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Definition: Frigg from The Columbia Encyclopedia

or Frigga, Norse mother goddess and the wife of Odin (Woden). One of the most important goddesses of Germanic religion, she was queen of the heavens, a deity of love and the household. She was often confused with Freyja. From her likeness to the Roman goddess Venus, the Latin day of Venus became in Germanic countries Frigg's day (Friday).


Summary Article: FRIGG
from World Mythology: Handbook of Norse Mythology

Goddess, wife of Odin and mother of Baldr.

In Gylfaginning Snorri cites Frigg as foremost among the goddesses, as would be appropriate for the consort of Odin. Indeed, in the mythology as we have it she mostly functions as wife and mother. She warns Odin not to contest in wisdom with Vafthrúdnir, the wisest giant, but wishes him well when he perseveres (Vafthrúdnismál, stanzas 1-4), and sorrows upon his death at Ragnarök (Völuspá, stanza 53). In the prose header to Grímnismál she quarrels with Odin over the fate of their protégés. In Snorri’s version of the Baldr story she first extracts an oath from all things not to harm Baldr, and when that fails, as the result of her own interaction with the disguised Loki, she dispatches Hermód to Hel to try to retrieve him. According to Völuspá, stanza 33, she weeps at Fensalir after Baldr’s death, and Snorri says that Fensalir is her dwelling. And in the Second Merseburg Charm, from the tenth century or earlier, Frija, the Old High German equivalent to Frigg, participates in the curing of Baldere’s (Baldr’s) horse; Odin is also present.

However, there is tantalizing information of a far different nature. According to Snorri in Ynglinga saga, once when Odin had been away on a journey for a particularly long time, Odin’s brothers, Vili and Vé, divided his inheritance and both possessed Frigg, but Odin later returned and took her back. Saxo Grammaticus tells a somewhat similar story in Book 1 of the Gesta Danorum. In order to adorn herself with gold, Frigga despoils a statue of Othinus and then gives herself to a servant in order to enlist his aid in taking down the statue. In shame, Othinus goes into self-imposed exile, and during his exile a sorcerer called Mithothyn takes his place and institutes a change in cult procedures. Upon Othinus’s return Mithothyn flees to Fyn and is killed by the inhabitants there.

Loki knew a version of this story and was not above reminding Frigg about it. In Lokasenna, stanza 26, when Frigg tries to silence Loki, he rebukes her.

Shut up, Frigg! You are Fjörgyn’s daughter
and have ever been most eager for men,
when Vé and Vili you allowed, wife of Vidrir [Odin],
to embrace you.

Frigg does not dispute the charge, but in response she says that if she had a son like Baldr on the scene, Loki would not get out alive. This gives Loki a chance to claim responsibility for the death of Baldr (stanzas 27-28). At this point Freyja intervenes, warning Loki that Frigg knows the fates of all people, although she chooses not to disclose them (stanza 29, also quoted by Snorri in Gylfaginning).

It is not easy to make sense of this material. To be called “Fjörgyn’s daughter” (Snorri has the same information, but the name is otherwise unattested) is hardly an insult. Fjörgyn, in the feminine form of the name (a distinction lost in the system used in this book for medieval Icelandic names), is Thor’s mother. The taking of Odin’s inheritance by Vili and Vé in Odin’s absence in Ynglinga saga might indicate the absence of a legitimate heir, so this incident might have occurred early in Odin’s career. Frigga’s infidelity with the slave is hardly of the same order. The discord suggested by the prose header to Grímnismál finds a parallel in an incident in Paul the Deacon’s History of the Langobards, written in the second half of the eighth century. Here Godan (Odin) and Frea (Frigg) dispute over an upcoming battle between the Vandals, whom Godan favors, and the people who will become the Langobards, whom Frea favors.

The name Frigg is derived from an Indo-European root meaning “love,” and in the Interpretatio Germanica, it was Frigg who was given the day of Venus, that is, Friday. This may accord with the Scandinavian stories of Frigg’s infidelity. Her silent gift of prophecy, however, remains unexplained. It would belong more properly to Freyja, with her association with seid. The name Frigg is frequently found in Scandinavian place-names indicating cult activity. Based on the Swedish place-name evidence, Hugo Jungner argued that Frigg and Freyja were once identical. Although that cannot be proved, there certainly are similarities, not least in Freyja’s marriage to Ód, who also is frequently away on journeys. Oddrúnargrátr, stanza 9, has a formula: “May the gracious beings help you, / Frigg and Freyja / and more gods.”

See also Interpretatio Germanica; Merseburg Charms; Seid

References and further reading:
  • Hugo Jungner’s study is Gudinnan Frigg och Als härad: En studie i Västergötlands religions-, språk- och bebyggelsehistoria (Uppsala: Wretman, 1922). Jan de Vries, “Studien over germaansche mythologie, VII: De skaldenkenningen met de namen der godinnen Freyja en Frigg,” Tijdschrift voor nederlandsche taal- en letterkunde 53 (1934): 210-217, is a comprehensive study of the kennings for Freyja and Frigg.
  • Copyright © 2001 by John Lindow

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