Asatru, Norse, Heathen web blog full of pictures and other Heathen related stuff.
Ran by the Gothi of Kaerhrafnr Kindred in Central Southern Wisconsin.
This is NOT about the comic put out by Marvel.
(Note: Heathen Temple is submitting various rites and ways of Asatru. Some may be ‘fluffy’ others not so much. The goal is to increase your knowledge and give you a framework of practice seeing there is really no step by step given in Lore. this includes all information on the page in general as well unless Historical context is provided)
In the Ringoperas Richard Wagner succeeded in bringing to life the world of Germanic legend. His Wotan, especially, speaks (or rather, sings) with the voice of the god. But in his portrayal of the goddesses Wagner is less successful. He identifies Freya with Idunna, and portrays her as a shrinking maiden in a way which does neither goddess credit. Fricca, in the operas, comes off as an even bitchier version of the Classical Hera– the archetypal jealous wife, forever scheming to keep her patient husband from wandering. One is given to understand that the characterization was modeled on his relationship with his first wife, Minna, who had reason to complain.
The ancient Frigga, whose very name comes from the old word for love (c.f. Old English,frigu, love), is a very different figure. Not only does she not appear to resent Odin’s relations with other women, she herself is said to have lived with his brothers (“Lokasenna”: 26, andYnglingasaga: 3) when he was away, without his objecting. Indeed, the relationship between them is one of mutual respect, and their only recorded quarrels are not marital, but political. She offers her favors to whoever can save Baldr, without apparently inspiring either surprise or objections. In fact the accusations made by Loki against most of the goddesses at Aegir’s famous party suggest that the concept of freedom with discretion governed sexual conduct. As Njorth points out regarding Freyja, “It is no crime that a woman have both husband and lover…” (“Lokasenna”: 33).
But if Frigg is not to be viewed as a jealous bitch, how should we see her? The references which are made to Frigg in the surviving literature, though not copious, can provide some interesting insights. When one adds to these an analysis of the goddesses most closely associated with her, a complex and fascinating image begins to emerge. The result not only adds to our picture of the personnel of Asgard, but can serve as a basis for a psychology of the feminine.
In “Lokasenna” we are told that Frigga is the daughter of Fjorgynn. The feminine name Fjorgyn is also given to Jordh, Earth. Either way, she is the daughter of Jotnar, kin to Thor by blood as well as marriage, which may explain why so many of those who work with Thor find themselves drawn to Frigga as well. She is also by ancestry an earth goddess, appropriate mate and counterpart to a god who rides the skies.
Many of Frigga’s qualities seem to derive from this earthy origin– her rooted stability and deep wisdom. Many feel that her rune is Berkano, whose shape represents the breasts of the goddess, and whose name, the Birch, is that of the graceful, enduring tree of the north.
In “Lokasenna”, Frigga is accused of having lived with Odin’s brothers (Vili and Ve) while he was away. Since Frigga is otherwise thought of as a model of fidelity, some speculate that the “brothers” are really aspects of Odin. There is, however, another possibility– if Frigga is an earth-goddess, the territory to which she is linked is that of the Aesir, and she carries its sovereignty. In this case, her polyandrous association with Vili and Ve gives them the legal and spiritual right to reign without interrupting Odin’s sovereignty. “Ve”, the holiness of place or spiritual focus, and “Vili”, the Will that rules, remain with the goddess in Asgard while the ecstatic “Wod” wanders the worlds.
Though Frigga may stay quietly at home, she has been known to take an interest in the affairs of humankind. In theOrigo Gentis Langobardorum, Paul the Deacon tells us that
… the Vandal leaders, Ambri and Assi, asked Godan [Wodan] whether he would grant them victory over the Winnites. To this Godan replied: “I will give victory to those whom I see first before the sun rises.” At the same time, Gambala and her sones requested of Frea [Frigga], who is the wife of Godan, that she be well disposed towards the Winniles. Frea gave them a plan in which they would go out with their women when the sun was rising. The women were to loosen their hair and wrap it around their faces so that they would appear to have beards. Then the shining sun rose and Frea turned the bed upon which her husband was sleeping so that it was facing the East. Then she awoke him.
