Freyja: The Norse Goddess of Love, Sex, War, and Magic

The goddess Freyja is one of the most important goddesses found in the Old Norse Pantheon. The powerful goddess is associated with beauty, fertility, love, sex, war, death, and a special kind of magic called Seidr. This type of magic allowed the goddess to see the future and gave her the ability to shape it.

In Norse mythology, Freyja is often described as being the most beautiful and desirable of all the goddesses. Being the goddess of sex and lust, the important goddess is often branded as being promiscuous. Additionally, Freyja is also a fierce warrior and is said to lead the Valkyries, female deities who choose which warriors will die in battle and which will live.

Although the golden-haired goddess is undoubtedly one of the most important goddesses in Norse mythology, she is not featured prominently in modern pop culture. Despite being featured in many stories with the likes of Thor, Heimdall, and Loki, she is notably absent in Marvel comics and movies.

Etymology of Freyja 

The name Freyja in Old Norse translates to ‘lady,’ ‘woman,’ or mistress,’ making her name more of a title, thus cementing Freyja’s position as a major Norse deity. Freyja is derived from the proto-germanic feminine noun frawjōn, meaning lady, which is a derivative of the Old Saxon word frūa, which also means lady.

During the Viking Age, a woman who owned property or was of higher stature within Viking society was referred to as Freyja.

The goddess had many names associated with her, such as Syr, meaning to protect or sow, Gefn, meaning giver, Horn, meaning flaxen and Mardöll, meaning sea-brightener.

Freyja-awakes-Hyndla
Freyja awakes Hyndla

What is Freyja the Goddess Of?

The goddess Freyja is a member of the Vanir family of Norse gods. Within the Norse pantheon, gods and goddesses belong to either the Vanir family of gods or the Aesir. The Vanir are the second major group of gods next to the Aesir of which Odin is the chief. The Vanir are associated with fertility and magic, while the Aesir are great warriors.

The beautiful Norse goddess Freyja is the goddess of fertility, sex, lust, war, and beauty. In addition, the goddess is connected to wealth and abundance.

The goddess is continually linked to gold and treasure in Norse mythology. It is believed that Freyja could produce treasure as she could cry golden tears. The goddess had an affinity for beautiful, often priceless objects or treasures.

This multifaceted goddess played an important role in Scandinavian religion because of all the spheres of life she presided over. Furthermore, Freyja was seen as the protector of love and marriage.

In addition to her association with love, fertility, war, and death, Freyja is connected to magic and the occult in Norse mythology. Freyja is the goddess of a particular type of magic called Seidr.

According to Norse literature, Seidr could be practiced by both men and women and was a form of magic that could manipulate and shape the future. In keeping with her association with magic, Freyja possesses a feathered cloak that allows the Norse goddess to magically transform into a falcon.

Freyja-with-feather-cloak
Freyja with a servant, feather cloak, Thor, and Loki – an illustration by Lorenz Frølich

What Powers Did Freyja Have?

As the goddess of fertility, Freyja was able to bless women with children, and it was believed she was able to help people find love and happiness. Freyja was a skilled warrior, who could see into the future and shape it should she wish to do so.

What Does Freyja Look Like?

The important goddess, Freyja, is often depicted or described as being a beautiful woman with long golden hair. She is often described as wearing a cloak made of falcon feathers and holding a spear. Sometimes the beautiful fertility goddess is pictured wearing a headdress of a boar’s head.

Family Tree of Freyja 

Freyja belongs to the Vanir family of gods and goddesses and is believed to be the daughter of a sea god called Njörðr. Freyja has a twin brother, Freyr, who is the god of fertility and peace.

It is unclear who the goddess’s mother was, with most Norse sources leaving her unnamed. Although Freyja and Freyr’s mother remains unnamed, their mother appears to have been the sister of the twins’ father, Njörðr.

Freyr
The god Freyr stands with his sword and the boar Gullinbursti – an illustration by Johannes Gehrts

Freyja’s Love Life 

According to some old Norse sources, Freyja may have been involved in a brother-sister marriage with her twin brother Freyr. This is a common theme seen not just in Norse mythology, but in ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek mythology too.

Despite early sources naming her twin brother Freyr as her husband, the Icelandic mythographer Snorri Sturluson, author of the Prose Edda, has the fertility goddess married to the mysterious god Odr. Despite being married, Freyja is known for her affairs with other gods, mortals, and mythical beings.

