Frigg And Freya

Great Symbols Series @ Theosophy Trust


FRIGG AND FREYA


So may the holy Powers grant thee help,
Frigg and Freya and full many gods,
As thou hast saved me from fear and misery.

Oddrunargratr

 At Freyjuhof there was a sacred grove. Amidst the trees, the sigh of unseen gods in passage echoed. Nor could the arctic blast deter the elemental spirits called Landvaettirs who made the place their home. Their presence in the air spawned a fullness insinuating itself through every gap between the darkening pine, confronting one and heightening a sense of anticipated mystery. Thicker streamed their forces and wilder swayed the boughs until one stepped into a stillness opening and encircling that holy forest's heart. At its very centre rose a horgr, a sanctuary of the goddess, an altar-place of ardent sacrifice. Its eaves swept low like branches snow-laden on a lofty trunk. Within its interior pillars rose, set with divine nails and framing a pedestal on which an arm ring and bowl rested. Oh yes, I have been there. It was long ago. A priest entered from the side door and approached the altar. He was tall and his long hair brushed across its surface as he stooped to pull the heavy ring onto his arm. Behind him an image of the goddess rose with streaming hair and necklace wrought of gold. Below her lay the carcass of the sacrificial hind, whose blood filled the bowl now cradled in the priest's arm. He glanced at her and, taking up a small sprig as an aspergillum, began to sprinkle its crimson contents upon all of us kneeling before the pedestal. Oaths were sworn upon the blood- smeared ring, and the radiance of that goddess seemed to expand and light up the darkness with every uttered vow. Her energy flowed forth, filling us and every corner of the horgr, coursing out in waves through the clearing and the trees. Yes, it was a powerful place, whose fame was known far and wide. Many were the seekers who penetrated that moaning grove to stand in the presence of Frigg – or was it Freya?

 Are they not the same, Frigg and Freya, Freya and Frigg? Do they not both reign supreme in Odin's realm? Why then are there two names, and why is there confusion about which is which? Why should a visitor to Freyjuhof, even in memories of the distant past, be unsure of the authoress of such overwhelming beauty and power?

 One explanation for the confusion of Frigg with Freya is that the latter was identical with the former amongst the Germans but a separate divinity in Scandinavia. The Nordic people envisioned Frigg as distinctly tall and stately. To them she appeared wearing feathers, a pure white robe girdled with a belt and a key-chain of gold. Orion's circle of stars was her spinning wheel, upon which she spun the finest golden threads. Called Frigg or Frigga, she was the mother of the gods, and her throne, Hlidskialf, was lofty and revered. In the older legends she was sometimes called Holda and Berchta in her guise as benefactress of mankind. She was dignified and aloof, and only in the later sagas was she occasionally associated with using womanly cunning to gain her own ends. Freya, on the other hand, was believed to be a birthling of Vanirs known as Vanadis. Upon her arrival in Asgard, she so charmed the gods that she was given Folkvang (People's Plain), and the great hall Sessrúmnir ('Roomy-seated') was erected to accommodate her many guests. She was the only daughter of Njördr, whose home, Noatún, was known as the Ship Enclosure or Anchorage. Closely associated with the sea, he was the primordial god of the Vanirs who controlled the winds and was therefore worshipped by sailors. With her twin brother Freyr, Freya came from the southern seas embodying beauty and desirous fertility. Her wagon was richly adorned and drawn by cats, closely associated with magic and sensuousness, and her love of jewellery was emblazoned on her breast in the form of her dazzling necklace Brisingamen, an emblem of the stars and of fruitfulness-to-be.

 The ancient Norse held that the oldest female deity was Nott (Night), the mother of the earth, Fjorgyn. To conceive this offspring, Nott spawned the primeval Indo-European sky god traceable in the names of Djevs, Dyaus, Tiwaz and Zeus. Her dark mystery was gradually supplanted by the more tangible nature of her daughter, who in turn was the parent of Frigg. In Gylfaginning, Snorri wrote that "Odin's wife is called Frigg, Fjorgyn's daughter, and from their union sprang the race whom we call the Aesir, who settled ancient Asgard and parts running up to it: they are the gods." As their mother, Frigg is third in three generations of earth mothers, identifying her with a manifesting succession of the feminine principle. In a parallel to the Greek Ouranos and Gaia, Fjorgyn can be seen as the spouse of Odin in his earlier guise of Tiwaz, an arrangement reflected in the coupling of celestial and terrestrial generations to come.

