My Norse Gods: Freya


With Children out for a month now, it really is time for something I’ve been postponing for months… apologies to Freya and Freyr.

“My” Freya is the reason why I originally – two years ago? – pitched the book as “Drag Race meets Terry Pratchett in Ásgard.” She  wouldn’t just win Drag Race, because Freya doesn’t compete. She’d send RuPaul to a nursing home and take over the hosting duties – until she got bored (halfway through episode two). She’d then announce that Keeping Up With THE Freya is where it’s at and everyone would switch the channel. In the inevitable Netflix series I cast Scarlett Johansson as Freya because I can’t stand Scarlett Johansson.

This is an unusual interpretation of the Goddess.

 

The Freya

Our Troth:

As mistress of magic and goddess of sexual love, she kindles the imagination and sparks the heart. Whereas that other great goddess, Frija [Frigg – BL], is wholesome and safe, the Frowe [Freya – BL] is sweet, wild, and dangerous.

[…] Frowe is not motherly in any way. […] To the Norse, Freyja was a goddess of riches, whose tears fell to the earth as gold and whose most common appearance in skaldic poetry is in kennings for “gold”. […]

Here’s Freya getting burnt at the stake – three times:

[Freya] is first thought to have come among the Ases as the witch Gullveigr (“Gold-Intoxication”), whose fate started the war between the Ases and the Wans: “when Gullveigr was studded with spears and burned in Hár’s hall; thrice burned, thrice born, often, not seldom, but yet she lives”

I changed the order of events. The war between the Æsir (the Gods who inhabit Ásgard) and Vanir (those coming from Vanaheim) can’t be won by either of the sides, so they declare a truce and exchange hostages. Freya is one of them, forced to move into an unfamiliar place filled with those who only just stopped trying to kill her and her kin. She is young and afraid, and wants to prove that she is more valuable alive than dead. What she has to offer is love, so when one of the Gods wants to be loved by another, Freya briskly fulfils the wishes. It turns out, though, that some have multiple suitors, others are already taken, and some change their mind five minutes later. In her attempts to avoid the Æsir’s wrath, she enrages them, causing them to fight between each other. Burning her on a stake only once is not enough of a punishment. The myths don’t seem to consider this to be a particularly memorable event in Freya’s life. She seems to just get over it.

Not in my book, though.

As mentioned earlier, Freya is not motherly at all – spare a thought for Maya, her foster-daughter. The love she deals with is the romantic (and/or sexual) kind. Children are an obstacle. This is why Freya is associated with first attempts to discover a way to perform an early abortion. Women who wanted to be mothers went to Frigg; those who didn’t, addressed their offerings to Freya. To her great dismay she discovers there is no fail-safe way (in what is the equivalent of Earth’s ninth century) to end the pregnancy without killing the woman carrying it.

Men often demand Freya’s hand and body as rewards for various things, but seldom does she actually bestow the gift upon them. The price for Freya’s (in)famous necklace Brísingamen, forged by four dwarves in the fires of Svartálfheim, were four nights spent with the goldsmiths. The Christians used that to prove how brazen a hussy this immoral “Goddess” was. (For reasons unknown, Odin’s conquests did not affect his reputation in the similar way.) As a noted feminist, I prefer the interpretation where those four nights inspire the dwarves to create the masterpiece.

Freya and Brísingamen only part ways once – when Loki steals it (because of course he does) and Heimdall retrieves it (earning Loki’s eternal hatred).

 

Freya and Freyr canoodling

I cast Travis Fimmel as Freyr, because Travis Fimmel is hawt and that’s enough. It’s not like I gave him any dialogue anyway. He’ll get his own post once he becomes more interesting.

(I’m sorry, Freyr, it’s not you, it’s me.)

If George RR Martin can put Daenerys at a burning stake and have her survive, surely I can take inspiration from him as well? The incestuous relationship between Freya and her twin brother Freyr came straight from A Song of Ice and Fire (Cersei was my favourite character). When I made Freya the Goddess of love and Freyr – the God of sex, it made me wonder. Why would either of them settle for less than the mix of ultimate love and ultimate pleasure? In comparison with that, what man or woman could be special enough to gain Freya’s affections for longer than four nights resulting in the most exquisite necklace to ever exist?

