Frigg. Freyja.

Our inquiry turns at length to the goddesses of the Norse religious system, of whom unequivocal traces are forthcoming in the rest of Teutondom.

Foremost of these are Frigg the wife of Oðinn, and Freyja the sister of Freyr, a pair easy to confound and often confounded because of their similar names. I mean to try if a stricter etymology can part them and keep them asunder.

The name of Freyja seems the easier: it is motived no doubt by the masculine Freyr (Gramm. 3, 335). Now as we recognised Freyr in Gothic fráuja, Freyja leads us to expect a Gothic fráujô, gen. fráujons, both in the general sense of domina mistress, and in the special one of a proper name Fráujô. The notion of mistress, lady, never occurs in Ulphilas. To make up for it, our OHG. remains express it very frequently, by fruwâ, frôwâ; the MHG. frouwe, frou and our modern frau have preserved themselves purely as common nouns, while the masc. frô has vanished altogether. In meaning, frouwe and frau correspond exactly to hêrre, herr, and are used like it both in addressing and otherwise. Our minnesängers are divided as to the respective superiority of frouwe (domina) and wîp (femina), wîp expressing more the sex, and frouwe the dignity; to this day we feel frau to be nobler than weib, though the French femme includes a good deal of what is in our frau. It seems worthy of notice, that the poets harp on the connexion of frau with froh glad (fro-lic) and freude joy; conf. Frîdank 106, 5—8. Tit. 15, 35.

The AS. and OS. languages have done the very reverse: while their masc. freá, fraho is used far more freely than the OHG. frouwo, they have developed no fem. by its side. The M. Dutch dialect has vrauwe, vrouwe in addressing and as title (Huyd. op St. 1, 52. 356. Rein 297. 731. 803. 1365. 1655. 2129. 2288. 2510-32-57-64, &c.), seldomer in other positions, Rein 2291; the modern vrouw has extended its meaning even beyond the limits of our frau.

All the above languages appear to lack the fem. proper name, in contrast to the ON. which possess Freyja almost solely as the goddess's name, and no freyja=hera. Yet we find hûsfreyja housewife, Sæm. 212b, and Snorri is still able to say that freyja is a tignarnafn (name of honour) derived from the goddess, that grand ladies, rîkiskonur, are freyjur, Sn. 29. Yng. saga c. 13. The readings frûr, fruvor here are corrupt, for the Ice. form frû has evidently slipped in from the Dan. frue, Swed. fru, and these from Germany. The goddess should be in Swed. Fröa, Dan. Fröe, which have never met with; the Swed. folk-song of Thor's hammer calls Freyja Froijenborg (the Dan. Fridleefsborg), a Danish one has already the foreign Fru. Saxo is silent about this goddess and her father altogether; he would no doubt have named her Fröa. Our Meresburg poem has now at last presented us with Frûâ=Frôwâ, as the proper name of the goddess.

Frigg gen. Friggjar, daughter of Fiörgynn and wife of Oðinn, is kept strictly apart from Freyja, gen. Freyju: in the Vafþrudnismâl and the beginning of the Grîmnismâl, Oðinn, and Frigg are plainly presented as husband and wife; and as Hroptr and Svâfnir are also names of Oðinn, ‘Hroptr ok Frigg, Svâfnir ok Frigg’ in Sæm. 91b 93a express the same relation. Saxo Gram. p. 13, has correctly ‘Frigga Othini conjux’. In prayers the two goddesses even stand side by side: ‘svâ hialpi ther hollar vættir, Frigg ok Freyja, ok fleiri goð (more gods), sem þû feldir mer fâr af höndom!’ Sæm. 240b. So they do at the burning of Baldr's body, Sn. 66, conf. 37. And that Danish folk-song has likewise ‘Frikka, Fru, ok Thor.


The ON. usually has gg where the AS. has cg and OHG. cc or kk, namely, where a suffix i had stood after g or k: thus, ON. egg (acies), AS. ecg, OHG. ekki; ON. bryggja (pons), AS. brycge, OHG. prukkâ; ON. hryggr (dorsum), AS. hrycg, OHG. hrukki. In the same way we get an AS. Fricg, OHG. Frikka, Frikkia, even further away from Frouwâ than Frigg from Freyja.

