Goddess of marriage, prophecy, the household, family, clairvoyance, and motherhood
|Member of the Ásynjur|
|Name in Old Norse||Óðinn|
|Symbols||spinning wheel, silver, mistletoe, spindle, distaff|
|Offspring||Baldr, Hodr, Hermod, Tyr|
Frigg (//; Old Norse: [ˈfriɡː]) is a goddess, one of the Æsir, in Germanic mythology. In Norse mythology, the source of most surviving information about her, she is associated with marriage, prophecy, clairvoyance and motherhood, and dwells in the wetland halls of Fensalir. In wider Germanic mythology, she is known in Old High German as Frīja, in Langobardic as Frēa, in Old English as Frīg, in Old Frisian as Frīa, and in Old Saxon as Frī, all ultimately stemming from the Proto-Germanic theonym *Frijjō. Nearly all sources portray her as the wife of the god Odin.
In Old High German and Old Norse sources, she is specifically connected with Fulla, but she is also associated with the goddesses Lofn, Hlín, Gná, and ambiguously with the Earth, otherwise personified as an apparently separate entity Jörð (Old Norse: 'Earth'). The children of Frigg and Odin include the gleaming god Baldr.
The English weekday name Friday (ultimately meaning 'Frigg's Day') bears her name. After Christianization, the mention of Frigg continued to occur in Scandinavian folklore. During modern times, Frigg has appeared in popular culture, has been the subject of art and receives veneration in Germanic Neopaganism.
Name and origin
The theonyms Frigg (Old Norse), Frīja (Old High German), Frīg (Old English), Frīa (Old Frisian), and Frī (Old Saxon) are cognates. They stem from the Proto-Germanic feminine noun *Frijjō, which emerged as a substantivized feminine of the adjective *frijaz ('free') via Holtzmann's law. In a clan-based societal system, the meaning 'free' arose from the meaning 'related'. The name is indeed etymologically close to the Sanskrit priyā and the Avestan fryā ('own, dear, beloved'), all ultimately descending from the Proto-Indo-European stem *priH-o-, denoting 'one's own, beloved'. The Proto-Germanic verb *frijōnan ('to love'), as well as the nouns *frijōndz ('friend') and *friþuz or *frijađwō ('friendship, peace') are also related.
An -a suffix has been sometimes applied by modern editors to denote femininity, resulting in the form Frigga. This spelling also serves the purpose of distancing the goddess from the English word frig. Several place names refer to Frigg in what are now Norway and Sweden, although her name is altogether absent in recorded place names in Denmark.
Origin of Frigg
The connection with and possible earlier identification of the goddess Freyja with Frigg in the Proto-Germanic period (Frigg and Freyja origin hypothesis) is a matter of scholarly debate. Like the name of the group of gods to which Freyja belongs, the Vanir, the name Freyja is not attested outside of Scandinavia. This is in contrast to the name of the goddess Frigg, who is attested as a goddess common among the Germanic peoples, and whose name is reconstructed as Proto-Germanic *Frijjō. Evidence does not exist for the existence of a common Germanic goddess from which Old Norse Freyja descends, but scholars have commented that this may simply be due to the scarcity of surviving sources.
Regarding a Freyja–Frigg common origin hypothesis, scholar Stephan Grundy comments that "the problem of whether Frigg or Freyja may have been a single goddess originally is a difficult one, made more so by the scantiness of pre-Viking Age references to Germanic goddesses, and the diverse quality of the sources. The best that can be done is to survey the arguments for and against their identity, and to see how well each can be supported."
Origin of Friday
The English weekday name Friday comes from Old English Frīġedæġ, meaning 'day of Frig'. It is cognate with Old Frisian Frīadei (≈ Fri(g)endei), Middle Dutch Vridach, and Old High German Frîatac, which was borrowed into Old Norse as Frjádagr. All of these terms derive from Late Proto-Germanic *Frijjōdag ('Day of Frijjō'), a calque of Latin Veneris dies ('Day of Venus'; cf. modern Italian venerdì, French vendredi, Spanish viernes).
