|Goddess of Love, Beauty, and War|
|About Lady Freya||Prayers||Reference Guide||Articles|
Freyr's sister, Freya, was the goddess of love, and herself unrivalled in grace and beauty. She was the kindest of all goddesses, and fond of singing. Her residence in Vingolf was called Folkvangur, whither all maidens of birth, and those who killed themselves, hoped to come. Oehlenschlager has given a full description of the goddess and of her palace.
With precious gems o'erlaid,
Stands in a lonely vale,
Which rose-tree forests shade;
Swans, white as virgin snow,
There on the calm lakes sail,
Lovers, who ne'er brake vow,
Tell there their ardent tale.
But in Folkvangur's bower
Nought like its matchless queen;
Mid many a beauteous flower
No flower like her, I ween.
Her form so round and slight,
Her look which love doth beam,
Her step as Zephyr's light,
Exceeds e'en poet's dream.
Each small, white, taper hand
A blushing rose doth bear,
Which through her faery land
Breathe forth their fragrant air.
Their sweets no guardian thorn
From rude touch needs defend,
‘Tis they to even and morn
The roseate tints which lend.
Like her no goddess kind,
She saves from wounds and death,
Her sigh — the sweet south wind
O'er the wild flowers doth breathe.
Round tears for mortal woe
Each morn her blue eyes fill,
Which on the flowers below
In purest dew distill.
Her daughters Siofha hight
And Hnos, with amber hair,
Not e'en the spirits of light
Can boast of aught so fair.
Whatever is passing bright
On earth, from Hnos we call:
Siofria gives slumbers light,
The morn on pure souls fall.
Freya had an equal share with Odin in the spirits of those slain in fight; an allusion to the wars and bloodshed caused by the passion of love. Her chariot was drawn by two cats or leopards, and, after Frigga, she was the most powerful of the goddesses. She had two beautiful daughters, Hnos and Gersime, by her husband Odr, or Oddur. They were so fair, says the Edda, that everything that was beautiful upon earth was called after them. Respecting Oddur the Edda only says that he travelled far away, and that Freya was so attached to him that she followed him over all the world, weeping tears of gold.
Notwithstanding this proof, however, of conjugal affection, she was by no means celebrated for her chastity, and amongst others she is accused of having bestowed her favours on four dwarfs in succession, as a price for her matchless gold chain, Brysing, their workmanship.
In her journey after Oddur through so many countries she received various names, — Marthaul, Forn, Hæn, Oafn, Syr, and Vana-dis, or the goddess of the Vaner. Her name was given to the sixth day of the week, and all women of distinction were called after her. She was the goddess of the moon, and in the north the constellation, Orion's belt, still bears the name of Freya's spinning wheel.
Oehlenschlager, in his poem of the Vaner, profiting by the obscurity of the Edda respecting Freya's husband Oddur, has converted him into Bacchus or Osiris, who in their Indian expeditions might have very well fallen in with the gods of Caucasian Asgard, themselves of Indian descent. As the poem is not long, and there can be no more faithful or more agreeable interpreter of the Edda than Oehlenschlager, it can scarcely be deemed out of place here.
When the gods of wide Valhalla
Ruled of yore in eastern land,
Far away, mid Asia’s mountains,
Near where Vana rolls his sand;
Ere they hither, northwards wended,
Where tall glaciers break the flood,
Ere they blended
Hostile dwarfs’ and giants’ blood;
Then were wont the skilful Vaner
Oft to Asgard to repair;
Vaner, famed for hidden wisdom,
Arts and manners debonair;
They the Aser first instructed
Flowers to plant, to till the earth.
Hostage, Njord, of noble birth.
When in sultry heat of summer,
Earth is parch'd and fevers rule:
If Njord mount his coal-black courser,
Air and earth once more are cool.
Njord the skies with rain-clouds covers,
Hides awhile, the fair blue sky;
0’er the murk storm passing by.
Njord was wed by law of Vaner:
Heeded nought blood's holy tie.
