Freyr is best known as the twin brother of Freya. Together they are seen as deities of love, pleasure, sexuality and fertility. He is the son of Njord and Nerthus. His name in Old Norse means ‘Lord’ and he is regarded as a very important Vanir God. As a teething present, Odin gave the world Alfheimr, the realm of the Elves to Freyr. He rides the shining boar Gullinbursti and has a ship that he can fold up and carry in his pocket when not in use, called Skidbladnir. He was the carrier of Sumarbrandr, the sword of the Gods, before he gave it Skirnir.
Freyr was traded to the Aesir along with his father Njord and his twin sister Freya, in an exchange of hostages that created peace among the warring God tribes. Sturluson describes Freyr in his Prose Edda:
“Freyr is the most renowned of the Aesir, he rules of the rain and the shining of the sun, and wherewithal the fruit of the earth; and it is good to call on him for fruitful seasons and peace. He governs also the prosperity of men.”
In the Lokasenna, Tyr speaks of Freyr’s posititive attributes:
Frey is best
of all the exalted God’s
in the Aesir’s courts:
no maid he makes to weep,
no wife of man,
and from bonds looses all.
- Lokasenna 37, Thorpe’s translation
Sometimes referred to as Yngvi-Freyr, he is associated with Sweden and is said to have fathered the royal line of Sweden. The Islenglingabok, written around 1125, includes Freyr in a genealogy of Swedish KIngs. He has been and still is widely worshipped within the Norse Pantheon. There are many places honouring him throughout Norway and Sweden and many artifacts have been found depicting Freyr.
Freyr, a Vanir God, is closely connected to the earth and the body. Especially connected with the blessings and worship given to the ancestral and land spirits. He controls the fertility of the earth, such as the rain and sunshine. As a God of fertility, prosperity, and peace; there are many lessons we can learn from him. The details within lore surrounding Freyr can really help us understand more about him and connect to him on a deeper level. One of the most important surviving tales of Freyr is of how he falls in love with Gerda and wins her hand in marriage.
While Freyr was sitting in Odin’s chair Hlidskjalf, observing all that was happening within all the nine realms. His attention was caught by a beautiful Jotun maiden named Gerda. He immediately fell passionately in love with her and began to feel lost and lonely without her as his wife.
His father Njord and step-mother Skadi, noticed that Freyr seemed different and not himself. They asked Freyr’s friend and servant Skirnir to find out what was bothering him. Freyr reveals his lovestruck sadness and asks Skirnir to travel to Jotunheimr to woo Gerda for him. In return, Skirnir asks for Freyr’s horse and sword, the sword of the God’s.
My Steed I lend thee
to lift thee o’er the weird
ring of flickering flame,
the sword also
which swings itself,
if wise be who wields it.
- Skirnismal 9, Hollander’s translation
Skirnir offers Gerda gifts of gold and golden apples, if she would only agree to be Freyr’s wife. When Gerda declines these gifts and Freyr’s offer of marriage, Skirnir threatens her with magic.
“I write the charm and three runes therewith,
Longing and madness and lust;
But with I have writ I may yet unwrite
If I find a need therefor”
- Stanza 37, Bellows translation
Gerda realizes that although she has enough gold and protection from physical threat, she cannot win against magic. She decides to accept Freyr’s hand in marriage and tells Skirnir to go back to Freyr and tell him to meet her in 9 nights in a sacred grove called Barri. Skirnir returns with his exciting news for Freyr. But Freyr can barely live 9 more nights without her.
“Long is one night, long are two,
how shall I long through three?
Often a month to me has seemed less
than half one of these wedding-eves.”
- Skirnir’s Journey 42, Larrington translation
In the story of how Freyr won his Jotunn bride Gerda, we read of how Freyr had to have Gerda as his wife no matter the price. He was willing to sacrifice all that could possibly save him come Ragnorak just for Gerda’s hand in marriage and her unconditional love. For we know that he will lose this battle with Surtr, and these sacrifices could be what would help him win this battle.
Within our own lives there are times when such sacrifices are needed in order to allow certain needs, wants or desires to come to us freely. As Freyr surrendered and released himself from material possessions in order to gain something of much more value to him; we to must learn not to form attachments to things, places or even people if we truly are to grow as an individual into a perfected being.
Another tale of Freyr is that of his battle against Surtr at Ragnorak. In the Voluspa, the best known of the Eddic poems, describes the final confrontation between Freyr and Surtr.
Surtr moves from south
with the scathe of branches
there shines from his sword
the sun of God’s of the slain
Stone peaks clash,
and troll wives take to the road.
Warriors tread the path from Hel,
and heaven breaks apart.
Then is fulfilled Hlin’s
when Odin goes to fight the wolf,
and Beli’s slayer,
bright against Surtr.
Then shall Frigg’s
sweet friend fall.
- Voluspa 50 - 51, Dronke’s translation.
When we look at this story of Freyr’s defeat to Surtr, we can see that there is a possibilty that this story is a metaphor for the changing of the season, from spring, summer to fall. In the spring it is Freyr that encourages everything to grow and the mating of the animals, humans as well. Making the land lush, green and full of new blossoms, promising fruitful days ahead. Summer, Freyr brings the maturation of plants, animals and the cycle of growth. Come fall, we begin to experience the fading of these bountiful energies, thus the death of Freyr to Surtr. The decimation of all fertile growing things, under the wrath of the fires of Ragnorak.
Within this tale we can begin to understand that all things in this life will eventually come to it’s end, even the best things. It is something we all have to face at some point. By acknowledging and accepting this inevitable fact, we can allow ourselves to live our lives fully. Knowing that once the old and un-needed parts of ourselves have died, new and improved growth will spring forth within us. Embracing this allows us to be happy and present in this very moment, with excitement for what is to come. Freeing us from fear and worry. It is not the death of all things, it is only the beginning.
The story of Freyr and Gerda can be linked to the battle of Freyr and Surtr. The sword that Freyr gave to Skirnir was the sword Freyr would have used to fight Surtr. It is a mighty sword, capable of fighting on its own.
“Freyr shall contend with Surtr, and a hard encounter shall there be between them before Freyr falls; it is to his death that he lacks that good sword of his, which he gave to Skirnir.
- Gylfaginning, Prose Edda, Chapter 56
Freyr is a great warrior and was able to defeat many enemies even after he gave his sword away. One example is when he defeated the Jotun Beli with nothing but an antler. Freyr’s battle against Surtr will be a violent one, with Surtr killing Freyr in a single stroke of rage.
So we come back to that of giving up something in order to gain something else. What are we willing to sacrifice? If we were to give everything up and die tomorrow, will it have been worth it? Can we make the choice to move forward in our lives without a certain object, person, ideal, or behaviours, etc. with the confidence that no matter what the consequence it was the right choice for you? Can we choose to not allow the decisions we make now come back to haunt us?