Origo Gentis Langobardorum and Historia Langobardorum
The 7th-century Origo Gentis Langobardorum, and Paul the Deacon's 8th-century Historia Langobardorum derived from it, recount a founding myth of the Langobards, a Germanic people who ruled a region of what is now Italy (see Lombardy). According to this legend, a "small people" known as the Winnili were ruled by a woman named Gambara who had two sons, Ybor and Agio. The Vandals, ruled by Ambri and Assi, came to the Winnili with their army and demanded that they pay them tribute or prepare for war. Ybor, Agio, and their mother Gambara rejected their demands for tribute. Ambra and Assi then asked the god Godan for victory over the Winnili, to which Godan responded (in the longer version in the Origo): "Whom I shall first see when at sunrise, to them will I give the victory."
Meanwhile, Ybor and Agio called upon Frea, Godan's wife. Frea counseled them that "at sunrise the Winnil[i] should come, and that their women, with their hair let down around the face in the likeness of a beard should also come with their husbands". At sunrise, Frea turned Godan's bed around to face east and woke him. Godan saw the Winnili, including their whiskered women, and asked "who are those Long-beards?" Frea responded to Godan, "As you have given them a name, give them also the victory". Godan did so, "so that they should defend themselves according to his counsel and obtain the victory". Thenceforth the Winnili were known as the Langobards (Langobardic "long-beards").
Second Merseburg Incantation
A 10th-century manuscript found in what is now Merseburg, Germany, features an invocation known as the Second Merseburg Incantation. The incantation calls upon various continental Germanic gods, including Old High German Frija and a goddess associated with her—Volla, to assist in healing a horse:
In the Poetic Edda, compiled during the 13th century from earlier traditional material, Frigg is mentioned in the poems Völuspá, Vafþrúðnismál, the prose of Grímnismál, Lokasenna, and Oddrúnargrátr.
Frigg receives three mentions in the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá. In the first mention the poem recounts that Frigg wept for the death of her son Baldr in Fensalir. Later in the poem, when the future death of Odin is foretold, Odin is referred to as the "beloved of Frigg" and his future death is referred to as the "second grief of Frigg". Like the reference to Frigg weeping in Fensalir earlier in the poem, the implied "first grief" is a reference to the grief she felt upon the death of her son, Baldr.
Frigg plays a prominent role in the prose introduction to the poem, Grímnismál. The introduction recounts that two sons of king Hrauðungr, Agnar (age 10) and Geirröðr (age 8), once sailed out with a trailing line to catch small fish, but wind drove them out into the ocean and, during the darkness of night, their boat wrecked. The brothers went ashore, where they met a crofter. They stayed on the croft for one winter, during which the couple separately fostered the two children: the old woman fostered Agnar and the old man fostered Geirröðr. Upon the arrival of spring, the old man brought them a ship. The old couple took the boys to the shore, and the old man took Geirröðr aside and spoke to him. The boys entered the boat and a breeze came.
The boat returned to the harbor of their father. Geirröðr, forward in the ship, jumped to shore and pushed the boat, containing his brother, out and said "go where an evil spirit may get thee." Away went the ship and Geirröðr walked to a house, where he was greeted with joy; while the boys were gone, their father had died, and now Geirröðr was king. He "became a splendid man." The scene switches to Odin and Frigg sitting in Hliðskjálf, "look[ing] into all the worlds." Odin says: "'Seest thou Agnar, thy foster-son, where he is getting children a giantess [Old Norse gȳgi] in a cave? while Geirröd, my foster son, is a king residing in his country.' Frigg answered, 'He is so inhospitable that he tortures his guests, if he thinks that too many come.'"