The multifaceted goddess’s husband’s name means divine madness, eager, or frantic. It is believed that Odr is a derivative of Odin, which leads some scholars to believe that Odin and Odr are the same.

Freyja and Odr have two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi, whose names mean preciousness or treasure. Odr often left his wife and daughters and went on long journeys without explanation, presumably traveling the realms.

Freyja had no idea where her husband had wandered off to, which, understandably, upset her. The goddess was said to cry golden tears while searching for him.

Odr-leaves-Freya-to-go-to-adventure
Odr leaves Freyja to go on an adventure

The Cult of Freyja 

In the Old Norse religion, Freyja was mostly viewed and worshiped as a fertility goddess stemming from her familiar ties to the Vanir tribe of gods. Unlike many other female goddesses, Freyja is a fertility goddess. The evidence suggests that Freyja could have been worshiped by those who practiced the Scandinavian religion.

Due to the many references to the goddess in place names in Sweden and Norway, it is believed that a cult of Freyja possibly existed in the old Scandinavian religion. Largely because of her role in the circle of life. Freyja represents the cycle of life and is a symbol of fertility, love, and desire.

Freyja in Norse Mythology 

As one of the main goddesses in Norse Mythology, she appears frequently in Norse literature. Most notably, she appears in the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and the Heimskringla. There is no shortage of information on Freyja, as many myths recorded in Old Norse sources feature her.

According to the Icelandic mythographer Snorri Sturluson in the Prose Edda, Freyja was the noblest of the Norse goddesses, as dignified as Odin’s wife Frigg. Clearly, Freyja was held in extremely high regard by the Germanic peoples who practiced the Old Norse religion.

Freyja and Her Connection to Frigg 

It must be mentioned that, just as Freyja’s husband Odr could actually have been Odin at one time, several similarities can be drawn between Freyja and Odin’s wife Frigg.

There is a hypothesis that Freyja and Frigg share the same origin or that they are in fact the same goddess. It is hypothesized that they developed and evolved from the same common Germanic goddess.

frigg
Frigg and her Maidens

The Role of Freyja in Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, there is a great war between the Vanir and Asier tribes of gods known as the Asier-Vanir War. Freyja was taken as a prisoner of war during the conflict, at the end of which she was released, joining the Asier tribe of gods.

Freyja was not only a fertility goddess but was associated with death, in particular death on the battlefield. As the commander of the Valkyrie, it was Freyja’s role to choose where the slain warriors would spend their afterlife.

The goddess had some rather interesting travel options available if she wished to travel through the nine realms of the old Norse cosmos (presumably looking for her wandering husband).

The first option was in the form of a falcon, the second was a chariot pulled by cats. Thirdly the goddess had a boar, called Hildisvíni which translates to battle swine. The boar Hildisvíni often accompanied Freyja.

A well-known myth involving the goddess and her battle swine is the tale of the mischievous god Loki telling the gods that Freyja’s boar was her human lover, the hero Ottar. Sure enough, the fertility goddess transforms her human lover, Ottar into a boar.

The beautiful goddess was often an object of lust in Norse literature or a lover. Several of the myths recorded in Old Norse sources center around this theme. Freyja is considered to be extremely desirable and is lusted after by the giants or Jotens.

In these tales, the desirable goddess Freyja was often the ‘price’ that needed to be paid to get a stolen item back. Thankfully, the other gods refuse to trade the goddess for their stolen items.

freyja-with-her-boar-hildisvini
The goddess Freyja with her boar Hildisvíni – an illustration by Lorenz Frølich

Freyja and Thor’s Hammer 

The Norse gods often found themselves in sticky situations, many of which involved missing items and the race of giants called Jotens. A famous tale involving Freyja is one about the god of thunder’s missing hammer, Mjöllnir.

In the myth found in the Poetic Edda, the mischievous god Loki uses Freyja’s falcon feathered cloak to fly to Jötunheimr where the giant Prymr, who stole Thor’s hammer resides. Prymr is found sitting on a mound. The giant tells the god that he has hidden Thor’s hammer deep within the Earth where no one can find it.

The giant reveals that if the god of thunder would like his hammer back, the beautiful Freyja must be given to him as his bride. Loki tells Thor the giant’s terms, and the pair seek out the golden-haired Freyja. Thor tells Freyja she is to dress as a bride and be taken to Jötunheimr.

Freyja is understandably furious when she hears this. She is so angry that she makes the halls of the gods shake, and her golden necklace Brisingamen falls from her neck.