It is confounding of these two beings that will explain how Adam of Bremen came to put Fricco instead of Frô for freyr; he would equally have said Fricca for freyja. Fricco, Friccho, Friccolf were in use as proper names in OHG.

And now it seems possible to explain what is otherwise unaccountable, why the sixth day of the week, dies Veneris, should be called in ON. both Freyjudagr and also Frîadagr, in OHG. never Frouwûntac, but Frîtac, Frîgetac, now Freitag, in AS. Frigedæg (for Fricgedæg?), and in Faröese Frujggjadeâ (Lyngbye 532).

Among these forms the AS. presents no difficulty: in the OHG. and ON. names we are puzzled by the absence of the guttural. I believe a solution is offered by that most important passage in Paulus Diac. 1, 8 where Wodan's consort is named Frea, which can only mean Frigg, not Freyja, as Saxo Gram. too, while expressly grounding on Paulus, makes use of the form Frig: ‘Paulo teste auctore Frig dea’.

This Langob. Frea accords with the OHG. Frîa, I take it to be not only identical with Frigg, but the original of the name; it has less to do with Freyja and the AS. masc. freá. As an ON. brû (pons) stands related to bryggia, so will frî to frigg. The Langob. Frea is = Frëa, Fria, Frija, Frêa. Its root is suggested by such words as: Goth. freis, frijis (liber), OHG. frî; Goth. frijôn (amare), OHG. frîôn; especially may we take into account the OS. neut. frî (mulier), Hel. 9, 21. 13, 16. 171, 21. 172, 1, the AS. freo (mulier), Cædm. 29,28. freolîc cwên (pulcra femina), Beow. 1275. freolîcu meowle, Cod. exon. 479, 2. freolîc wîf, Beow. 1222. freolîc fæmne, Cædm. 12, 12. 54, 28. Now, as frî (liber) and our frech, On frekr (protervus, impudens), frî (mulier formosa) and ON. frîðr (formosus), friðr (pax) seems to be all related, even the adjectival forms betray the shifting sense of the substantival.

[AS. Fricg, ON. Frigg, is probably derived from the base seen in AS. fricgan, to ask, to inquire. Cf. AS. friht, inquiry about the future, ON. frêtt, inquiry about the future. ON. Frîadagr points to Frîa as being the original name for Frigg. WW ed.].

We gather from all this, that the forms and even the meanings of the two names border closely on one another. Freyja means the gladsome, gladdening, sweet, gracious goddess, Frigg the free, beautiful, lovable; to the former attaches the notion of frau (mistress), to the latter that of frî (woman). Holda, from hold (sweet, kind), and Berhta from berht (bright, beautiful) resemble them both. The Swedish folk-song, in naming Froijenborg, calls her ‘den väna solen,’ the beautiful sun.

Hence the mingling of their myths becomes the more conceivable. Saxo, p. 13, relates how Frigga, to obtain gold for her ornaments, violated conjugal fidelity; more minutely told, and differing much in the details, the tale about Freyja in Sn. 356 appears to be the same adventure. On quite another ground however the like offence is imputed to Frigg too (säm. 63, Yngl. saga cap. 3). In Sn. 81 the valshamr of Feyja is spoken of, but in 113-9 that of Frigg; the former is supported by Säm. 70.