Godan looked out and saw the Winniles with their hair on their faces and exclaimed, “Who are these long-bearded ones?”
Frea replied to Godan, “Just as you have given them a name, so shall you grant them victory.”
He gave them the victory, and when he appeared, they conquered and had the victory. From this time on, the Winnlies have been called the Langobards [Lombards].
Even better known is the story told in “Grimnismal”. Odin and Frigga had taken under their protection two brothers, Agnar, protected by Frigga and Geirroth, who was favored by Odin. Through Odin’s counsel, Geirroth cheated Agnar out of his heritage and became king, while Agnar ended up in the wilderness. To even the score, Frigga accuses Geirroth of lacking in hospitality, and dares Odin to prove it by showing up incognito. She then sends Fulla to warn the king that a dangerous sorcerer is wandering about, who can be recognized because no dog will attack him. Naturally, when Odin shows up at Geirroth’s door, all the dogs cower before the Lord of Wolves, and the king, determined to find out what is going on, seizes the stranger and orders him to explain himself.
When Odin will say no more than that his name is Grimnir, the Hidden One, Geirroth has him bound between two fires. There he stands for eight nights, until the king’s son, also called Agnar, can no longer stand it and brings the stranger a horn of mead and orders him set free. Odin’s first response is to declare that the sovereignty has passed from the king to his son. Then, as if to make up for his silence, the god gives us seventeen pages (in the Hollander translation) of lore. Geirroth, realizing finally just Whom he has been tormenting, jumps up, trips, and stabs himself with his own sword.
In his poem “Sonatorrek”, Egil Skallagrimsson refers to the dwellers in Asgard as “Frigg’s descendants”. But though she may be regarded as “All-Mother”, we know of only one child born of her body– Baldr the Beautiful. The story of his untimely end is also the myth in which Frigga plays the most active role.
When Odin has returned from Hel with the Volva’s interpretation of Baldr’s dreams, Frigga acts to save her son by exacting oaths from all things to do him no harm– or rather, almost all. Unfortunately, after completing this labor, she undermines her own action by confessing to the hag that she has neglected to get the oath from the lowly mistletoe. The mistake proves to be fatal. Of Frigga it is said that she knows all fates, though she does not tell what she knows (“Lokasenna” 29). One cannot help but wonder why, in that case, she does not realize that her efforts to save her son will be fruitless, or that the “hag” is really Loki, or that telling him about the mistletoe will bring about the very tragedy she is trying to prevent.
The same question could be asked, of course, about Odin, who is told exactly what will happen by the Volva and yet does nothing. One senses not only an ambivalence in the motivations of Baldr’s parents, but the workings of a Wyrd so powerful that it binds even the highest gods. (see “The Mystery of Baldr”, inIdunna#31). Her inability to save Baldr is Frigg’s first great sorrow, as the claims of motherhood give way to those of the Norns.
As we shall see below, Frigga is associated with the craft of spinning. Spinning, however necessary and domestic, is also a magical art. The twining of separate fibers into a strong thread is a minor miracle, as well as a powerful metaphor for the multiple elements that entwine to create our orlog. Freya Aswynn suggests that she spins the thread that the Norns are weaving. If so, she does so in her character as a birth goddess, chief of the matronae, the Mothers who preside over childbirth and bestow orlog on the new-born. She is therefore honored on Modranicht with the disir. Frigga is fulfilling this role when she asks Odin to send the valkyrie with the apple of fertility to King Rerir so that he may beget a child. In this aspect, she is therefore closely linked to the Norns, and the powers of Wyrd which come from the Womb/Well.
Frigga has her own dwelling, called Fensalir, the hall in the marshes. Many believe that it is here that she lives with her household while Odin is wandering. The twelve lesser goddesses who attend her, about whom we will discover more below, may be seen as the moons, or a coven, or her attendant handmaidens.
Frigga is indeed, a very domestic goddess, associated in particular with that most characteristic task of the ancient housewife, spinning. In Sweden, the “belt” in the constellation Orion is called Friggerock– Frigga’s spindle. Since her cart is drawn by two rams, one assumes she is spinning wool, just as Horn and Holda spin flax. Like Freyja, she also has a falcon plumage. Because of the location of her hall, I like to think of her bird as the osprey. In trancework, geese (the bird of Juno) also often appear, but Frigga’s are the wild Canadian geese that spin skeins of migrating waterfowl across the skies in the spring and fall.
