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(first printed in "Idunna" Magazine)
Greatly inspired by Vol. V of The Road to Bifrost by Thor and Audrey Sheil, back in print at:
The Norse Goddess Freya is one of the most widely worshipped Germanic Goddesses today; the other two being, from my observations anyway, Frigga and Nerthus. Norse Deities as a whole tend to be complex, multi-functional, and multi-faceted. Freya is certainly no exception to this rule! This article will outline some of Freya’s characteristics and give practical advice in beginning or expanding your own work with her. Please note that the Thor and Audrey Sheil sources are unfortunately long out of print and I have no idea when, or even if this will change. Thus, I am especially glad to incorporate some of the valuable information and practical advice they contain into my own observations about Freya.
Freya can be a topic of some disagreement among Heathens. For starters, there are various forms and spellings of her names. I personally tend toward the Anglicized Norse “Freya,” which is the form in common use in English today. Some prefer the Norse/Icelandic “Freyja,” others opt for “the Frowe,” which is probably what her name would have looked like had it remained in use in Anglo-Saxon and evolved like other Old English words which have remained in constant use in the living language up to the present day. Personally, I don’t care much for “Frowe.” It looks and sounds too much like “frowsy” meaning “dissheveled or unkempt,” and that she ain’t!
I’ve heard some speculation that Freya and Frigga may have originally been the same Goddess. The fact both possess a coat of falcon’s feathers may be a remnant of this, as may be the fact that Odin is wedded to Frigga and probably to Freya as well. More on that later. In any case, the two Goddesses are very different today and I for one am willing to leave it at that. There is also an ongoing debate as to whether or not such Goddesses as Gefjon, Heid, Gullveig, Berchta, Perchta and others are hypostases (forms) of Freya. While these topics make for fascinating research, discussion, speculation and even debate, they will probably never be resolved due to the limits of surviving lore and in practical terms do not greatly affect our work with Freya in living, modern Heathenism.
After the imposition of Christianity on the Northern Peoples, the Church did its best to do away with Freya, and with Frigga, too for that matter, but ultimately with limited success. Freya appears in the Danish national anthem, probably as a result of 19th Century Romanticism. The Icelandic term for flirting, “to have the cats of Freya in the eyes,” is still in use today. While the Christian clerics tried to replace Freya in the hearts and minds of the common folk, she still remained, sometimes in her old roles, other times in a role somewhat demonized by Christian influence. Both she and Frigga were painted on the interior walls of the cathedral of Schleswig, in an area long disputed between Germany and Denmark. (Näsström, 22 and 210-215).
Freya’s realm in Asgard is called Folkvang, the Field of the Folk Her hall is known as Sessrumnir, a “space with many seats.” (Simek, 87 and 280). There she quarters half the slain warriors. Odin of course gets the other half. I’ve even heard that Freya gets first dibs on them! Freya is a Goddess of the Vanir. She had fertility, prosperity, love, war, the Dead, and magic as her spheres of influence in ancient times. She was specifically associated with the crops and Innangard (lands under human control). Whether or not she had these roles in “the old days” (yet another topic to debate!), today she is also associated with wild lands (Utgard), wildlife, and Nature in general. Freya’s magic is called Seidhr. Any Seidhr or Spae-worker will sooner or later come into contact with Freya. Odin and Freya exchanged magical knowledge, her Seidhr for his Runes.
You will also find Freya a great help in working out your own sexuality and Heathen sexual ethics. She has no problem with both marital and non-marital sexual activity. The following anecdote is illustrative. A male Heathen friend of mine was, how shall we put it, “hard up.” His simple prayer to the Vanadis went something like this: “Freya, please help me get a girlfriend, or at least get me laid.” That very Friday, he did a favor for a friend of a friend who had the idea of expressing her gratitude in a carnal fashion. Gebo in action! They had a fun three-week fling and parted as friends. Of course, especially these days, due hygenic precautions are highly advisable, and Freya should never be used as an excuse for sexual dishonesty or irresponsibility. Freya knows you better than you know yourself at times. You may THINK you want a fun fling, but deep down long for something deeper. Freya knows this and will act accordingly. She IS, after all, a Goddess!
Freya is the daughter of Njordh and sister of Ingvi Frey. Her daughter is Hnoss (“Treasure.”) Most Heathens today consider Freya’s mother to be Nerthus, the old Germanic Earth Goddess described in Tacitus’ Germania, which was written in 98 C.E. We do not know the actual name or names by which Freya was originally known by the old-time Heathens. “Freya” simply means “Lady.” My own gut intuition, echoed by many other contemporary Heathens, is that IF there was a “Wicca” before Gerald Gardner, then Wicca’s “Lord” and “Lady” are more likely to be time-worn and somewhat degenerate survivals of Frey and Freya worship rather than anything “Celtic”!
Freya’s sex life got a great deal of attention in the old days and still does. Most Heathens today, echoing Loki in the Eddaic poem “Lokasenna” and curiously enough, medieval Christian detractors, see Freya as rather promiscuous and uncommitted. That certainly is visible in the lore. However, the Sheils also see her as a hallower and protector of marriages. (Old Norse Mysteries…, 19). While less visible, this is also lore-feasible. Remember Freya weeping as she searched long and hard for her missing husband, Od and weeping tears of gold while she was at it. Most see “Od” as a form of “Odin.” In Freya, the “wild side” is visible, but so is the committed aspect.
