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Deities & Heros >> Nordic & Germanic
fertility goddess, patron goddess, earth goddess, sexual favours

Freya

Author: The Troth

Copyright © 1994 by The Troth.

Freya is probably the best-known and best-loved of the goddesses today. Her title simply means "Lady"; her original name is not known. Freya is the "wild woman" among the deities of the North: free with her sexual favours (though furious when an attempt is made to marry her off against her will); mistress of Odin and several other gods and men; skilled at the form of ecstatic, consciousness-altering, and sometimes malicious magic called seidhr; and chooser of half the slain on the battlefield (Odin gets the other half). Freya's chief attribute is the necklace called Brisingamen, which she bought from four dwarves at the price of four nights of her love. This necklace is sometimes seen today as embodying her power over the material world; the necklace has been the emblem of the earth-goddess since the earliest times. This goddess drives a wagon drawn by two cats, perhaps large forest-cats such as lynxes, and is seen today as the patron goddess of cats and those who keep them.

As a battle-goddess, she also rides on a boar called Hildisvini (Battle-Swine). Like Odin, Freya is often a stirrer of strife. As Gullveig ("Gold-Drunkenness"), she came among the Aesir to cause trouble. She was stabbed and burnt three times, but arose from the flame each time; through this torment, she transformed herself into Heith ("the Glorious"), mistress of magic, in a typical shamanic initiation. This also seems to have started the war between the Aesir and the Vanir. Freya is sometimes seen as a fertility goddess, but there are no sources suggesting that she was called on to bring fruitfulness to fields or wombs. Rather, she is a goddess of riches, whose tears are gold and whose "daughters", in the riddle-poetry of the skalds, are precious objects. However, the giants are always trying to take her away from the gods, and it is clear that this would be a great disaster: she was obviously known to be the embodiment of the holy life-force on some level. Perhaps because of this, Wagner gave her some of Idunna's attributes, making her the keeper of the golden apples without which the folk of Asgard would wither and die.

Old Norse Freyja, Old English Freo, Modern German Frau, Wagnerian Freia, Modern English Frowe.

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