 The Old Norse feminine of 'Aesir' was 'Asynnur', of whom Snorri said, "Frigg comes before any: hers is the palace called Fensalir (Sea Halls). . . a magnificent spot!" Her character and function were extended through her handmaidens: Fulla, the pure maid who looked after the valuables and knew all her secrets; Hlyn, the protector of her devotees; and Gna, whom she sent as a messenger into the nine worlds. Aspects of Frigg can be found in these and other goddesses, expanding her nature and lending her a multifaceted power. But of the many who could be named, only she had the right to sit on Odin's throne and scan the worlds to possess knowledge of the future. She worked to further law and order, nurtured agriculture, apportioned fields, consecrated landmarks, and cared for the souls of unborn children as well as those who died young and earned a respite in her lovely gardens under streams and lakes. She worked with these variables of life and death but could not affect their ultimate outcome. For though she knew the future, it was not in her power to alter it or advise others to avoid a certain course of action. Still, she sat in Fensalir with her handmaidens and rewarded the diligence of men with threads spun of living gold. She also held council with her omniscient husband regarding the fate of the world and he valued her opinion highly. Odin once said:

You're mad now, Loki,
And out of your mind!
Why don't you, Loki, leave off?
Frigg I know is
Wise in all fates
Though herself will say no fortunes.

Lokasenna

 The name Frigg can be traced back to the Indo-European root prij, love', from which the name Priapus was derived in Asia Minor. While this overlaps into the name and identity of Freya, it is fruitful to pursue the braided linguistic lineage, for it is traceable to the Sanskrit preya, which means 'wife' and 'beloved'. This became Frija in the Old High German, Frea amongst the Lombards, and Frig in the Anglo-Saxon dialects. Among the Germans Freya's name became the title of high-ranking ladies, from which terms like frau and fra were derived. Used as a verb, her name meant 'to woo'. Thus the 'beloved' who is wife and highborn lady is also the lover' who is wooed, a somewhat contradictory package reflecting in a complex linguistic development the intersecting evolution of the two goddesses. But where Frigg's maids protect her bounty and her votaries and carry her orders into the nine worlds, Freya's maids (Sjöfn, Lofn and Vár) sigh for lovers, bring them together, and listen to the desires of every human heart. Freya is extended through them and through the many guises she adopts, such as those assumed while seeking her own lost spouse. Thus, she is Gefn or Gefion the giver; Mardoll, the lady of the sea; Syr, the sow or boar of fertility; Horn, the flax symbolizing vegetation; or Skiálf, the name taken by an early Swedish queen married to King Agni who wore a boar helmet and worshipped the Vanirs. Known by many names, she is nevertheless not identified as one who may sit on Odin's throne. The Nordic skalds raised Frigg alone to this position and gave to Freya the second place, saying she was "exalted with Frigg". Freya was goddess of beauty and love, worshipped by lovers, but when marriage was solemnized it was great Frigg who was invoked. Frigg was part of an older, aristocratic pantheon worshipped by kings and noblemen. Freya was more earthy and seemingly more human. Perhaps in a way similar to eastern and Mediterranean goddesses, Frigg and Freya can be seen as dimensions of the same being expressing themselves as mother, lover and virgin (like Hera, Aphrodite and Artemis of the Greek pantheon), the three main aspects of womanhood. Or perhaps the two represent very different states reflecting and affecting the nature of the principles with which they correspond.

