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Thor’s Day Alert #22: Freyja

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about Norse gods, but aside from my valkyries post I haven’t devoted much time to the female players in Norse mythology.

The most well known of Norse goddesses is Freyja, whose name means simply “woman” or “lady”. Freyja is one of the Vanir gods — that division of Norse gods which represents the opposite of the Aesir gods, the latter of whom value war, glory, and honorable death above all things.

You guessed it: the Vanir dig peace, man.

But don’t call them dirty hippies! (A little known secret is they had to fight the Aesir for that peace in Asgard. Fought ’em to a draw, too.) No, no, no. Call them gods of bounty on the earth and in the sea; call them gods of life and fertility and renewal; and ja, call them love.

That said, the tales of Freyja in Asgard weren’t all flowers and romance. Though the most beautiful of all the goddesses, her husband Od inexplicably left her. You can pretty much guess where things go from here: being so desirous, the male gods chase hard after Freyja. She for the most part rejects them.

Norse goddess Freyja, by James Doyle Penrose

Norse goddess Freyja, by James Doyle Penrose

But when Freyja sees something she wants, look out. In order to win a magnificent piece of jewelry, she gives herself over for one night to each of the four dwarves who crafted it. For this extra-racial encounter she is branded a slut by the gods whose advances she spurns. No matter, though, for newly adorned with the golden necklace of the Brisings — aka Brisingamen, the root of which means fire — men find her more desirous than ever. Thus Freyja exacts her revenge against the very men who won’t leave her alone — by increasing their desire for her while shunning them just the same.

While Brisingamen is the finest bling in all the Nine Worlds, it isn’t Freyja’s coolest possession. Freyja also owns a falcon-skin cloak, which enables her to fly. On one occasion she lent this cloak to Loki so he could fly to Jotunheim (Giant Land) to recover Idun — whom the giant Thiazi had kidnapped — without whose magicked apples to eat the gods would quickly age and die.

Freyja also had a chariot that was pulled by cats. She wore catskin gloves. (Don’t ask! Seriously — I don’t know if these gloves were fashioned from her previous chariot team, or what.) In addition to cats and falcons, one more animal is associated with Freyja: the boar.

Though Freyja at times suffers the jealous or wanton attention of other gods, and other times is literally objectified by them while offered as bait or prize for giants, she endures fiercely. Strangely, despite her ill treatment at the hands of other gods, the thought of losing her to death or enmity is unacceptable to them; time after time they rally to her side.

But not all beings are so fickle toward Freyja. In Midgard — the realm of humans — her independence, confidence, and sexuality are regarded along with her shining beauty as the perfect expression of feminine potential; unlike in Asgard, the Norse women of Midgard are more likely to emulate Freyja than to scorn her out of jealousy.

As for Norse men, well, they don’t feel threatened by her in quite the same way male Asgardians do; no, human men recognize Freyja is a god — just as Thor or Odin is — who thus deserves the same veneration.

Still, there’s one thing about Freyja that human men and women might not share the same reverence for: a kind of magick known as seidr, of which Freyja is both master practitioner and purported teacher . . .

But that’s another subject for another day.

Thanks for stopping by. See ya Tuesday!

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