Part 4 of A Year of Norse Paganism…
Way back in 2004 I bought my first set of runes and also had my first contact with Spheres Of Light when I attended a series of classes about Wicca. At one of these classes we meditated to meet our Goddess. In the meditation she appeared to me as a mature woman – Mother verging on Crone — but I didn’t know who she was until a little later when looking through some Goddess oracle cards and an illustrated book of Goddesses (which I had never seen before). I saw a picture which looked exactly like the Goddess who appeared to me in the meditation and she turned out to be Frigg (or Frigga), which I thought was rather appropriate, given my ‘quest’ when undertaking the meditation.
Since then I have always felt that if I actively worked with a patron goddess it would be Frigga. The information below was compiled by me from various sources (listed at the end of the article) in 2007 for the SOL website (by late 2005 I had become SOL’s website manager) but I didn’t include it on the most recent version of the website. I have also added a bit more to it this year (2022). In case you were wondering, there is nothing about Dragons on this page. 😉 I’m adding this page about Frigga as it’s relevant to my Year of Norse Paganism.
In Norse mythology, Frigg or Frigga was said to be “foremost among the goddesses,” the wife of Odin, queen of the Aesir (one of the two pantheons of gods in Norse mythology, the other being the Vanir), and Goddess of the Sky – the air and the clouds. One of the Ásynjur, she is a goddess of fertility, love, household management, marriage, motherhood, and domestic arts. Her primary functions in the Norse mythological stories are as wife and mother, but these are not her only functions. She has the power of prophecy although she does not tell what she knows, and is the only one other than Odin who is permitted to sit on his high seat Hlidskjalf and look out over the universe.
Frigg also participates in the Wild Hunt (Asgardreid) along with her husband. Frigg’s children are Baldur, Höðr (Hod) and, in an English source, Wecta; her stepchildren are Hermóðr, Heimdall, Tyr, Vidar, Váli, and Skjoldr. Thor is either her brother or a stepson. Frigg’s companion is Eir, the gods’ doctor and goddess of healing. Frigg’s attendants are Hlín (a goddess of protection), Gná (a messenger goddess), and Fulla (a fertility goddess). According to the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna, Frigg is the daughter of Fjorgyn (masculine version of “Earth,” cf. feminine version of “Earth,” Thor’s mother), her mother is not identified in the stories that have survived. Frigg’s name means “wife” or “beloved” or “the loving”, although there have been slight name variations occurring over time among many northern European cultures: e.g. Frea in southern Germany, Frija or Friia in Old High German, Friggja in Sweden, Frigga in English, and Frika in Wagner’s operas. It has been suggested that Frau Holle or Holda of German folklore is survival of Frigg. Other known variations are Frig, Frigg, Frige, Friga, Frijz, Fricka, Frick, Frewa, Fruwa, Hlin, Hlyn, and Lin. Vrou-elde is a Dutch name for her.
The asterism Orion’s Belt was known as “Frigg’s Distaff” or “Frigg’s spinning wheel”. Some have pointed out that the constellation is on the celestial equator and have suggested that the stars rotating in the night sky may have been associated with Frigg’s spinning wheel. It is said that she enjoyed sitting at her spinning wheel, in the heavenly realm of Asgard, in a magnificent palace called “Fensalir”, where she would spin golden thread or weave coloured clouds.In this role Frigg is linked to fate as spinning is employed by the Norns to dispense destiny to mankind. The spindle is a powerful symbol representing female wisdom, virtue and industry. Viking age housewives spun and wove cloth which was often the major source of income for their families, emphasising the power of women in pagan tradition. In the hands of Frigg and the Norns, the spindle becomes a powerful weapon of magic. Spinning is not only a means to provide wealth and work magic, it is a creative power. The fertility of a woman producing children, and her exclusive role in the production of cloth was compared across Europe. The fates of Classical, Teutonic and Baltic mythology all spin to produce life, thus life and fate are in the hands of women. Frigg’s control over nature is clearly shown when she asks all of creation to swear not to harm Baldur.