The idea that Odin has more than one spouse should surprise no one. That was accepted in the old days, at least for certain ruling class men. It is still practiced in some societies today and informally in the contemporary West. In mythological terms, however, “sex is a mythic theme used to express key ideas.” (Road to Bifrost…, 49). Freya and Frigga certainly do appear as polar opposites to each other. Still, both are fitting mates for the Allfather. Freya is the outgoing, far-faring one; while Frigga, the silent and all-knowing Goddess, remains at home for the most part but has a huge influence on events in the Nine Worlds anyway. Remember the old story told by a Christianized Langobard in Italy about Odin and Frigga arguing over which army was to win a battle. Frigga had her way in the end! Both Goddesses reflect the high status and great power women held in Heathen times, and which they are today reclaiming.
In setting up your own Freya-workings, you may find the following information useful. Useful colors include green, gold, blue and pink. For metals, gold, silver and copper are appropriate. Birch (remember the Goddess Berchta/Perchta and the Berkano Rune), maple and apple are useful woods for ritual tools, amulets, images of Freya, etc. Cats of all sizes, wild or domestic, along with swine and falcons are “her” creatures. For stones, look toward emerald, pearl, aventurine, rose quartz (my personal favorite), and tiger’s eye (I have a necklace of this stone to represent Brisingamen, Freya’s necklace). To these I would add amber. Her weapons are spear, sword and shield. She tends to appear in journeywork as an attractive, fair-haired woman with a large necklace, often accompanied by one or two cats. (Road to Bifrost…, 97). She can, of course, assume any shape she pleases!
The following partner-attracting spell is an example of a Freya-spell. Get a green candle, a pink candle, strawberry oil, strawberry incense, and a small ceramic cat. Mark the candles with a heart (a Freya symbol) and the Runes Berkano, Gebo and Mannaz (I suspect that Ingwaz would get you a baby as well)! For individuals seeking a same-sex partner through the kitty love spell, I suggest that the following Runes be carved on the candle after the heart: for men, a Mannaz or Ingwaz Rune on either side of the Gebo Rune; for women, a Berkano Rune on each side of the Gebo Rune. Start the spell on a Friday (Freya’s Day, although some say Frigga’s). Scholarly note: Friday is derived from a Germanic translation of the Latin “Dies Veneris” = “Day of Venus”, and Freya is a heck of a lot more like Venus/Aphrodite than Frigga is! Charge the cat statue and say the following somewhat hokey but proven successful rhyme:
“Kitty, kitty, hark to me.
A lover I would have, you see
Across the sky him/her espy,
Send him/her to me by and by!
Hurry forth, cat so furry
Bring him/her here! Hurry! Hurry!”
Let the candle burn out during the evening. Be darn sure to do the spell where it won’t burn down your dwelling. Place the cat on your sunniest windowsill. Repeat every Friday until successful. Then thank the cat (and Freya) and put the statue on a shelf or cabinet. (Old Norse Runecraft…, 66-67).
Please note that this spell is set to attract a suitable mate, not someone in particular. In both ethical and practical terms, this is a good thing. Also please note it works a lot better if you pay attention to things in your life like a decent job, a good attitude, and good personal hygiene and grooming!
In journeywork, seek Freya in Vanaheim or Asgard. Guidance in the journey can be found in my previously published journeywork for Freya’s father, Njordh, published in the Sea edition of Idunna. Invoking her into your own sacred space can be effective as well. Pay careful attention to her appearance; it can give you a clue to which of her many aspects you are encountering, and thus have a clue as to what aspects of your life she may want to get you working on. I’ve had great success with offering a pint or quart of fresh strawberries to Freya in the small bog in a nearby park.
I’ll close the article with a quote from the Sheils: “With red-gold hair and greenish-blue eyes, the Vanic Lady’s supple figure shows comfortability with the world and nature. She is warm, friendly, and alluring. Freya’s bearing has an aspect of sensuality. However, her ire is fierce. She is as comfortable cuddling a kitten as she is as wielding a spear. This Goddess dispels gloom by her warm and uplifting air. She is the friend who can make you comfortable with the best in life.” (The Twisting Trail…, 20).
Näsström, Britt-Mari. Freyja – the Great Goddess of the North . Lund: Novapress, 1995.
Sheil, Thor and Audrey. Old Norse Mysteries, Deities and Worship: The
Meaning, Symbols and Worship of Norse Gods and Goddesses. New York: Trollwise
-----. Old Norse Runecraft, Charms and Magick. New York: Trollwise Press,
-----. The Road to Bifrost Volume V: The Mysteries on Bifrost’s
Path. New York: Trollwise Press, 1991.
-----. The Twisting Trail to Bifrost’s Way: The Journey Through the Northern
Mysteries. New York: Trollwise Press, 1992.
Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Trans. Angela Hall. Cambridge:
D.S. Brewer, 1993.
last modified 08/14/2007