Freyja or “the Lady,” as daughter of Njord and sister of Frey, was one of the Vanir, and was called Vanabrudr, “Bride of the Vanir”; Vanadis, “Lady of the Vanir”; and Vana-god, “Vanir goddess.”1 Like the other members of the group, she is reckoned among the Æsir, and is “the most renowned of the goddesses” and “most gently born.”2 In Heaven she has the dwelling Folkvang, “Folk-plain,” and her hall, great and fair, is Sessrumnir, “Rich in seats.” Here she assigns seats to the heroes who fall in battle, for half of these she shares with Odin. Hence she is “the Possessor of the Slain.”3 She drives forth in a chariot drawn by cats, and in this manner she came to Balder’s funeral.4 Her most famous possession is the necklace Brisinga-men, which Loki stole and Heimdall recovered.5 She has also a hawk’s plumage or feather-dress which enables her to fly, and is sometimes borrowed by Loki.6 She rides the boar Hildisvini, “Battle-swine,” with golden bristles, which she desires to pass off as Frey’s boar. In reality it is her lover Ottarr in that form.7

Freyja’s husband is Od; hence she is Ods-maer, “Bride of Od.” Their daughter is Hnoss, “Jewel,” “so fair that precious things are called after her, hnóssir.” According to the Ynglinga-saga she had two daughters, Hross and Gersimi, “after whom all things dearest to have are named.”8

Freyja is willing to help when men call upon her, especially in love affairs, and she is thus called “goddess of love.” Songs of love were a delight to her.9 In the euhemerized account of Freyja in the Ynglinga-saga, she is said to have introduced evil magic, seidr, among the Æsir, its use being already common


among the Vanir, perhaps a memory of the use of magic in her cult.10 From her name noble women had the name of honour freyjur.11

Freyja is known only in Norway and mainly in Icelandic poetry. Hence it has been asserted that she was a creation of the skalds as a counterpart to Frey. This is unlikely, and she is one of the few goddesses whose cult is definitely mentioned in Northern literature. In Oddrunargratr, one of the heroic poems of the Edda, occurs the following appeal:

“So may the holy Powers grant thee help,
Frigg and Freyja and full many gods,
As thou hast saved me from fear and misery.”

And in Hyndluljod Freyja says of Ottarr that he had made her a hörg (a cairn or altar) piled up with stones, which the sacrificial fires had fused into glass, and that it was often reddened with the blood of animal victims, for Ottarr trusted in the goddesses.12 To Freyja, with Thor, Odin, and the Æsir, peasants of Throndhjem offered toasts at the beginning of winter in their feasts and sacrifices.13 In the Hálfs-saga she is called upon for aid. King Alfrek determined to keep that one of his two wives, Signy and Geirhild, who should brew the best beer. Signy asked Freyja’s aid, Geirhild that of Odin (Hótt, “he with the hat”). He gave her his spittle in place of yeast, so her beer was the best. For this, she had to give Odin her son Wikar.

If, however, Freyja was an independent goddess, there seems to have been frequent confusion between her and Frigg, Odin’s consort, or perhaps she tended to take the place of Frigg. When she is said to share the slain with Odin, one would naturally suppose that this would have been Frigg’s privilege. In the Egils-saga it is women whom Freyja receives after death.14 Both goddesses possess hawk’s plumage, and Loki borrows it from both.15 Some have held that the famous Brisinga-men was originally Frigg’s possession. In later poetry Freyja is actually called Fjolnir’s (Odin’s) wife, as Frigg was. The


Christian Hjallti Skeggjason was outlawed at the Thing in Iceland in c. 999, because of his blasphemous verses against Odin and Freyja:

“Ever will I gods blaspheme,
Freyja methinks a bitch does seem,
Freyja a bitch? Aye, let them be
Both dogs together, Odin and she.”

This suggests that she was regarded as Odin’s consort, taking the place of Frigg. Freyja and Frigg may have been both developed out of one original goddess, spouse of the old Heaven-god, to be ultimately confused with each other when the cult of Odin was increasing in the North.

