Sunday, 17 August 2014

Frigg and Freyja, Originally the Same Deity?

One thing that has troubled me over recent years is the connection between Frigga, the supposed wife and consort of Woden, and Freyja, the Vanadis and sister-wife of Frey. There appears to me to be too much overlap in their functions and levels of importance for me to perceive these as separate deities. I have come to the conclusion that they are one and the same Goddess but with slightly differing emphasis placed upon their functions by the writers of the Eddas. We must remember that the Eddas as written literature only date back to the 13th century and are a reflection of post-conversion belief in Scandinavian society. Other Germanic peoples from different time periods and geographical locations would have viewed the Gods rather differently. However as they comprise our only complete written accounts of our deities we must take them as a starting point.

It is my argument that originally in Proto-Germanic times they were both the same Goddess. Freyja was mainly known within Scandinavia in early times and as modern day heathens of Germanic (but not necessarily Scandinavian) descent we must bear this in mind. Frigga however as a Goddess is attested to all over the Germanic world and is more dominant in Germany, England and the Netherlands. Let us explore the etymology of these two deities! Freyja is derived from Proto-Germanic *fraujaz, meaning Lady. In the Vanatroth Frey and Freyja are the Lord and Lady and this is reflected in a distorted form in modern Wicca which is an Old English word for witchcraft and is properly pronounced as witchuh. (See Witchdom of the True. A Study of the Vana-Troth and the Practice of Seidr, Edred Thorsson, 1999). In Old High German She is frouwâ. A later form of this is frû. In  Old Saxon She is frūa, in Old English frōwe and in Gothic. *fraujô. Ultimately the Germanic forms of the name derive from the Proto-Indo-European *pro-w-(y)o-s which means first as in foremost.

Frigg is derived from  the Common Germanic Frijjō. The Old Saxon Fri and the Old English Frig are related to this term. Interestingly the Sanskrit prīyā́ is related to Frijjō and has the meaning of wife, dear or beloved one. Frigg is clearly an important deity as Friday is named after Her. In Old English this day is called Frigedæg. The Modern German Freitag is derived from the Old High German Frîatac and Frîgetac. The names of the days of the week are ultimately derived from Roman Gods, translated into their  Germanic equivalents. This is often referred to as the Interpretatio Germanica. In the Roman system Venus is the deity associated with Friday so one would have expected that Freyja be the most appropriate deity to associate with this day as Frigg is more of a domesticated Goddess. However Frigg was more widely known than Freyja and direct Roman influence did not extend to Scandinavia. Interestingly Friday has two versions in Old Norse: Freyjudagr (for Freyja) and Frjádagr (for Frigg). No doubt the latter version is the result of South Germanic influence. So there is a certain amount of confusion between these two deities.

To think of Frigg as domesticated and Freyja as being more wild and untamed is perhaps a simplistic way of viewing these two deities as the etymology of words connected to Frigg will show. The A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by J.R. Clark Hall reveeals the following:

A sample of words connected to Freyja:

freod- "peace, friendship, good-will, affection."
freodohtor-"freeborn daughter".
freodom-"freedom, state of free-will, charter, emancipation, deliverance."
freogan-"to free, liberate, manumit, love, embrace, caress, think of lovingly, honour."
freond-"friend, relative. lover."
freondlufu-"friendship, love."

A sample of words connected to Frigg:

frigea-"lord, master".
friclan-"to dance, to desire, to seek."

There are far more words in Old English which are cognate with Freyja than Frigg and there is also a noticeable overlap in meenings, particularly in words associated with freedom and love.  Figga's name continues today to be associated with the verb frig. Etymologically there is little difference between freo and frig and indeed the above-referred to dictionary does link the two words together in the following entry:


Frigg we certainly know was part of Anglo-Saxon religion but we have no such evidence regarding Freyja.However the lack of evidence is not in itself evidence of lack! The preponderance of freo related words is simply an illustartion of the connectivity of these two terms, nothing more.

In Lokasenna in the Elder Edda Loki makes the same kind of amorous accusations against Frigg as He does against Freyja, indicating that there is little to choose between them when it comes to morality. People often overlook this. In the Ynglinga Saga when Odin goes wandering He leaves His brothers Vili and Ve in charge and they also share His wife, Frigg! No doubt these are the indiscretions referred to in Lokasenna. Also we have the mysterious character Odr to contend with. He is regarded as the husband of Freyja in Gylfaginning and Skaldskaparmal in the Younger Edda. Rudolf Simek has this to say about Him:

"The most obvious explanation is to identify Odr with Odin; the similarity of the names (which show a parallel with Ullr/Ullinn), the long absence (cf. Odin's exile) and his marriage with Freyja (whom Grimnismal 14 identifies with Frigg, Odin's wife) support this suggestion." (Dictionary of Northern Mythology).
A marriage or union between Woden and Freyja is also indirectly supported by the fact that Freyja and not Frigg receives half of the heroic dead in Her Folkvangr (Gylfaginning 23 and Grimnismal 14) The fact that this is referred to in both the Elder and Younger Eddas is significant and likely an archaic concept. The sharing of the brave dead may be the result of an agreement made after the conclusion of the war between the Aesir and Vanir but why Freyja and not Frey or Njord should have this honour is not explained in the sources so it is my contention that this was a kind of gift bestowed upon Her as the result of Her union with Odin. With the subsequent separation of the Frigg/Frejya Goddess into two separate deities the reason has been lost and thus not revealed in the Eddas. After the conclusion of a war, especially one which ended in a truce it would have been natural for the two families of Gods to be united in marriage and this would have taken place between Woden and Freyja who in later times morphed into the separate Frigg. So in essence Frigg and Frejya represent two sides of the same being.

For whatever reason our ancestors saw the need to separate the role of Mother Goddess from Love Goddess but we should not be surprised about this. An analysis of the Eddas reveals scores of deities who are little more than names in many cases.


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