Freyr

:"Frey" redirects here. For other uses of "Frey" and "Freyr", see Frey (disambiguation)."

Freyr (sometimes anglicized Frey) [The name "Freyr" is believed to be cognate to Gothic "frauja" and Old English "frēa", meaning "lord". It is sometimes anglicized to "Frey" by omitting the nominative ending. In the modern Scandinavian languages the name can appear as "Frej", "Frö", "Frøy" or "Fröj". In Richard Wagner's "Das Rheingold" the god appears as "Froh". See also Ingunar-Freyr.] is one of the most important gods of Norse paganism. Freyr was highly associated with agriculture, weather and, as a phallic fertility god, Freyr "bestows peace and pleasure on mortals". Freyr, sometimes referred to as Yngvi-Freyr, was especially associated with Sweden and seen as an ancestor of the Swedish royal house.

In the Icelandic books the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Freyr is presented as one of the Vanir, the son of the sea god Njörðr, brother of the goddess Freyja. The gods gave him Álfheimr, the realm of the Elves, as a teething present. He rides the shining dwarf-made boar Gullinbursti and possesses the ship Skíðblaðnir which always has a favorable breeze and can be folded together and carried in a pouch when it is not being used. He has the servants Skírnir, Byggvir and Beyla.

The most extensive surviving Freyr myth relates Freyr's falling in love with the giantess Gerðr. Eventually, she becomes his wife but first Freyr has to give away his magic sword which fights on its own "if wise be he who wields it". Although deprived of this weapon, Freyr defeats the giant Beli with an antler. However, lacking his sword, Freyr will be killed by the fire giant Surtr during the events of Ragnarök.

Adam of Bremen

Written around 1080, one of the oldest written sources on pre-Christian Scandinavian religious practices is Adam of Bremen's "Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum". Adam claimed to have access to first-hand accounts on pagan practices in Sweden. He refers to Freyr with the Latinized name Fricco and mentions that an image of him at Skara was destroyed by a Christian missionary. His description of the Temple at Uppsala gives some details on the god.

The woman is Gerðr, a beautiful giantess. Freyr immediately falls in love with her and becomes depressed and taciturn. After a period of brooding, he consents to talk to Skírnir, his foot-page. He tells Skírnir that he has fallen in love with a beautiful woman and thinks he will die if he cannot have her. He asks Skírnir to go and woo her for him.

"Nafnaþulur"

In "Nafnaþulur" Freyr is said to ride the horse Blóðughófi ("Bloody Hoof").

Poetic Edda

Freyr is mentioned in several of the poems in the "Poetic Edda". The information there is largely consistent with that of the "Prose Edda" while each collection has some details not found in the other.

"Völuspá"

"Völuspá", the best known of the Eddic poems, describes the final confrontation between Freyr and Surtr during Ragnarök.

"Lokasenna" also mentions that Freyr has servants called Byggvir and Beyla. They seem to have been associated with the making of bread.

"Skírnismál"

The courtship of Freyr and Gerðr is dealt with extensively in the poem "Skírnismál".Freyr is depressed after seeing Gerðr. Njörðr and Skaði ask Skírnir to go and talk with him. Freyr reveals the cause of his grief and asks Skírnir to go to Jötunheimr to woo Gerðr for him. Freyr gives Skírnir a horse and his magical sword for the journey.

Freyr had a son named Fjölnir, who succeeds him as king and rules during the continuing period of peace and good seasons. Fjölnir's descendants are enumerated in "Ynglingatal" which describes the mythological kings of Sweden.

"Ögmundar þáttr dytts"

The 14th century Icelandic "Ögmundar þáttr dytts" contains a tradition of how Freyr was transported in a wagon and administered by a priestess, in Sweden. Freyr's role as a fertility god needed a female counterpart in a divine couple (McKinnell's translation 1987 [ [http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~alvismal/3search.pdf Heinrichs, Anne: "The Search for Identity: A Problem after the Conversion", in "alvíssmál 3". pp.54-55.] ] ):

In this short story, a man named Gunnar was suspected of manslaughter and escaped to Sweden, where Gunnar became acquainted with this young priestess. He helped her drive Freyr's wagon with the god effigy in it, but the god did not appreciate Gunnar and so attacked him and would have killed Gunnar if he had not promised himself to return to the Christian faith if he would make it back to Norway. When Gunnar had promised this, a demon jumped out off the god effigy and so Freyr was nothing but a piece of wood. Gunnar destroyed the wooden idol and dressed himself as Freyr, and then Gunnar and the priestess travelled across Sweden where people were happy to see the god visiting them. After a while he made the priestess pregnant, but this was seen by the Swedes as confirmation that Freyr was truly a fertility god and not a scam. Finally, Gunnar had to flee back to Norway with his young bride and had her baptized at the court of Olaf Tryggvason.

