Love, Beauty, Lust, Fertility… These are the words we would immediately associate with Freya, the gold-haired Norse Goddess. But Freya is so much more than a beautiful face: she presides over some of the strongest forces of the Universe. Love, certainly, but also Witchcraft and War.
It’s time to get to know Her many sacred aspects.
The origins of Freya
Strictly speaking, Freya is not a name: it is an honorific that means “Lady”. Different forms of the word have been used since the Viking Age (freyjur) to this day (Frau) to address women. If the Goddess had an actual name, it is lost to us. Apart from “Lady”, Freya is also called “The Beautiful One” and “The Priestess of Sacrifice” (Blotgydja), a reference to her status as the Goddess of Witchcraft.
The mystery around Freya’s name is perhaps due to the fact that she belongs to an older race of Norse Gods, the Vanir, who were primordial, magickal beings. The Vanir could shapeshift and were well versed in witchcraft and divination. They controlled lust, fertility, luck, the weather and very often destiny itself. They had a very close connection to Nature: everything from the Sea to a simple rock contained a Vanir spirit.
The Vanir lived in Scandinavia long before a new race of gods, the Aesir, came to claim the territory. War ensued and although technically it ended in a truce, the Vanir disappeared from then on. The Aesir became the reigning gods. But two Vanir twins, Freya and Freyr, were given to the Aesir to live among them as keepers of the truce. Children of the Sea (Njörðr) and the Earth (Herta), the siblings won the hearts of the Aesir and ruled with them.
Freya’s role in the Norse Pantheon
As an honorary Aesir, Freya was responsible for all matters of beauty, lust and love, fertility and childbirth. But thanks to her Vanir magick, Freya wielded the power of Seidr, a mix of witchcraft/shamanism/divination power that was only accessible to women. As such, Freya was the Matron Goddess of all witches, especially the wandering völvas (witches who performed Seidr in exchange for money or food). She was also the first to know the meaning of Runes that were later on used by humans for divination purposes, a knowledge Odin desperately desired for himself. The Allfather cut out his own eye and hung himself from the Tree of Life for nine days, so that he could possess the knowledge Freya already had.
Freya’s relationship with Odin is very interesting. Although he is the leader of the Aesir gods, she is practically his equal. They both have equal claim to the souls of warriors who have fallen in battle: Freya takes the half she chooses in her own realm, the Folkvang, while Odin welcomes the other half in Valhalla. Freya is also a purveyor of matters of War, leading the famous Valkyries into battle to retrieve the fallen soldiers. In that context she is called Valfreya, “Mistress of the Chosen”.
But myths about Freya and Odin become confusing in later retellings. For instance, we know that she is married to a god called Odr, who is almost never present in the pantheon: it is believed that Odr is just another name for Odin. As for Odin’s wife, Frigg? Probably another name for Freya. It was not uncommon for our Pagan ancestors to change the stories of Goddesses with overarching powers (for example, Love and War) to divide them into separate Goddesses who fulfilled a specific role. And so, in the same way that Aphrodite, originally a goddess of Love and War, was “demoted” into simply the Goddess of Love, Freya was demoted to the “beautiful party girl” of the Aesir. And the Queen of the gods who held Odin’s heart, became Frigg, a more gentle, more modest figure… Thankfully, nowadays Wiccans and NeoPagans are able to appreciate complex Goddesses like Freya for all that she is!
Symbols and associations
As a Vanir, Freya has a very strong connection to Nature and animals. She loves cats especially and is frequently seen riding a chariot pulled by two cats, Bygul and Trjegul. A shapeshifter like all Vanir, Freya possesses a cloak made from falcon feathers that gives the wearer the ability to fly — although when she wears it, she can also transform into a falcon completely. She is often lending that cloak to the other gods when they need it and is subsequently seen riding a magickal boar called Hildisvini (“battle swine”) instead.
Frequent associations with Freya include: cats, falcons and several other birds, boars and oxen, gold and amber-colored crystals and flowers, songs and poems, mead and honey.
Freya has been well beloved throughout the Germanic world and Scandinavia, even during later Christian times. As people didn’t want to stop worshipping her, many of her attributes were bestowed to the Virgin Mary: for example, plants named after Freya were rededicated to the Virgin Mary instead. But on the Scandinavian countryside, her worship was still prominent up until the 19th century — and to this day, Freya remains a very popular female name.
In Wiccan traditions, Freya is called upon to help with matters of the heart, with igniting desire and helping in matrimony and labor. She is also invoked to bestow inspiration in artistic endeavors and to help in matters of magick.
Freya and Litha
As we are getting ready to celebrate Litha, Freya tugs at our heartstrings more than ever. Nature around us is beautiful, pregnant with fruit and produce; the Goddess is already pregnant with the God. During this time, Freya’s ability to bestow fertility upon humans and animals becomes that much more poignant.
But there is another association as well: according to some theories, Vanir were what we today call Fae, or Elves. And what better time to celebrate the Elven Queen than during Midsummer?
So open your heart and your altar to Freya this Litha. The time of the Lady is here.
Litha Offering for Freya
This is a ritual offering that incorporates one of the techniques of Seidr to honor Freya and invite her in your life.
What you’ll need:
- A red or gold candle
- Three ribbons, as long as you like, in colors associated with Freya (you can choose between red, gold, blue or black, based on what you want to attract)
- Three red roses, stems cut
- A shallow dish with water
- The rune Fehu
- An amber or gold-colored stone such as pyrite
- A feather that you’ve found (or, if you have cats, one of their whiskers that they’ve shed)
- A glass of something sweet, like sweet wine or strawberry juice.
What you’ll do:
- Take a cleansing bath.
- Wear a robe or a dress that makes you feel beautiful.
- Gather your ingredients and sit by your Altar.
- Ground yourself and draw a circle.
- Dip your fingers into the glass of sweet liquid and anoint your candle with it.
- Carve the rune Fehu (or a heart symbol) on your candle.
- Light your candle.
- Focus on your breath and on the candle flame.
- Place the three roses on the shallow water tray.
- Take the rune Fehu in your hands and place it gently on the heart of the first rose.
- Say the first part of the incantation to Freya:
Lady of the Vanir, daughter of the Sea
Ultimate bestower of the sacred art of Seidr
- Take the amber or pyrite and place it gently on the heart of the second rose.
- Continue with the second part of the incantation:
I call on you, Blotgydja, Valfreya, Vanadis,
To fill my life with blessings of love and lust and bliss
- Take the feather (or the cat’s whisker) and place it in the heart of the third rose.
- Conclude the incantation:
I call on you, Beautiful One, on your special day
Lady of the Aesir, may you fly my way!
- Take a sip from the sweet liquid, concentrating on all that Freya means to you.
- Now, it’s time to weave the three ribbons into a braid. Depending on the ribbon’s length, this braid can be worn on your hair, your wrist or around your waist.
- As you weave the braid, repeat all three parts of the incantation. Focus on the things you would like to weave together in your life.
- Once the weave is done, hold it in your hands and thank Freya.
- Take a final sip of the sweet liquid and extinguish the candle.
- Wear the weave during Litha celebrations. If possible, keep wearing it for seven more days (or until the roses on your ritual dish start to wither).
- Afterward, you can tie it around the candle and keep it on your altar along with the rune, the pyrite stone and the feather/whisker, as a permanent offering to Freya.
This article is from a previous issue of Wicca Magazine.
Click Here To Subscribe to our most recent issue