“What does it take to be a goddess?” Women in Norse Mythology
Goddess worship is distinctly out of fashion in our western, Christianized culture, but it has not always been so. We learned in school that the Greeks, and later the Romans, personified various aspects of the feminine as goddesses (ex. Aphrodite/Venus, Hera/Juno) and gave expression to the concept in other forms as well (ex. The three Fates: maiden/mother/crone).
In Norse mythology one female figure stands out, high above her competition: Freyja, twin sister of Freyr, both associated with fertility and prosperity. Think about it: the power to create life – be it human, animal or vegetable – is a power above all others.
Perhaps reflecting the earthy character of life in northern climates, Freyja is a goddess of lusty appetites: for sex, for gold, for all things beautiful. She is also a shape-shifter with magic powers. She can transform herself into a falcon or the shape of a feather in order to fly to different lands. She can also drive a chariot drawn by cats or ride upon a great boar when she journeys. Freyja was a popular goddess; her amulets and pendants can be unearthed all over Scandinavia.
The power to leave one’s physical self and be transported elsewhere is a mark of the shaman, who journeys in spirit to other worlds to obtain information – perhaps from the dead, perhaps from the gods themselves. In my novel about the women of Beowulf, Faces in the Fire, the heroine Freawaru is developing her power through trance states.
Just as the Greeks and Romans separated woman-as-lover-and-mistress from woman-as-wife-and-mother, the Norse did the same, assigning the former role to Freyja and the latter to Frigg, wife of Odin. Both goddesses could be called upon to assist in childbirth, and both could receive women after their death.
Want to be a goddess? Develop your powers!