While Frigga’s worship was prevalent in all regions of Germanic settlement, Frejya’s worship seems to have been concentrated in the Nordic countries. This supports the hypothesis that she was a latecomer to the pantheon, her relative prominence a sign that she was the principal deity of an indigenous people.When Germanic tribes adopted the Roman calendar, the sixth day of the week, which the Romans dedicated to the goddess Venus, became Frejya’s day. Although Venus and Frejya are not terribly similar, Frejya does have the most Venusian qualities of the pantheon. Where Freyja was not the dominant goddess, the sixth day was dedicated to Frigga. The English Friday was clearly derived from Frigga, although in Scandinavian languages the name of the day probably came from Frejya.Frejya is closely aligned with her brother the boar god Freyr, who is like his sister in many ways, aiding the harvest, bringing wealth and protecting children. While Frejya’s symbol is the vulva, Freyr’s is the phallus, and he was worshiped at a huge phallic monument. Frejya also has a lover, the god Oder, who has a tendency to wander, and Frejya will wander herself in search of him, leaving the earth cold and barren. Frejya wears a necklace of amber which she obtained from the dwarves. She also wears a cloak of falcon feathers and leather tunic and leather leggings. She has a lovely red mouth and is generous with her affection and her possessions. Frigga is wife of the Germanic god Odin, who is the chief male shamanic deity. Odin obtained most of his magic by threatening and confronting various goddesses and priestesses. He is no match for Frigga, however, who can always best him in a battle of wits. Before Odin arrived on the scene, Frigga’s principal male deity was probably her son Balder. She doted so much on her son that she extracted promises from every living thing on earth never to harm him. She overlooked the poisonous mistletoe, since it is such an innocuous looking plant, and was tricked into revealing her oversight. Frigga’s loss of her son and their subsequent reunion mirrors the dormancy and regeneration of vegetation. In pre-patriarchal societies, the role of goddesses as sisters and mothers rather than wives is emphasized, since children belong to the mother’s family.Frigga cries tears of gold when she mourns and has a great love of adornment, wearing precious jewels and a showy crown of heron feathers. She dresses in finely woven cloth. Her spinning wheel revolves in the night sky as a constellation. Frigga is a generous goddess like Frejya, but in one area she is famous for her stinginess: she usually refrains from divulging prophecy, even though she knows everything which is to come.This is by no means a complete picture of either Frejya or Frigga, but by now a picture should be emerging of two goddesses who can neither be conflated nor made entirely distinct. The best way to get to know them is to take a meditative journey to meet them face to face.This is the final installment of this series on Frejya and Frigga. Also see an earlier post on Frigga as goddess of the birch. The following list of sources is for the entire series (seven installments).BBC. “Boar Watching.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Wild_boar#p0087k14BBC. “Pigs Have Evolved to Wallow in Mud.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9464000/9464994.stmBarrett, Clive. The Egyptian Gods and Goddesses: The Mythology and Beliefs of Ancient Egypt. London: Diamond Books, 1996.Cooper, D. Jason. Using the Runes. Wellingborough, UK: The Aquarian Press, 1986.Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Gyrfalcon.” http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/gyrfalcon/lifehistoryGimbutas, Marija. The Living Goddesses. Miriam Robbins Dexter, ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.Guerber, H.A. The Norsemen. London: Senate, 1994.Hopman, Ellen Evert. A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 2008.Monaghan, Patricia. The Book of Goddesses and Heroines. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1990.Ombrello, T. “Conifer Cones.” http://faculty.ucc.edu/biology-ombrello/pow/conifer_cones.htmSullivan, Janet. “Picea Abies.” U.S. Dept of Agriculture, 1994. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/picabi/all.htmlTaylor, Thomas (trans). “The Orphic Hymns.” http://www.theoi.com/Text/OrphicHymns1.html#15.Tekiela, Stan. Trees of New York. Cambridge, MN: Adventure Boooks, 2006.Vikernes, Varg. Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia. London: Abstract Sounds, 2011.Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983.