Other Icelandic sources

Worship of Freyr is alluded to in several Icelanders' sagas.

The protagonist of "Hrafnkels saga" is a priest of Freyr. He dedicates a horse to the god and kills a man for riding it, setting in motion a chain of fateful events.

In "Gísla saga" a chieftain named Þorgrímr Freysgoði is an ardent worshipper of Freyr. When he dies he is buried in a howe.

The sacrifice of dark-coloured victims to Freyr has a parallel in Ancient Greek religion where the chthonic fertility deities preferred dark-coloured victims to white ones.

In book 9, Saxo identifies Frø as the "king of Sweden" ("rex Suetiae"):

The reference to public prostitution may be a memory of fertility cult practices. Such a memory may also be the source of a description in book 6 of the stay of Starcatherus, a follower of Odin, in Sweden.

Yngvi

A strophe of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem (c. 1100) records that:

:"Ing was first among the East Danes seen by men"

This may refer to the origins of the worship of Ingui in the tribal areas that Tacitus mentions in his "Germania" as being populated by the Inguieonnic tribes. A later Danish chronicler lists Ingui was one of three brothers that the Danish tribes descended from. The strophe also states that "then he (Ingui) went back over the waves, his wagon behind him" which could connect Ingui to earlier conceptions of the wagon processions of Nerthus, and the later Scandinavian conceptions of Freyr's wagon journeys.

Ingui is mentioned also in some later Anglo-Saxon literature under varying forms of his name, such as "For what doth Ingeld have to do with Christ", and the variants used in Beowulf to designate the kings as 'leader of the friends of Ing'. The compound Ingui-Frea (OE) and Yngvi-Freyr (ON) likely refer to the connection between the god and the Germanic kings' role as priests during the sacrifices in the pagan period, as 'Frea' and 'Freyr' are titles meaning 'Lord'.

The Swedish royal dynasty was known as the Ynglings from their descent from Yngvi-Freyr. This is supported by Tacitus, who wrote about the Germans: "In their ancient songs, their only way of remembering or recording the past they celebrate an earth-born god Tuisco, and his son Mannus, as the origin of their race, as their founders. To Mannus they assign three sons, from whose names, they say, the coast tribes are called Ingaevones; those of the interior, Herminones; all the rest, Istaevones".

Archaeological record

Rällinge statuette

In 1904, a Viking Age statuette identified as a depiction of Freyr was discovered on the farm Rällinge in Lunda parish in the province of Södermanland, Sweden. The depiction features a cross-legged seated, bearded male with an erect penis. He is wearing a pointed cap and stroking his triangular beard. The statue is 9 centimeters tall and is displayed at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities.Swedish Museum of National Antiquities inventory number 14232. Viewable online: [http://www.historiska.se/historia/jarnaldern/vikingar/hedniskagudar/relaterade-bilder-hedniska-gudar/frejstatyett/] ]

kog Church Tapestry

A part of the Swedish 12th century Skog Church Tapestry depicts three figures often interpreted as allusions to Odin, Thor and Freyr. [ Leiren, Terje I. (1999). "From Pagan to Christian: The Story in the 12th-Century Tapestry of the Skog Church". Published online: http://faculty.washington.edu/leiren/vikings2.html] The figures coincide with 11th century descriptions of statue arrangements recorded by Adam of Bremen at the Temple at Uppsala and written accounts of the gods during the late Viking Age. The tapestry is originally from Hälsingland, Sweden but is now housed at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities.

Parallels

Traditions related to Freyr are also connected with the legendary Danish kings named Fróði, especially Frotho III or Peace-Fróði. He is especially treated in Book Five of Saxo Grammaticus' "Gesta Danorum" and in the "Ynglinga saga". His reign was a golden age of peace and prosperity and after his death his body was drawn around in a cart.

In Catholic Christianity several saints have domains and rites similar to those of Freyr. In some areas of Western-Europe, Saint Blaise was honored as the patron saint of plowmen and farmers. The benediction of grain prior to seeding was associated with him and on Saint Blaise's Day, February 3, a procession was held in his honor. In the procession, a man representing the saint was drawn on a cart throughout the countryside. In some villages, Saint Blaise was also considered a patron of human fecundity and young women wishing to marry prayed before his statue. [Berger 1985, pp. 81-84.] Also noteworthy in this context are the phallic saints who were patrons of human fertility.