 Freya reigned over the reunion of lovers and bore a high regard for the romance of love. Death itself, she vowed, shall not keep lovers apart. But her prodigality in love shocked even the gods. Her amorous adventures linked her with all of them, including evil Loki masquerading as a flea! It was also said that she brought practices of sorcery to the Aesirs and tutored Odin himself in their arts. Witchery and bewitching qualities surrounded her but did not dampen the enthusiasm with which she was worshipped by the Nordic people. Favourite of the Swedish kings who sacrificed to the Vanirs, Freya had many temples throughout Scandinavia and northern Europe. Many place-names in Norway and Sweden translate as 'Freya's temple', 'Freya's meadow', 'Freya's sanctuary', 'Freya's grove', etc. The last to be maintained by her votaries in Germany was at Magdeburg, where it flourished until it was destroyed by order of Charlemagne. With the advent of such Christian domination, Freya was declared a demon and banished to mountainous peaks like the Brocken in East Germany, where her demon train was believed to find its trysting place on Valpurgisnacht. Her sacred groves became silenced by the heavy footfall of intolerance and her graceful horgrs mouldered in their depths. No more the whispered convocation of ancient unseen gods, nor were there ears to hear the ghostly Landvaettirs. The power that was once so boldly framed by Freya's own lips now echoed only in the phrases of the poet's song:

horg hann mér gordi hladinn steinum,
Nú er grjót bat at gleri ordit;
Raud hann at nyju nauta blódi;
Ae trúdi Óttar á ásynjur.

He raised a horgr for me, piled with stones;
Now all that rock has turned to glass;
He reddened it anew with blood of oxen;
Always Óttar put faith in goddesses.

 Perhaps the trait that gave such an edge to the latter-day reaction to Freya was her utter lack of shame in her pursuit of some object of desire. She was joyfully amoral and did not hesitate to perform even the most flagrant or distasteful act of love in order to indulge her intense desire for the necklace Brisingamen. She wanted this glittering prize so badly that she was willing to do anything to get it. When the necklace was stolen by Loki and retrieved by Odin, he punished her severely for her folly, saying that she could have it back only if she engaged from then on in creating everlasting war. One hears in this proclamation an echo of the circumstances surrounding an early Vanir sorceress called Gullveig ('gold-lust'), who brought desire and unrest to the Aesirs, leading to the War in Heaven. Freya celebrated desire in her character and she stimulated it in all who laid eyes on her. Many are the tales of giants, dwarfs and gods lusting for her beauty. She aroused in them such intense longing that great cosmological struggles ever followed in the wake of her career.

 Heimdal, standing guard at the foot of Bifrost bridge, was approached one day by a man riding upon a great stallion. Asking to be presented to the gods and goddesses in Asgard, he proposed that he would rebuild the great wall protecting their domain from the Rock and Frost Giants. In return he asked for Freya, the sun and the moon. Odin was incensed by this request, but the wily Loki urged him to agree, promising that he would find a way to outwit the mason. Day and night the man toiled to complete the wall within the allotted time. He used his giant steed to pull the great stones and rapidly laid up an impregnable edifice. As he approached the final gate and appeared to be finishing the work in time, the gods became alarmed. But Loki bade them relax, and turning himself into an attractive mare, he lured the mighty stallion away, making it impossible for the mason to complete the job. So intense was his desire for Freya that when the mason lost the wager for her, he lost his head and flew into a towering rage, revealing himself as none other than a Rock Giant. The 'necklace-glad' Freya merely rejoiced with her escape and blithely continued on her path of beauty and desire. Even in her greatest sorrow, trekking after her departed spouse, she wept tears of lustrous gold and stunned the hearts of all. She was desire and she was desired like gold, flashing and melting and setting afire the longing for possession.

 From Chaos rose broad-bosomed Earth, the sure and everlasting seat of all that is, and after. Love.

HESIOD

 Love, who is most beautiful among the immortal gods, the melter of limbs, overwhelms in their hearts the intelligence and wise counsel of all gods and all men.

