Freyja – Great Mother and Shaman Goddess of the Nordic People

The Goddess Freyja was the Mother Goddess of the Northern Germanic or Norse people. Her roots reach all the way back to the Neolithic and Her worship didn’t cease until well into the Christian era only a few hundred years ago.

Freyja is Queen of the Vanir Goddesses and Gods. According to Norse mythology there exist two quite distict groups of gods.

One are the Vanir Goddesses, Gods and Nature Spirits who were said to live in Vanaheim, a world just west of our human world (known as Midgard). The Vanir were also referred to as “The Giving Ones”, as they are essentially the Old European Earth-based Goddesses and Gods who inherited most of the old paleolithic and neolithic beliefs and associations. They are linked to nature, the Earth, fertility, abundance, wellbeing, agriculture, the Wheel of the Year and the cylce of life, death and rebirth.

The other newer group of gods are the Aesir or Sky Gods. These were the gods of the Indo-European invadors who were said to live in Asgard at the crown of the world tree Yggdrasill. The Aesir are mostly males – sometimes with wives – and, like the Greek Olympians, they are mostly concerned with thunder, lightning and, of course, battle. The exception is Odin, their father god, who was taught runes and divination by Freyja and is more of a shaman than a god of battle and heroism. [1]

The name Freyja in old Norse means “Lady” while that of Her brother Freyr means “Lord”. As in other mythologies Freyja and Her brother are sibling-consorts whose love assures the fertility of the land. Their relationship may also reflect the leadership set-up within the ancient matrifocal nordic people, where genererally a woman and her brother co-ruled their clan.

The Goddess Freyja is a free woman, who bows to no-one. Later myth tells of an absent husband called Odr, with whom She had two daughters, Hnoss (= precious) and Gersimi (= treasure). The fact that Odr sounds so similar to Odin and that Odin’s wife Frigg’s name was Frija in Old German has made some scholars suggest that Freyja and Odin were married off to each other in a bid to unite the two factions of the Nordic culture, namely the Old European natives and the Aryan invaders.

Unlike in more southerly climates where sunshine is a given and the Sun is so powerful that it can cause fires and damage crops, in northern countries such as Germany and Scandinavia the Sun is much milder and it’s in fact the lack of sunshine that can cause lower crop output. As a result mythologies in hotter climates identified the Moon with the Goddess and even today their languages (such as Spanish, Italian and French) describe the Moon as female. On the other hand, northern mythologies identified the Sun with the Goddess and Germanic languages such as German still see the Sun as female.

For that reason I believe that Freyja is actually a Goddess of the Sun. There is no evidence that Freyja was ever associated with the Moon and Her three phases. Freyja has always been an all-in-one Goddess. When the Romans encountered Freyja they likened Her to Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love and Beauty. And while it is true that the Goddess Freyja has much in common with Venus and other Venus Goddesses, Her origins are most likely Sun-based. (See also The Original Venus – Goddess of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld.) Everything about Freyja is described as golden and Her magical necklace Brisingamen is golden and shining brightly with a fiery light. Incidentally it is said that it was Freya’s magical necklace that created the Morning Star or planet Venus.

Freyja is very much still like the original Great Mother Goddess from the Neolithic Age. Even long into the Christian era She retained all of Her aspects, primarily those of being a Life Giver and Death Bringer.

Freyja is the Goddess of Love, Fertility, Pleasure and Abundance. She is beautiful and passionate and shares Her love freely with whomever SHE chooses. It’s Freyja’s lovemaking that assures the fertility of the land and the growing of the crops. No doubt just as it was custom in ancient Sumer so did Her priestesses known as Völvas share their love as freely in order to honour the Goddess and help bring fertility and fruitfulness to their tribe. This aspect of Freyja is what reminded the Romans of their own Goddess of Love, the beautiful Venus.

Freyja is also the Goddess of Death and Renewal. She is an ancient Bird Goddess whose totem animals include the raven and falcon. Legend says that half of all the slain warriors go to Freyja’s hall Sessrumnir in the realm of Folkvanger. Some accounts connect Freyja with the Valkierie battle maidens, who decide over life and death on the battle field, but that connection likely is only anecdotal.

Another of Freyja’s totem animals is the wild pig, which is symbolic for both life and death. Freyja Herself is often referred to as Syr (= sow) which is a strong fertility symbol. She is also said to ride Her battle swine Hildesvini whenever She’s not riding in Her cat-drawn carriage. This can be seen as a metaphor for Freyja acknowledging the existence of and having complete control over Her wild potentially dangerous side. In many mythologies the boar is the bringer of death.