Hence the variations in the name for the week. The OHG. Frîatac ought clearly to be Friggjardagr in ON., and the ON. Freyjudagr should be Frouwûntac in OHG. Hence too the uncertainty in the naming of a constellation and several plants. Orion's belt, elsewhere named Jacob's staff and also spindle (colus _l a k _t h ), is called by the Swedish people Friggerock (colus Friggae, Ihre, p. 663) or Frejerock (Finn Magnusen 361a), as we noticed before, or Fröjas rock (Wieselgren. 383). The orchis odoratissima, satyrium albidum, a plant from which love-potions are brewed, Icel. Friggjargras, otherwise hionagras (herba conjugalis); the later christian way of thinking has substituted Mary for the heathen goddess. And the labouring man in Zealand speaks of the above constellation also by the name of Mariärok, Marirok. Several kinds of fern, adiantum, polypodium, asplenium, are named lady's hair, maidenhair, Mariengras, capillus Veneris, Icel. Freyjuhâr, Dan. Fruehaar, Venusstraa, Venusgräs, Norweg. Marigras, &c. Even if the Norse names here have sprung out of Latin ones, they show how Venus was translated both by Frigg and Freyja and Mary. As for Mary, not only was the highest conception of beauty carried over to her, (frîo, scôniôsta, idiso scôniôst, Hel. 61, 13. 62, 1), but she was pre-eminently our lady, frau domina, donna. Conf. infra frauachueli, ladycow, Marienkälblein. In the nursery-tales she sets the girls sewing and spinning like Holda and Berhta, and Holda's snow appears to mean the same as Mary's snow (p. 268). Frigg the daughter of Fiörgynn (p. 172), as consort of the highest god, takes rank above all other goddesses: she knows the fates of men (Sæm. 63b. Sn. 23. 64), is consulted by Oðinn (Sæm. 31a), administers oaths, handmaids fulfil her hest, she presides over marriages, and her aid is implored by the childless (Fornald. sög. 1, 117); hence hionagras is also Friggjargras. We may remember those maidens yet unmarried (p. 264) being yoked to the plough of the goddess whose commands they had too long defied. In some parts of northern England, in Yorkshire, especially Hallamshire, popular customs show remnants of the worship of Fricg. In the neighbourhood of Dent, at certain seasons of the year, especially autumn, the country folk hold a procession and perform old dances, one called the giant's dance: the leading giant they name Woden, and his wife Frigga, the principal action of the play consisting in two swords being swung and clashed together about the neck of a boy without hurting him. Still more remarkable is the clear vestige of the goddess in Lower Saxony, where to the common people she is fru Freke, and plays the very parts which we saw assigned to frau Holle (pp. 267-8): a strong argument, by the way, for the divine nature of this latter. Then in Westphalia, legend may derive the name of the old convent Freckenhorst, Frickenhorst, from a shepherd Frickio, to whom a light appeared in the night (like the fall of snow by night at Hildesheim, p. 268) on the spot where the church was to be built; the name really points to a sacred hurst or grove of Frecka fem., or of Fricko masc., whose site christianity was perhaps eager to appropriate; conf. Fræcinghyrst, Kemble 1, 248. 2, 265. There is a Vrekeleve, Fricksleben, not far from Magdeburg (see Suppl.).

Freyja is the goddess most honoured after or along with Frigg; her worship seems to have been even the more prevalent and important of the two, she is styled ‘agætuz af Asynum,’ Sn. 28, and ‘blôtgyðja,’ Yngl. saga cap. 4, to whom frequent sacrifices were offered. Heiðrekr sacrificed a boar to her, as elsewhere to Freyr, and honoured her above all other gods. She was wedded to a man (not a god, at least not an As ), named Oðr, but he forsook her, and she sought him all over the world, among strange peoples, shedding tears. Her name S_r (Sn. 37) would perhaps be Saûrs in Gothic: Wilh. Müller has detected the very same in the Syritha of Saxo Gram. p. 125, who likewise goes in search of Othar. Freyja's tears were golden, gold is named after them, and she herself is ‘grâtfagr,’ fair in greeting (weeping), Sn. 37. 119. 133; in out nursery-tales pearls and flowers are wept or laughed out, and dame Holla bestows the gift of weeping such tears. But the oldest authorities make her warlike also; in a waggon drawn by two cats (as Thôrr drives two goats) she rides to the battlefield, ‘rîðr til vîgs,’ and shares with Oðinn in the slain (supra p. 133, conf. Sæm. 42a. Sn. 28. 57). She is called ‘eigandi valfalls’ (quae sortitur caesos in pugna), Sn. 119; valfreyja, mistress of the chosen, Nialss. p. 118, and the valkyrs in general; this seems to be in striking accord with Holda or Berhta (as well as Woutan) adopting the babes that die unchristened into their host, heathen goddesses the heathen souls. Freyja's dwelling is named Fôlkvângr or Fôlkvângar, the plains on which the (dead ?) folk troop together; this imparts new credibility to the connexion of St. Gertrude, whose minne is drunk, with Frowa, for the souls of the departed were supposed to lodge with Gertrude the first night (p. 61). Freyja's hall is Sessrymnir, the seat-roomy, capacious of much folk; dying women expect to find themselves in her company after death. Thôrgerðr in the Egilss., p. 103, refuses earthly nourishment, thinks to feast with Freyja soon: ‘ok engan (nâttverð) mun ek fyrr enn at Freyju’. Yet love-songs please her too, and lovers do well to call upon her: ‘henni lîkaði vel mansöngr, â hana er gott at heita til âsta,’ Sn. 29. That the cat was sacred her, as the wolf to Woutan, will perhaps explain why this creature is given to night-hags and witches, and is called donneraas, wetteraas (-carrion). When a bride goes to the wedding in fine weather, they say ‘she has fed the cat well,’ not offended the favourite of the love-goddess. The meaning of a phrase in Walther 82, 17 is dark to me: ‘weder rîtest gerner eine guldîn katze, ald einen wunderlîchen Gêrhart Atzen?’ In Westphalia, however the weasel was named froie, Reinh. clxxii, which I suppose means frau, fräulein (froiken), as that ghostly creature was elsewhere called mühmlein (aunty), fräulein, donna, donnola, titles sure to be connected with myths, and these would doubtless point in the first place to our goddess and her worship. The Greeks said Galinthias was turned into a weasel or cat (g a l _n ), Ovid. metam. 9, 306 (see Suppl.).


