View Full Version : Lesson Ten: Frige

July 23rd, 2008, 11:21 PM
Article used with the permission of Eric Wodening:

The native name of the goddess Fríge does not appear in Old English sources, except in the day name Frígedćg and various place names. Old English Frígedćg survived as our modern day name Friday. As to places named for her, Freefolk in Hampshire is recorded as Frígefolc in the 11th Century Doomsday Book. Friden in Derbyshire could derive from an earlier *Frígedene, "Fríge's valley," while Fryup in Yorkshire could derive from an earlier *Frígehóp "Fríge's marsh" or "Fríge's fen." This last name could be particularly signficant, as Frigg's hall is named in both Vöuspá and the Prose Edda as Fensalir, most easily intrepreted as "Marsh Halls." It could be that Frigg was associated with fens and marshes. Even if later, sometimes unreliable, Middle English sources did not refer to her worship among the Angles and Saxons, the existence of a day and places named for Fríge make it clear she was know to the Angles and Saxons.

In Old Norse and Old Icelandic sources, Frigg's most signficant role is perhaps that of Queen of Gods. In Skáldskaparmál, Snorri lists among the kennings for Frigg dróttning ása ok ásynja, "Queen of the Ćsir and Ásynjur" and kona Óđins "Óđinn's Wife (since óđinn was king of the gods in the Old Norse and Old Icelandic sources, Frigg must surely be his queen)." In the Prose Edda Snorri refers to her as Óđinn's queen and as foremost of the goddesses. In the Eddic poem Grimnismál Frigg appears not only as Óđinn's wife, but as his advisor as well. The position of Frigg as Óđinn's advisor and co-ruler is reflected in some of the Eddic poems. In Vafţúđnismál Frigg warns Óđinn about competing in a contest of knowledge with the ettin Vafţúnir.

Evidence for the importance of Fríge as Wóden's wife and queen of the gods does not appear in Old English, although references are made to such in Latin texts written in the Middle English period and in Middle English sources. In the Latin Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Hengist and Horsa refer to Fríge as "mightiest of all goddesses." This and placename evidence make her an important Anglo-Saxon Heathen Goddess.

Layamon's Middle English version of Brut may or may not be a reference to Fríge. Using the unusual form Frćć, Layamon has Hengist and Horsa boast that they have a lady who is high and mighty and loved by retainers, whom she treats well. Her name is Frćć. Layamon later states that to their lady Freo they gave the day Friday. While there is probably little doubt that Fríge was loved by retainers in Germanic households and that she treated them well, the forms of the goddess's name given here do not fit Fríge at all. Old English Fríge would not become Frćć in Middle English, and Freo coud well be the name of another goddess entirely, called Freyja in Old Norse and possibly Fréo in Old English. Now Layamon wrote in a deliberately anachronistic style influenced by Anglo-Norman forms. This could explain the odd name Frćć, but it does not explain the name Freo at all. Middle English freo meant "lady, noblewoman;" in Old English it was fréo, meaning exactly the same thing. Both Middle English freo and Old English fréo are cognates of Old Norse Freyja, another goddess entirely, whose name simply means "lady, noblewoman." Freo would then appear to be Freyja under a Middle English name rather than Fríge. It seems possible that for whatever reason Layamon rememered Freo rather than Fríge. As to referring to Friday as her day, Layamon may have been under the influence of traditions paced down by descendents of the Danelaw. Among some Old Norse speakers, what we called Friday was Freyjudag, "Freyja's Day," instead of Frjádagr, "Frigg's Day." Quite simply, Layamon may have been referring to Freo.

While Layamon may have been referring to Freo, there can be no doubt that Robert of Gloucester in his Chronicle was writing of Fríge. In the Chronicle he has Hengist and Horsa state that they worship Wóden most of all, and for him they call the fourth day "Wednesday." He goes on to have them say that after Wóden they worship Frie the most, and for her they have named "Friday." It seems significant that Robert uses the form Frie, as this is precisely what Old English Fríge would have become in Middle English. It seems likely then that, while Robert of Gloucester drew upon such early histories as those by William of Malmesbury and Geoffrey of Monmouth, he may have drawn upon the memory of the goddess Fríge worshipped by the Angles and Saxons.