Freyja is a Shaman Goddess, a Goddess of Magic, Prophesy and Healing. In mythologies where the Goddess manifests as the Moon, these are all aspects of the Dark or Crone Goddess. Freyja taught rune magic and divination to Her daughters and eventually Odin, the father god of the Aesir. She owns a special falcon cloak that allows the wearer to transform into a falcon. It represents Her power to travel shamanically through different worlds.

The ancient Germanic people had an animistic-shamanic religion, whereby everything was seen as being sentient and alive, and the Wise Women or Völvas would enter altered states of consciousness in order to heal and gain spiritual knowledge and awareness. Freyja’s Völvas were greatly revered seeresses gifted with divination, clairvoyance and prophesy. And just as cats were Freya’s special animals, so were they the spirit allies of the Nordic Wise Women. [2]

Freia’s Nine Names

Hail to Freia! Lady of Dark and Light,
Our Lovely Lady of Day and of Night.
Maid/Mother of Seith-crafts both Black and White,
Hail to the Mistress of Magic and Might!

Gullveig–thrice born Seith-bride greedy for gold,
Anon She shall live, beautiful and bold.

Heidh–the Seith-wife, the comely and clever,
To wise-women, She was welcome ever.

Hreda–enchanting Seductress of Spring,
Lustful Lady of Noatun’s noble King.

Mardoll–our Shining Mother of the Seas,
Kind Benefactress of comfort and ease.

Mengloth–Mount Lyfja’s Mistress and Sun-bride,
Nine Healing Maids, faithfully by Her side.

Horn–flax and fate Mother silently spins,
Always All-knowing, trust and troth She wins.

Syr–bewitching Sig-maiden of the Sun,
Masterful Sword-bride of battles well won.

Gefn–our divine Dis-Giver’s touch shall heal,
Powerful Patroness of wealth and weal.

Heithrun–wild and wanton She raptly rides,
In frost-filled forests, under deep dark skies.

Praise to the Ladies of Dark and Light!
Praise to the Ladies of Day and Night!
Praise to Freia, our Mistress of Might!
Praise Her Nine Names and Their Blessings Bright!

© Rhonda Turner
By author´s special permission, may be freely shared for private, non-commercial purposes,
as long as it remains intact and this copyright notice is included.

NOTES

[1] One interesting thing about the Aesir gods is that according to the foreword of Snorri Sturluson’s “Prose Edda” the Aesirs were not so much gods as normal humans from Asia who had acquired supernatural powers along the way! With Aesir and Asia sounding so similar, this may actually be confirming the theory that the Aesir were the gods of the Aryan invaders, while the Venir were the goddesses and gods of the original Old European inhabitants of northern Europe. And as is the case with Greek mythology the interactions between the Vanir and Aesir may actually be reflecting the real interactions between the two groups (invaders and natives) and their eventual merging of beliefs.

[2] Sadly due to the demonisation of the old religion by the Christians, the wise Völvas would eventually be portrait as evil witches and their cats as their familiars. Once greatly revered and appreciated for their goodness, they would eventually be tortured and burned at the stake.

[3] Interestingly, the German word for “woman” “Frau” is derived from the southern Germanic variant of Freyja, which literally means “lady”.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Greg Fink
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 21:28:07

    FYI… someone posted your wonderful art uncredited with the copyright removed.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Asatru-World/190333604343004

    Reply

    • Silvestra
      Jul 05, 2012 @ 23:33:17

      Thanks, but the image isn’t mine – the artist is Lisa Iris – only the written content is copyrighted by me. I myself have borrowed the images under the fair use exception for non-profit educational purposes, as have many other bloggers.

      Reply

  2. VK
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 17:57:30

    Nice! Let me translate her prayer into German and I’ll send it to you by email! Or send me your email address and I’ll send it directly to you!

    Reply

  3. Laura
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 19:01:20

    If anyone else has any information on Freya I would very much appreciate it as I am giving a speech on her very soon.

    Reply

  4. Dave Nicolasson
    Jun 13, 2014 @ 13:55:42

    After a quick reading, i have to say; pretty good but I have correct you on 2 points. 1rst Odin didn’t learn the runes from Freyja, the runes actually revealed themselves to him after he proved worthy by hanging from Yggdrasil for 9 days and nights. 2nd Odin is in fact the chief god of battle and heroism. By the gods he is the one that welcomes the fallen heros in Valhól! Yes he does have influence on magical and divination spheres but that is not his main influence. Just review your sources they might not all by acurate. Anyway will read and write some more! Keep up the work :)

    Reply

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