HESIOD

 It would be too simple to say that wifely and motherly love belong to Frigg and are higher than the desirous love that Freya represents. For love in its broadest sense is based upon desire and every kind of longing for happiness. It is that which embraces and culminates in beauty, opening wide the doors of expansion. As Diotima instructed Socrates, "Beauty is the goddess of both fate and travail, and so when < procreancy draws near the beautiful, it grows genial and blithe, and birth follows swiftly on conception." she taught him that the universal longing for propagation existed because "this is the one deathless and eternal element in our mortality". this is so basic that it blossoms in a soil untouched by questions of worldly morality, producing a flower of unquenchable yearning, the power underlying all evolution. when in the human mind and heart this becomes focussed upon an external object, all the dazzling beauty of freya's necklace is placed upon its form and it is transformed into an image of the goddess herself. to say that the love of spouse or child is of another, loftier kind is to misunderstand the ubiquitous and primary nature of this force. but as diotima said, in approaching the sanctuary of love one begins with individual beauties while "the quest for the universal beauty must find him ever mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung. . .from bodily beauty to the beauty of institutions, from institutions to learning, and from learning in general to the special love that pertains to nothing but the beautiful itself". she then assured socrates that once one has beheld it, one could never again be seduced by the charm of gold or earthly forms of beauty.

 Frigg, the beloved of Odin, is pure beauty awakened to the passing fortunes operating in the nine worlds. But she reigns above the desire to manipulate them. Yet, when her darling son, Balder, was killed and he entered into the realm of Hel, she exerted every influence at her command to ransom him back. Freya dips further into desire, embodying it, as it were, and sublimating everything to further its realization. The laws of cause and effect expressing a cosmic morality do not claim her attention as she works to promote the fulfilment of the heart. What men call virtue is subtle and hidden within the twin currents of desire and dispassion. It is not easy to separate them and to expose the nugget concealed therein. For, as Diotima taught, "it is only when he discerns beauty itself through what makes it visible that a man will be quickened with the true, and not the seeming, virtue – for it is virtue's self that quickens him, not virtue's semblance". Freya's very oneness with desire may be considered to more closely approximate this condition of fusion. But there are so many levels upon which her character can be analysed that at this point it would be premature to measure her by Plato's yardstick. It may be instructive, instead, to re-examine the coming of the Vanirs into the realm of the Aesirs and the migration of ideas that accompanied this cosmogonic and historic event. For this brought about the meeting of Frigg and Freya and the subsequent division of love's labours into their various natures.

 It has been said that Freya forms a link through Frigg between the Vanirs and the Aesirs. Worshippers of the Vanirs were very conscious of the earth and venerated their ancestors buried within it. The Aesirs were more remote denizens of the sky. Thus, behind Freya was the earth mother and the watery sea. But Frigg too hailed originally from the warmer and more sensual climes of Asia Minor. She too had made the long journey north to the icy halls of Asgard. Like the Vanirs, she was basically a goddess of farming people who was joined by gods and goddesses of hunters. It seems that as she moved northward, she became colder and more chaste, her lustiness eventually shifting to her alter ego, Freya. But this was long after she arrived, for Frigg is identified as Odin's wife in both Eddas and called the mother of the gods long before the Vanirs came. When they did come, Freya brought with her intact all the assertive power of the ancient Asian and Mediterranean earth mothers who harkened back to the days of strong matriarchal societies and worship of the feminine principle in Nature. When she met Frigg in Scandinavia, she encountered a pale version of herself, a goddess who reigned as mother but under the domination of a powerful sky father. This was a Frigg somewhat diminished in comparison with her counterpart, who continued to enjoy a central role in the worship of the ancient people of Germany and who was described so vividly by Tacitus:

 There is nothing remarkable about any of these tribes unless it be the common worship of. . . Mother Earth. They believe she is interested in men's affairs and drives among them. On an island in the ocean sea there is a sacred grove wherein waits a holy wagon covered by a drape. One priest only is allowed to touch it. He can feel the presence of the goddess when she is there in her sanctuary and accompanies her with great reverence as she is pulled along by kine. It is a time of festive holiday-making in whatever place she deigns to honour with her advent and stay. No one goes to war, no one takes up arms, in fact every weapon is put away: only at that time are peace and quiet known and prized until the goddess, having had enough of people's company, is at last restored by the same priest to her temple. After which, the wagon and the drape, and if you like to believe me, the deity herself, are bathed in a mysterious pool. The rite is performed by slaves who, as soon as it is done, are drowned in the lake. In this way mystery begets dread and pious ignorance concerning what that sight may be which only those about to die are allowed to see.

