Freya: Beautiful and Fierce
What do you do when you are a goddess in a male-dominated world? If you are the Norse goddess Freya, you become the goddess of sex and lust AND of war and death.
Our Lady, Freya
Freya, whose name means “Lady”, is the Norse goddess of love, lust, sexuality, war, and death. Not a bad list!
Everyone loved Freya (well, maybe not Loki). Several of the giants, who were most likely another race of god-like beings similar to the Aesir and not what we think of when we think “giant”, were in love (or at least, lust) with Freya and tried to trick their way into getting her in their possession. The dwarves had a thing for her too!
Unfortunately, there are not as many stories about the goddesses as there are of the gods. It could be that because Norse society was male-dominated, the Norse people didn’t tell goddess stories, or it could be that goddess stories never made it to the time when people finally wrote these stories down. My own theory (which has no basis in evidence) is that women told stories of the goddesses like Freya, Frigg, and Skadi, while they carded wool, cared for the children, and did the sewing, weaving, and cooking. The world of medieval women was often forgotten.
Because she was the goddess of love and war, Freya has a few more stories told about her than the other goddesses, but she SHOULD have many more great stories.
A Battle and Hostages
This beautiful goddess, along with her handsome brother Frey, originally joined the Aesir gods as hostages. The Aesir gods are the most famous of the Norse gods, and they include Odin, Thor, Tyr, and Heimdall. They battled with the gods known as the Vanir, the race of gods to which Frey and Freya belonged, and who were representative of the more primordial aspects of the world, like the sea god Njordr and the earth god Frey. This battle between gods raged for ages and resulted in the two groups exchanging hostages. Frey, Freya, and their father, Njordr, were all sent to live with the Aesir. In exchange, the Aesir gods sent two of their own to the Vanir—Hoenir and Mimir.
Freya has a husband named Odr by whom they have a daughter named Hnoss, whose name means “treasure”, but not much is known about her. Odr left the realm of the gods and no one knew why or where he went. Freya searched for Odr throughout the Nine Worlds of the Norse universe, using different names to disguise herself, but she never found him.
Every night she cried tears of red gold or amber. The Norse sometimes called amber, “Freya’s Tears.”
How Freya Travels
Freya travels in a chariot pulled by two cats, and, unfortunately, we don’t know their names. Cats in the Norse world were not exactly like the domestic house cats we have now; they were much more like the modern Norwegian Forest Cat, which is a large, long-haired cat.
In one story, Freya rode a boar named Hildisvini (battle-swine), which was a man named Ottar in disguise. Ottar worshipped Freya, so when he wanted to learn more about his ancestors, she disguised him as a boar and rode him to visit a seeress who could tell Ottar what he wanted to know.
Freya also owns a cloak made from falcon feathers, Fjadrhamr, that allows the wearer to fly. In one story, Loki borrows this falcon feather cloak so he can fly to Jotenheim, the world of the giants.
War Maiden and Valkyrie
In addition to being a goddess of love and lust, she is also the goddess of war and death. Freya claims half of all fallen warriors slain on a battlefield, and she is also believed to be the leader of the Valkyries, the Norse war maidens. It is not clear whether Freya takes the warriors she claims to her own hall in Folkvangr or if she simply claims them and the dead all go to Odin’s hall of Valhalla. Either way, she plays an important part in what happens to men slain in battle.
Freya is practiced in the ways of seid, the Norse magic. She brought this magic to the Aesir gods and to humans, and she even taught seid to Odin who learned it well. Loki teased Odin about his knowledge of magic, saying it was unseemly for a man to know the seid. Loki always caused trouble!
Freya’s most prized possession is Brisingamen, a beautiful necklace. The word Brisingamen means something like “fire torc” or “amber torc”. Either way, it signifies that the necklace was most likely made out of gold. As with most of the Norse gods’ most prized possessions and weapons, like Odin’s spear and Thor’s hammer, the dwarves created Brisingamen. But, as far as we know from the stories, it has no magical properties. Too bad. Brisingamen is simply beautiful. But then, beauty for its own sake is a good thing. We often have an image of the Norse as fierce Viking warriors, all grimy and bloody, but they were also artists and craftspeople who created beautiful works of art.
Brisingamen caused quite a stir among the gods, and the trickster Loki stole it, and that is a tale for another post.
I don’t know if it is because I’m a woman, but I’m partial to Freya. It’s the combination of the sexual being and the war maiden, that duality of qualities that draws me to her. To me, she embodies the Norse woman, confident in her sexuality and really fierce!