Frigga is called first among the asynjur (the goddesses). The twelve lesser goddesses who attend her at Fensalir may be seen as the moons, or a coven. She has been called All-Mother, an apellation which seems especially appropriate when we consider that the twelve “handmaidens” whom Snorri associates with her can in fact be viewed either as separate figures or as hypostases, or aspects of the goddess Herself– personae which she adopts in order to play a more active role.
Because the coding of old Norse poetry allows any Goddess-name to be combined with an identifying characteristic of another to refer to the latter (viz. “Freyja of the ram-cart” would equal Frigga), a concept of aspects is implied. Frigga’s attendant “maidens” (who are virgins in the sense that they are independent of men), can be viewed as separate entities or as paraphrases for the Goddess herself, amplifying our concept of her nature. Together, they make up a model for the female psyche.
Several years ago some of the women in my kindred started meeting separately to study the mysteries of the Asynjur in general and Frigga and her maidens in particular. Despite the scarcity of information about them in the lore (for most, we have only a sentence or two from theYounger Edda), as we began to investigate the twelve, we discovered that each demi-goddess not only represented an area of great importance in Old Norse culture, but has considerable significance for women today.
Let us consider them in more detail–
Second after Frigga herself, Snorri places Saga, who lives in Sokkvabek (Sunken Hall), “a very big place”. In “Grimnismal”:7 we are told,
Sokkvabekk called is the fourth, which cool waters
ripple round about;
there Odhin and Saga all their days drink,
glad from golden cups.
Presumably while Odhin and Saga are drinking together, they are trading stories. According to the Icelandic Dictionary, the name Saga is “akin to ‘segja’ (to say), and ‘saga’, which is
a story, tale, legend, history. The very word owes its origin to the fact that the first historical writings were founded on tradition only; the written record was a ‘saga’ or legend committed to writing; the story thus written was not even new, but had already taken shape and had been told to many generations under the same name. … Storytelling was one of the entertainments at public meetings in Iceland, at feasts, weddings, wakes; such entertainments are mentioned even at the meetings of the Icelandic Althing.
A sayer of sagas is asögu-madhr(‘saga man’) orsögu-kona(‘saga woman’).
(Cleasby and Vigfusson,Icelandic Dictionary)
One pictures them matching beers and competing to see who can outlast the other in both capacity for booze and number of stories. Saga, whose name is also the word for a history, knows the names of the ancestors and all the family stories. She is probably the one who gives advice to the disir, and speaks through every old grandmother who preserves the box of family photos and remembers the old ways. If one is looking for a token to represent her, I would choose a manuscript or a golden cup.
Saga can be invoked for help in storytelling, or writing, especially history, legend, historical fiction. She helps us to remember and understand the past. She is interested in personal, family and cultural history, and oral history. To get in touch with her, collect family stories and write them down. A ritual in honor of Saga might feature a story telling circle. Light a cozy fire in the fireplace, and pass the cup or horn.
Third on Snorri’s list is Eir, “…an extremely good physician.” In “Svipsdagmal” she is a companion of Mengloth, dwelling on Lyfja, the Mountain of Healing, of which is said,
“‘Tis Lyfja Mount hight, and long has it been
for the sick and the halt a help.
for hale grows wholly, though helpless she seems,
the woman who wins its height.” (36)
The name is also included among “Odin’s maids”, the rest of whom are elsewhere given as valkyries, but here are described as “the norns who shape necessity”.
Eir is the healer of the gods, her origins are mysterious, but she linked by her skills to the shaping of fate. Like many traditional healers, she seems to move from place to place as her services are required, serving as household physician. It would seem that she practices the kinds of medicine traditional to women, strongly based in the lore of herbs and foods and spells. In our work with her, she appears stern but compassionate; her token is the mortar and pestle.