Odin replied that this was a great untruth and so the two made a wager. Frigg sent her "waiting-maid" Fulla to warn Geirröðr to be wary, lest a wizard who seeks him should harm him, and that he would know this wizard by the refusal of dogs, no matter how ferocious, to attack the stranger. While it was not true that Geirröðr was inhospitable with his guests, Geirröðr did as instructed and had the wizard arrested. Upon being questioned, the wizard, wearing a blue cloak, said no more than that his name is Grímnir. Geirröðr has Grímnir tortured and sits him between two fires for 8 nights. Upon the 9th night, Grímnir is brought a full drinking horn by Geirröðr's son, Agnar (so named after Geirröðr's brother), and the poem continues without further mention or involvement of Frigg.
In the poem Lokasenna, where Loki accuses nearly every female in attendance of promiscuity and/or unfaithfulness, an aggressive exchange occurs between the god Loki and the goddess Frigg (and thereafter between Loki and the goddess Freyja about Frigg). A prose introduction to the poem describes that numerous gods and goddesses attended a banquet held by Ægir. These gods and goddesses include Odin and, "his wife", Frigg.
Frigg is mentioned throughout the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. Frigg is first mentioned in the Prose Edda Prologue, wherein a euhemerized account of the Norse gods is provided. The author describes Frigg as the wife of Odin, and, in a case of folk etymology, the author attempts to associate the name Frigg with the Latin-influenced form Frigida. The Prologue adds that both Frigg and Odin "had the gift of prophecy."
In the next section of the Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, High tells Gangleri (the king Gylfi in disguise) that Frigg, daughter of Fjörgynn (Old Norse Fjörgynsdóttir) is married to Odin and that the Æsir are descended from the couple, and adds that "the earth [Jörðin] was [Odin's] daughter and his wife." According to High, the two had many sons, the first of which was the mighty god Thor.
Later in Gylfaginning, Gangleri asks about the ásynjur, a term for Norse goddesses. High says that "highest" among them is Frigg and that only Freyja "is highest in rank next to her." Frigg dwells in Fensalir "and it is very splendid." In this section of Gylfaginning, Frigg is also mentioned in connection to other ásynjur: Fulla carries Frigg's ashen box, "looks after her footwear and shares her secrets;" Lofn is given special permission by Frigg and Odin to "arrange unions" among men and women; Hlín is charged by Frigg to protect those that Frigg deem worthy of keeping from danger; and Gná is sent by Frigg "into various worlds to carry out her business."
In section 49 of Gylfaginning, a narrative about the fate of Frigg's son Baldr is told. According to High, Baldr once started to have dreams indicating that his life was in danger. When Baldr told his fellow Æsir about his dreams, the gods met together for a thing and decided that they should "request immunity for Baldr from all kinds of danger." Frigg subsequently receives promises from the elements, the environment, diseases, animals, and stones, amongst other things. The request successful, the Æsir make sport of Baldr's newfound invincibility; shot or struck, Baldr remained unharmed. However, Loki discovers this and is not pleased by this turn of events, so, in the form of a woman, he goes to Frigg in Fensalir.
There, Frigg asks this female visitor what the Æsir are up to assembled at the thing. The woman says that all of the Æsir are shooting at Baldr and yet he remains unharmed. Frigg explains that "Weapons and wood will not hurt Baldr. I have received oaths from them all." The woman asks Frigg if all things have sworn not to hurt Baldr, to which Frigg notes one exception; "there grows a shoot of a tree to the west of Val-hall. It is called mistletoe. It seemed young to me to demand the oath from." Loki immediately disappears.
Now armed with mistletoe, Loki arrives at the thing where the Æsir are assembled and tricks the blind Höðr, Baldr's brother, into shooting Baldr with a mistletoe projectile. To the horror of the assembled gods, the mistletoe goes directly through Baldr, killing him. Standing in horror and shock, the gods are initially only able to weep due to their grief. Frigg speaks up and asks "who there was among the Æsir who wished to earn all her love and favour and was willing to ride the road to Hel and try if he could find Baldr, and offer Hel a ransom if she would let Baldr go back to Asgard."
