Frigga

Call her Daughter of Fjörgynn, Wife of Odin,
Mother of Baldr, Co-Wife of Jörd and Rindr and
Gunnlöd and Grídr, Mother-in-law of Nanna, Lady of
the Æsir and Ásynjur, Mistress of Fulla and of the
Hawk-Plumage and of Fensalir.
Frigga is the Goddess of wisdom, childbirth, and
the domestic arts. The most famous representation of
Frigga is one of her sitting at a loom. She is the Queen
of Asgard, the female counterpart of Odin, and the ruler
of the Asynjur. All of the tales she is in support this
notion of her as a well-developed partner for Odin. She
and Odin share a residence at Hlidskjalf, which has been
alternately called the palace they share or the throne
from which Odin sees all and which Frigga has to leave to
use in his absence. In the Prose Edda, we are told that
Frigga is the foremost: she has that estate which is
called Fensalir (Fen Halls) and it is most glorious.
Fens Hall is an interesting choice of name for a
grand palace of Asgard. A fen is a swamp. But in some
of the very oldest legends of a Germanic mother
goddess, ones carried to England by the early Anglo-
Saxon and other Germanic invaders and settlers from their continental homelands, we find a goddess rather
like the Norse Frigga who was associated with fens.
The earth-mother goddess Hertha (Nerthus)
mentioned by Tacitus was presumably brought to
England by these early settlers. Nerthus was honored
with the solemn procession of a cart through the fields
during her festival, which ended with a ritual sacrifice by
drowning in a lake. She dwelt on an island, possibly
Rugen, in the watery area of present-day Denmark. So
we have a watery, fen-like abode for a mother goddess
among the early Germanic people.
The connections are unclear, but there are
certainly common characteristics among the goddesses
known as Nerthus, and Frau Harke, Herkja, Herche and
Hertha (Germanic deities), and Frigga, who would have
been called Frige in Old English. That Frige was
worshipped in Anglo-Saxon England is attested by place
names such as Frigefolc in the Domesday Book, and by
the name of the weekday “Friday.”
An echo of the watery goddess is found in the
Lady of the Lake of Arthurian legend, the Divine
Feminine who grants King Arthur the right to rule, to use
Excalibur, and to have the final victory. The idea that
the greatest King and his victory come from the
awareness of the feminine in our lives is of great
importance. If it was just a story it would not have
lasted for thousands of years.
From the veneration down through the ages of
wells, rivers, streams, and lakes as holy places associated
with female divinities, it becomes apparent why the
castle of a mother goddess would be named after a fen.
In the ancient and medieval world, a great many
resources came from the fen – water, edible roots, game
and fish, the sod to build houses with, and fuel from the
dried roots – and it was a place to which these tribes
would return the dead. All of these basic necessities
suggest the bounty of a mother indeed.
The idea that the greatest King and victory comes
from the awareness of the feminine in our lives cannot
be understated. There is a great truth to be discovered in
knowing Frigga.
One of our very first real encounters with Frigga
is when Odin seeks her counsel to challenge a giant in a
game of wits:

Othin spake:
1, “Counsel me, Frigg, for I long to fare,
And Vafthruthnir fain would find;
fit wisdom old with the giant wise
myself would I seek to match.”
Frigg spake:
2. “Heerfather here at home would I keep,
Where the gods together dwell;
Amid all the giants an equal in might
To Vafthruthnir know I none.”
Othin spake:
3. “Much have I fared, much have I found.
Much have I got from the gods;
And fain would I know how Vafthruthnir now
Lives in his lofty hall.”
Frigg spake:
4. “Safe mayst thou go, safe come again,
And safe be the way thou wendest!
Father of men, let thy mind be keen
When speech with the giant thou seekest.”
Notice that much like King Arthur seeking
guidance and advice on victory Odin consults a divine
feminine image before he marches off to some
adventure. But unlike Arthur, Odin has endured,
struggled and grown thru out his existence in an effort to
understand all aspects of his being. He has set out to
conquer himself from the beginning instead of waiting
for enlightenment to appear in his life thru acts of
humility. Incorporating the wife archetype into his
persona before he ventures forth in an effort to prove his
ascendancy over the baser nature of our being – as
represented by the giant – he demonstrates the value of
differentiating between the mother and wife archetypes.