Germania

 The wagon described by Tacitus is reminiscent of that belonging to Freya in the Nordic myths. It is evidence of how the attributes of both goddesses were merged in an antique Indo-European mother deity, who can be traced through the Indo-European-speaking tribes to a source language and culture existing perhaps six thousand years ago. Within two thousand years the Germanic-speaking branch of the vast, migrating family had penetrated into what was known as Scandin-anja, where they toughened and endured in the harsh lands of the midnight sun. Around a thousand years before the Christian era, certain of these hardy northerners began to migrate south, pushing their way into the territories of the Celtic people and reaching southern Germany by 200 B.C.E. These were the tribes observed by Tacitus, from whom sprang the Frisians, Dutch, Germans and Anglo-Saxons. Four centuries earlier, another group of these northerners had migrated south to the Carpathian Mountains, where they became the Lombards, Burgundians, Rugians, Goths and Vandals. They came in contact with the Greeks and Dacians, from whom they learnt of the gods and goddesses of Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. Through these wandering tribes the new ideas were transmitted northward along the great Amber Route to the 'old home', where they were first resisted and then blended with the earlier beliefs. With this new importation from the south, something all-embracing and subtle in the character of Frigg was elevated, and room was made for what must have seemed like a dazzling new starlet who brought vivacity, love, sorcery, and a penchant for stirring up drama in her train.

 Another way of looking at Frigg is that she was not so much elevated as that she generated out of herself those qualities appropriate to a daughter figure which were embodied in the character of the new Vanir goddess. For Frigg is very much like Demeter ploughing the land and making it fruitful. In this she is also akin to Isis, who gave birth to a saviour son and grieved his untimely death, or Ishtar, whose son was the vegetation god who died through his mother's action. She is 'the White Lady of Midsummer', the flaxen-haired matron who sits thoughtfully, dressed in the plumage of hawk and falcon. Freya too wore a feathered cloak, but she was more like Persephone, whose love of beauty and desire led her into a glen where she was drawn captive into the underworld. Like Persephone, Freya was absent in the autumn and winter, leaving the earth barren while she wandered far to the south. The cycles of fertility, birth and death are described in her abandonment to desire, her eternally fresh beauty, and her involvement with war and the souls of the slain. She intensely loved her husband Odr (who was a shadowy double for Odin), with whom she had two beautiful daughters. But Odr periodically wandered off, leaving her to weep and seek throughout the worlds for his whereabouts. It is said that her tears fell upon hard rocks, which softened with their contact and became pure gold. This precious metal was known as Freya's Tears to the skalds who sang of how she journeyed far to the south until she found Odr beneath the myrtle trees. Seeing him, her tears dried and she became radiant as the two wended their way home. Their joy caused the grass to grow and flowers to bloom wherever they stepped. With their passage northward, spring once again gained ascendancy over the bleakness of a wintry world.

Out of the morning land,
Over the snowdrifts,
Beautiful Freya came
Tripping to Scoring.
White were the moorlands,
And frozen before her;
Green were the moorlands,
And blooming behind her.
Out of her gold locks
Shaking the spring flowers,
Out of her garments
Shaking the south wind,
Around the birches
Awakening the throstles,
And making chaste housewives all
Long for their heroes home,
Loving and love-giving,
Came she to Scoring.

Longbeard's Saga

 The repeated wanderings and magical encounters experienced by Freya are in harmony with the roles of seership and sorcery associated with her. Seidr was the name of the special Vanir witchcraft that Freya brought to Asgard. Practitioners on earth imitated the goddess, roaming about the countryside in wagons, visiting farms at feast time and answering questions put to them. To perform the seidr, a platform was erected with a lofty seat on which a Volva (seeress) sat. Those who knew the spells sang them in a chorus until the seeress fell into an ecstatic trance. When she was fully entranced, she was able to answer questions put to her. Such a session is described in Eirik's Saga Randa, where the seeress, acting as intermediary between heaven and earth and dressed in a bird-feather cloak and cat-skin gloves, descended into the realm of the dead in order to cull the knowledge that would allow her to predict the end of a current famine and the destiny of the girl who had sung the spell. It is reported that she also gave answers to individual questions and that "little that she said went unfulfilled".