Children twain had of his sister,
Blue-eyed Freya, lofty Frey.
Fair as spring flowers earth which gladden,
All with joy their charms behold:
Swain and maiden
Own their beauty — young and old.
When Valhalla's mighty princes
From their native vales went forth,
Fire of southern clime to mingle
With the cold blood of the north;
Asgard's warriors nought contented,
Till Njord to their prayer they'd won;
Followed too with maid and son.
Odin spake: “The north invites us
With its mountains, pine o’er-grown;
With its lakes, and falls, and rivers,
And dark woods to ocean down:
Spite of foe or hostile barrier,
Soon we'll reach the verdant shore,
Thor, the warrior,
There shall lead our chiefs to war.
“Soon its tyrant, giant rulers,
'Fore our conquering spears shall bow,
Soon shall rise a loftier Asgard,
Where clear mead in streams shall flow,
When with cold north's iron race
Fiery east shall mingle blood —
From the embrace
Think what matchless warrior brood!"
Njord in front, on winged charger,
Leads the sacred squadrons on;
Dries up marshes, levels mountains,
Beats the compact forests down;
Thick, opposing clouds doth sever,
Shows the winds the vessel's course
Wearies ne'er his mettled horse.
“Twas a goodly sight to look on
Njoid glide through the cloudy way,
With his dark steed's pinions waving,
Like a dream in morning grey;
Swift as light — o'er horse-neck pendent —
Past, e’er yet well seen from far —
On his helm the morning star.
And without benignant Vaner
What were th' Aser in the North?
What thy wisdom, mighty Odin?
What, great Thor! thy prowess worth?
Freyr calls forth the quickening waters,
Makes fair fruits in deserts grow;
On earth's daughters
Freya beauty doth bestow.
Freya once had husband, godlike,
He, in Asgard, Oddur hight,
Him she met beyond the Ganges,
Victor god, in morion bright.
Youths and maids, with flutes and cymbals,
Follow, shouting, joyous throng,
Earth re-echoes with their song.
In his golden chariot seated,
See him in his proud career,
Tawny lions, mottled tigers,
Crouching at his feet for fear;
The forest's lords the car rolls after,
Maids with timbrels dance before,
Shouts and laughter
Drown e'en father ocean's roar.
Wondering at th' unwonted clamour,
Rugged men start from the glade,
Trembling, gazing, leaping, shouting,
Half enraptured, half afraid.
Oddur calm'd their groundless terror,
Charm'd them with his magic lay,
Held his mirror,
Shew’d to peace and wealth the way.
On south slope of sun-gilt mountain,
Near a river swift and clear,
First the stocks divine he planted,
Which the luscious berry bear;
Soon he taught the simple nation
Press the sugar’d purple blood,
Love's hot passion
From the nectar takes its food.
Freya, once bewildered roaming,
Chanced the treacherous drink to sip:
Oddur, drunk with wine and pleasure,
Watch’d the rich juice kiss her lip:
Oddur now in manhood's flower,
Grapes and vine-leaves wreathed his hair,
From his bower
Raptured view’d the goddess fair.
Oddur saw how Freya musing,
In a soft delirium lay;
At her feet his burning passion
Told, could Freya turn away?
Feather'd choir their pleasures vaunted,
Violets were their bridal bed.
Thousand sweets around them shed.
Freya thus was spouse to Oddur,
Still together were they seen,
And when th' Aser left their city,
Oddur followed too his queen.
In his gold car drawn by leopards,
Sate the warrior with his bride,
Maids and shepherds
Sorrowing paced the car beside.
True, his sunny land t' abandon.
And vine hills, the god did grieve;
But the grape’s more vapid pleasures
Who for beauty would not leave!
Piled on high, in osier wagons,
Choicest wine with care he stores,
Which in flagons
Rist each noon to Odin pours.
For though all less noble Aser
Quaff but cider, ale and mead,
Still for Odin, raven-monarch,
Oddur’s purple grape must bleed.
