Like many goddesses, Freya is deeply misunderstood.
And like most misunderstandings, at bottom, it’s because instead of allowing Freya to be who she is, we insist on applying our own preconceived notions of what she ought to be. It’s so much easier when you encounter new things to pretend that they are just like the things you already know.
Freya, the Vanadis, is a goddess of love. That’s usually the first thing that people are told about her. And immediately we think we know what that looks like. Raised on Western European tropes, with their origins in ancient Greek and Roman cultural traditions, our minds immediately jump to Aphrodite or Venus. We picture a voluptuous woman, usually blonde, dressed in clothing that shows off her body, and posed seductively.
Depicting a goddess of love in such a way is problematic on a number of levels. There is, of course, the objectification — turning a goddess of love into an object of lust, suited to the male gaze. And love, in its realest form, involves partners who are equal and who connect on more than a physical level. Love goddesses are beautiful, of course, but that is only part of what they are or how they project.
But depicting Freya in this way has even more problems. Because Freya is not just a goddess of love. She is a goddess of magic and a goddess of the dead. One of her most important functions in the Norse way is to select half of the slain on the battlefield and take them to her hall in Asgard, which is called Sessrumnir. I’ve already spent some time considering this aspect of Freya, as a means of contrast with the role of Odin with battle dead.
Freya’s realm in Asgard is called Folkvangr — the people’s field. And the translation of Sessrumnir loosely is “the people’s hall.” Freya is a goddess of the people, and the heroes she brings to her hall are those who protect and uplift the people. They are the ones who are heroic not because they have a need for glory and battle, but because there is a need that must be met, people who must be saved, a service that must be done for the greater good. The warriors that Freya welcomes to her hall are selfless servants of the people — they fight to protect others.
And make no mistake, Freya is ferocious in her way. As a love goddess she is desired. Many is the enemy who comes to Asgard seeking her as their prize. And while she has a husband, that husband is long gone, and Freya unapologetically takes other lovers. In fact, when Loki attempts to chide her for laying with nearly everyone in Asgard, including himself, Freya not only does not deny it, she basically stares him down and says, “And what?” She does not stand idly by as someone’s helpmeet or someone’s object of desire. She is her own woman, and satisfies her own desires at her pleasure.
As a goddess of magic, Freya presides over a particular practice called seidr. Seidr magic is a type of seership practice, often deeply connected to the Well of Wyrd. But I find that Freya is deeply present in a wide variety of magical practices. Her intensity and force of will. provides a very good foundation for nearly any type of meditation, spellwork or other magical working.
The thing that unites all these different aspects of Freya is simple — her raw passion and zeal for life. At bottom, that is what love provides us when it is present in our lives. It provides us the ability to enjoy thoroughly the pleasures of the world and of the flesh and of others’ company. Passion for our community is what gives us the impetus to protect it so fiercely. And all magic, of every stripe, benefits from the focusing of will, and with having the unshakeable desire to see a thing manifested. To follow Freya in any of her aspects is to tap into that well of feeling inside of us, and use it as fuel for whatever brings us joy. It can fuel our sense of community and connection. It can fuel our sensual experiences. It can fuel our desire to build and manifest things. It can fuel our instinct to protect that which we love.
Work with Freya for any length of time and you will start to see your will to power strengthening. You will seek more for yourself. You will not settle for less than what you deserve and desire. You will have to open your heart up and really express what’s inside. That’s the double edge of the sword that Freya wields. One cannot truly have passion without authenticity and vulnerability. Real passion demands you bring your whole self to bear on the situation. Anything less is simply going to fall flat and come up short. You cannot fake that funk.
During this time of COVID-19 quarantine, where things feel scary and we are really and truly faced with the question of how strong our sense of community as a nation really is, Freya’s call to us is particularly needed. Whether we are “essential workers” trying to make it through a workday and not get infected, one of the infected trying to stay alive, or a work at home parent trying to do three jobs at once, we all need a sense of passion, a will-to-power that keeps us going and reminds us why we fight for our lives and for our communities. Freya’s dedication to those who are passionate for the people, who protect the community, is important if we are to make it through this time.
As the keeper of Folkvangr, Freya is not a difficult goddess to connect to. If you are ready to bring your passion to the fore, she will be there when you call. Her path is not necessarily easy — coming at your life with your whole being, your real self, isn’t as simple as it sounds. Many of us have spent years constructing walls and devising mechanisms to avoid showing who we really are to the world, and pretend our feelings are other than what they are. Maybe you did it because you didn’t feel safe, and those walls and disguises are for protection. Maybe you felt you had to do it because you didn’t believe your authentic self was enough to succeed. Whatever the reason, prepare to have the Vanadis see through your nonsense and gently demand that you drop the fake armor you’re wearing.
Take the time to learn the lore of Freya. She is much beloved, and many have written verse in her honor. As a goddess of love and passion, bring fire to Freya. Light a candle as you seek her. As the bearer of the golden necklace of Brisingamen and she who cries tears of pure gold, that color and metal is also useful. Most of all, come with your full heart. Here’s a prayer I have used effectively. It is simple, but that’s part of its power. A simple tool becomes a great base upon which to build:
Lady Freya guide me on this day
Lady Freya lead me in thy way
Lady Freya teach my heart to love
Lady Freya shower me with blessings from above.
As your relationship with Freya deepens, more and more understanding can be woven into this simple framework to give it life. I still say these same words every day as part of my morning devotional, but I find the words over time have taken on new meanings, have embodied different concepts as my relationship with Freya has deepened. And as my relationship with her continues to evolve, the words will come to contain even more things I never thought of before.
Because that’s what happens in real love relationships, the ones based not on our preconceptions of who people should be but on who they really are — they deepen, they change, they make you discover parts of yourself you may not have even realized you had. They are not easy or simple, but life without it is a pale shadow of what we crave.
A Caveat: With the Rule of 100 in full effect in pagan communities, I feel compelled to remind people that the cis-gendered presentation of spirituality as Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine may be the traditional conceptualization of deity, but it’s not the only one. There has been vibrant exploration of divinity from non-heterosexual, non-gender-binary, and non-cisgender viewpoints that is exciting and which adds a lot of understanding of what it means to engage with divinity in the form of gods and goddesses. My choice to focus on goddesses and the traditional Divine Feminine in this series is not intended to diminish this important work. Deity takes form in everyone’s image, and everyone deserves to see themselves reflected among their gods.