A ritual for Eir might involve the preparation of amulets with healing herbs. Some of the ones I have used include: Angelica (remove hex, neutralize evil), garlic (absorb disease, aseptic), Comfrey (Bruisewort/Boneset- internal healing) Mint (protect, relieve pain), Mugwort (repel or expel evil spirits,) Mullein (Doffle-wards against colds), Rosemary (cleanse, purify, heal), Rue (Rude- relieves headache, aids recuperation and wards off disease), Sage (Sawge- long life), Wood Sorrel (Surelle- heart), Tansy (the buttons - fever), Thistle (strength, energy), Violet (heal wounds, cure headache). The leader presents the herbs, passes each around to be examined, then puts it into the mortar. When everyone is familiar with all the herbs, the mortar is passed around and each one takes a turn at grinding the herbs. When the grinding is finished, pass around pieces of cloth, some yarn, and a pen. Each one takes a pinch of the ground herbs, in the cloth, ties it up and inscribes it with an appropriate rune or the name of a person needing healing. The amulet can be carried, hung over a bed, etc.
Fourth comes Gefion, who is said by Snorri to be a virgin, who welcomes all who die unmarried. Her name means “giver” and is also an epithet of Freyja. InHeimskringla, she appears independently as a Danish goddess. In the history of the Ynglings, Snorri tells us that Odin
"…sent Gefion northeast over the sound to look for land; she then came to Gylfi, who gave her a ploughland. Next she went to a giant’s home and there begot four sons with a giant. She shaped them in the likeness of oxen, yoked them to a plough and broke up the land unto the sea westwards opposite Odensö; it was called Selund (Zealand), and there she dwelt afterwards. Skjold (Scyld Sceafing) …took her to wife." (Ynglingasaga: 5)
Thus, she gives us earth itself, manifesting it out of the primal sea by working with the elemental powers. With her aid a single field becomes a tribal homeland and the god of the sheaf gives an abundant harvest.
Like Freyja, she is said to have traded her favors for a sacred necklace. When the gods gathered to feast in Aegir’s hall, Loki came among them and said–
"Hush thee, Gefjon, I have in mind
who lured thee to lust:
the fair-haired swain sold thee the necklace,
ere thou threwest about him thy thighs.
Odin said: “Bereft of reason and raving thou art,
to earn thee Gefjon’s grudge;
for the world’s weird she, I ween doth know
even as well as I.”
Some say that her lover was HeimdallR, who rescued the necklace Brisingamen from Loki. In old English, “geofon” is used in poetry as a name for the sea. But Odin ascribes to her the same deep knowledge elsewhere attributed to Frigga herself.
Gefion is the path where Freyja and Frigga meet. But in Frigga’s hall, Gefion gives as a mother gives. Through her power you reach into the bottomless store and never run short. We pray to her for enough to meet our needs. She is one of the golden goddesses. Her token is the basket or cornucopia. A working for Gefion can include the exchange of gifts– Each participant blesses her gift. Put all the gifts in the cornucopia on the altar. Bless it. Then pour them into a basket covered by a veil, pass it around, each one reaches under the veil and pulls out a present and opens it.
Fifth in Snorri’s list comes Fulla. He tells us that she is a virgin, with flowing hair held by a gold band. She carries the casket of Frigg, looks after her footwear and shares her secrets. Nana sent her a finger-ring from Hel. She may be the same as Volla, called Frigg’s sister in the Merseberg charm, and suggested by Grimm as a female counterpart of Phol, who may be same as Baldr (in which case she would be a daughter, not the sister of Frigg). She was sent by Frigg to delude Geirrod.
We see Fulla as the keeper of Northern Women’s Mysteries. She is a threshold figure who holds the visible symbol of the mysteries. She who can open Fulla’s casket gains access to the treasure women have kept hidden in that place where no man can see. Her tokens are the golden headband and the casket she bears. She has been envisioned as moon pale, with long fair hair. To understand Fulla’s powers, we need to consider what the treasures she guards might be, and how, or why, we guard them. One way is to draw a box, and write within it the names or our own resources and abilities. Or one might choose an actual box and gradually fill it with items which symbolize the things we value.
After a discussion of Freyja, Snorri continues the list of Frigga’s attendants with Sjofn, “…who is much inclined to direct people’s hearts to love, both women and men. It is from her name that affection is calledsiafni.”