[“So I’m a material girl, darling, deal with it” – Freya]

Once freed from my, ah, reinterpretation, the Norse lore is unclear when it comes to Freya’s heart. One of the myths describes her wandering around, weeping after the loss of her lover Óðr, mostly interpreted as Odin. The idea of Freya and Odin being bedfellows is, honestly, laughable. She has all the reasons to hate Odin. They share many abilities – shapeshifting, knowledge of runes and magic, both of them get their picks of the dead before the rest are expedited to Helheim. Yet only one of them sits on the throne of Ásgard. The only reason for Freya to sleep with Odin would be to get something out of it, ideally the throne itself, and watch him cry and plead. If Freya were to cry about something, it would be the loss of Brísingamen… or Freyr.

In Lokasenna, Loki accuses Freya of having slept with all the Gods, including her brother. While that’s RUDE, Loki’s accusations in that story seem to be rather accurate. Obviously, I can neither confirm nor deny those rumours… oh wait, I confirmed them in the book.

Bugger.

Someone asked me why Maya says that “Freya buggers her brother” rather than the other way round. In bed, Freya is… ahem… not passive.

 

Freya and animals (and Kardashians)

The only myth that mentions Freya being the owner of a falcon cloak and using it in any way at all is actually the one where she hands it over to Loki. I simply made her a shapeshifter. All shapeshifting deities have their favourite animal forms, except for Loki, who will go with anything that comes to his mind at the given moment. Freya’s favourite animal is a falcon, a bird both dangerous and beautiful. Her favourite human shape is whatever is considered to be the current ideal of feminine beauty. Today she’d make a great Kardashian, be hailed as the Goddess of Photoshop, and break Instagram with each selfie.

When Freya is trying her utmost to convince Maya to do her bidding, she attempts to force herself to look like Maya. She fails, because Maya is not conventionally pretty. Freya can’t be seen with messy hair (unless it’s fashionable), thin lips, bitten fingernails. As talented a shapeshifter as she is, Freya would never turn into a spider, unless she found a way for that spider to look seductive. When she becomes a crone her grey hair shines like silver, the wart on her nose is so perfectly round that wart-less noses suddenly seem incomplete, and her wrinkles cause those around her to decide that youth is overrated. Until Freya shifts into a young woman again. Or a falcon. Or a cat.

The sources that talk about cats being holy to Freya, and Freya being the owner of a chariot pulled by cats, are unclear and somewhat…undecided. Those cats could be house-cats, European wildcats, lynx, lions, or…bears. Also, cats don’t pull things. Cats have people to do that, as does Freya.

I was once trying to explain to a friend what Freya was really like, and struggling to find the right words. She’s beautiful, of course, graceful, manipulative; loved, but not exactly loving; in turns sweet and dangerous. “Like getting slapped with a bouquet of roses,” I said, then frowned. That still wasn’t it. “She is… she is like a cat,” I burst out, then blushed. Of course her holy animal would be a cat.

In “my” pantheon, Freya can’t stand cats, because they shed on her clothes. Worse, they can briefly divert attention from her. If someone in her vicinity is allowed to be the centre of attention and withdraw her affection for no reason, it certainly isn’t a cat.

 

And finally…

Dear Freya,

look, I’m really sorry. It’s not you, it’s me. [“Obviously” – Freya] Please don’t hate me. [“Too late” – Freya] Scarlett Johansson is very famous and pretty. [“I’m not ‘pretty’, pumpkin, and ‘very’ famous doesn’t cut it” – Freya] Travis Fimmel is a woof. [“Can’t disagree here” – Freya]

I know this post barely scratches the surface of your amazingness. [“I noticed, petal, I noticed” – Freya] There are no words beautiful enough to describe your, ah, beauty. [“I’m clearly working with an amateur” – Freya]

But I promise that when you’re milking sheep in Land, you will still look incredible doing it.

[“WHAT?!?!?! WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!?!!? SHEEP????!?!?!? WITH MY HANDS? HAVE YOU SEEN THOSE FINGERNAILS? ARE THOSE FINGERNAILS OF SOMEONE WHO MILKS SHEEP???!!! I DEMAND THAT YOU DELE–”]

*quickly presses Publish*