The later Latin and Middle English sources are sometimes considered unreliable, and there is good reason for this. Regardless, when combined with Continental sources, they indicate that Fríge most likely was considered Wóden's wife and queen of the gods among the Angles and Saxons. The legend of the origin of the Lombards was told more than once in the Dark Ages, although the most famous version was told by Paul the Deacon in his Historia Langobardum. Referring to it as a ridiculous fable, he tells how the Vandals asked Wodan for victory against a tribe called the Winnilies. Gambara, a Winnilie woman, asked Frija, Wodan's wife, that they win. Frija then worked out a plan for the Winnilie women. She told them to let loose their hair and to let it hang down over their faces, and then to go to an area where they would be seen by Wodan as he looked out his east window as he always did each morning. That morning, when Wodan looked out his window at the sunrise, he exclaimed, "Who are those long beards!" Frija told Wodan that having named the tribe, he must then give them victory. The newly named Longbeards (or Lombards, if you prefer), then defeated the Vandals. The tale of the origin of the Lombards resembles the Eddic poem In Grimnismál, in which Óđinn and Frigg also support two different contenders. Regardless, this myth clearly states that Frija is the wife of Wodan, showing that this belief was found on the Continent as well as in Scandinavia. It also shows that on the Continent Frija was thought of as Wodan's advisor.

Frija also appears in proximity to Wodan in the Second Merseburg Charm (see below), although their relationship is not stated there. Regardless, given other evidence which states that Fríge is Wodan's wife, it could be considered circumstantial evidence.

Even if we did not have proof that Germanic peoples outside of the Old Norse speakers viewed Fríge as Wóden's wife, her name could be counted as a clue that she was. Her name is believed to trace back to proto-Germanic *frijjo, thought to mean "beloved wife." This word in turn derives from the Proto-Indo-European word *priya, meaning "beloved." This word in turn derives from the root *priə-, To love." It is from this root that our words frith and friend also derive. Given that Fríge's name basically means "beloved" or "beloved wife," it could be that it began simply as a title or byname of Wóden's wife and it overtook whatever her original name may have been.

As stated above, among the proof that Fríge was worshipped among the Angles and Saxons is that the Frígedćg was named for her. The concept of the seven day week having been borrowed from the Romans, the days were named through an Interpretatio Germanica in which the Germanic gods were identified with Roman gods. Frígedćg is then the conunterpart to the Roman dies Veneris, "Venus's Day." To anyone familiar with Norse mythology, Venus must seem like an odd goddess with which to identify Frigg. Most individuals are familiar with Venus as a goddess of love and sexuality, while most people today know Frigg as queen of the gods and a goddess associated with motherhood. There are at least three sources which accuse Frigg of promiscuity, but none of them are reliable. In the Eddic poem Lokasenna, Loki accuses Frigg of having taken Óđinn's brothers Vili and Vé as lovers. Here we must consider the source. In Old Norse sources Loki is either portrayed as a trickster or the enemy of the gods. In Lokasenna it seems that he is more likely being portrayed as the latter. Indeed, Loki's accusations seem less like the truth than the sort of outrageous accusations a decent individual simply will not answer himself. in Ynglinga Saga Snorri also states that Frigg took Óđinn's brothers as lovers, although it seems likely he is just repeating the accusation made in Lokasenna. The other accusations of infidelity come in Gesta Danorum Saxo claims that Frigg had sex with a servant and later that she slept with Mithothyn, a pretender to Óđinn's throne while he was away. Here it must be kept in mind that Saxo had a nearly vicious hatred of the gods and that none of them are presented particularly well in Gesta Danorum. Again, his accusations should probably not be taken seriously. At any rate, other sources do not speak of infidelity on Frigg's part.

If Fríge is faithful to Wóden in their marriage and if she is not a goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality, then why would she be identified with the Roman goddess Venus, who governed all those things? Quite simply, Venus was not always a goddess of love and was always much more than that to the Romans anyhow. Venus became a goddess of love only after she was identified with the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Originally she was associated with spring, flowers, vines, the fields, and gardens. In many respects she was closer in character to the Charites or "Graces" of Greek religion, who governed charm, beauty, nature, and human creativity. She retained these aspects even after she was identified with Aphrodite. More importantly, Venus was viewed as a mother in later Roman religion much as Frigg was in Scandinavian sources. In Rome Venus was worshipped as Venus Genetrix, the mother of AEneas through whom she was also the ancestor of the gens Julii and the mother of Rome as well. As Venus Genetrix she was also associated with domesticity as well as motherhood. Fríge was probably identified with Venus because both deal with motherhood and perhaps domesticity s well. Too, it may have seemed a good idea to many Germanic tribes if their foremost goddess had a day named for her.

