Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This article uses English names. (Old Norse) names are given in italics in parentheses.
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, or amber. 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 (Brísingamen), which she bought from four dwarfs (Berling , Dvalin, Grer and Alfrik) 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 Óðr, but he disappeared for some time. She cried golden tears afterwards. Óðr was one of Odin's (Óðinn's) names, and Freya does not seem to have been clearly distinguished from Frigg, the wife of Odin. They seem to have evolved from the same goddess. This seems to be contradicted by the description of Freya as a Vanir instead of an Áss. However, the Vanir Freyja would have become an Áss by marrying Odin. Moreover, Gefyon (Gefjun), who some claim was a synonym for Freya, belonged both to the Æsir (the plural of Áss) and Vanir.
Freya is wild: free with her sexual favours and furious when an attempt is made to marry her off against her will; the mistress of Odin and several other gods. According to Loki, in Lokasenna, she even let her brother Frey into her bed.
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 (Óttarr) 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. Seventh 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.
- 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 (Þorgerðr), 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 seiðr, 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 (see mystery religion). 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
- Gefn (according to Snorri Gefyon/Gefjun is not the same as Gefn)
- Egils Saga
- Snorri Sturluson, The Younger Edda
- H R Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
- E O G Turville-Petre, Myth and Religion of the North
- Jan de Vries, Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, 2nd Edition (the seminal work of reference on Germanic and Scandinavian religion).
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