On the other hand, that Freyja could be held to share the slain with Odin suggests her lofty position. Her abode is depicted as a kind of Valhall, and it might be identified with Vingolf, a seat of goddesses and also of the slain.17 Freyja might also be regarded as chief of the Valkyries, riding forth to the strife, as Snorri depicts her — “wheresoever she rides forth to the battle, she has half of the slain”; and, in this light, her fearless pouring out of ale for the giant Hrungnir when he invaded Asgard, would be significant, for the Valkyries poured out liquor in Valhall for heroes.18 As chief of the Valkyries she would have an interest in the slain. If the names of her abodes have reference to their being abodes of the dead, “Folk-plain” and “Rich in seats,” then a wider conception of her rule over the dead might be indicated. The passage in Egils-saga points to this. Thorgerd, daughter of Egil, who intends to die with her father, says that she has taken no food and will take none, for she hopes to feast that night with Freyja, just as heroes hoped to be Odin’s guests. But there may be a survival in this passage of an older belief that women, not heroes, went to her abode at death.

The myths about Freyja are to some extent in keeping with her position as goddess of love, possibly also of fertility. Some



A wagon of the early Iron Age found in the moor of Deibjerg, Jutland, and restored. Such a wagon may have been used to carry round an image, as in the Nerthus and Frey cults (pp. 102, 115), or to transport a dead man to his grave-mound, where it was buried with him for use on the Hel-way or in the Other World.


of them suggest her desirableness as a beautiful and voluptuous goddess. She is coveted by giants — by him who rebuilt the citadel of the Æsir, by Hrungnir, and by Thrym. When Thrym sought her as his bride, her indignation was intense, her anger shook the dwelling of the gods, and her necklace broke on her heaving bosom. “Maddest for men might I be called, did I travel with thee to Jötunheim.”19 These giants, representing the power of winter, might be regarded as trying to overcome a goddess of fertility.

Similarly she was forced by four dwarfs to surrender herself to them ere they would give her Brisinga-men. This is the subject of a story in the Sorla-tháttr (fourteenth century). Freyja is here Odin’s mistress. One day, looking into the rock-dwelling of four dwarfs, she saw them fashioning a wonderful necklace. Offering to purchase it, she was told that she would have it only if she yielded herself to the dwarfs. To this she submitted and became possessor of the famous necklace Brisinga-men. Loki heard of this and told Odin, who bade him get the necklace — a difficult task, for no one could enter Freyja’s abode without her consent. Loki transformed himself into a fly and sought some opening, but in vain. At last he crept through a tiny hole in the roof. The inmates of the hall were asleep, Freyja lying with the clasp of the necklace under her neck. Transformed now into a flea, Loki bit her cheek. She woke and turned over on her other side. Then, assuming his own form, Loki unclasped the necklace, opened the door, and went with it to Odin. Freyja regained it from Odin only by consenting to incite two mighty kings, Hedin and Hilde, to an unending conflict.20 This story is probably based on an earlier poem now lost. In the Eddas Freyja is the possessor of the necklace, and it so distinguishes her that when Thor disguised himself as the goddess, he wore this necklace. On another occasion or in another myth, the necklace, stolen by Loki, was recovered by Heimdall.

This necklace, “the necklace of the Brisings,” who must be its


artificers, or “of Brising,” is alluded to as the brosinga mene in Beowulf, carried off by Hama from Eormanric. Here it forms part of a hoard.21 The necklace itself is explained by modern mythologists as the rainbow, the moon, the morning or evening star, the red dawn, etc. Some have regarded it as the sun setting in the sea, and of which Freyja, regarded as the Heaven-goddess, is thus dispossessed. The word has also been connected with brisingr, “fire,” a name still given to bonfires in Norway — an allusion to its gleaming quality, the jewel which sparkles like fire.22 Menglod, “Necklace-glad,” whom the hero Svipdag is compelled to seek by his stepmother, is so called after this mythic ornament, and is thus held to be a form of Freyja. Svipdag called up his dead mother Groa from the grave, and was given by her several charms to guard him in his difficult quest. He reached the hall of the giants, surrounded by fire, where Menglod was. The giant Fjolsvid sat before it, and held parley with Svipdag. In the course of their dialogue much mythic information is given. At last the giant says that no one is destined to have Menglod save Svipdag, who now reveals himself, and is welcomed by her as bridegroom. The evidence that Menglod is a form of Freyja is slender, and the tale rather suggests a folk-story than a myth. Attempts to explain the necklace in terms of natural phenomena are unsatisfactory, and it seems better to regard it as the reflexion in the divine sphere of such a precious human possession as a valuable necklace.

