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Knowing Freya. Part 2: Parentage

Family ties when it comes to the Gods doesn’t really work like it does for humans. Non-corporal Consciousnesses do share bounds with one another but to describe Them as parent, sibling, progeny etc is to simplify things to make it understandable to the human mind. The reality of things is much more complex and sometimes the symbolism can sound pretty wild. That’s how a male God can birth a giant sea serpent or another God be born from nine Mothers.

With this in mind, let’s dive into the subject of the Lady Freya’s family. In this post, we’ll look at who Her Parents are.

Njord (also spelled Njörðr) is who we know Her Father to be. Like the Jötnar Ægir and Rán, the Vanir God Njord is associated with the sea. But unlike Them, He is more positively inclined towards humankind and often prayed to for fishing luck and good seafaring. For this reason He is, like His Children, associated with abundance and wealth. This is likely why folk practices associated with the worship of Njord persisted in rural Norway well into the 19th century.

Njord, a God associated with favourable winds and seafaring. Illustration from a 17th century Icelandic manuscript.

Who Freya’s Mother is, is a bit more complicated to answer. The Eddas tells us She is Njord’s Sister but doesn’t tell us much more than that. The assumption was likely that the people reading the text at the time already knew who She was and there was therefore no need to mention Her name.

Several theories have been put forward as to who this mysterious Sister-Wife is. One of the more popular ones is that She is the Earth Goddess Nerthus, since the names Njord and Nerthus share a etymogycal origin in the proto-Germanic word Nerþuz, believed to mean ‘force’ or ‘power’.

Nerthus was a widely worshipped and loved Deity in the ancient Germanic world. Her image would often be paraded on a wagon through the country as a way to bless the land. Like Freya and Freyr, She was associated with fertility and abundance. Which would make sense if She was indeed Their Mother.

The image of Nerthus being pulled on a wagon. Illustration by Emil Doepler.

It would also make sense for a fertility Earth Goddess to be paired with a sea God, as the rain that falls and make everything grow often comes from clouds that arise from the sea.

Another theory is that Njörun is the mysterious Mother, since Her name resembles Njord’s. Unfortunately, we know close to nothing about this Goddess since She is listed once in the Eddas and without any further description of who She is or what She does.

Things are further complicated by the fact that Norse Deities often go by numerous different names. Theories have been put forward that Nerthus is the same as the Earth Goddess Jord, which is also believed by some to be the same as Frigg. This would make Frigg Freya’s Mother and Odin Her Stepfather.

Yet another theory says that Njord/Nerthus were once worshipped as one hermaphroditic Being and are therefore two side of one Deity who impregnanted Themselves.

But it is hard to say anything conclusive about Freya’s Mother, other that She was a Vanir and therefore likely associated with nature, fertility and the Earth.

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