In the Old Norse and Old Icelandic sources, the role of Frigg as a mother is emphasised nearly as much or as much as her role as queen of the gods. In his poem Sonatorrek, Egill Skallagrimson refered to the gods in general as Friggjar niđjar, "Frigg's descendants</I>." From this kenning it would seem that at least Egill thought of Frigg as mother of the gods. Given such sources as the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, the Ynglinga Saga and the skaldic poems, this seems a bit odd, for while Óđinn is acknowledged as the father of many, the sources reguarly acknowledge Frigg as only mother of Baldr. It is possible that Egill knew of traditions which were not recorded in many of the written sources, although thre is another likely explanation. In Skáldskaparmál Váli is called stjúpson Friggjar, "Frigg's stepson." While Frigg may not have been the mother from whom many gods sprang, she most likely is a mother figure to all of them.

Of course, the most obvious example of Frigg as a mother figure in the Eddas is as mother of Baldr. In Skáldskaparmál Baldr is called son Óđins ok Friggjar, "Óđinn and Frigg's son." In the same source, Frigg is called móđur Baldrs, "Baldr's mother." The Eddic poems contain a few references to Frigg as mother and her sorrow at his death. In a portion of Vöuspá dealing with Baldr's death it is said that en Frigg of grét/í Fensólum, "But Frigg wept/in Fensalir." In Lokasenna Frigg responds to Loki's accusations in line 27 with these words:

Veiztu, ef ek inni ćttak
Ćgis höllum i
Baldri líkan bur,
út ţá né kvćmir
frá ása sonum,
ok vári ţá at ţér vreiđum vegit.

Know this, if I still had
in Ćgir's hall
a son such as Baldr
you would not come out
from the Ćsir's sons,
but that you had a fierce fight

In the Prose Edda Snorri tells of the death of Baldr and Frigg's sorrow as his mother. According to Snorri, Baldr had dreams that he was in grave danger (apparently Snorri was drawing upon the Eddic Baldrs draumar as a source). Frigg then went forth and received an oath from every thing in the Worlds. It then became a sport for the gods to hurl things at Baldr, for nothing seemed to harm him. Loki then went to Frigg in the form of a woman and learned from her that she had extracted an oath from everything except a small shrub called mistletoe, which she thought too young to harm Baldr. Loki then tricked the god Hóđr into hurling the mistletoe at Loki. Loki fell dead when it struck him. While Saxo tells an almost entirely different tale of Baldr's death in Gesta Danorum, the version Snorri tells in the Prose Edda shows the extent to which the Old Norse and Old Icelandic speakers thought of Frigg as a mother. As a mother she was willing to go to the extent of getting an oath from nearly all things just to protect her son.

Frigg's association with motherhood apparently went further than the raising of children, as she appears to have also been associated with childbirth in Old Norse and Old Icelandic sources. In the Eddic poem Oddrúnargrátr verse 9 is essentially a prayer to Frigg and Freyja for assistance in childbirth:

Svá hjalpi ţér
hollar véttir,
Frigg ok Freyja
ok fleiri gođ,
sem ţú feldir mér
fár af höndum.

So may help you
the holy wights,
Frigg and Freyja
and the many gods;
as you have
taken this harm from me.

In the Völsunga Saga Frigg assists in a bith in another fashion. King Rerir and his queen never had a child. Rerir then prayed to the gods for assistance in the couple giving birth to an heir. Frigg heard Rerir's plea and consulted Óđinn. Óđinn then sent Hrímnir's daughter with an apple to give to Rerir. Afterwards, Rerir's wife bore a son, the hero Völsung.
Neither Anglo-Saxon nor Continental sources refer to Fríge as being linked to motherhood or childbirth, although it seems likely that they could have viewed Fríge as a goddess associated with motherhood and childbirth. Indeed, it is likely that this was the case, as she could have been associated with healing among them. In the Second Merseberg Charm, Frija is among the gods who sings a galdor over the foal's leg:

Phol ende uuodan
uuorun zi holza.
du uuart demo balderes uolon
sin uuoz birenkit.
thu biguol en sinthgunt,
sunna era suister;
thu biguol en friia,
uolla era suister;
thu biguol en uuodan,
so he uuola conda:
sose benrenki,
sose bluotrenki,
sose lidirenki:
ben zi bena,
bluot zi bluoda,
lid zi geliden,
sose gelimida sin.

