The beautiful and charming Freya was a goddess of blessings, love, lust, and fertility and was one of the chief deities in Norse mythology. She was a part of the Vanir tribe of deities. Freya shared her people’s affinity for the magical arts of prediction. It was Freya who introduced the gods to seidr, a form of magic that permitted practitioners to know and alter the future.
Freya was gentler and more enjoyable than the other Norse deities. Where Thor reached his goals through violence and Odin and Loki relied on trickery, Freya accomplished her goals with the gentler persuasions of gifts, beauty, and sex. While Freya was often generous and caring, she did have a darker side. Like the male gods, Freya had a taste for blood and fought fiercely in battle. It was said she took the lives of half the warriors ever slain in battle.
There were many epithets associated with Freya’s name, like Freja, Freyia, Freyja, Fröja, Frøya, Frøjya, and Frua, and they were as diverse as the Germanic languages and dialects of her many followers. Due to these linguistic differences, some interpretations of Norse mythology thought Freya to be synonymous with Frigg, Odin’s wife, and occasionally Gullveig, the völva storyteller of the Völuspá who recounted the Aesir-Vanir War and foresaw the fate of the gods during Ragnarök.
When translated, her name meant “the lady,” or Freyja from the Old Norse, and was derived from the Proto-Germanic frawjon, an honorific title that was given to a grown-up woman of higher class. It was also the root of the word frau in modern German, the honorific title that was given to a married woman. The name “Freya” was probably first used as an epithet or nickname by one of the Germanic tribes. Nevertheless, it would ultimately gain fame and become a personal name.
There were many epithets attached to Freya’s name. She was known as Gefn (“the giver”), Hörn (“flaxen,” most likely in reference to her flaxen hair), Mardöll (“sea shaker”), Sýr (“sow,” a creature that stood for fertility much like Freya herself) and Valfreyja (“lady of the slain”).
Because that it was believed to be a portmanteau of “Freya’s day,” “Friday” probably comes from the name Freya.
Being a leader of the Vanir gods, Freya was known as the model völva, a practitioner of seidr whose art and ritual could predict events before they happened. The volva could then attempt to change these events, leading enemies to their doom, and delivering friends from impending disaster.
With the location in the field of Fólkvangr (“field of the host,”) Freya made her home at the palace of Sessrúmnir (“seat room,”) where half of the dead slain in battle went to spend eternity; the other half went to Odin’s hall, Valhalla.
Though Freya did not normally wield weapons of war, she did own many accessories of a special sort. One such item was a cloak made of falcon feathers that gave the ability of flight to any person who wore it. If she was not wearing it herself, Freya borrowed the cloak to friends and collaborators who approved to do her bidding. Freya’s most prized ownership was likely the necklace, or torc, known as Brísingamen (“gleaming torc” or “amber torc”). Brísingamen was made by dwarves and purchased at a dear price. Freya guarded the necklace against all would-be thieves with a fiery passion.
Freya did not own only a cloak and “gleaming torc,” but also rode a sparkling chariot. The chariot was pulled by two black or sometimes grey domestic cats. One of the most frequent companions of Freya was a hog named Hildisvíni (meaning “battle swine”). One of her frequent epithets, Sýr (“sow”), possibly came from her acquaintance with Hildisvíni.
Freya was born as the daughter of Njord (also Njordr), who was a god of the Vanir related to the sea, sailing, fishing, prosperity, and the productiveness of crops. While her mother’s identity was ultimately unknown, some claimed that Freya was the daughter of Nerthus, an old Germanic deity known as a goddess of “peace and prosperity.” Nerthus was tied to an archaic ritual involving a cart procession and the symbolic laying down of arms.
Freya’s brother (and possible twin) was Freyr, a god related to wealth, a healthy climate, and male potency. He was often portrayed with the phallus that was usual of fertility gods.
In her mature life, Freya took Odr as her husband. Odr was a mysterious god, and his name meant “furious and passionate,” but also “mind and sense.” He often took a long journey and was absent from home, and it was thought that his regular absence caused Freya to weep tears of gold. With Odr, Freya had two daughters: Hnoss and Gersemi, and the meaning of their names was “treasure.”