In so far as such comparisons are allowable, Frigg would stand on a line with Here or Juno, especially the pronuba, Jupiter's spouse; and Freyja with Venus, but also with Isis who seeks Osiris. Freyr and his sister Freyja are suggestive of Liber and Libera (Dionysus and Proserpina, or even her mother Demeter; of sun and moon). Mary could replace the divine mother and the goddess of beauty; verbally Frigg agrees better with Libera, and Adam of Bremen's Fricco, if he was god of love, answers in name to Liber, in character to Freyr.

The passage quoted from Paul Diac. is one of the clearest and most convincing testimonies to the harmony between the German and Norse mythologies. An author of Charles the Great's time tell us that the Langobards named Wodan's wife Frea, and she is called Frigg in the Edda. He cannot have drawn this from Norse tradition, much less can his narrative through Saxo's intermediacy have become the source of northern faith.

But in favour of Freyja too we posses a weighty piece of external evidence. The Edda makes her the owner of a costly necklace named Brîsînga men (Brisingoru monile); she is called ‘eigandi Brîsîngamens,’ Sn. 37. 119. How she acquired this jewel from the dwarfs, how it was cunningly stolen from her by Loki, is fully narrated in a tale by itself, Sn. 354—357. In the poets therefore Loki is Brîsîngs Þiofr (thorl. obs. 6, 41. 63); a lost lay of the Edda related how Heimdallr fought with Loki for this ornament, Sn. 105. When Freyja pants with rage, the necklace starts from her breast (stauk þat it micla men Brîsînga), Sæm. 71b. When Thôrr, to get his hammer back, dresses up in Freyja's garments, he does not forget to put her famous necklace on: ‘hafi hann (have he) it mikla men Brîsînga!’ Sæm. 72.—Now this very trinket is evidently known to the AS. poet of Beowulf 2399, he names it Brosinga mene, without any allusion to the goddess; I would read ‘Brîsinga mene,’ and derive the word in general from a verb which is in MHG. brîsen, breis (nodare, nodis constringere, Gr. k e n _i n to pierce), namely, it was a chain strung together of bored links. Yet conf. ch. XX brising St. John's fire: perhaps the dwarfs that forged it were called Brîsîngar? The jewel is so closely interwoven with myth of Freyja, that from its mention in AS. poetry we may safely infer the familiarity of the Saxon race with the story itself; and if the Goths worshipped a goddess Fráujó, they too would doubtless know of a Breisiggê mani. Conf. ch. XX, Iarðar men, Earth's necklace, i.e., turf in the ON. legal language.

We cannot but feel it significant, that where the gospel simply speaks of t _ _g i o n sacrum (Matt. 7, 6), the OS. poet makes it a hêlag halsmeni (holy necklace), Hel. 52, 7; an old heathen reminiscence came over him, as once before about doves perching on shoulders (p. 148). At the same time, as he names only the swine, not the dogs, it is possible that he meant halsmeni to be a mere amplification of ‘merigrioton,’ pearls.

"Teutonic Mythology," by Jacob Grimm, trans. by James Steven Stallybrass, vol. 1, page 299-307.