Sjofn is the goddess who inclines the heart to love. Her power extends far beyond the simple attractions of lust or romantic love. When one meditates on her functions it is clear that she governs the whole web of affectional relationships by which women maintain family unity, including the love of siblings, parents and children and the affection that grows between those who work together. Her token is a rose-colored stone heart on a golden chain.
When we did a blot for Sjofn, each person received a heart charm. Everyone was asked to list nine beings for whom we feel affection, and nine who regularly showed affection for us. We took some time in meditation to identify the feeling of receiving and giving love, and projected that emotion into the charm. The hearts were collected and mixed up, then passed back around for each person to take one.
Not too surprisingly, Sjofn is followed by Lofn, who is “…so kind and good to pray to that she gets leave from All-father or Frigg for people’s union, between women and men, even if before it was refused. Hence it is from her name that it is called “lof,” (permission), as well as when something is praised (lofat) greatly by people.”
Today, heterosexual relationships are rarely forbidden. It is love between people of the same gender which requires Lofn’s assistance in order to speak its name. These days, she might well be addressed by Gay men and Lesbians.
But the concept of “permission” is profoundly important even beyond the area of love. Lofn may help us give ourselves permission for all those things that our own mental blocks or society’s opinion discourage us from doing, including developing or exercising our own spiritual power. She is the door to freedom and access to joy, the opener of the way. Her token is a golden key.
We honored Lofn by blessing a key to place on the altar during rituals. Such a key could also be blessed as a personal charm. Holy herbs were sprinkled into water and stirred while chanting the spell. Then the key was put into the water to absorb the magic. Where known, we use the Anglo-Saxon names for the herbs.
Beorc (birch) for the door, Mistledene (mistletoe) for the key.
Yearwe (yarrow) leaf to clear the way;
Mucgwyrt (mugwort) makes all plain, Wealwyrt (elder) frees from spells,
Eorthmistel (basil) bonds in sympathy;
Salfige (sage) to be wise, Violet changes luck,
To purify, Bodhen (fern) and bay.
Lofn, turn the lock, Lofn lift the key,
Lofn, let me love and learn and be all that I may!
Snorri tells us that Var witnesses oaths and private contracts– “varar”, especially those between men and women, and punishes those who break them. Her name may also have some relationship to the term “varda”, a legal term meaning to warrant, guarantee or answer for, cognate to the English “ward”, and by extension, “vardlokkur” a “ward-song” or protecting song. Her functions are similar to those of the Greek Hestia, who lived in the hearthfire, heard all oaths, and received the first offering.
Var’s protection is moral rather than physical; she guards the integrity of the spirit. Her power lies in the words we use to make our vows or articulate our intentions. Through Var, the word is the will, and affirmations acquire independent reality. Her radiance blazes in the hearthfire that is the heart of the home, and she is especially concerned with those agreements which cannot be enforced by society, the unwritten commitments made by partners in a relationship and members of a family. Her symbol would therefore be the hearthfire or the oathring, and she can be worshipped by twining an oathring of sweet herbs and ribbons on which one has written oaths which is then offered to the fire, or by passing the horn to make one’s boasts.
This band I wind, this spell I bind
to keep my oath, to pledge my troth!
Snorri tells us that Vor is “wise and enquiring, so that nothing can be concealed from her. There is a saying that a woman becomes aware of something (vor) when she finds it out.” Her name means awareness, the ability to learn and understand.
Vor is thus the power of intuition, the power of knowing and keeping silence. In the outer world, she functions as the famous “woman’s intuition”, the ability to interpret subtle clues in order to understand what is going on, especially those things which men would hide or do not know how to put into words. On the inner planes, she is expanding awareness, our guide to the unconscious realms where we keep all that we have forgotten, or suppressed, or been afraid to see. She reveals what is hidden, and teaches us how to interpret the symbolic language of our dreams. She is seen in shadowy draperies, and her token is the dark veil. The working appropriate to Vor is the development of intuition through the interpretation of dreams, seidh, or meditation.