The healthy attitude that the wife is a partner and an
equal, supporting a man on his journey through life, is
crucial to developing the whole person and garnering the
wisdom required to successfully navigate the different
phases of a man’s life. While a man who is still dealing
with a strong mother complex will engage in risk-taking
exercises in a feeble attempt to prove himself a man, if
he is unable to separate himself from the mother it will
eventually, cripple him when he can no longer engage in
such vigorous activities, if it doesn’t take his life much
sooner.
In Frigga’s role as a mother, we see a Goddess
who understands the pain of loss, and we witness her
attempts to protect her son from harm – and subsequent
attempts to change the world in an effort to bring him
back. The story resonates with every mother and son. It
could be thought of as an example of a man-making
ceremony in which the son must surrender all the
comforts provided by a mother in a boy’s youth.
Baldur’s passage to the underworld is a transition into another plane of existence, which is necessary in order
for him to understand and fully accept the wife figure as
his partner. In the myth, this results in the completion of
Baldur as the supreme solar deity and hope for the world
around him. In a sense all men must pass through the
same scenario, though not to such a drastic degree, to
effect positive change in the world they have created
around themselves – the families and friends and the
society to which they belong. In Frigga’s case, we see
the extreme effort to which a mother must go to
successfully raise her child. She travels the world
seemingly making it safe for Baldur to travel, learn, and
grow. As with most young men this generosity and
labor of love is abused as the Aesir (his buddies) make a
sport of trying to do him harm; this, of course, ends very
badly. The great sorrow of the mother affects everyone
to such a degree that a council is held and a messenger is
sent to Hel to barter for Baldur’s return. Hel agrees on
the condition that his loss so hurts the world that
everything must cry for him. Everyone agrees that to
lose Baldur is a great tragedy, much as the loss of
innocence in a child always is. But there is one old
crone who refuses to cry for the loss, so a man he must
remain, so to speak. The old crone is indeed Loki, but
the fact that he appears as an old woman signifies on
some level that the wisdom of the grandmother should
be listened to as well.
Most mothers want what is best for their
children, and likewise, most children think they can
accomplish anything while under the protection of their
mother. But at some point, a separation has to occur for
both figures to become what they are meant to be in life.
In ancient times this transition was guided by ceremony
and faith, and there was a definite signaling of the
change that all parties accepted and incorporated into
their lives, so as to move on. While tragic on the
surface, the tale of Baldur is also reassuring: it reminds
us that these changes must come, that there is hope that
we can all make it through them, and thus enjoy a
brighter future.
One of the more interesting tales that represents
the balance that comes with integrating the feminine into
our lives, or rather what happens when this balance is
absent comes to us in the Grimnismol.
King Hrauthung had two sons: one was called
Agnar, and the other Geirröth. Agnar was ten winters
old, and Geirröth eight. Once they both rowed in a boat
with their fishing-gear to catch little fish; and the wind
drove them out into the sea. In the darkness of the night
they were wrecked on the shore; and going up, they
found a poor peasant, with whom they stayed through
the winter. The housewife took care of Agnar, and the
peasant cared for Geirröth, and taught him wisdom. In
the spring the peasant gave him a boat; and when the couple led them to the shore, the peasant spoke secretly
with Geirröth. They had a fair wind, and came to their
father’s landing-place. Geirröth was forward in the boat;
he leaped up on land, but pushed out the boat and said,
“Go thou now where evil may have thee!” The boat
drifted out to sea. Geirröth, however, went up to the
house and was well received, but his father was dead.
Then Geirröth was made king, and became a renowned
man.
