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Knowing Freya, part 12: Freya and Ragnarök

Ragnarök, Old Norse for ‘the Doom of the Gods’. Undoubtedly the most famous event described in Norse mythology. Even people who know close to nothing about Norse Polytheism have heard about this great apocalypse.

Described primarily in the Eddic poem Völuspa, Ragnarök is a series of cataclysmic events that leads to the death of many Gods and the majority of humankind.

Asgard burning. Artwork by Emil Doepler.

Some of the most beloved Deities of the Norse pantheon meet Their violent ends: Odin is killed by the Fenrir wolf, Thor succumbs to the poison of the Midgard Serpent and the Lord Frey is slayed by the fire Jötunn Surtr. But we learn surprisingly little about the fate of the Goddesses.

Only one dies, that we know of: Sól, who is swallowed by the wolf Sköll. Apart from Her, we learn about Frigg but only in relation to Her loses:

”Then to the Goddess a second grief comes, when Odin fares to fight with the Wolf, And Beli’s slayer, the bright God (Frey) with Surtr; There must fall Frigg’s beloved.”
Völuspa 53

Frigg’s first grief is of course the death of Her Son Balder, whose murder kickstarts the events of Ragnarök.

What Freya does during Ragnarök or what happens to Her isn’t told. Possibly, She is as Valfreya with the valkyries. But if such a beloved Goddess was too perish, surely it would be mentioned.

It is not unthinkable that both Frigg and Freya and most of the Asynjur survive Ragnarök. Because, contrary to popular belief, Ragnarök isn’t the end of all things and of all Deities.

Njord, for example, is said to survive and return to His people in Vanaheim. Thor’s Sons, Magni and Modi, also survive and inherited Their Father’s famed hammer. Even Baldr returns from Helheim and lives again.

Ragnarök is followed by earth rising again and life beginning anew

Only two humans survive by hiding in a wood called Hoddmímis holt, which may be connected to the World Tree Yggdrasil. Their names are Lif and Lifthrasir (‘life’ and ‘lover of life’) and they repopulate Midgard.

Freya, being a Goddess associated with fertility, could have a hand in rebuilding the new, green earth and this could be why She must survive Ragnarök.

But the great apocalypse known as Ragnarök isn’t necessarily to be taken literally. Very few Heathens see it this way. For many, myself included, the Doom of the Gods is a symbolic event. The end of an era and a part of the never-ending cycle of creation and destruction. A prophecy not only about catastrophy and despair, but also about victory over struggle and the hope that no matter how bad things get, life will find a way.


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