Hermóðr, Baldr's brother, accepts Frigg's request and rides to Hel. Meanwhile, Baldr is given a grand funeral attended by many beings—foremost mentioned of which are his mother and father, Frigg and Odin. During the funeral, Nanna dies of grief and is placed in the funeral pyre with Baldr, her dead husband. Hermóðr locates Baldr and Nanna in Hel. Hermodr secures an agreement for the return of Baldr and with Hermóðr Nanna sends gifts to Frigg (a linen robe) and Fulla (a finger-ring). Hermóðr rides back to the Æsir and tells them what has happened. However, the agreement fails due to the sabotage of a jötunn in a cave named Þökk (Old Norse 'thanks'), described perhaps Loki in disguise.
Frigg is mentioned several times in the Prose Edda section Skáldskaparmál. The first mention occurs at the beginning of the section, where the Æsir and Ásynjur are said to have once held a banquet in a hall in a land of gods, Asgard. Frigg is one of the twelve ásynjur in attendance.
Heimskringla and sagas
In Ynglinga saga, the first book of Heimskringla, a Euhemerized account of the origin of the gods is provided. Frigg is mentioned once. According to the saga, while Odin was away, Odin's brothers Vili and Vé oversaw Odin's holdings. Once, while Odin was gone for an extended period, the Æsir concluded that he was not coming back. His brothers started to divvy up Odin's inheritance, "but his wife Frigg they shared between them. However, a short while afterwards, [Odin] returned and took possession of his wife again.
In Völsunga saga, the great king Rerir and his wife (unnamed) are unable to conceive a child; "that lack displeased them both, and they fervently implored the gods that they might have a child. It is said that Frigg heard their prayers and told Odin what they asked."
A 12th century depiction of a cloaked but otherwise nude woman riding a large cat appears on a wall in the Schleswig Cathedral in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany. Beside her is similarly a cloaked yet otherwise nude woman riding a distaff. Due to iconographic similarities to the literary record, these figures have been theorized as depictions of Freyja and Frigg respectively.
Scholarly reception and interpretation
Due to numerous similarities, some scholars have proposed that the Old Norse goddesses Frigg and Freyja descend from a common entity from the Proto-Germanic period. Regarding a Freyja-Frigg common origin hypothesis, scholar Stephan Grundy comments that "the problem of whether Frigg or Freyja may have been a single goddess originally is a difficult one, made more so by the scantiness of pre-Viking Age references to Germanic goddesses, and the diverse quality of the sources. The best that can be done is to survey the arguments for and against their identity, and to see how well each can be supported."
Unlike Frigg but like the name of the group of gods to which Freyja belongs, the Vanir, the name Freyja is not attested outside of Scandinavia, as opposed to the name of the goddess Frigg, who is attested as a goddess common among the Germanic peoples, and whose name is reconstructed as Proto-Germanic *Frijjō. Similar proof for the existence of a common Germanic goddess from which Freyja descends does not exist, but scholars have commented that this may simply be due to the scarcity of evidence outside of the North Germanic record.
Frigg is referenced in art and literature into the modern period. In the 18th century, Gustav III of Sweden, king of Sweden, composed Friggja, a play, so named after the goddess, and H. F. Block and Hans Friedrich Blunck's Frau Frigg und Doktor Faust in 1937. Other examples include fine art works by K. Ehrenberg (Frigg, Freyja, drawing, 1883), John Charles Dollman (Frigga Spinning the Clouds, painting, c. 1900), Emil Doepler (Wodan und Frea am Himmelsfenster, painting, 1901), and H. Thoma (Fricka, drawing, date not provided).
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- MyNDIR (My Norse Digital Image Repository) Illustrations of Frigg from manuscripts and early print books. Clicking on the thumbnail will give you the full image and information concerning it.