Frigg’s hall is called Fensalir ‘marsh hall’ and here she spends each day with Odin talking and drinking from golden cups. Frigg’s residence is somewhat at odds with her role as queen of heaven and suggests a more ancient tradition of an Earth Goddess living by her sacred lake. The goddess Saga, who was described as drinking with Odin from golden cups in her hall “Sunken Benches,” may be Frigg by a different name. The Eddas refer to both Frigg and Saga living in low lying halls surrounded by lakes. Saga’s name was recorded in the late mediaeval period as a separate goddess, but her attributes make it clear that Frigg and Saga are identical.
Frigg was said to be tall, beautiful and stately, enjoying fashion and always making appearances in exquisite clothing wearing rich jewels. She also dressed in the plumage of falcons and hawks and had the ability to shape-shift and travel in the form of these birds.
In her roles as goddess of marriage, child birth and motherhood, love, fertility, household management and domestic arts, Frigga is very much the ideal housewife; she is a keeper of peace and an upholder of moral codes and justice. She achieves all this through the use of one of her greatest powers – the ability (and the determination!) to create and maintain a healthy and fruitful condition of orderliness in both the material and the non-material domains. This ability is expressed in her patronage of householding and housekeeping, where she teaches and supports all functions having to do with the well-being of the family. This includes not only housekeeping per se, but the management of money and property, hospitality, child-raising and teaching, health, and family relationships. Frigga’s ordering function extends to all kinds of relationships: personal relations between individuals, kindred and kinship relationships, larger groups, and society at large. Frigga is the frithweaver, bringing about not only peace, but “right relationships” that can maintain themselves peacefully over time, without constant struggle and grief. (Frith means fruitful peace, happiness. The true Teutonic word for “peace” which carries with it the implication of “freedom”.)
She is also strongly associated with healing, especially with medicines and cures cooked up in the home kitchen. She was also called upon by those who were dying, to ease their transition into the after-life. Frigga orders the interweaving strands of body, mind and soul to promote health and healing. She also orders knowledge and wisdom. Frigga has the power of clairsentience and is said to “know all, though she does not speak it.”
Frigg’s natural ability to see the future is a very marked contrast to Odin’s ceaseless attempts to uncover the future for himself by self sacrifice and questioning giants and wise spirits. Here the traditional roles of the sexes in Germanic religion becomes clear. Men wield physical power, while women take naturally to magical skills and are closer to the divine. It has been suggested that credit for the development of runes as a tool for divination lies with Frigga, rather than Odin.
Connection between Frigg and Freyja
There has been a lot of confusion between the roles of Frigg and Freyja. They are often merged in over zealous attempts to tidy up the myths. This attitude is very wrong for the Viking period as there are several references to the goddesses being worshipped side by side.
Frigg is the highest goddess of the Æsir, while Freyja is the highest goddess of the Vanir. The divine households, the Aesir and Vanir, reflect very different views on life. The choice between the two goddesses would have been a matter for personal preference.
Many arguments have been made both for and against the idea that Frigg and Freyja are really the same goddess, avatars of one another. Some arguments are based on linguistic analysis, others on the fact that Freyja wasn’t known in southern Germany, only in the north, and in some places the two goddesses were considered to be the same, while in others they were considered to be different.
Myths were shared between them, which has added to the confusion. Frigg’s role of celestial spinner is borrowed by Freyja. Freyja’s flying cloak of falcon feathers and shape-shifting abilities are borrowed by Frigg. Their husbands have similar names – Frigg was married to Odin while Freyja was married to Óðr (Od). Both had special necklaces, Freya’s being Brisingamen, both were called upon for assistance in childbirth, etc. They both had a personification of the Earth as a parent, and both have an equal claim on the ancient Earth Mother myths. This role sharing, so prevalent in the Norse religion, caused the merging of pagan and Christian ideas during the conversion period, the death and rebirth of the innocent god Baldur, the apocalyptical monsters of Ragnarok, the terrors of Hel, are all disturbingly Christian and products of the same merging of beliefs.
There is also an argument that Frigg and Freyja are part of a triad of goddesses (together with a third goddess such as Hnoss or Iðunn) associated with the different ages of womankind. The areas of influence of Frigg and Freyja don’t quite match up with the areas of influence often seen in other goddess triads.
