Mythology: Frejya, Norse Goddess of Love, Wealth, War and Death

Johannes Gehrts, ‘Freyja’, illustration, 1901.

Freyja, the Norse goddess of love, wealth, fertility, war, wealth and beauty was one of the Vanir, the original, old gods associated with Earth magic, Nature, and seidr, or the art of seeing and shaping the future according to will, or sorcery. She is sister to Freyr, god of peace, prosperity, virility, all things pleasant and good. As one of the old gods, the Vanir, Freyja has deeply shamanic energies; her association with seidr indicates that she used her powers to see the future, and with her divine nature, shaped the course of events according to her divine judgement.

Freyja is said to have a chariot drawn by cats, named Bygul and Trjegul, and a magical cloak of falcon feathers, which she would lend to supplicants in need of extra protection, or her love and fertility magic. She commands the apple, birch, alder, rose and vervain, as well as amber, copper, moonstone and silver. Her day is Friday, she is associated with the astrological sign Cancer, and along with Odin, lord of the Æsir, the gods of power and force, she is a goddess of Death. According to the Poetic Edda, Freyja takes half of the souls of those who departed in battle, bringing them to her Folkvangr, fields of glory and celebration, the other half going to Odin, to celebrate eternity in his great hall in Valhalla.

14. ‘Battle-field the ninth, where Freyja arrays

the choice of seats in the hall;

from half the slain she makes her choice each day:

the other half Odin has.

Donn Philip Crane, “Freyja and Freyr”, illustration, America, 1920.

Freyja is featured throughout Northern European folklore and as mentioned above, is noted in the 13th century Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, as well as the Icelandic sagas. Freyja may be the same figure as Gullveig, a key participant in the Æsir-Vanir War, which led to the eventual creation of a new pantheon of Norse, uniting the old gods of the nature with the newer pantheon, the Æsir, who were the gods of force and wrath, such as Odin, Thor and Loki. This new pantheon was born through complex diplomacy, hostage-sharing, intermarriage and the generation of new bloodlines.

Freyja is known for her beauty, her fierce might, her keen intelligence and fertility. Over time, based on the motif of her becoming an honored hostage among the Æsir, it seems she was transformed from a direct and independent nature goddess, one of the old gods who existed during the time of the primordial giants, into a minor, sidelined female. Eventually she was depicted in the 14th century in the Sörla þáttr as a concubine of Odin, subservient to his power, her character depicted as lustful, tricky and greedy. Her femininity results in her ultimate diminishment, just another character in the dramatic poetry of the times, not unusual given that the sweep of Christian values throughout Northern Europe during this period would have been more or less complete, even if only officially.

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