This makes sense when you consider the vast reach of the ancient Norse, and the varying belief systems that were later consolidated to create a single (more or less) mythology. “Freyr” – meaning “Lord” – is more of a title than a name, which the god has in common with others in the pantheon who share power with Óðin (such as Ullr, who’s name means “Glory” or Víðarr, “Wide Ruler” both considered rulers and chieftains in their own right).
Indeed, if we look back in time, we find the name Yngvi associated with Freyr in an Anglo-Saxon rune poem. There are several other connections made, including a mention by Tacitus in Germania, a passage in Beowulf, and the ancestral documents of the Swedish Royal Family (the Ynglings) who are in legend descended from the God Yngvi-Freyr.
Freyr is attested in the Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, Tacitus’s late 1st-century work Germania, Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum in the 11th century, Skaldic poetry, the 12th Century Danish Gesta Danorum, the 14th century Icelandic Ögmundar þáttr dytts, and several Icelandic Sagas.
Many archaeological artifacts have been found depicting Freyr, and there are place-names honouring him spanning throughout Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
Freyr is often described as remarkably handsome, and is considered along side his sister, Freya a deity of love, sexuality and fertility, representing feminine and masculine potency respectively. He is one of the Vanir, traded to the Æsir along with his sister and their father, Njörðr, in the exchange of hostages that cemented peace between the two tribes.
Freyr is associated with agriculture, and with enjoying the fruits of the harvest. He is the god of all hard work, and the enjoyment that follows. Snorri Sturlson describes Freyr in his Prose Edda:
“Freyr is the most renowned of the Æsir; he rules over the rain and the shining of the sun, and therewithal the fruit of the earth; and it is good to call on him for fruitful seasons and peace. He governs also the prosperity of men.”
He owns two of the six magical treasures of the gods, made by dwarven master smiths. The first is Gullinbursti, a mechanical golden boar that serves as his mount, and which can run through the sky and over land. The second is Skíðblaðnir, a ship made of gold, that could sail without wind and which folded up to fit in his pocket.
Freyr also possessed a magical sword which wielded itself! He traded it to Skirnir, his man servant, in exchange for braving the harrowing trip to Jötunheimr to propose to Freyr’s future wife, Gerð. Even without his sword, Freyr is a fierce warrior who famously slew the giant Beli with an antler!
At Ragnarök, however, the god is said to be left to fight the fire-giant Surtr without his wondrous sword, and according to Snori, does not survive. Freyr is a god of both war and peace. His sacred animals, the boar and stag, were popularly invoked among Germanic and Nordic tribal warriors.
Freyr is said to be the ruler of Álfheimr, one of the Nine Worlds, the realm of the Alfar. The Alfar eventually became the elves and fairies of later legend, but before that, they were human ancestors – the exalted dead of the pagans. Along with the spirits of the land, they were given tribute and veneration. Many scholars consider the ancestors to have been more important than the gods to the daily lives of the ancients.
There are many connections to be made between burial mounds throughout Europe, the elves, ancestor worship, and Freyr. He was worshiped at a huge temple-mound complex at Uppsala in Sweden, and was venerated with pilgrimages made to this site, as well as processions throughout the lands in which he was worshipped.
Dating as far back as the bronze-age, phallic idols identified with Freyr have been found throughout Denmark and Sweden, thrown into bogs, lakes, and rivers.
Thoughts on Freyr
Freyr was such an important deity that it was common to find his likeness beside Óðin and Thor on altars in the Viking Age. As a Vanir, he reigns over earthly, bodily concerns, and over agriculture and husbandry of livestock. The story of his defeat at the hand of Surtr is a metaphor for the decimation of all fertile growing things, under the rampaging fires of Ragnarök – mirroring the cyclical death and birth of seasons through the year.
Freyr appears as a jolly, warm archetype, and modern Heathens experience his energy as comforting, friendly and paternal. He is described as easy-going and he promotes enjoyment, peace and merriment.
Freyr is associated with all seasons, and perhaps most significantly Spring and Summer. He is thought to manifest as all fair and enjoyable weather, as well as the gentle rains which help crops grow.
Hand-in-hand with abundance comes fertility, and the sexual metaphors never end in his stories – from a sword with a mind of its own, to plowing the fields …
Freyr resembles other European deities including Priapus (Roman) and Pan (Greek), and even the Egyptian Min. He seems to have some connection to the horned god Cernnunos, and Irish Dagda, the jovial phallic god of plenty and joy.
Signs and Symbols
Boars, pigs, farms, fields, crops and harvest symbols. Seeds, pollen and semen. Swords, antlers, and phallic symbols. Stags, bulls, stallions and virile male animals. Feasts, festivals, and bawdy humour. Friday. The colours green, brown and gold. Freyfaxi (August 21) and Lammas (August 1-2.). Bells and percussion instruments. The rune Yngvi.
Frey, Yngvi, Yngvi-Freyr, Ingui, Ing, Frawjaz, Fricco, Frø, Freo, Ingawz.