Othin and Frigg sat in Hlithskjolf and looked
over all the worlds. Othin said: “Seest thou Agnar, thy
fosterling, how he begets children with a giantess in the
cave? But Geirröth, my fosterling, is a king, and now
rules over his land.” Frigg said: “He is so miserly that
he tortures his guests if he thinks that too many of them
come to him.” Othin replied that this was the greatest of
lies, and they made a wager about this matter. Frigg
sent her maid-servant, Fulla, to Geirröth. She bade the
king beware lest a magician who was come thither to his
land should bewitch him, and told this sign concerning
him, that no dog was so fierce as to leap at him. Now it
was a very great slander that King Geirröth was not
hospitable, but nevertheless, he had them take the man
whom the dogs would not attack. He wore a dark-blue
mantle and called himself Grimnir, but said no more
about himself, though he was questioned. The king had
him tortured to make him speak, and set him between
two fires, and he sat there eight nights. King Geirröth
had a son ten winters old and called Agnar after his
father’s brother. Agnar went to Grimnir, and gave him a
full horn to drink from, and said that the king did ill in
letting him be tormented without cause. Grimnir drank
from the horn; the fire had come so near that the mantle
burned on Grimnir’s back.
The story begins simply enough in that two boys,
not quite ready for the ceremonies that would make them
men, find themselves in unfamiliar territory and are
taken in by a mother and father. The mother devotes her
time to taking care of Agnar while Geirroth is taught
wisdom by the poor peasant. When the time comes for
them to leave, there is a betrayal and the masculine sets
off alone to be king, while the feminine is shoved to the
side and seemingly disappears. Odin and Frigga witness
all this and in their ensuing discussion, Odin decries the
state Agnar has come to, having failed to make the
transition from under the mother archetype’s coat tails
and thus residing in a cave with a giantess. His situation
is emblematic of the fact that he remains in a state in
which he is cared for by mother earth at her basest – the
undeveloped female psyche, a giantess. Geirroth
meanwhile takes the opposite approach, becoming a very
masculine king who dominates everything around him
and lacks even the virtue of hospitality. Odin, not
wishing to believe this, sets up a test in a very straightforward manner, while Frigga in all her feminine
glory sets out to temper the dominant masculine and
provide balance. Neither Geirroth nor Agnar has
developed as they were supposed to: one dealing with
the overpowering influence and the other with the lack
of influence from the divine feminine. Frigga sends
Fulla, the handmaiden who knows all of her secrets;
Fulla is one aspect of the divine feminine Geirroth could
begin accept, the personification of the Sister archetype.
The king thinks he understands Fulla’s message, even
though he is so fully consumed by every aspect of the
masculine that he really fails to grasp it. When
presented with the glory of the personification of divine
feminine beauty, he believes he is able to comprehend
and he accordingly trusts, which sets in motion a chain
of events that leads to his doom. We do find a hint in the
story that Geirroth may be aware of the balance he is
missing, in that he names his son after his brother, a
being completely given over to the feminine. The young
Agnar represents a better balance. He offers Odin a
drink, he sates the masculine who is in this situation by
the feminine with nourishment; this signifies an
acceptance of the forces swirling around him and
demonstrates the balance we all seek to achieve. In
blending masculine and feminine characteristics, Agnar
ascends to his rightful place as ruler of everything
around him.
To a man, Frigga’s methods seem confusing and
maybe unfair. This is one of the most difficult ideas of
the Divine Feminine for men to grasp. It is not all order
and straight lines; it soft around the edges, difficult to
see, and even more difficult to implement without
seeming soft oneself. Frigga possesses all the insight,
wisdom, and foresight that Odin does, but in her quiet,
calm, and powerful role she has no need to speak it. Her
confidence in who she is complete.
There is one instance, however, when Frigga’s
anger is riled; in the Lokasenna her attempts to admonish
the masculine (Odin) and the trickster (Loki) are
ignored, her warnings are not heeded in the argument,
and we see another aspect of the feminine arise in her
defense: Freya the goddess of love comes to the defense
of the Mother. As with any argument that involves more
than one woman, the man loses.
