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Frigg

frigg

Frigg is the wife of Odin in Norse mythology. In literature, she is described as Odin's equal when it comes to knowledge of the fate of the world, but unlike him, she is silent. Only in the poem Baldrs draumar is Frigg portrayed as actively acting to change the course of fate, as she first asks all things in the world to spare her son Balder and then, failing that, to weep for him.

Because of her wisdom, Odin often seeks her advice in difficult decisions. She is the mother of Baldr, Hermod and Hodr and the daughter of Fjorgyn, she owns the horse Hovvarpner and lives in the house Fensale (which means ''the hall of Moses''). Frigg has several servants, the most important being Fulla, who is her maid, and Gna, who is her messenger.

Frigg can be traced in the Iron Age South Germanic religion as Frija or Frea, but since the source material for the religion in this period is much more sparse than for the Viking Age in Scandinavia, it is uncertain how similar they are. In the Nordic countries, Frigg was seen as the goddess of marriage, among other things.

The sources suggest that she was worshipped in connection with births and whose mothers needed protection for their children, especially boys who went to war. In addition, she was a protector and helper in traditional women's work, such as weaving, sewing, cooking, etc.

Several myths describe the goddesses Frigg and Freya in almost the same way. This has led to speculation that they may have originally been the same deity. In Norse sources, Frigg is mainly related to conjugal and maternal love, while Freya is linked to sensual love and fertility. The day of the week Friday is named after Frigg.

Etymology

The Norse variant Frigg is found in Southern Germanic mythology as Frija or Frea, as well as Old Saxon Fri and Anglo-Saxon Frig. These names are all derived from the Proto-Germanic Frijjō, which is related to prīyā́ from Sanskrit, meaning "wife."

The name is also related to the word fri ("to propose marriage") from modern English and to Icelandic frjá, meaning "to love." Frigg's name thus means "the loving (wife)". The fact that her name derives etymologically from a word meaning to love may mean that she was originally a goddess of love.

Characteristics

The sources for Frigg are sparse, but in those that exist, she is described as Odin's wife and the foremost of the Aesir. She is Odin's equal in wisdom and has knowledge of the fates of men; but unlike her husband, she is silent. Frigg's status is apparent, for example, in the prose introduction to the poem Grímnismál, where she is linked, like Odin, to royal power.

The sources also show that she was seen as the deity of marriage and motherhood. The role of mother is most evident in the myths surrounding Baldr's death; when it was predicted that Balder would die, Frigg made all living creatures, including plants and animals, promise not to harm him.

The only one not sworn in was the mistletoe, because Frigg thought it was too young. It stirred up Loki and tricked Baldr's brother, the blind Hodr, into shooting an arrow from the mistletoe. The arrow killed Baldr. The desperate Frigg was forced by Hel that if all living creatures would weep over Baldr's death, he would be allowed to return from Helheim

And all living creatures burst into tears, except for an old woman sitting in a cave called Thokk - but in reality Loki was in disguise. When they asked Thokk to join them in weeping for Baldr, she answered: "Thokk shall weep dry tears over Baldr's death! Let Hel keep what she has!" Baler was thus doomed to stay in Helheim until Ragnarok. 

However, there are older relics that suggest that in the past she was not only seen as a mother goddess, but instead had a more extended meaning as a goddess of love or fertility in general. For example, the name Friday suggests that in southern Germanic times Frigg was compared to Venus rather than Juno, who in Roman mythology was the god of motherhood.

Anne Holtsmark thinks this could indicate that she has changed function. Another relic is the name of her residence, "Fensale", which from the meaning of English fen can be translated as "Moses Hall" or "Sumps Hall". This could be interpreted as a relic of an ancient connection between her and the fertility gods who were associated with wetlands in Germanic culture. Gro Steinsland suggests that she may have been the one to whom sacrifices were made in the marshes during the Iron Age.

Despite her role as mother goddess, Frigg is described in some places as both unfaithful and detached, for example in Lokasenna and in Gesta Danorum by Saxo. The lovers with whom Frigg is associated in various stories, however, often bear names that are either known Odin names or derivatives of it, or they are his own brothers Vile and Ve (i.e. emanations of himself).

