August 10, 2012

Freya and Frigga – Ancient Goddesses of the North

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , at 1:50 am by Babs

Freya and Frigga – one goddess or two? 

Because of the frequent overlapping that occurs in their myths and symbols, some authorities believe they are just regional variations of a single goddess.  Others insist that they are separate entities.  All agree they were among the most ancient of the Norse deities.

Together they represent the two aspects of the original Great Goddess with Freya serving as the maiden and Frigga the mother aspect.  As you will see below, their traits varied considerably.  Consequently, I have decided to treat them as two distinct, but related, deities.

Freya was a warrior goddess, a Valkyrie, and also the goddess of sensual love.  Though this captivating goddess has numerous lovers, she was the wife of the mysterious Norse god Od.  (Many scholars believe Od was another name for the chief Norse god Odin).

Frigga was the goddess of love, marriage and destiny.  She was the wife of the powerful Norse god Odin.  A sky goddess, responsible for weaving the clouds (and therefore sunshine and rain directly influencing the fertility of the crops) she was also responsible for weaving the fates of both man and gods.  She was also a “seer” or one who knew the future though she could never change it.

Goddess Freya:

Freya was a spectacular beauty known for her appreciation of romantic music and stunning floral arrangements.  That was her softer side; she was also known as the goddess of war and death.  As leader of the Valkyries Freya had considerable power.  She had the right to claim half the souls of the bravest warriors who died in battle by actually going onto the battlefield, and gathering them up.  She would then take them back with her to spend the after-life in her home in perpetual rest and recreation.  A sweet and generous woman, she always invited their wives or lovers to come and live with them.  The other  half of the heroic warriors belonged to Odin and would be gathered up by the Valkyries and taken to Valhalla where they were able to live in comfort and honor.  As a footnote, when Freya and the Valkyries rode forth on their warrior collection missions, their armor caused the eerily beautiful flickering light that we know of as the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

Freya weds Odin but soon after their wedding he disappears and all fear he was dead perhaps killed by the ruling deities for disobeying their orders.  What these orders were and how he disobeyed them were not easily determined.  Freya was distraught and cried tears of gold but refused to accept that Odin was dead.  Putting on a magical cloak made of falcon feathers that allows the wearer to fly across vast distances very quickly, she rose into the sky and searched all over the earth for him.  Indeed, Odin had not died but had been banished and lost at sea.  When Freya found him he had already degenerated into a sea monster.  Hideous as he appeared, she stayed by his side and comforted him.

Later, when someone stumbled upon the dreadful sea monster (Odin) and killed him, Freya was enraged and threatened to take her revenge for the slaying of the most noble of the gods.  Fortunately it all worked out as Odin was admitted to Valhalla even though he had not died in battle and was allowed to have conjugal visits from Freya so that the two were never separated by his death.  As previously noted, Freya had many other lovers although she loved her consort Odin.  (Remember, monogamy had not been invented yet and infidelity was the social norm.)

Freya’s name means “mistress” and is the source of our name of the fifth day of the week, Friday.  Aphrodite’s amorous escapades pale in comparison to those of Freya, whose unbridled sexuality was legendary.  Usually depicted as a strawberry blonde with stunning blue eyes, none could resist her.  To make matters even worse, like the Greek goddess Aphrodite, she possessed apparel that made her irresistible to men consisting of a magical necklace reputedly made of amber and rubies that was called a “brisling” or “brisingamen”.

One story of her acquiring this necklace has Freya leaving a bit late from her friends’ house to start home.  The sun set and it began to snow.  Soon she was becoming disoriented and frost-bitten.  Luckily she was found by four dwarves who rescued her and took her to their home.  The dwarves were named “North”, “South”, “East” and “West”.  Freya volunteered to pay them for their hospitality and the four dwarves cheerfully agreed, saying that they would like to be repaid by having her sleep with each of them for one night.  Freya wasn’t at all interested and promptly declined.  Until, that is, she saw the incredibly beautiful necklace that they had just made.  She had to have it and offered to return after the storm and pay for it in gold.  They may have been dwarves, but they weren’t stupid – they told her it was not for sale at any price but countered with an offer that they would be delighted to simply give it to her if she were willing to pay their price for her room and board during the storm previously offered to her.  When Freya returned home after the storm subsided, she was wearing the stunning “necklace of desire”.

Since, in archetypal psychology, dwarves often represent the parts of self that we have neglected or even rejected, the goddess Freya reminds us to explore and acknowledge all of our emotions, longings, and traits; even those we wish we didn’t possess.  The Nordic goddess Freya is a goddess who keeps us in touch with our intuitive nature and helps us make transitions and new beginnings.  And as a goddess of love and divinations, she helps us keep our lives in alignment with our spiritual selves.

