Norse Goddess: Freyja
Other Names: Syr, Gefn, Horn, Vanadis, Mardel, Skialf, Thrung
Freyja, the Northern goddess of beauty, love, productivity/(fertility), and magick, is one of the more interesting goddesses you will stumble upon in Northern traditions. She was the sister of Frey, the God referred to as Lord who stood for wealth, fertility and prosperity. Likewise, Freyja was referred to as Lady. She also had several bynames: Syr (meaning sow), Gefn (related to the goddess of Denmark) and Horn(coming from a word for flax, hence why Freyja is depicted as spinning a thread or wool). A popular title of hers was Vanadis: this is because she was born in Vana-heim. It is assumed she is the daughter of Niord and Nerthus, or Skadi. Out of all the Goddesses, she was said to be the most beautiful and beloved.
Now, depending on the region you look at- some traditions (Germanic ones, for instance) tend to associate her with Frigga. "Thorsson notes, in Runelore, that Freyja is a three-fold deity. She is a member of the Vanir, a goddess of Magic, and a goddess of warriors. Davidson remarks that it is possible to see Freyja as a Triple Goddess, with Frigg and Skadi ".( Phil Hine) Others (Norway, Sweden) see Freyja as an entirely separate deity. (Being from Norway, I may be biased, but I view Freyja as separate from Frigga). The Gods, astounded and in awe of her beauty, gave her the
realm of Folkvang as well as the great hall Sessrymmir (which means roomy-seated and implies the she had quite a lot of guests). Snorri Sturluson, who translated the Prose Edda, tells us that Freyja survives the other Aesir ( "which is not surprising since medieval Christianity did not offer its converts a deity who blessed healthy productivity " [paxson] ).
The Missing Husband
Some thought Freyja to be a personification of the Earth. She was said to have a husband, Odh(or sometimes known as Odur, who was symbolic of the Sun), but he was a rover and eventually found himself weary of his wife and left to roam the world. Freyja looks for him, and mourns his disappearance*, but she takes lovers here and there anyways. This is why Loki describes her as the harlot of the Gods , points out his disapproval at her relationship with her brother, and accuses her of sleeping with every male at the feast. Loki is not the only one who seemingly disapproves of her. In the Lay of Hyndla, a giantess named Hyndla says: You ran ever longing after Odhr, you let many creep beneath your fore-skirt-atheling-friend, you leap about at night like Heidrun among the goats! Her father, Njordh,looks at it differently and reasons that a woman should have a lover in addition to a husband. This shows some differences in the views of love and fertility between the Aesir/Vanir.
*An interesting note: It is said that when she cried as she searched for her missing husband, her tears were transformed into gold. She shed many tears as she searched the world for him, which explains why gold can be found all over the Earth.
Eventually she finds her husband in the South, under myrtle trees. Having her love restored, she becomes radiant and happy once more. It is thought that the significance of Northern brides wearing myrtle is to represent this. With her husband and new-found happiness, she heads home and where the light from these two Gods shine- grass and flowers grow, showing her influence over nature. Out of the morning land, over the snowdrifts, beautiful Freya came tripping to Scoring. White were the moorlands, and frozen before her; Green were the moorlands, and blooming behind her. Out of her gold locks, shaking the spring flowers, out of her garments, shaking the south wind.. Loving and love-giving, came she to Scoring.(The Longbeards Saga, Charles K.)
Goddess and the Slain
Freyja was not all about love, however. It was thought that she personally led the Valkyrs down to battles, choosing and claiming which heroes and warriors were to be slain. She would take those who were slain back to Folkvang and entertain her guests. In her company she liked to keep pure maidens, faithful wives, and other women. She liked to invite the wives of the slain to be with their lovers and husbands after death. Guerber suggests that "The joys of her abode were so enticing to the heroic Northern women that they often rushed into battle after their loved ones were slain, hoping to meet the same fate; or they fell upon their swords, or were voluntarily burned on the same funeral pyre as the beloved remains ." In Grimnismal it is said that Freyja takes half the slain and the other half go to Odin.
This side of her is the reason for depictions of her to be the way they are: usually she has on a helmet, a corselet, shield and a spear but the lower part of her body has a flowing almost see-through feminine garb. This shows the different sides of Freyja.
