Giving Thanks to the Lord of the Harvest
As we bid farewell to August, the leaves will soon turn gold, and the nights will start to draw in. As the last of the years harvest in gathered in, I thought it would be good to share a piece I wrote about Freyr.
Like the name of his sister Freyja which translates as 'Lady', Freyr is also a titular name, which translates as 'Lord'. Known as Ing to the Saxons, and some times referred to as Inge Freyr or Yngvi, it is possible that the commonly used Freyr (or Frey) is actually his title, and Ing his name. He is said to be the direct ancestor of the Swedish Royal family, in the same way that many European Royal Houses can be traced back to Odin. He is also the lord of the alfs, having been gifted Alfheim as a 'tooth gift' I should also point out at this point that there are those who do not believe that Ing and Freyr are the same God, but I personally believe that there is enough evidence that they are, and so throughout this piece I will use sources that reference both.
Freyr is first an foremost a fertility God. He is often portrayed in statues and grave finds with exaggerated genitalia to emphasise this. This is power both over the fertility of the land in the form of crops and livestock, and fertility in people. It is Freyr who is most often called upon when sewing seeds, and thanked when collecting the harvest, and Freyr who is looked to by those seeking to have children. Interestingly however both of these areas are not his exclusive domain. Like in so many areas there is not just one 'God of fertility'. In this case many of the Vanic Gods, but also Thor have a role to play in fertility (Thor's thunder helps to fertilise the earth, and there is evidence of Mjolnir or a representation of Mjolnir being laid in a newly wed woman's lap to bless her womb).
Unlike in some other faiths, sex and sexuality are not considered in anyway 'sinful' or unclean in heathen practices, the physical manifestation of fertility is to be enjoyed and celebrated, not shunned, and this is an important part of the cult of Freyr.
Freyr is also a God a peace. But this does not mean he is not a warrior. He is said to have come to Asgard as a hostage as part of the peace treaty at the end of the Asir/Vanir war. He is a protector and upholder of peace, and this means he must be prepared to enforce it. He is said to do this using his magical sword which fights by itself. As we will see it is the loss of this sword which will lead to his fall at the hands of Sutr at Ragnarok.
One of the most famous stories about Freyr is that in which he convinces that Jotun Gerð to marry him. The story goes that Freyr sees Gerð from a distance, and instantly falls in love with her. He gives his servant Skirnir his horse, and his magical sword, and dispatches him with a proposition of marriage. Gerð is initially unphased by the proposal, and the gifts that are offered to her, and is not even phased when Skirnir threatens her with violence, but when threatened with magic she changes her mind and agrees to marry Freyr. Freyr gets the girl, but in the proccess loses his sword, a loss that will be his doom. Whilst this story is not without fault (I'm not suggesting you should curse someone who turns down your advanaces!) I prefer to focus on the fact that Freyr was prepared to do anything, and give up anything for the woman he loved, even if eventually it would cost him his life.
There are several symbols associated with Freyr. The first is his golden boar, Gullinbursti, which 'could run through air and water better than any horse, and it could never become so dark with night or gloom of the murky regions that there should not be sufficient light where he went, such was the glow from its mane and bristles'. This great boar was made for Freyr by the Dwarfs Brokkr and Eitri.
At the same time another powerful item associated with Freyr as created by the sons of Ivaldi, his great ship Skíðblaðnir. Said to he the finest of ships, it can be folded up like a cloth and carried in a pocket, but when unfolded is large enough to carry all the Gods.
Thirdly Freyr is associated with the horse cult. There is evidence of horses being sacrificed to Freyr. There is also the story of the horse Freyfaxi, which was sacred to the God, and nobody was allowed to ride. This is not the only Freyfaxi referenced in the sagas that is sacred to Freyr, and horses were often said to be kept around his temples.
Freyr is also said to ride in a wagon, and this is in keeping with the practice of parading fertility Gods in a wagon which was observed by Tacitus, and is mentioned in the Rune poem.
We know that Freyr was considered a very important God by our ancestor for several reasons. One is that his statue stood alongside those of Thor and Odin at Uppsala. Another is that throughout the Iclandic Sagas there are references to 'Freyrgoðis', Goðis who were specifically dedicated to the God. There were also said to be temples dedicated specifically to Freyr. The large geographical area of his worship is also show in the number of placenames that include one or more variations of his name. Just one example is here is South Kirkby, where there are several streets with names like 'Ing's Walk' and 'Ing's Way'.
Freyr is also an important God when it comes to the runes. The first Aett (group of 8 runes) is named for him, as is the rune Inguz. The old english rune poem says:
'Ing, first seen by the East Danes, later rode his wagon away eastwards over the waves; thus was the great God named.'
Inguz is a rune of sexuality, fertility, family lines and ancestory...Pleasure and gratification are argured. Yet ultimatley, this rune turns our attention to the great river of life flowing from the ancestoral past through the sexual act into the present and on to future generations'. This fantistic summary of the rune Inguz by Mountfort to me also perfectly sums up Freyr himself.
I will finish this post with a prayer to Freyr taken from The Gods' Own County:
A Time to Reap Hail to the lord of the harvest! As the frosts melted, we asked you to fertilise our crops, To guard the seeds as they germinated and sprouted, To nourish the shoots with gentle rains, And protect them as they grew. All this you have done, And for that we that we give thanks this day. The time has come to harvest this crop, The product of our shared efforts, So that we may be sustained through the long winter. This crop is your gift to us, and so we share it with you, And we honour you, oh Freyr, As we take in this crop with glad hearts. Hail Freyr!
References Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe Rankine & D'Este, The Isle of the Many Gods Mountfort, Nordic Runes Voluspa