The goddess Freya’s passions were abundant, vigorous, and unrestrained.  Clothed or not, she is usually shown in sensual poses.  She is often depicted riding her golden chariot through the skies.  The chariot is pulled by two large blue cats that were a gift from the Norse god Thor.  As the story goes, Freya chastised Thor soundly one morning for awakening her from her beauty sleep with his boisterous and noisy preparations to “go fishing” for a sea dragon.  While he was on the way to his fishing spot, Thor kept hearing lovely song-like noises that seemed to be lulling him to sleep.  Stopping to investigate the source of the odd sounds, he found them coming from a nest of mewing blue kittens being tended by a tomcat.  The sound that Thor had heard was the male cat singing to the kittens.  “Sleep, sleep, my dear little ones”.  Thor suggested (in forceful terms) that the cat stop singing the lullaby and the cat sassed him back suggesting that Thor had no idea how difficult it was for a single parent male to rear his children and asked if he knew any woman who would be willing to take them in.  Immediately Freya came to mind and Thor agreed to take them to her.  Like all cats, this one was not quick to show appreciation and added that being blue they were very unique cats and deserved an especially fine home.  Thor took offense at the comment and thundered back at the cat who, not the least impressed, bared his claws and then turned into a bird and flew away.  Kindly Freya was enchanted with Thor’s present and did the kittens honor by letting them accompany her on her daily rounds across the sky.

Goddess Frigga:

In ancient times the end of the Winter Solstice when the hours of sunlight began to lengthen, marked the beginning of the New Year and a time to think of new possibilities that would unfold.  The Goddess Frigga, who sat at her spindle weaving the destiny of man and gods alike, was the goddess associated with the beginning of each New Year.

New Year’s Eve, the longest night of the year, is called “Mother Night” in Northern Europe for it was in the darkness of that night that the goddess Frigga labored to give birth to Baldur the young Sun God who controlled the sun and rain and brought fruitfulness to the fields.  The blessing of Frigga is still invoked for birthing women with a white candle that last burned during the winter solstice being used as a charm to ensure a safe delivery.

Frigga is credited with the development of runes as a tool for divination.  Runes are stones marked with signs which, when selected, tell what “issues” you are currently confronting in your life and where you need to head to find the answers you seek.

A loving mother, Frigga’s ability to see into the future caused her great pain as she foresaw the death of her beloved Baldur.  Even though she knew that she could not change his destiny, she simply couldn’t just sit by and watch so the frantic goddess extracted a promise from all things that they would play no role in his death.  Unfortunately she overlooked one thing, the mistletoe plant, which seemed too insignificant to approach.  And this was the unraveling of her plan.  For when the malevolent trickster Loki discovered her oversight, he fashioned a dart made of the poisonous plant and in a cruel trick, placed it in the hand of Baldur’s brother Hotor who was the God of Darkness, and offered to guide his hand while teaching him to shoot darts.  And so Loki guided the arrow directly into Baldur’s heart.  Frigga’s tears of mourning were so bounteous that the hapless plant that had caused his death took pity.  From then on it would bear milky white berries that were formed from her tears.  In some versions of the myth the story of Baldur ends happily.  He is brought back to life and the Nordic goddess Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the curse she had placed on “the baleful plant”, changing it to a symbol of peace and love and promising a kiss to all who passed under it.

Frigga’s tender, nurturing side was widely recognized.  Her sacred animal was the goose.  In Germany, she was worshipped as the goddess Holda or Bertha and was the original Mother Goose.  When she shook out her blankets it began to snow.  In addition to being a protector of women in labor, Frigga ensured fertility and was also the goddess called upon to bring a woman love and marriage.  She was also called upon by those who were dying, to ease their  transition into the after-life.

Goddess Symbols and Sacred Objects of Freya/ Frigga

  • General Attributes – Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), snow, runes, spindle, spinning wheel, wheel of fortune, sward, the horned Viking helmet, the full moon, floral bouquets, romantic music and the day Friday (named in her honor).
  • Animals – Geese, cats, pigs, falcons, cuckoos, sparrows and horses.
  • Plants – Apple, alder, birch, bramble, cypress, elder, feverfew, mind, mistletoe, mugwort, rose, tansy, thyme, vervain, yarrow, and valerian.
  • Perfumes/ Scents – Rose, sandalwood, cypress, myrtle, vervain.
  • Gems/ Metals – Amber, rose quartz, ruby, citrine, pink tourmaline, emerald, red jasper, jade, malachite, moonstone, silver, gold, copper.
  • Colors – Red black, silver, white, and green.
  • Runes – Kenaz, Fehu, Urus, Tiwaz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: