Freyja is a truly complex Goddess. She is often described as the Norse Goddess of love, sensuality, fertility, and nature, but She is much more than that. Like Odin She claims half of the dead slain on the battlefield. Freyja rules over Folkvangr, “field of the host” or “Army-Field”, a meadow or field that serves as an after-life, within which was Her hall Sessrúmnir, like Odin’s Valhalla. She is a sorceress and a death-Goddess, a War-Goddess, and the leader of the Valkyries. Her chariot is pulled by two or four cats, and She has a cloak of falcon-feathers that allows Her to fly swiftly anywhere in the world.
Her name means Lady, just as Her brother Freyr’s means Lord. In Norse mythos, there are two types of Gods, the Vanir and the Aesir. Freyja and Freyr are both of the Vanir, nature and fertility-focused Gods who are also strongly associated with magic. We don’t know the exact entomology of the word Vanir, but the scholar R. I. Page theorizes that it comes from the Old Norse word vinr, meaning “friend”. Both Freyja and Her brother Freyr were accompanied by intelligent boars. Freyja’s was named Hildisvini, and Freyr’s was Gullinbursti. In fact there is some evidence that the Old Norse word for wild boar meant “van-child”, which equates all boars and wild pigs with the Vanir Gods in general.
One of the most treasured possessions of Freyja is the Brísingamen necklace. This necklace is as closely associated with Freyja as the Moljnir hammer is with Thor. This object embodies the power of the Deity as much as symbolizes it. According to Wikipedia, the name for the necklace comes from the Old Norse word brísingr, a poetic term for “fire” or “amber”. This necklace was beyond beautiful and considered magical, and it was forged by dwarfs. Now when Freyja tried to buy the necklace from the four dwarves who had made it, they said that the only payment they would take would be if She spent one night with each of them. This She did. Post-Christian interpretations have written this myth in disdaining terms, bluntly calling Freyja a prostitute and saying that She did it out of greed for the necklace, despite the dwarves being hideous. They call it infidelity, and they see it as the reason that Her husband Odr (discussed in a few paragraphs) leaves. This moralistic version of the story is almost certainly NOT how ancient Germanic peoples saw it. Although we cannot know for sure what they thought about it, most modern Pagans seem to prefer to interpret the story more as a joyous type of sacred sexual exchange than merely a crass barter.
This is an interesting story to me on many levels. As some of you may know, in Greek myths Aphrodite’s charms were enhanced by a golden girdle that was created by Her husband the smith-God Hephaistos, which had the effect of rendering Her irresistible. In fact in the Iliad, Homer tells how Aphrodite lent the magic girdle to Hera in order that the Queen of the Gods could distract Zeus during an important battle of the Trojan War. It’s easy to draw a parallel here between Freyja’s necklace and Aphrodite’s girdle.
“Freyja’s role was that of divine Hostess and Inspirer of creation. In her role as Hostess she promotes marriage and the bonds of families into clans. She also soothes hostilities by showing respect to even those who would harm her (e.g., Hrungnir). As the divine Inspirer, she promotes imagination for Arts & Crafts, passion for building of all forms, and lust for procreation. Freyja was invoked to bring people together and resolve issues of passion and conflict – but the product of those efforts was overseen by other divine beings. One concept that She does NOT oversee is conception – which is the role of her brother Frey. Though Freyja has a daughter, the goddess Frigga was the divine Mother and the Household. Freyja is also the goddess of sorcery, which is actually difficult to define.” http://freyjafirst.com/Information.aspx
Before the Aesir-Vanir war, Freyja may have been married to Her brother Freyr. There is not a lot of evidence for this that I found, but it was a theory that was mentioned. The Vanir did have different customs than the Aesir, and Freyja and Freyr’s parents were siblings, so it would not have been a strange thing among Their “clan”. After the war when hostages were exchanged, this marriage would have been annulled among the Aesir, and new spouse found for each of Them.
Freyja is (now) married to the mysterious God Od or Odr. Wikipedia gives a LOT of various meanings for the name Od or Odr: “Old Norse for the “Divine Madness, frantic, furious, vehement, eager”, as a noun “mind, feeling” and also “song, poetry”; Orchard (1997) gives “the frenzied one”…… In addition, óðr can also mean “song”, “poetry” and “inspiration”, and it has connotations of “possession”. It is derived from a Proto-Germanic *wōð– or *wōþ– and it is related to Gothic wôds (“raging”, “possessed”), Old High German wuot (“fury” “rage, to be insane”) and the Anglo-Saxon words wód (“fury”, “rabies”) and wóð (“song”, “cry”, “voice”, “poetry”, “eloquence”). Old Norse derivations include œði “strong excitation, possession”. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%93%C3%B0r )
Od had a habit of traveling long distances for extended periods, and it was believed that while He was gone that Freyja would wept tears of red gold. It was said that Her tears turned to gold when they touched land, and amber when they touched the ocean. Many times Freyja would travel the earth Herself looking for Him, and so it was said that She had many names “among strange peoples.”
Some people believe that Od/Odr is the same as Odin. This certainly seems to be the consensus among many scholars, because of Their similarities. Their names are almost identical, and Odin too was said to take long journeys across the earth. From what little is known of Od, He certainly sounds similar to Odin. But this may just be a case of modern scholars’ perspectives being colored by their monotheist worldview.
Snorri Snurlson was very careful to keep the two apart and not suggest They were the same. Additionally, if Od/Odr and Odin are the same, it brings up an issue of Their offspring. Freyja and Od have two daughters together, Hnoss and Gersemi. But if Od is Odin, why is there no mention of Baldur?
Some people think might think that Freyja and Frigg are the same Goddess, or may have come from one Goddess in the distant past, but if that is so, that same problem arises. But there is an interesting theory that would seem to reconcile this discrepancy. While monogamy was the norm in Viking society, high-born men would sometimes practice polygamy. Odin, as the highest God, would be a reflection of the top of Viking society. So it’s not outside of the realm of possibly that Odin was once considered to be married to both Frigg and Freyja. In any case, whether She is married to Od/Odr or Odin, Freyja was never held just to Him, and was known to have many lovers, like Aphrodite.
Freyja was a sorceress as well, and practiced a particular kind of magic called Seidhr, which after the Aesir-Vanir war She taught to Odin. Unfortunately, with the Christian conquest, very little information about Seidhr and what it entails has survived. We know that there were practitioners of both genders in Norse society. It seems to be primarily concerned with a type of trance-induced prophecy, and shamanic visions.
The lore says that Freyja will be one of the few Deities to survive Ragnarok, perhaps to guide the new race of human beings that will spring up from the last man and woman who will hide themselves in the roots of the World Tree. The truth is, I’ve barely scratched the surface with all there is to find about Freyja. She is a BIG Goddess. And I really wanted to get this post out before we get too close to the end of the month, so I guess I’m going to share what I have. But something tells me that She is one of those Gods that would really, truly, take a lifetime to understand even a fraction of Her. She is fascinating.