Luckily the wise god Heimdall comes up with a plan to ensure Freyja does not have to become the bride of the giant. In her stead, Thor disguises himself as Freyja and goes to Jötunheimr to trick the giants and retrieve his beloved hammer.

thor-fighting-giants
Thor fighting giants – an illustration by Louis Moe

Freyja, Death, and War 

The goddess Freyja is closely connected to war and death in Norse mythology. The goddess is often linked to the Valkyrie, and it is believed she was their commander. This group of fearsome warriors’ role in mythology was to choose the strongest and bravest warriors slain in battle to join Odin in Valhalla.

The warriors chosen to spend their afterlife in Odin’s hall had to be the best, as they were to aid the gods when the final battle arrived, known as Ragnarok. This apocalyptic event would destroy the Norse cosmos and the gods themselves.

The slain warriors who were not chosen to go to Valhalla were sent to Freyja’s hall, Folkvangr. It was believed that Freyja resided in and presided over a meadow for the dead, situated in the home of the Aesir gods, Asgard.

Within Folkvangr is a beautiful hall called Sessrúmnir, which is described as being large and beautiful in the Prose Edda, where Freyja allots seats for half of those killed in battle. Sessrumnir could also have been a ship, rather than a hall, situated within the meadow of the dead, Folkvangr.

Valkyrie
Ride of the valkyrie by Gustaaf van de Wall Perné

Freya’s Necklace, Brisingamen

One of the most iconic symbols associated with the important goddess (other than her fabulous chariot-pulling cats) is her golden necklace, Brisingamen. Translated, Brisingamen means glowing necklace. Some believe the necklace was the reason Freyja was so desirable.

Freyja’s necklace, which is described as being made from gold and adorned with precious stones, is featured prominently in many tales in Norse literature. Usually, Brisingamen is referred to as a ‘gleaming torc’ in the myths. There are several different stories detailing how the necklace was made and how Freyja came to possess it.

According to one version of the tale, Brisingamen was given to Freyja by four dwarves who were the master craftsmen behind most, if not all, mythical Norse objects. The dwarves were renowned for their ability to create beautiful and powerful objects, such as the famous hammer of the god of thunder.

In the myth, Freyja came across the four dwarves inside a rock crafting the stunning necklace. Freyja could not resist beautiful objects, but her desire upon seeing the necklace was overwhelming. Freyja offered the dwarves silver and gold for the necklace, which they refused.

The dwarves agreed to give Freyja the necklace only if she spent a night with each of them. The beautiful goddess of lust agreed to the terms, and the necklace was hers. The necklace was precious to the goddess, which is perhaps why it was taken from her by the deceptive god Loki.

thor-as-freyja
The engraving depicts the god Thor dressed up as Freyja, with a necklace Brísingamen by Carl Larsson and Gunnar Forssell

Loki and Freyja

Loki and Freyja are both prominent characters in Norse mythology, and their stories are closely entwined throughout the old Norse poems and sagas. Loki is known for his mischievous and deceptive nature and his ability to shape-shift into many different forms. In Norse mythology, Loki loved to torment Freyja by either insulting her or stealing her possessions.

In the 14th century saga Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka, there is a tale involving Freyja and Loki and the theft of Freyja’s golden necklace. In the story, when Freyja acquired her beautiful necklace from the talented dwarves, she was unaware that she had been followed by Loki.

The trickster told Odin what he saw, who was furious with Freyja. Presumably, because they had been lovers at one point, or perhaps he was not all that fond of Freyja’s attitude to sex. Either way, Odin ordered Loki to steal the necklace.

READ MORE: 11 Trickster Gods From Around The World

Naturally, he agreed. Loki transformed into a fly to sneakily snatch it away from the goddess while she slept. When Freyja woke to discover her necklace missing, she went to Odin. Odin told her she could have it back if she made two kings fight each other for eternity which she did.

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Loki flying with Freyja’s feather cloak by Lorenz Frølich

A similar story is told in the Prose Edda, where Loki steals Freyja’s prized possession. The god Heimdall helps Freyja retrieve the necklace from Loki, who had transformed himself into a seal. The two gods fight one another until, eventually, Heimdall retrieves the necklace.

In another tale involving the pair, told in the poem Lokasenna, Loki insult’s all the gods, Freyja included. The mischievous god Loki accuses Freya of bedding all the elves and gods in attendance at the feast. As the goddess of sex, lust, and fertility, it is perhaps not surprising that the goddess has been accused of being a tad promiscuous.

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