Freyja and Magick
"The Norse Myths, as recounted by Crossley-Holland, give us some strong clues as towards Freyja's magical abilities. In the myth of Gullveig, she displays her powers before the Aesir, surviving all their attempts to do away with her. In Hyndla's Poem, she surrounds the giantess Hyndla with a ring of fire. Given her erotic character and her love of gold, I would infer that Freyja's magic also covered the powers of enchantment - the casting of glamours and fascinations. I would point to two instances in The Norse Myths which would seem to support this idea: firstly, in The Building of Asgard's Wall, the giant-mason asks to take Freyja for his wife, in return for rebuilding the walls of Asgard. At this point, Freyja is described thusly:
"The beautiful goddess sat bolt upright and as she moved the necklace of the Brisings and her golden brooches and armbands and the gold thread in her clothing glittered and flashed. None but Odin could look directly at her. "
Secondly, in Thor's Duel with Hrungnir, she tries to beguile the giant who again, is threatening to abduct her:
"Odin nodded and Freyja sidled forward. As she moved, all the jewels she was wearing flashed and glimmered, and Hrungnir tried to rub the stars out of his eyes. 'Drink again,' said Freya" ."(Hine)
"Snorri tells us that she (Freyja) taught the craft of Seidh to the Aesir." (Paxson)
and it is thought that Freyja was Priestess to the Vanir. Seidh tends to be oracular, a means for divination, and smiliar to shamanism. It appears throughout several sagas and most commonly these rites are performed by women. "The essentials for performing it were the erection of a platform upon which the practitioner sat, the singing of spells (galdr) and trancework or a falling into a state of ectasy and altered state by the leader" (Davidson). (To explain the full scope of Seidh would take too long, so that is all I will write on it here). Because Odin, at one point, shows that he knows Seidh magick- it is thought that Freyja was the one who originally taught it to him. More evidence for Freyja being the one to teach this type of magick: the volva (Volvas were women [usually] who would divine, see into the spirit world, etc) seen in Saga of Erik the Red is wearing clothes made from catskin (further down I will explain the significance of the cat and Freyja).
Due to this association between her and seidh it is thought that she was a shaman of sorts: which would go along with her abilities such as changing to animal form to travel, etc.
She is and was often invoked by lovers, called upon in love-rituals, etc. In Germany, her name is sometimes used as the verb to woo. She is also invoked for productivity, but be careful! Freyja is a fertility goddess. Specify what productivity you are asking her for. When making an offering to Freyja, it is common to offer pork, honey and other sweets, sweet tasting drinks such as ale. Many colors represent her: Gold, green, red. A combination of these can be placed on an altar, or a specific one can be chosen. It is said that she is a goddess who will randomly appear in peoples lives.
There is a tale that as goddess of beauty, Freyja had a fondness of glittering/shiny things and jewels. One day she saw four dwarfs carrying a necklace they had fashioned. This necklace was called Brisinga-men. It was the most beautiful, shiny thing she had ever seen. She become beside herself and obsessed with having this necklace. She begged the dwarfs to give the necklace to her, and they refused. So she promised to grant them a favor in turn for the necklace, and they accepted this (some sources say she slept with all four dwarves). It is said the beauty of Brisinga-men made her so much more charming and beautiful that the Goddess never took it off and could only rarely be persuaded to loan it to other deities.
The story to this continues on to say that Loki, who had seen what she had done, went straight to Odin and voiced his complaint. Odin, slightly angered at Freyja, ordered Loki to steal the necklace from her- which he did. When Freyja woke and came to the realization that the necklace was missing, she realized only Loki could have taken it and went to see Odin herself. Odin came up with the condition that if she wanted to see her necklace again, she would have to stir up war between two kings of men in Midgard, and that she use charms to give the slain new life, so that they could fight anew (Hine). Of course, Freyja agreed to this.
Another item she was in possession of was known as the falcon gard/plumes. T
his was something that enabled the wearer to fly through the air like a bird. Only twice was it ever borrowed, by Loki in fact ( though why he was in need of it when he could shapeshift.. who knows...) ! She also owned a chariot, which is sometimes shown to have been drawn by her cats. (Cats were her favorite animals and often are used to symbolize her, making them Freyjas sacred animal).
Here is how my kindred commonly honors Freyja in ritual. It begins by the leader of the ritual carrying a sheaf of wheat around in a circle, while clearing the air for Freyja. Occasionally during this time there is a welcoming song sang, to invoke Freyja and have her join in the ritual.
An altar for Freyja is set up as follows (keep in mind you can make it as you please):
A red cloth is placed over the altar, and red candles are placed on top of this.
Common elements to have on the altar: gold, jewlrey, flowers, etc.
An idol of her is placed somewhere on the altar, and commonly bird feathers are placed around it.
When it comes to the body of the ritual, it consists largely of trance-work, which many like to do through dance and beats as it feels lively and moves the energy. Some suggest this energy to be directed at a common purpose, such as helping someone, etc.
After the working is done, there is a feast, like many kindreds share in after a ritual.
The proper foods to have would be sweat meats, swee things such as honey and fruit, light meads, etc. Strawberries are a common element here.
*Note: There is WAY more to Freyja, but I like being very short and to the point, so some things have been left out. Feel free to look into her on your own time.**
Poetic Edda trans. by Carolyne Larrington
Prose Edda trans. by Snorri Sturluson
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H. R. Davidson
Essential Asatru by Diana L Paxson
Living Asatru by Greg Shetler
Myths of Northern Lands by H.A. Guerber
Norse Mythology: Great Stories from the Eddas by Hamilton