Phol and Wodan
fared into the woods.
There the brave one's foal
wrenched its foot.
Then sand Sinthgunt,
Sunna her sister;
then sang Frija,
Vola her sister;
then sang Wodan,
as well he could: As bonesprain,
as bloodsprain;
bone to bone,
blood to blood,
limb to limb,
so they were stuck together.

As one of the gods who sang a galdor over the foal's leg, it seems possible that Fríge was viewed as a goddess of healing among the Germanic peoples, particularly in light of the prayer to her in Oddrúnargrátr.
Regardless, like her husband, the Old Norse speakers associated Frigg with hidden knowledge. Taking up for Frigg in Lokasenna, Freyja said:

Ćrr ertu, Loki,
er ţú yđra telr
ljóta leiđstafi;
örlög Frigg,
hygg ek, at öll viti,
ţótt hon sjalfgi segi.

You are mad, Loki,
you who reckon
the most loathesome staves;
I think Frigg
knows all wyrds
although she keeps them to herself.

In the Prose Edda Snorri also remarks that Frigg knows the wyrds of all men, although she does not speak of it. Frigg is then privy to the knowledge of things to come for everyone, even if she will not reveal it to anyone else. Beyond her knowledge of the wyrds of men, however, Frigg would appear to be innately wise and cunning. This is demonstrated in the legend of the naming of the Lombards as told by Paul the Deacon in Historia Langobardum. It is Frija who suggests to the women of the Winnilies the plan that forces Wodan to give victory to them. In Grímnismál it is Frigg who realises that Óđinn's foster son Geirrœđ was base and selfish. It is a logical extension of Fríge's role as Wóden's advisor and co-ruler that she is also a goddess of wisdom.

Perhaps because she is the wife of Wóden and queen of the gods, today Fríge is often counted as the goddess of marriage. This having been said, none of the ancient sources state that she is such. It is possible, however, that Fríge was associated with weddings and marriage. Among many Nothern European peoples, Friday (or Frigedćg in Old English) is the traditional day for weddings, even though it is generally thought to be bad luck to start anything else on that day. This could possibly be due to the influence of Fríge. Siginficantly, among the goddesses Snorri lists in the Prose Edda, Lofn is a goddess who has the permission of Óđinn and Frigg to bring together people in marriage for whom it was forbidden. The name does not occur anywhere else in the Prose Edda, nor does it occur in the Poetic Edda. In skaldic poetry it merely appears in kennings for "woman." If Lofn is not yet another name for Freyja or a creation of Snorri, it could possibly be the name of a handmaiden of Frigg or even of Frigg herself. Another one of the goddesses Snorri lists, Vár, is said to hear oaths between men and women, and she takes vengeance on those who break them. Vár is also mentioned in the Eddic poem Ţrymskviđa, in which she is invoked at the wedding of Ţrym and his bride (in truth Ţ&oacucte;rr in drag). Vár appears nowhere else. Again, the name could simply be a byname of Freyja or Frigg, although the hearing of oaths would seem to be more characteristic of Frigg. Although Frigg is associated with weddings and marriage today, we have no hard evidence from ancient sources that she was associated with weddings and marriages in the minds of ancient Germanic peoples.

Similarly, while Fríge is considered the goddess of the household today, we have no evidence from the ancient sources that she was ever considered such. In fact, the only link between Frigg and household duties appears not in the Eddas, skaldic poetry, sagas, Anglo-Saxon sources, or Continental sources, but in Swedish folklore. In Swedish folklore, Orion's Belt is known as the constellation Friggerock, "Frigg's distaff." This could show that the Old Norse speakers saw Frigg as linked to spinning and weaving, a common household chore in the Dark Ages. The difficulty in identifying Frigg with weaving because of the constellation's name lies in the fact that among the Germanic peoples of the Dark Ages weaving was practised by nearly every woman and probably a good number of men as well. That Orion's Belt was called "Friggerock" could indicate that Frigg was seen as spinning and weaving just like everyone else, not that she had a special link to it. That having been said, the constellation's name would seem to be significant.

