The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods
Freya is the most beautiful of the Norse spirits with dominion over love, sex, fertility, magic, witchcraft, death, pleasure, and glory. “Freya” literally means “Lady” and may be a title, not a name. (Her twin brother is Freyr or “Lord.”) She is simultaneously a spirit of fertility and death, beauty and war.
Freya is the daughter of Njord and Herta (Nerthus), Sea and Earth. She is among the Vanir hostages who joined the Aesir to maintain spiritual peace. Freya, however, is so powerful that she quickly became a dominant force in her new realm.
Freya is clearly identified as a witch. When she first arrives in Asgard (the Aesir’s realm), she teaches the Aesir how to craft charms and potions. It is Freya who introduced Odin to runes and shamanism. Völvas and Valkyries serve as her priestesses.
Golden Freya most often manifests as a woman, although she owns a falcon feather cloak that enables her to fly like a falcon and shape-shift as she pleases (see also Circe, page 378).
Most other surviving Norse goddesses are identified as “wives”; Freya is an independent single woman who answers to no one. She was married, but her husband Od mysteriously disappeared. She weeps golden tears for him that transform into amber, but takes her pleasure as she pleases.
Sacred Creatures: Cats, rabbits, boars Attributes: Gold, amber, honey Plants: Cowslips, flax, hemp
Two large gray cats, possibly lynxes, named Bee-gold (Honey) and Tree-gold (Amber) pull her chariot. They embody Freya’s twin qualities of ferocity and fecundity. She rides a boar into battle (as does her brother Freyr). Her sacred day was Friday; her sacred number 13, the number of months in the lunar calendar. Friday the 13th is thus especially sacred to her, leading to its later malevolent associations under Christianity.
No spirit annoyed Christian authorities more than Freya. Ironically, the result was that Freya survives more vividly than any other female European spirit. Constant condemnation kept Freya from fading into obscurity.
An insult levied at Freya at the Althing (Parliament) of Iceland initiated the final round of a debate over that country’s Christianization: a Christian described Freya as a “bitch goddess.”
Freya was denounced as a Queen of Witches. Women who venerated her were therefore automatically branded “witches.” And of course, Freya’s rites and traditions did encourage magical practice, mediumship, shamanism, and female autonomy, with Freya herself as the role model—behavior the new regime considered abhorrent and sinful.
Freya was not an obscure spirit but was beloved and worshipped over a vast European territory including Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, the Germanic lands, Holland, and Anglo-Saxon Britain.
Thirteenth-century Icelandic chronicler Snorri Sturluson recorded and preserved many old sagas and poems. He says Freya was the most renowned of all the goddesses, and was still worshipped in his day.
Freya’s last surviving temple, in Magdeburg, Germany, was destroyed by edict of the Emperor Charlemagne. Devotees refused to surrender their faith, however: in 1668, “the worship of Frau Venus” was allegedly still prevalent among the Saxons of Magdeburg.
Freya was banished to the mountain peaks of Norway, Sweden, and Germany to dance with her devotees, especially in The Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains of central Germany, where she presides over annual Midsummer’s and Walpurgis festivities. Freya remains among the most beloved deities among modern Neo-Pagans.
See also Angerboda, Frigga, Herta, Odin; ANIMALS: Cats, Pigs; DICTIONARY: Aesir, Valkyrie, Vanir, Völva; PLACES: Blokula, The Brocken.