Frejya has other associations besides the boar, fir, and falcon. As hinted before, she is linked with the sun and through her sun connection with the cycle of the year. Some other associations with Frejya include spring flowers, butterflies, the myrtle tree, the cuckoo, the swallow, cattle, and goats. Her magical symbol is the vulva. She shares many attributes with the goddess Frigga, including again the sun, fire, the element of gold, the ability to influence dwarves, possession of magical jewelry, the apple tree, and the falcon. Like Frigga she has numerous maiden attendants. Both goddesses are associated with love, marriage, midwifery, fertility, and abundance. Both rule important death realms.Frigga has some associations not normally mentioned in connection with Frejya. She is the goddess of the birch tree and her special symbol is the chalice. She is linked with the heron. Her association with motherhood is more strongly emphasized, and her possession of special keys underscores her matronly qualities. Frigga is considered more of a queenly goddess than a maidenly one. She has many magical qualities, but the most important are prophecy and the power of silence. Her silence may signify that there were powerful taboos against revealing aspects of her cult to outsiders. Frigga is goddess of weaving and keeper of the spinning wheel. Spinning and weaving are tasks that today are glossed over and dismissed, but they were extremely important in the ancient world. Frigga spins thread with a sky wheel, and as commander of the wheel of the sky she controls weather.In Western understanding of pantheons there are two contradictory and equally wrongheaded tendencies. The first is to subsume deities with the same attributes or functions under a single godhead. According to this tendency Frejya and Frigga as goddesses of love, fertility, death, and the sun must be the same goddess. The second tendency is to divide attributes and functions between deities. By this logic, Frejya is goddess of maidens and Frigga of marriage; Frejya possesses the apple while Frigga controls gold. To recognize the problems with conceiving of deities in this fashion, we need to go back to Greek mythology and how our understanding of that mythology has evolved and bled into other pantheons.So next week I will be discussing certain aspects of Greek mythology — but trust me, this is very pertinent to understanding Frigga and Frejya.
Frejya has appeared to me as a stocky young woman against a backdrop of tall spruce forest, standing on the snow beside the kind of weaving, shallow streams that develop in the north as winter moves into spring. She comes as a spring goddess, evidenced by the height and intensity of the sun. (One of the nice things about a vision is that you can look directly into the sun without feeling pain in your eyes.) When I say she is stocky, I don’t mean fat: her shoulders are broad and she is proportioned like a tall woman. Her rib cage is large, like the stout breast of the gyrfalcon. She has a brown cloak, curling brown hair and glistening brown eyes. Some describe Frejya as blond, but to me she appears in falcon coloring. What those who have seen Frejya mostly comment on, however, is her mouth: a small, very red, well-shaped mouth with lips curved in a joyful yet seductive smile. It is an entrancing smile, a smile that says she knows just about everything. I do not believe that Frejya would have had to have slept with the dwarves to obtain the Brisingamen Necklace; she must have done so only to please herself. To obtain the necklace she would only have had to spread those red lips in the smile no creature could resist. But I digress.Frejya’s Amazonian proportions and her seductive manner place her in the “maiden” category for those who see goddesses in terms of maiden-mother-crone. Yet the fertile, family-focused boar is usually associated with motherhood, and Norse pagans appear to have regarded Frejya as a benevolent goddess bestowing wealth and favors. Her rune is among the most auspicious, and Cooper describes its divinatory meaning as “Good fortune, fertility, increase in property and success in endeavors.” These are qualities that proclaim “mother.”The point of intersection between the fir, falcon, and boar is, of course, death. The gyrfalcon is a fierce hunter who winters in the frozen world. The Norway Spruce thrives in cold environments and remains forever green. The boar is also fierce in her own way, and carrion is a major part of her diet. As described in the last post, there are dying and resurrecting gods and goddesses from other European and Middle Eastern cultures with pine, pig, or falcon associations, but we don’t really need these examples to establish the point.
Frejya’s representation throughout the lifecycle suggests an affinity with the sun, which defines the cycle of the year. Her association with both the winter and the summer solstices reaffirm this connection, as does the Yule fire and the summer bonfires. Frejya’s amber necklace represents her command over the sun and hence the passage of time. Those who see Frejya as blond may be focusing on her sun aspect, perhaps dazzled by the brightness of her nimbus. It is interesting in this regard that the Egyptian sun god Horus also takes the form of a falcon.Although Frejya is a goddess for all seasons and all ages, I want to explore Frejya’s death aspect more closely. I will do so in a later installment of this series.