Frigg had 11 maidservants: Fulla, Hlín, Gná, Lofn, Sjöfn, Syn, Gefjon, Snotra, Eir, Vár, and Vör, who helped the goddess in her role as goddess of marriage and justice (but Lofn, Sjöfn, and Vár are often considered Freyja’s messengers instead). They are sometimes considered to be various aspects of Frigg herself rather than distinct beings. Other times 12 (or even 13) maidservants are listed.
- Fulla (“Abundance”) is described as wearing a golden band and as tending to the ashen box and the footwear owned by the goddess Frigg, and, in addition, Frigg confides in Fulla her secrets.
- Hlín (“Refuge”) Her name means ‘protector’.
- Gná (“Messenger”) is a goddess who runs errands in other worlds for the goddess Frigg and rides the flying, sea-treading horse Hófvarpnir, “he who throws his hoofs about”, “hoof-thrower” or “hoof kicker”. Gná as a “goddess of fullness” and ss potentially cognate to Fama from Roman mythology. Hófvarpnir and the eight-legged steed Sleipnir have been cited examples of transcendent horses in Norse mythology.
- Lofn (“Permission”) (Old Norse: [ˈlovn], possibly “comforter,” “the comforter, the mild,” or “loving”) is a goddess who is gentle in manner and has permission from Frigg to be an arranger of marriages, even if earlier offers have been received and unions have been banned.
- Sjöfn (“Affection”)(or Sjǫfn [ˈsjɔvn] in Old Norse orthography) is a goddess associated with love.
- Syn (“Boundaries”) (Old Norse: [ˈsyn], “refusal”) is a goddess associated with defensive refusal. She “guards the doors of the hall and shuts them against those who are not to enter”. High additionally states that Syn is “appointed in defense” at things (assemblies) “in legal matters in which she wishes to refute” and that her name is connected to a saying where “a denial (syn) is made when one says no.”
- Gefjon (“Giver”) Her name likely means ‘she who gives (prosperity or happiness)’. Gefjon (Old Norse: [ˈɡevˌjon]; alternatively spelled Gefion, or Gefjun [ˈɡevjon], pronounced without secondary syllable stress) is a goddess associated with ploughing, the Danish island of Zealand, the legendary Swedish king Gylfi, the legendary Danish king Skjöldr, foreknowledge, her oxen children, and virginity.
- Snotra (“Courtesy”) (Old Norse: [ˈsnotrɑ], “clever”) is a goddess associated with wisdom.
- Eir (“Healer”) (Old Norse: [ˈɛir], “protection, help, mercy”) is a goddess or valkyrie associated with medical skill.
- Vár or Vór (“Oathkeeper”) (Old Norse, meaning either “pledge” or “beloved”) is a goddess associated with oaths and agreements.
- Vör (“Seeress”) (Old Norse: Vǫr, possibly “the careful one,” or “aware, careful”) is a goddess associated with wisdom.
- Saga (“Historian”) Saga is the goddess of history and storytelling. She could be considered Asgard’s “librarian”, and she has her own hall named Sokkvabek (Sunk-Bench).
- Huldra (“Herder”) There are a lot of conflicting accounts in the various primary sources about how many Handmaidens Frigga actually has. Some accounts have ten, or eleven, or twelve, or thirteen. Most practitioners go with twelve because it’s a nice round number, but some work with thirteen, the number of the Moon. The folks in the latter group add in the account of a handmaiden named Huldra. Some scholars assume that she is actually a form of Holda. She is spoken of as a goddess of hard labor, who strengthens the backs of those who work.
Keeper of the Keys
In her own hall, Syn guards the door, but it is Frigg who holds the keys and presides over Fensalir and Odin’s hall, and indeed over the whole of Asgard. We can always call upon Frigg to help to recognize and attain the keys we need to open the doors to realms of the spirit and to call upon Syn to guard our boundaries as we fare forth and return. We can call upon Frigg to help us stay organized and be responsible and mindful keepers of the many keys in our lives.
In Medieval times, the lady of the house held the keys to the household and to all the valuables stored within–a position of great trust and responsibility. In Viking times (CE 800-1066) keys have been found in women’s graves and many scholars speculate that they were a symbol of a woman’s power and status in home and in society.
In conclusion, Frigg is the patron of women. She gives guidance and knowledge to maidens as they learn the skills required for adult life, inspiration and protection to mothers and housewives, and peace to the elderly. As a goddess of fertility she is a patron of farmers. The man who is taught to grow flax by Holda, is welcomed to her land when he reaches old age after a long and prosperous life. She protects her worshippers by bending fate and her spinning represents the life force of mankind.