 Frigg too had duties that followed this roaming pattern, for she travelled around as the Benevolent Mother blessing the childbirths of properly married women. But hers was not the wagon drawn by cats, nor did she share with Freya the close association with those animals so intimately linked with the supernatural journey. There was an older magic drawn, as it were, from Mimir's Well, and Frigg, in her closeness to Odin who imbibed it, was aware of it. It must be remembered that Mimir was a font of wisdom and the wisest of the Aesirs. The magic he offered was insight into the heart of cosmic law. When the Vanirs threatened Asgard, he was given to them as a hostage in return for Freya and Freyr. The Vanirs cut off his head and returned it to their erstwhile enemies, and Odin pickled it in order to continue to gain whatever wisdom he could from it. Even the 'pickled' wisdom of Mimir was greater than the magical seership of the Volvas, greater in scope and meaning and less circumscribed by time. Frigg knew of this deeper wisdom but could not speak of it. In her relative remoteness she loved and grieved quietly, witnessing the cycles unfolding throughout the worlds. Perhaps this is why she herself was instrumental in bringing about the death of her beloved Balder. When she revealed his vulnerability to Loki, she did so in seeming innocence. But knowledge gained on Odin's throne would have revealed to her Balder's impending death as well as the necessity which it fulfilled. She acted necessarily as the instrument which turns the cyclic wheel, and though she sent Hermód to the underworld to ransom her son, she did not try to win him back through sorcery or charms.

 With Freya came the new magic, and it was laced with a different aspect of desire than Odin's penchant for wisdom or Frigg's longing to be reunited with her son. For the Vanirs were amoral. They did not bring to men ideals of justice or goodness but gave the power of creative life and increase and provided a link to the invisible world. The old wisdom was 'pickled' and handed down as laws and teachings, just as it had been in all the ancient cultures with the advent of Kali Yuga and the further concretization of ideation that would follow.

 Now the pure desire principle must operate in a less ethereal matrix, assuming the greater limits and gravity of less translucent matter. Human beings were more thoroughly incarnated, their consciousness no longer consubstantial with the invisible realms that surrounded them. Orgies to recapture the mythic chaos that existed before creation (making it possible for creation to be repeated) became a substitute for wisdom, which transcends beginnings and endings and taps creativity at its unmanifest source. This is not to say that all the followers of the earliest Nordic gods possessed this wisdom, but rather that they experienced an intuitive closeness to it, and saw the earth more as its shadowy reflection. With the coming of Freya, the contrast between opposites was sharpened, winter and summer more dramatically separated, and the desire for what was, could be or will be was intensified. The lower manasic awareness of 'otherness' grew, and inevitable discontent and war followed. Gullveig brought the War in Heaven; Freya brought it to human beings on earth. Even her home, Folkvanger, can be interpreted as 'battlefield', and the seats in her spacious hall were filled with the souls of the slain. Thus she was known as Valfreya, leader of the Valkyries. But death was not her desired goal, for she welcomed all pure maids and faithful wives to join their fallen heroes, her promise of such joys actually enticing bold Nordic women to rush into battle when their loved ones had been slain, in hopes of meeting them in Sessrúmnir. Freya did not glory in death but sought to keep alive the desire for life. Like the flowers springing up behind her, human beings were reborn through her desire.

 The Planetary origin of the Monad (Soul) and of its faculties was taught by the Gnostics. On its way to the Earth, as on its way back from the Earth, each soul born in, and from, the 'Boundless Light' had to pass through the seven planetary regions both ways.

