The Old Norse worldview is filled with valor and acts of courage. It is filled with blood and death and strife. It can be a very dark and dreary worldview, both then as well as now. In such an environment, it is easy to devalue those things which do not focus on pain and struggle. For example, Freya. Why do we need a Goddess of love and beauty? How frivolous. How unnecessary. Why would we need Her? How will She help us defeat our foes?
This past weekend, a friend and I attended the first annual Heathen Women’s Conference in Ashville, NC. I had the honor of leading two workshops at the conference: “Freya and the Vanir” and “Myth Embodiment: The Brisingamen Myth”. Both workshops went well; the Myth Embodiment exercise went particularly well. In the Embodiment, the person playing Odin brought up a question that is commonly raised by people who don’t have a connection with Freya or don’t know much about her. Summarized, it reads like this:
“Why would such a powerful, beautiful goddess like Freya sleep with four dwarves for a trinket?”
Why, indeed. How odd it is that such a powerful and intelligent goddess would go slumming around with some dwarves for jewelry, you might ask. How demeaning. How disgraceful.
If that is your understanding of the Brisingamen myth, I can see how you might be confused. So, let me break down my understanding of how this all works out, from my perspective as one of Her priestesses.
Freya is Love and Beauty
Freya loves you all. Freya sees the beauty in everyone and everything, particularly people who don’t see themselves as beautiful. (Which, in my experience, seems to be the majority of the people in the world.) Freya finds the beauty in a given person or situation and sharpens it, heightens it, brings it out for you to see. There’s no hiding; She will find your beauty and point it out. When She interacts with you in a meditation, ritual, or journey, it’s hard not to see the beauty She sees in you. In my mind, Brisingamen symbolizes the beauty that She finds in the dwarves and brings out from the darkness into the light.
In the myth, when Freya visits the dwarves, she is asked to give each of them a night with her in exchange for the most beautiful piece of jewelry–a piece of jewelry fit for the most beautiful goddess in the world. The usual crass jokes aside, think about what could happen there. What does each dwarf do with the night he has with Freya? Do they have sex? Does She teach them? Hold them? Nurture them? Does she heal them? Does She give these master craftsmen the gift of creative inspiration? All of the above? (For all we know, they could have talked dwarven politics all night. To each their own.)
My personal opinion is that while each individual dwarf does gets whatever they wish from Her, they ALL come away knowing that they are valuable. Even those who might initially try to degrade Her or devalue Her gift will find themselves transformed through their experience in this way.
In the mythology, jötnar are constantly trying to steal Freya and make her their bride. These giants don’t want Asgardian gold or wisdom from Mimir’s well or even Thor’s hammer. What they want is Freya Herself. She is the gift. She is love, beauty, and passion. Ultimately, the jötnar value this over defensive weapons and knowledge. Apparently, the gifts She has to offer are not so frivolous after all.
Freya is Life
Freya reminds us to enjoy ourselves. She reminds us that life is not just about struggle and valor. She reminds us to sing and dance, to make love and music and poetry; to enjoy all of the beauty and passion around us. She reminds us to be in our bodies and feel the emotions and sensations that we can only feel as human beings here on Midgard. She reminds us what we are fighting for. She reminds us to LIVE.
Freya has many blessings to give. Yes, She is a War Goddess. Yes, She is a goddess of Death, and of Sex; of Seidh Magic and of Fertility and of Gold. However, if you downplay Her aspects of Love and of Beauty, you are devaluing some of Her biggest gifts.
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