Stories about Frigga
The Death of Baldur
The most familiar of all the myths of Frigg is the story of Baldur’s death recorded in the Icelandic Eddas which has her in the role of mother. Frigga especially loved her son Baldur, and with a mother’s concern she set about trying to protect him after he had a prophetic dream of his own death. She had everything in the world promise not to harm him, except the mistletoe, which she overlooked and did not extract a promise from. The gods soon made a game of throwing things at Baldur and watching them bounce off without hurting him. In a well-known version of the story, Loki who disliked Baldur, tried to learn his weakness by tricking Frigg. Loki turned himself into a woman and asked Frigg about her spell to protect Baldur. Frigg revealed that she did not extract a promise from mistletoe because she thought it was too young to ask for a vow. Baldur’s brother Höðr was blind and couldn’t join in on the fun so Loki made a dart out of mistletoe and put it into Höðr’s hand, offering to guide his aim so he could participate in the game of throwing things at Baldur. Rather than bouncing off, the dart pierced his chest and killed Baldur. Höðr was put to death in a duel with Váli, and Odin sent one of his sons, Hermóðr, to ask Hel to give back Baldur. Hel is Loki’s daughter and goddess of the dead. She said she would return the god only if all things in the nine worlds cry for him. Frigg and Odin urged all things to weep, but Loki (disguised as an old woman) hid in a cave and did not weep. And so Baldur could not return. But the gods later found out about Loki’s role in the murder of Baldur, and gave him cruel punishments which eventually led to the end of the world.
Even though Frigg must have known that Baldur was doomed, both through one of Baldur’s prophetic dreams and her own foreknowlege, she tried to alter his fate. Even after he died she didn’t give up and tried to arrange to have him ransomed from the underworld. According to some versions of the story, mistletoe became sacred to Frigga as a result of its failure to give Frigg its oath, but only if it didn’t ever touch the ground. Another variation on this is that Frigga’s tears of mourning were so bounteous that the hapless plant that had caused Baldur’s death took pity. From then on it would bear milky white berries that were formed from her tears. In some versions of the myth, the story of Baldur ends happily. He is brought back to life, and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the curse she had placed on “the baleful plant”, changing it to a symbol of peace and love and promising a kiss to all who passed under it.
According to one author, Thorskegga Thorn (see references below) this story portrays an image of an incompetent snivelling female which is not an enticement to the worship of Frigg and this whole situation is inconsistent with all the other surviving myths of the goddess. The myth of Baldur seems to be a very late addition to the Norse religion, probably added after the conversion and inspired by the death and resurrection of Christ. The dubious nature of this myth is confirmed by the mediaeval historian Saxo Grammaticus who recorded the story in great detail, but with Baldur’s slayer as the hero who rescues his lover from Baldur.
In the older myths Frigg is the divine noble woman and housewife. The minor goddesses serve her and run her errands. She is the embodiment of womanhood and following Germanic tradition she is fiercely equal in authority to her husband. In no less than three of the myths she pits her cunning against Odin, and on each occasion she gets her way.
The Winnilers and the Vandals
The strength of Frigg’s cult in ancient Germany is attested by the tale of Frikka and the Lombards. In this story, Frigga is shown in the role of wife, but one who knows how to get her own way even though her husband thinks he is in charge. The Winnilers and the Vandals were two warring tribes. Odin favored the Vandals, while Frigga favored the Winnilers. After a heated discussion, Odin swore that he would grant victory to the first tribe he saw the next morning upon awakening — knowing full well that the bed was arranged so that the Vandals were on his side. While he slept, Frigga told the Winniler women to comb their hair over their faces to look like long beards so they would look like men and turned the bed so the Winniler women would be on Odin’s side. When he woke up, Odin was surprised to see the disguised women first and asked who these long bearded men were, which was where the tribe got its new name, the Langobards. Odin kept his oath and granted victory to the Winnilers (now known as the Lombards), and eventually saw the wisdom of Frigga’s choice. The goddess’s insight has served her well. No magic is required, she simply has to exercise her powers as house keeper and move her husband’s bed to change the course of history!