Othin spake:
23. “Though I gave to him | who deserved not the gift,
To the baser, the battle’s prize;
Winters eight | wast thou under the earth,
Milking the cows as a maid,
(Ay, and babes didst thou bear;
Unmanly thy soul must seem.)”
Loki spake:
24. “They say that with spells | in Samsey once Like witches with charms didst thou work;
And in witch’s guise | among men didst thou go;
Unmanly thy soul must seem.”
Frigg spake:
25. “Of the deeds ye two | of old have done
Ye should make no speech among men;
Whate’er ye have done | in days gone by,
Old tales should ne’er be told.”
Loki spake:
26. “Be silent, Frigg! | thou art Fjorgyn’s wife,
But ever lustful in love;
For Vili and Ve, | thou wife of Vithrir,
Both in thy bosom have lain.”
Frigg spake:
27. “If a son like Baldr | were by me now,
Here within Ægir’s hall,
From the sons of the gods | thou shouldst go not forth
Till thy fierceness in the fight were tried.”
Loki spake:
28. “Thou wilt then, Frigg, | that further, I tell
of the ill that now I know;
Mine is the blame | that Baldr no more
Thou seest ride home to the hall.”
Freyja spake:
29. “Mad art thou, Loki, | that known thou makest
the wrong and shame thou hast wrought;
the fate of all | does Frigg know well,
Though herself she says it not.”
Loki spake:
30. “Be silent, Freyja! | For fully I know thee,
Sinless thou art not thyself;
Of the gods and elves | who are gathered here,
each one as thy lover has lain.”
Freyja spake:
31. “False is thy tongue, | and soon shalt thou find
That it sings thee an evil song;
The gods are wroth, | and the goddesses all,
And in grief shalt thou homeward go.”
When the exchange of insults between Loki and
Odin about acts they consider unmanly is quickly
interrupted by the Mother, Loki responds in a way that
demonstrates his uninspired intellect and emotional state,
that is, with anger. He is then approached by the second
most misunderstood female character in all its ferocity,
that being the Lover herself. Everyone knows Hel hath
no fury like a woman scorned. Loki is bound to the
rocks using the entrails of his wolf son, and Skadi, a
daughter archetype, ties a snake above his head that drips
venom onto his face until Ragnarok approaches. Loki’s
partner Sigyn (girlfriend) holds a bowl above
his head and collects the venom until the bowl is full. When she goes to empty it, the venom drips on Loki and
he writhes in pain, causing earthquakes.
Interestingly enough, this is another demonstration of the
masculine that is out of balance, for Sigyn must sacrifice
a part of herself to support her partner – something
Frigga never has to do in her partnership with Odin.
The Prose Edda tells us of the court over which
Frigga holds sway. The first reference and the inference
that the Asynjur are not less holy than the Aesir is very
important though not often mentioned
XX. Then said Gangleri: “Who are the Æsir, they in
whom it behooves men to believe?” Hárr answered: “The
divine Æsir are twelve.” Then said Jafnhárr: “Not less
holy are the Ásynjur, the goddesses, and they are of no
less authority.” Then said Thridi: “Odin is highest and
eldest of the Æsir: he rules all things and mighty as are
the other gods, they all serve him as children obey a
father. Frigg is his wife, and she knows all the fates of
men, though she speaks no prophecy,–as is said here,
when Odin himself spake with him of the Æsir whom
men call Loki:
Thou art mad now, | Loki, and reft of mind, —
Why, Loki, leavest thou not off?
Frigg, methinks, | is wise in all fates,
Though herself say them not!
Odin proclaims that Frigga knows the fates of all
men, yet the history of her worship is sparse. Men wrote
most of the histories we have; the Christian missionaries
and monks who wrote a great deal of what we perceive
as our heritage would shy away from the realm of the
feminine, not recognizing its importance. They had no
such aspect to their faith, and spent a great deal of time
persecuting as witches millions of women who
recognized their own feminine power. Be that as it may,
we still have an inkling of how important the Goddesses
were, in that there were both male and female roles of
importance in early medieval society. This gives us
magnificent possibilities for today’s practice of our faith.

 

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