In Scandinavia and England, Saint Stephen may have inherited some of Freyr's legacy. His feast day is December 26 and thus he came to play a part in the Yuletide celebrations which were previously associated with Freyr, such as the consumption of the traditional Christmas ham.Spears, James E. Folklore, Vol. 85, No. 3. (Autumn, 1974), pp. 194-198. [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0015-587X%28197423%2985%3A3%3C194%3AT%27HCAF%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D JSTOR] ] In old Swedish art, Stephen is shown as tending to horses and bringing a boar's head to a Yuletide banquet. [Berger 1985, pp. 105-112.] Both elements are extracanonical and may be pagan survivals. Christmas ham is an old tradition in Sweden and may have originated as a Yuletide boar sacrifice to Freyr.

Another saint with a possible connection to Freyr is the 12th century Swedish King Eric. The farmers prayed to St. Eric for fruitful seasons and peace and if there was a year of bad harvest they offered a corn ear of silver to him or gave horses to the church. At May 18, his feast day, the relics of St. Eric were drawn in a cart from Uppsala to Gamla Uppsala. The cult of St. Eric was the only cult of a saint which was allowed after the reformation. [Thordeman 1954.]

Notes

References

* Adam of Bremen (edited by G. Waitz) (1876). "Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum". Berlin. [http://hbar.phys.msu.su/gorm/chrons/bremen.htm Available online] Translation of the section on the Temple at Uppsala available at http://www.northvegr.org/lore/gesta/index.php
* Adam of Bremen (translated by Francis Joseph Tschan and Timothy Reuter) (2002). "History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen". Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12575-5
* Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon (1989). "Íslensk orðsifjabók". Reykjavík: Orðabók Háskólans.
* Berger, Pamela (1985). "The Goddess Obscured: Transformation of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint" Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-6723-7.
* "BookRags Biography on Freyr." "BookRags". Retrieved 8 September 2007, from the World Wide Web. http://www.bookrags.com/biography-freyr-eorl-05/index.html A copyright statement seems to indicate the origin of the article: "Freyr from "Encyclopedia of Religion". Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved."
* Brodeur, Arthur Gilchrist (tr.) (1916). "The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson". New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation. [http://www.northvegr.org/lore/prose/index.php Available online]
* Davidson, Hilda Ellis and Peter Fisher (1999). "Saxo Grammaticus : The History of the Danes : Books I-IX". Bury St Edmunds: St Edmundsbury Press. ISBN 0-85991-502-6. First published 1979-1980.
* Dronke, Ursula (ed.) (1997) "The Poetic Edda: Mythological Poems". Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198111819.
* Dumézil, Georges (1973). "From Myth to Fiction : The Saga of Hadingus". Trans. Derek Coltman. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-16972-3.
* Eysteinn Björnsson (ed.) (2005). "Snorra-Edda: Formáli & Gylfaginning : Textar fjögurra meginhandrita". Published online: http://www.hi.is/~eybjorn/gg/
* Finnur Jónsson (1913). "Goðafræði Norðmanna og Íslendinga eftir heimildum". Reykjavík: Hið íslenska bókmentafjelag.
* Finnur Jónsson (1931). "Lexicon Poeticum". København: S. L. Møllers Bogtrykkeri.
* Guðni Jónsson (ed.) (1949). Eddukvæði : Sæmundar Edda. Reykjavík: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
* Haastrup, Ulla, R. E. Greenwood and Søren Kaspersen (eds.) (2004). "Images of Cult and Devotion : Function and Reception of Christian Images of Medieval and Post-Medieval Europe". Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. ISBN 87-7289-903-4
* Hollander, Lee M. (tr.) (1962). "The Poetic Edda: Translated with an Introduction and Explanatory Notes". (2nd ed., rev.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-76499-5. (Some of the translations appear at [http://www.angelfire.com/on/Wodensharrow/texts.html Wodensharrow: Texts] ).
* Leiren, Terje I. (1999). "From Pagan to Christian: The Story in the 12th-Century Tapestry of the Skog Church". Published online: http://faculty.washington.edu/leiren/vikings2.html
* Lindow, John (2001). "Handbook of Norse mythology". Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio. ISBN 1-57607-217-7.
* Olrik, J. and H. Ræder (1931). "Saxo Grammaticus : Gesta Danorum". [http://www.kb.dk/elib/lit/dan/saxo/lat/or.dsr/index.htm Available online]
* "Rällinge-Frö" "Historiska museet". Retrieved 6 February 2006, from the World Wide Web. http://www.historiska.se/collections/treasures/viking/frej.html
* Thordeman, Bengt (ed.) (1954) "Erik den helige : historia, kult, reliker". Stockholm: Nordisk rotogravyr.
* Thorpe, Benjamin (tr.) (1866). "Edda Sæmundar Hinns Froða : The Edda Of Sæmund The Learned". (2 vols.) London: Trübner & Co. [http://www.northvegr.org/lore/poetic2/000.php Available online]


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