Vili and Ve
The story of Frigg and Odin’s brothers, Vili and Ve, has survived in very brief form. In the Ynglinga Saga of Snorri Sturluson the entire story is told as follows: “Othin [Odin] had two brothers. One was called Ve, and the other Vili. These, his brothers, governed the realm when he was gone. One time when Othin was gone to a great distance, he stayed away so long that the Aesir thought he would never return. Then his brothers began to divide his inheritance; but his wife Frigg they shared between them. However, a short while afterwards, Othin returned and took possession of his wife again.”
There is speculation that in this story, Frigga has the role of sacred queen much like the role of queens during certain periods in ancient Egypt, where the king was king by virtue of being the queen’s husband.
Symbols associated with Frigg:
- Drop spindle (spinning wheel)
- Frigg’s grass. (Frigg was very much the goddess of married women. She helped women give birth to children, and Scandinavians used the plant Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum as a sedative, they called it Frigg’s grass).
Frigga is a goddess who keeps us in touch with our intuitive nature and helps us make transitions and new beginning. And as a goddess of love and divination, Frigga helps keep our lives in alignment with our spiritual selves.
Invoke Frigga for magic, foresight, fertility, fate, protection, marriage, health, independence, vitality, cunning, wisdom, physical passion, sex magic, sexual freedom, magical power, trickster-energy, lunar magic, shape-shifting, spinning, knot magic, help during childbirth, keeping secrets, protecting the household, commanding Earth elementals, finding the right name for a new child, and knowing the past, the present, or the future.
As Woden/Odin gave his name to Wednesday, and Thunor/Thor to Thursday, so Frigg is remembered in Friday.
Call to Frigg, Mother of the Folk
Lady Frigg, most magnificent!
Asgard’s Queen, in your cloak of stars:
We call to you: Be with us now!
Send your mighty maidens to us:
Swift Gna, bringing grace and good fortune;
Golden Fulla with her overflowing gifts;
Gentle Hlin, giving comfort and strong warding
Against all grief, despair and evil
That assail the heart.
Teach us your wisdom, Mother,
To order our lives, homes and folkways rightly,
For the good of all,
And to reflect your grace and brightness.
(By Winifred Hodge)
Call to Frigg, the Silent Knower
Lady Frigg, in your misty halls at Fensalir,
On far-seeing Hlidskjalf,
From the deepest wells of knowledge,
Share with us the silent wonder of the world!
All-knowing Frigg, norn-wise,
You know there is no tongue in which to tell
Of all that is and that shall be;
To sort the spinning strands of possibility
Into a span of words.
Yet with your spindle and your well-strung loom
You weave the airy clouds
And send the winds to shape them,
Writing your wordless wisdom-runes
In the ever-changing valleys of the sky.
Teach us, Lady, to heed
The wisdom that lies beyond all words.
(By Winifred Hodge)
Frige I boast, Lady All-Holy,
Woden’s loved companion, wonder-working queen!
Shining lady, splendid queen of tribes,
Blessed in triumph, binding folk together.
Lover of your people, lady bright-minded,
Bridler of kin-strife, bourne of kin-mindfulness.
Protector and peaceweaver, friendly goddess:
Your blessing give us, to babies and brave men,
Mother kind, of mind most excellent.
Great-hearted queen, holding secret counsel
With god-loving soothsayers; to the wise-minded
Giving rede and wisdom, discretion and prudence.
Key-keeper mighty, in your starry cape,
Silver adorned, shining heaven’s queen!
Bid us blithely together
To your benches at Fen-Hall sitting;
Offer us the cup of frith and happiness,
Frige, Queen beloved!
Frige, my beloved.
(By Winifred Hodge)
Blessed be the Goddess of the Hearth Flame
Frigga, Constant One,
Goddess of fireside and home.
Teach me the lessons of commitment and contentment,
service and celebration.
Warm me within and without.
I light this candle
in fiery offering to you,
Frigga, Goddess of Home.
(By Freya Owlsdottir)
Information compiled by Topaz in 2007 from:
“Frigg”, by Thorskegga Thorn – http://www.thorshof.org/frigg.htm
Extra information added in 2022 from:
“Circle of Frith: A Devotional to Frigg and Her Handmaidens”, by Maire Durkan (accessed via Google Books)