to feast with Freya soon in the afterlife: "I have not had supper, and I will have none till I am with Freya". Yet love-songs please her too, and lovers do well to call upon her. Because the cat is sacred to her, as the wolf to Wodan, perhaps explains to us why this animal is regarded as the associate of night-hags and witches and is called Donneraas, Wetteraas (thunder carrion). If a bride goes to her wedding in good weather, then it is remarked: "She has fed the cat well," i.e. not offended the animal of the goddess of love.

According to the Edda, Freya owned a precious necklace. How she obtained the jewel from dwarfs, how it was cunningly robbed from her by Loki, is recorded in an original tale. When Freya snorts in rage, the necklace breaks off at her breast. When Thor, to get his hammer back, dresses up in Freya's garments, he does not forget to put on her famous necklace, Brisinga men ["necklace of the Brisings.]

Now this very trinket is evidently known to the Anglo-Saxon poet of Beowulf (line 1199); he names it Brosinga mene ["necklace of the Brosings"], without any allusion to the goddess. I would read "Brīsinga mene," and derive the word in general from a verb which is in MHG brīsen, breis (nodare, nodis constringere, Gr. kentein to pierce), namely, it was a chain strung together of bored links. The jewel is so closely interwoven with the myth of Freya, that from its mention in Anglo-Saxon poetry we may safely infer the familiarity of the Saxon race with the story itself.

Jakob Grimm: "The Principal Germanic Gods" (http://library.flawlesslogic.com/grimm_4.htm)