Freya's heart with grief corroding,
When he quitted Valhal's shore;
Left to Odin
Of the nectar, Oddur, store.
So they lived, the joy of Asgard,
Brighter dawn'd each golden morn,
Secret prayer of love-sick maiden,
On soft sighs, to them was borne.
And could love so pure, so holy,
Like a vision melt away?
Like youth's folly,
Scarce outlive a summer's day.
Idun, stol’n by false Loke's treason,
Long Valhalla's gods had wept,
And old age, with withering wrinkles,
O'er each late full cheek had crept.
When for Freya, blooming, youthful,
Radiant with celestial charms,
Oddur found within his arms;
Starting from the couch with horror,
"Ha! and am I thus deceived ?
Was't for this then, foul enchantress!
Fondly I thy tale believed?
Spells worn out the cheat discover,
Now in native form thou'rt seen;
The charm over,
Henceforth, witch! thine arts are vain.
Freya's weeping nought availed her;
From her arms in wrath he tore,
From those arms, now shrunk and feeble,
Where he'd found his joy before.
Not e'en one last farewell taking,
Mounted quick his golden car,
With heart aching,
Freya follow'd him from far.
But when Asgard's chiefest treasure
Coward Loke again retrieved;
Beauty's queen a prey to sorrow,
Still to witness, Odin grieved;
Full of wrath 'gainst fickle Oddur,
Breach of vow to punish bent,
Arm'd with Runic staff, he sent.
Spirits sunk, with dark forebodings
Oddur secret shades had sought;
On his once loved, blooming Freya,
And fond dream of joy he thought;
Nymphs with loose hair, ivy-woven,
Dancing, sought to soothe his pain,
With feet cloven.
Satyrs sang and piped in vain.
Sick at heart, the sun's light loathing,
In the dark grove's thickest gloom,
Oddur thought in bitter anguish
On his joys soon wither'd bloom:
Bow'd to earth — his aching forehead
Twixt his burning palms he prest,
Rack'd his brain, sobs rent his breast.
Hermod through the leaves stole on him,
On his head the Rune-stock laid.
And the heart-blood's fervid current,
Chill’d in death, at once was staid,
Thus, long since, the poet found him,
Changed into a senseless stone,
All around him
Vines and ivy wild had grown!
Long the goddess sought her lover,
O'er parched sands and mountains cold;
From her eyes, all swoln with weeping,
Dropp'd round tears of purest gold.
All, who ‘neath love's fever languish,
Hence derive their burning care;
Each true lover's breast must share.
Besides her two beautiful daughters, Hnos and Gersime, Freya had four nymphs, attendants, each of whom presided over a particular department of that complicated passion of which their mistress was the supreme chief. Siofua was the goddess of first love: "It was her business," says the Edda, " to dispose favourably the minds of young people, both men and women, towards each other."
Lofna, the second of these Diser or nymphs, was mild and propitious to all who called on her. She received from Odin and Frigga the power to unite hearts in the bonds of love, to remove all obstacles which might stand in the way of true lovers, and to reconcile those who had quarrelled. Magnussen derives her name from the old word “leyfa" to love, as that of Siofha, from “Sion," sight, and "sia," to see, since it is sight which causes first love.
Var or Vor is the goddess of betrothal. She hears the oaths and solemn engagements which lovers make to each other. She is wise but severe, and punishes with the utmost rigour those who break their troth.
Lastly, Sin is the doorkeeper of Freya's palace, which she keeps closed against those who are not worthy to enter it. It is she who persecutes unfortunate lovers, either because their motives are impure, or that the attainment of their wishes would bring misfortune on them.
Thus could the Scandinavian Mythology boast a more complete, more beautiful, and infinitely a purer system of love than that of the Greeks. " Freya," remarks Magnussen, " was the goddess of true love and of wedded faith, and although her name has not been free from reproach, yet that reproach proceeded only from the slanderer Loke, who spared none, and from the Sagas written after the introduction of Christianity.