The Secret Doctrine

 Thus, the soul came through Venus, who is Virgo-Astraea, on its way towards manifestation on earth. Frigg, like Demeter, is a counterpart to Venus, and Freya to Venus-Aphrodite, who sprang from the southern sea. They both represent necessary vestures (principles) that must be acquired by the monad in order to participate in the fully manifest realm. They personify, on a less causal level, the function of "the Astral Rulers of the Spheres (the planets) [who] create the monads (the Souls) from their own substance out of the tears of their eyes, and the sweat of their torments". One could say that, in this sense, Frigg and Freya themselves are born through Venus. This is especially true of Freya, who comes with her twin brother in such a tight package that they can be referred to as hermaphrodites, children of Venus-Hermaphrodite or Sukra. For it is through Sukra that the "'Double-ones' of the Third (Root Race) descended from the first 'Sweat Born'." The Nordic pantheon harkens back to a time before the rise of the Third Race, its own appearance occurring in the course of development of a cosmology beginning in Chaos itself. The appearance of the Vanirs echoes the greater cycle in which the Third Race 'fell' to earth. It marks a latter third substage in the evolution of that early Aryan offshoot which, as part of the fifth Indo-European race, migrated into the northern remnant of what was once ancient Lemuria. This series of cosmogonical cycles within cosmological cycles is also reflected in Freya's search for Odr and Frigg's quest (through Hermód sent into the underworld) for Balder, which can be seen as an analogous recapitulation of Virgo-Astraea falling into 'the pit' and bringing seasonal death to the world.

 The sorcery and promiscuity associated with Freya are, then, grounded or earthed analogues of the great force of generation which feeds off death and gives birth to life, endlessly travelling through one to reveal the other. It is, in its most abstract sense, an impersonal and amoral force. It is neither black nor white but merely an engine of necessity. Freya, however, clearly revels unrestrainedly in that force, and her power seems to threaten the basic order and self-control human beings require to develop beyond the level of likes and dislikes. Frigg is safer. She holds herself aloof from the pit. She never really falls. As such, she retains a virginal quality in her wifely and matriarchal nature and lends to the earth-mother role a regal dignity born of a higher sense of law and duty. It is as if one goddess turned to us a profile revealing a clear brow traced with pale silken locks, an eye unclouded with desire, a cheek seemingly moulded by a cloud, and a mouth fine yet firmly set, only to reverse her stance and unveil a laughing eye gleaming beneath a daringly arched brow, with golden hair swirling around moistly parted lips. Like all things feminine, it is unsettling because we do not know which way it will go, which is the true inner nature. But one should recall that Plato placed his loftiest teachings on the arcane subject of love in the mouth of a woman. It is fitting that a woman like Diotima should instruct the great philosopher Socrates, for as she herself said, it is only when man discerns beauty through that which makes it visible, that which gives it birth – like a mother giving birth to her child – that he discovers its essence within himself. Freya may be unsettling, but it is precisely her determination not to settle for semblances, but to plunge in and become one with the desirable object as well as desire itself, that makes her a valid reflection of Diotima's teaching. Somewhere in the blending of her fearless desire and Frigg's faithful dignity lies the transcendent liberation of unconditional love, love which needs no object but exists in and of itself as that which first arose in It.

 In the sacred grove at Freyjuhof, the moaning wind still whispers and behind each curving bough a presence moves unseen. At every turn a promise of fulfilment seems to hover and then glide away. It leads the halting footsteps on, beyond the normal path, into the deepest woods that bramble round the human heart. Be not afraid to step therein. You can only lose your conditioned life. You can only fall into the darkness of unconditioned light. But if you fear and hesitate, the moment's chance will pass, and all that lived so long ago will fade into a dream. The giants that strode the earth, the Aesirs and Vanirs, will seep away beyond your grasp and take with them the bridge that joins your world to theirs. Gathering courage, the footsteps continue, moving with the unseen forces, guided by their subtle pressures towards the centre of the grove. There the quiet is deafening, the low-slung eaves of the horgr seem to sway and bow in gentle greeting. The arctic wind, swirling around the edge of the wood, slows to match the coiled stillness, the breathless anticipation of communion with the goddess. Slowly the feet move towards the door of the sanctuary, soundlessly they step inside and stop as the eyes widen to take in the living presence of beauty. Adorned with stars set in gold upon her breast, with flowers and flaxen hair, she is overwhelming in her queenly magnificence, shattering in her wounding loveliness. The heart brims with love and worships her as it did so long ago. O hail to thee, fair Freya, commander of my soul. Take thou this sacrifice before thee, this vessel of my life. Hail to thee. Blessed Freya – or are you Frigg?

Youth, enter thou my shining hall
Where love and joy preside;
Where hearts all find their own desire
And loved ones lost abide.

The coward calls my hall the grave,
My kiss he fears like death;
The brave leap boldly through my door
For their immortal breath.