Freya (Freyja), the sister of Frey (Freyr) and the daughter of Niord, is usually seen as the fertility goddess of Norse mythology. While there are no sources suggesting that she was called on to bring fruitfulness to fields or wombs, she was a goddess of riches whose tears were gold. She was also goddess of love, sex and attraction, and correspondingly became one of the most popular goddesses. She may have been the same goddess as Frigg, and might be considered the counterpart of Venus and Aphrodite.
She was also thought to be the most desirable of all goddesses, owner of the attractive piece of jewellery Brosingamen, which she bought from four dwarfs 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.
She was once married to Odin, but he disappeared for some time. She cried golden tears afterwards.
Freya is wild: free with her sexual favours and furious when an attempt is made to marry her off against her will. According to Loki, in Lokasenna, she even let her brother Frey into her bed.
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Freya was the driver of a wagon drawn by two cats. She was associated with elves. Her chambermaids were Fulla, Hlín and Gná. Her palace was in Folkvang (Fólkvangr) and her hall was Sessrúmnir.
Along with the necklace, she owned a cloak of feathers which gave her the ability to change into a falcon, and the "battle-boar" Hildisvín (see below).
Freya as battle goddess
As a battle-goddess, Freya rides a boar called Hildisvín the Battle-Swine. In the poem Hyndluljóð, we are told that in order to conceal her protegé Ottar the Simple, Freya transformed him into the guise of a boar. The boar has special associations within Norse Mythology, both relative to the notion of fertility and also as a protective talisman in war. 7th century Swedish helmet plates depict warriors with large boars as their crests, and a boar-crested helmet has survived from Anglo-Saxon time and was retrieved from a tumulus at Benty Grange in Derbyshire. In Beowulf, it is said that a boar on the helmet was there to guard the life of the warrior wearing it.
Freya chooses half the slain on the battlefield whilst Odin gets the other half, according to Grímnismál:
- The ninth hall is Folkvang, where bright Freyja
- Decides where the warriors shall sit:
- Half of the fallen belong to her,
- And half belong to Odin.
This association of Freyja with death is underlined in Egil's saga when his daughter, Thorgerda, threatens to commit suicide in the wake of her brother's death, saying: "I shall not eat until I sup with Freya".
Freya as a witch
Freya was a skilled practitioner of seidhr, a form of magic which Snorri relates in the Ynglinga Saga in his Heimskringla she introduced among the Aesir. It has been been widely speculated that Gullveig was Freya under another name. If so, she was stabbed and burnt three times, but arose from the flame each time and transformed herself into Heiðr ("the Glorious"), mistress of magic, in a shamanic initiation. This also started the war between the Æsir and the Vanir.
The giants are always trying to take Freya away from the gods, and it is clear that this would be a great disaster. She was obviously the embodiment of the holy life-force.
Forms of Frey(j)a
- Common Danish and literary Swedish form: Freja
- Common Norwegian, and rural Swedish form: Frøya
- Wikipedia. (2004). Freya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freya). Retrieved Sept. 22, 2004.