Freyja’s lubricity is emphasized in the Eddas. In Lokasenna Loki attacks her, in common with other goddesses, for lewdness. She has just repelled his slander of Frigg, when Loki says

“Be silent, Freyja, well I know thee,
    Thou art not free of faults;
All the Æsir and Alfar who now are here
    Hast thou in turn made happy.”

Freyja denies this, and, “evil witch,” is then charged by Loki with having been found in her brother’s bed by the Æsir.23


When Loki says of Thor, disguised as Freyja, that she (he) has eaten nothing nor closed an eye for eight nights, so hot is her desire for the giant’s home, there may be a suggestion of Freyja’s character.24 In Hyndluljod Freyja riding on a boar seeks the wise giantess Hyndla in order to learn from her the story of her favourite Ottarr’s descent. She wishes Hyndla to ride with her to Valhall on a wolf. Hyndla knows her to be Freyja, and says that the boar is her lover Ottarr. After telling the story of his descent, Hyndla dismisses Freyja with the caustic words: “In the night-time like the she-goat Heidrun thou leapest after the goats.” She says also:

“To Od didst thou run, ever lusty,
And many have stolen under thy girdle,”

and she frequently calls Ottarr Freyja’s lover. Frey admits that the boar is Ottarr and compels Hyndla to bring him the memory-beer, which will help him to recall the genealogy which she has just related. If Hyndla does not swiftly bring it, she will raise flames around her and burn her alive. Hyndla brings the drink, but mingled with the venom of an evil fate. Freyja says that this malediction will work no ill. Ottarr will find a delicious drink when she begs the favour of the gods. Perhaps we may assume that Freyja causes the death of Hyndla, after having forced her to give the desired information.

Thor is called “Freyja’s friend” in a poem by Eilif Gudrunarson, and this may refer to some love affair with her.25 We should note also her association with Frey, a priapic god of fertility, and the glossing of her name in Christian times as Venus.26

Od, Freyja’s husband, was not a deity but “the man called Od.” He “goes forth into far lands, but Freyja remains behind in tears, and her tears are red gold. Freyja has many names, because as she went among strange folk seeking Od, she called herself by different names — Mardoll, Horn, Gefn, Syr.” In this passage Snorri does not explain how Freyja both remains at home and wanders in search of Od. The account itself has


given occasion to the most varied mythologizing interpretations, and, if it is based on natural phenomena, what these are cannot now be determined. With reference to her weeping, one of the goddess’s titles is gratfagra god, “goddess beautiful in tears,” and gold is called “tears of Freyja.”27 In folk-tales the gift of weeping tears which become pearls is a well-known incident, and tears of gold are wept by a maiden in an Icelandic story.28 Her name Mœrthöll is a form of Mardoll, and if the latter means “shining over the sea,” then she might be the Sun-goddess sinking to rest in the sea, the golden shimmer on the waters suggesting her tears as gold.29 Others, like Gering, see in Freyja the bestower of the fructifying summer rain. She hovers over the earth in a feather-dress (the clouds); hence she is the goddess beautiful in tears. Her tears change to gold — the golden corn-seeds.30 It should be noted that, as Od leaves Freyja, so Odin leaves Frigg in Saxo’s story another suggestion of the oneness of Freyja and Frigg.

To some degree Freyja is a counterpart of her brother Frey. Both are fair of face. Both are deities of love and that in its more sensual aspects. Both are associated with the boar on which they ride or are driven by it. If Nerthus was once of more importance than her male counterpart Njord, this was probably true also of Freyja in comparison with Frey. We have seen that Frey’s name, Ingunar-Frey, means “Frey of Ingun,” or “Lord (Husband) of Ingun.” If Ingun here stands for Freyja, this would mean that she had once been more prominent than her consort-an earlier Fertility-goddess, possibly a form of Mother Earth. Prof. Chadwick has argued that the name Yngvi was that not only of Frey, but of the members of the royal house at Upsala.31 If these were regarded as representatives of Frey, they would each in turn be looked on as consorts of the goddess, and Frey himself may have been originally no more than their eponymous ancestor. These, however, are highly speculative suggestions.