In order to open up enough to use our intuition, we need to feel protected. Syn is the one who guards our boundaries. In Fensalir, she guards the door of the hall and denies entry to those who are not supposed to enter. She is appointed as a defense in assemblies against matters that she wishes to refute. “Syn” equals a denial, saying no.
Syn is the one who wards the doors we need to close, whether they are the physical doors that keep danger from entering our homes, or the gates to our personal and psychic space. She is the power that enables us to affirm what we know is true, and gives us the strength to “say no” to whatever would diminish or harm us. She stands fast and endures. She can be invoked when warding a house or sacred space, or to create a shield which can withstand personal or psychic attack. In our meditations, she appears at the door of Frigga’s hall wearing grey and holding a staff. Her token is the birch broom hung over the door to banish evil.
To honor her, we made our own sacred broom by binding broomstraw onto a birchwood stock. While each woman was tying on her bundle of straw she stated the qualities she was giving it, and all chanted:
By twig and tree
So mote it be;
By sound and spell
We bind it well.
The finished broom was then laid across the door to seal the circle during our rituals.
Hlin is the one who protects those Frigg wants to save, the refuge of those who are in danger. “From this comes the saying that someone who escapes finds refuge (hleinir).” She represents Frigg in the lines “Another woe awaiteth Hlin, when forth goes Othin to fight the Wolf” (“Voluspá”: 52). Scholars generally agree that her first woe was the death of Baldur. Presumably Frigg is identified with Hlin here because in this instance she failed to protect the one she loved, Baldur, as she will be unable to help Odin when Ragnarok comes.
Hlin provides personal protection and saves the hunted from danger; she is the refuge of the fugitive. Where Syn’s protection is defensive, that of Hlin is more active, fighting for her favorites and spiriting them out of danger. She is the passionate fury of the mother defending her cubs. She protects against those who would take advantage of a woman’s vulnerability as well as physical weakness. She shields Vor. Her token is the blade or shield. To work with Hlin, we practiced assuming her form, moving as if we were armed and ready, and then removing the “armor” again. This ability can be very useful when, for instance, one is walking through a dangerous part of town late at night.
Snotra is wise and courteous, or gentle-mannered. “From her name a man or woman who is a wise person is calledsnotr.” In Old Norse, “Snot”is a name meaning bride or lady. If one considers the social skills and rules of courtesy necessary for a group of people to endure a long northern winter in the confines of a turf hall, Snotra’s skills shift from being a luxury to a necessity for survival.
Snotra can be viewed as the Emily Post of the group, but her knowledge goes beyond mere etiquette. She is the great lady, in her we find the quality that enables one to surmount physical and social disasters. She always knows the right thing to do, and has a profound understanding of human nature and social relationships. She not only understands the rules of conduct, but the reasons behind them. In her character we find gallantry without bravado, the essence ofnoblesse oblige, the particular kind of courage which enables people of character and breeding to set a good example. Her token is a linen handkerchief.
Working with Snotra requires a serious consideration of the “rules” of courtesy that we live by. We can start by analyzing the advice given in “Hávamál”, and then meditate on Snotra in order to suggest additional “rules of conduct” that a Norse woman might need (“Don’t wake your man up early to help with Spring cleaning when he’s been drinking the night before…”)
Finally, we have Gná, who is Frigga’s messenger. She travels over sky and sea on a horse called Hoof-flourisher (Hofvarpnir) whom Skinny-sides (Hamskerpir) begot on Fence-breaker (Gardrofa), carrying Frigg’s words throughout the worlds. Snorri says that her name means to soar or tower, but it may also be related to a word for the sound of a horse’s neigh.
Gná is Frigga’s power to transcend all worlds; Hoof-flourisher carries her as Sleipnir carries Odin. She is freedom, the ability to soar beyond limitations. She bears the thought of the goddess to other realms and brings back information. Through Gná we communicate with the goddess and hear her replies. She might also be viewed as the power of astral travel. She appears radiant and vigorous, and her token is a statuette of a horse. Since Gná is Frigga’s interface with the world, to honor her, we too must take the goddess with us from the hof and hearth to the street and the workplace. In her own person Frigga may be the secret center, but through Gná, she rides with us as we go out into the world.