While there is no hard evidence that the ancient Germanic peoples associated Frigg with the household, a clue that she could be the fact that she appears to have been associated with farming in the minds of the Old Norse speakers. Among the ancient Germanic peoples, women were expected to work the farms alongside the men. In many instances, the wives would even be placed in charge of the farm (an example would be when the men went off on Viking raids). Anglo-Saxon records even show that some women even owned farms of their own accord. Given the fact that farming was equally a woman's job as it was a man's job among the ancient Germanic peoples, it should not be surprising that the names of two places in Sweden may be traced back to *Friggjararakr, "Frigg's Cornfield." It would seem that Frigg may have been associated with farming and the fertility of the crops.

As mentioned earlier, Snorri lists a number of goddesses in the Prose Edda. Among the most significant could be one named Hlín. The name literally means "protector" or "shelterer." According to Snorri, Frigg charged Hlín with protecting mortals whom she wishes to guard from danger. Curiously, however, Hlín appears as a name of Frigg in Völuspá, in the first lines of verse 53:

Ţá kemr Hlínar
harmr annarr fram,
er Óđinn ferr
viđ úlf veka...

Then comes to Hlín
a second sorrow,
when Óđinn fares
to face the Wolf...

The Wolf that Óđinn faces is the Fenrir Wolf, who is supposed to kill Óđinn in the Norse myth of Ragnarök. Given the use of Hlín here for Frigg, it seems clear that the two were seen as one and the same. If this is the case, Frigg would appear to have been seen as a protective goddess. Indeed, this is the role in which she appears in the Historia Langobardum. in which she outlines the plan which will lead to the Winnilies' victory over the Vandals, and in Grímnismál, when she tricks Geirrœđ to the advantage of her foster son Agnarr.

Some of the other goddesses which Snorri lists in the Prose Edda also appear linked to Frigg. Among these is the goddess Fulla. Unlike many of the other goddesses, however, we can be certain that Fulla is not merely another aspect of Frigg. Snorri states that Fulla is Frigg's handmaiden, that she carries Frigg's chest, cares for her shoes, and is confidant to her secrets. Snorri states that Fulla wears her flowing hair in a gold headband. Later in the Prose Edda, Fulla sends a gold finger ring along with Hermóđr to give to Baldr in Hel. In Skáldskaparmál a kenning for gold is höfuđband Fullu "Fulla's headband." In Grímnismál it is Fulla whom Frigg sends to "warn" Geirrœđ of a mysterious stranger (in truth, Óđinn). Fulla is one of the few gods who appears outside the Old Norse and Old Icelandic corpus. That having been said, in her appearance in the Second Merseburg Charm, Volla is not only one of the gods who sings a galdor over the horse's leg, but she is also referred to as Frija's sister. It seems that Fulla could have been more than Frigg's handmaiden at one point in Old Norse sources, she could have been Frigg's sister who was in service to her.

The other goddesses Snorri lists who are linked to Frigg are the aforementioned Lofn and Hlín (who may be Frigg herself). Another is Gná Snorri states that Frigg sends Gná on various errands throughout the worlds. She owns a horse called Hófvapnir who can run over air and sea.
As sparse as references to Fríge are in the old sources, there is so very little of which we can be certain of how the ancient Germanic peoples viewed her. Among the Angles and Saxons we can be fairly certain that she was regarded as the foremost of the goddess. Among the Old Norse speakers and some Continental Germanic peoples, we can be sure she was regarded as Wodan's wife and Queen of the Gods. We can be certain from Old Norse sources that the Scandinanvians regarded her as associated with motherhood. From Old Norse sources we can also be certain that she was invoked at childbirth among the Scandinavians. From Continental sources it seems posible that some Continental Germanic peoples saw a link between Frija and healing. From both Old Norse and Continental sources we can be fairly sure that she was regarded as a goddess of wisdom. From Old Norse sources we can also be fairly certain that the Scandinavians regarded her as a protective goddess. It is possible that Frigg was associated with marriage, the household, and weaving, but we have no hard evidence of such. We can be a bit more sure that she was linked to agriculture, at least perhaps as a goddess of the fertility of crops. While we can be certain that she was the most important goddess among most of the Germanic peoples, in many cases we can only guess as to the areas of life she governed.

July 25th, 2008, 10:38 AM
That was a good read, and very informative. Thank you, Swain, and thank your brother as well for letting us benefit from his writings during this course.

July 25th, 2008, 10:55 AM
Your welcome! Eric is a very good writier, and it often make more sense to use his material instead of my own!

July 27th, 2008, 09:37 AM
Thank you very much for this Swain,Im really enjoying reading this section on the Gods
Of course i Do believe your being far too modest! I think you and Eric have have a terrific natural talent when it comes to writing.