Freya is attested to in the Poetic and Prose Eddas, in Hemskingla, various Icelandic Sagas, in Sörla þáttr, skaldic poems, and throughout folklore. Her name means “Lady” and Friday is named variously for her, Frigga and Freyr. She is perhaps the most famous Norse goddess, is one of the Vanir, and is most often associated with love, sex, beauty, and gold (prosperity).
She is associated with witchcraft (called seiðr, “say-thur”) and battle, and is a goddess of both life and death. Freya famously teaches Óðin (“oh-thin”) seiðr, with whom she splits the spoils of battle. Freya’s pick of the fallen are said to go to Fólkvangr, her realm in Ásgard, where her hall Sessrúmnir is located. She is often considered leader of the valkyrjur, the goddess figures who choose the heroic warriors from battlefields.
Her brother is Freyr, and her father is Njörðr, by his unnamed sister (generally considered to be Nerthus). Her husband is said to be Óðr (thought be a nickname of Óðin), with whom she has two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi. She drives a chariot pulled by a team of cats. Most seem to agree they were lynxes, or skogkatts (a breed of felines the size of lynxes), native to Northern Europe. In Freya’s honour, kittens (felis domesticus), were commonly given to brides as wedding gifts in the Viking era.
Many consider Freya and Frigga are one and the same, as they have striking similarities. They seem to have emerged as a single goddess in earlier history. In the later Eddas, they are depicted as separate, interacting characters. Like Frigga, Freya owns a mantle of falcon feathers.
Freya is said to use this to fly over Miðgarðr (“mith-gar-thur”) looking for her husband Óðr, who has left her to go wandering. Freya is forever searching for him, and weeps golden tears, which appear on earth as the precious stone amber, or as veins of gold.
Freya is much sought-after by the Jötnar. Several tales tell of desperate barters to win Freya for a bride. When Thor’s hammer goes missing, it is the giant Þrymr (“thrym-eer”) who has taken it, and demands Freya in ransom. Freya is also the price (along with the Sun and Moon) for the construction of the wall around Ásgard. In both cases, the jötnar are tricked out of the deal, and Freya’s honour is preserved.
Marriage had different rules in proto-Heathen times and hers (and other gods’) marriage appear to modern, and Medieval Christian eyes as perhaps unusual. She travels with a constant companion boar, Hildisvíni, who is her human lover Óttar in disguise. As payment for Brísingamen, she slept with several dwarfs, and in Lokasenna she is accused of sleeping with her brother, Freyr, by Loki in front of the other gods at a party. This necklace is said to appear as the Northern Lights over Miðgarðr.
Long after Christianisation, Freya continued to be honoured and named by rural Scandinavians, in folklore and folk magic well into the 19th century. As attested in several sources, due to Freya’s fame, women of rank could become known by her name Frúvor (“lady”), and a woman who was the mistress of her property was often referred to as Freya, and Húsfreyja (“lady of the house”).
Thoughts on Freya
Freya is attested to in the myths as benevolent and approachable: she readily answers the prayers of her worshipers, particularly in all matters of the heart and fertility. She is famous in the lore for appreciating romantic poetry and song.
Her sexual appetite is legendary. Loki attempts to insult her for having slept with gods and elves, however, Freya appears to be neither ashamed nor embarrassed, though the other gods are aghast at his claims.
Freya has commonalities with Venus-Aphrodite, Greco-Roman goddess of love, sex, beauty, and gold. Like Venus-Aphrodite, she is a lover of war: while Venus takes Mars as her paramour, Freya takes half of all warriors who die as her companions. Like Venus, she bears a magical garment which enhances her already epic beauty.
Unlike Frigga, Freya was not easily reconciled with Christianity. Much of Frigga’s character was absorbed by the Virgin Mary, while Freya was demonized, and her figure was converted to the folkloric character of the witch and her cat. It is theorized by some that it may have been the Christian influence on the lore that separated Freya and Frigga into two separate goddesses.
Signs and Symbols
Gold, sunshowers, and amber. Pigs, cats, honey, eroticism. Witchcraft and the Northern Lights. The rune Fé.
Freija, Frejya, Freyia, Fröja, Frøya, Frøjya, Freia, Freja, Frua, Freiya, Vanadis, Horn, Mardoll, Syr, Valfreyja, Gefn.