Saxo tells of a myth, which may mean "with Odin". He is described almost as Frigg's deputy when Odin is away on a journey. This story may be a relic of an older mythological notion that was related to the changing of the seasons, a possible parallel to the marriage between Freya and Odr.

viking-jewelry

Frigg's court includes the goddesses Sága, Eir, Fulla, Sjöfn, Lofn, Sýn, Hlin, Snotra (= the wise), Sól and Gná. Some of these figures may be aspects of the goddess herself, such as Sága (Seeker) and Hlín, who was the protector of mankind, while others are personifications of qualities or phenomena, such as Sól (the Sun).

Two of them have a more independent role in the myths: Fulla the star, who carries Frigg's shrine and is privy to all Frigg's secrets, and Gná, who is Frigg's messenger and rides the horse Hofvarpner. This horse rides as well over land as it does in the air and on water.

Frigg's origin is uncertain. In Lokasenna, Frigg is referred to as Fjorgyn's bitch, which can be translated as both "daughter" and "maiden". She was married to Odin at the end of the war between the Aesir and the Vanir.

There are few traces of her worship in Norse place names. In Swedish folklore, Orion's belt is called Friggerocken, i.e. "Frikk's spinning-rook head" ("rok" in ancient times was the stick to which the spinning material was attached, not the spinning wheel that spins the thread).

This probably dates from pre-Christian times, as one of the scattered traces of Norse astronomical mythology, with "Mary's spinning wheel" as a later Christian variant of the name.

Frigg was apparently worshipped along with the other Aesir, as one among many. But in the literary sources written by men, the female gods are often overshadowed by their husbands, so it is very uncertain how important the goddesses really were in religion.

Connections between Frigg and Freya

Frigg is the most prominent goddess of the Aesir, while Freya is the most prominent among the Vanir. They thus belong to two different god lineages. Yet there are many parallels between them, which has been interpreted by some as an indication that they were once the same deity.

Some of the parallels are; that they both own a falcon feather cloak, that while Frigg is married to Odin, Freya is married to Odr, who may be an aspect of Odin, that they both own a special necklace, that Frigg is the child of a personification of the earth, while Freya as a fertility goddess is particularly linked to the earth, that they were both invoked in connection with births.

The fact that Frigg's identity in the surviving source material remains obscure alongside Freya's much larger role has, for some, reinforced suspicions of their common origins.

So too has the fact that, although Frigg was seen as the protector of the marriage, her role is not straightforward, for example she does not live with her husband but has her own home, and she is attributed with several extramarital affairs.

There has long been a debate about this in religious studies, with arguments both for and against the idea, but no general consensus. Some of the arguments are based on linguistic history, others on the fact that Freya is known exclusively from the North Germanic area and not from the South Germanic area, this could suggest that in some areas the fertility goddess had been split into two figures.

Others have argued that Frigg and Freya, together with a third goddess, once formed a triad of gods, with each goddess being identified with three different ages in a woman's life (the third may have been Idunn). However, this view is not universally accepted, as neither Frigg's nor Freya's functional areas match what is known from other Indo-European triads of goddesses; e.g. Roman and Celtic.

Another argument against the theory of common origin is that the two were originally similar goddesses from different pantheons, borrowing a number of different attributes and functions from each other. This is known from several Greek, Roman and Egyptian deities of the Hellenistic period.

However, this hypothesis assumes that the division between the Aesir and Vanir lineages in Norse mythology is the result of a fusion between two different mythologies in prehistoric times. However, there is far from consensus on this in the research community.

Symbolism

Frigg embodies the majestic, fearsome and nourishing soil, the land where wheat grows and swords clash, the land where couples love each other, the land where children are born. This land is not a valley in distress but an ocean of pride and a pinnacle of honor.

Frigg was often depicted as a beautiful, majestic, imposing woman wearing long dresses that could, at her will, be of light or darkness. In most paintings, the goddess is depicted spinning with a spinning wheel. She had the ability to turn into a hawk, a raven or a sparrow to travel.

The plants associated with her are mistletoe and yellow bedstraw. The latter, also known as "Frigg's herb", was used as a sedative for mothers during childbirth. Indeed, the Germanic peoples called Frigg to help women suffer less during childbirth.

But it was also invoked for foresight, fertility, fate, protection, marriage, health, independence, vitality, cunning, wisdom, physical passion, keeping secrets, protecting the family, finding the right name for the newborn, etc.

Any swampy ground was also dedicated to Frigg. Régis Boyer, a specialist in Scandinavian civilizations, has suggested that the human sacrifices that took place in the Danish and Swedish swamps were dedicated to Frigg.