The world of today is incredibly different to what it was when the worship of the Norse Deities was the main religion in Iceland and Scandinavia. The culture, the language, the values and technology have changed to the point that a Viking Age heathen would feel utterly lost if they somehow found themselves in our modern society. A thousand years of Christian hegemony, including forced conversions and demonization of the Norse faith, has also drastically changed the religious landscape. All the temples are gone, the land is no longer treated as sacred and no books on theology written by ancient Heathens have survived to this day. There has always been people who loved and worshipped the Norse Deities, but we’ve lost an incredible amount of knowledge about how it used to be done.
I wonder how our hypothetical time-travelling Heathen would think of the way we modern Heathens worship the Aesir and Vanir. Would they be perplexed? Amused? Dismayed? There is no way to know, but perhaps it doesn’t really matter. The Deities are not bound by time or culture and each age has its own opportunities and challenges. What does it mean to be a Heathen today? And what does it mean to be a devotee of Freya in particular? Those a far more interesting questions, in my opinion.
Of course, everyone must come to their own conclusions. Heathenry is not a faith of books and commandments. Each worshipper must approach the Deities in their own way and try and figure out what They want from us. But there are three thing I personally believe are central to being a devotee of Freya.
Love of self and personal dignity
In Thrymskvidha, when Asa-Thor demands She put on a wedding dress and marry a jötunn so that He can retrieve His hammer, Freya snorts and tells Him -albeit not in these exact words – to get lost. She is not one to marry someone just because She’s told to. That independent spirit and personal dignity is a strong aspect of Her personality and something that we all need.
It sounds like an old cliché, but it’s hard to truly love someone else until you love yourself. Self-loathing and chronic guilt give you a harsh and unforgiving heart. Especially for us with background in fundamentalist Christianity, a religion which emphasizes humans’ faults and brokenness, it is important to learn to love and care about ourselves. This doesn’t mean being a narcissist or putting ourselves above others. It means realising we deserve to be loved and cherished as much as anybody else.
It also means being true to oneself, to look with honest eyes at our good and bad sides. To work on what needs to be worked on and to cherish our positive qualities, but to never lie to ourselves about who we are.
To follow our own path is also central to being a devotee of Freya. We are all unique individuals with different qualities, talents, needs and aspirations. We all have something to contribute and we cannot compromise away our uniqueness, as it would rob both ourselves and the world of a special gift.
Love of others and cherishing of relationships
Freya is a Goddess associated with love. Primarily the romantic kind, but love comes in many forms. For this reason, I see Freya as also a Goddess of family, friendship and community. To show love to those closest to us and to those who are part of our world is a sacred duty for someone who loves Freya. Whenever you kiss your beloved, give to humanitarian aid or visit your grand-ma in the old folks home, you are bringing love into this world and doing something sacred to Her. I try to look at each new day as a possibility to serve Freya by helping love thrive in the world, even if it’s by doing something small. Not that I’m always successful at it, but it is something I believe is a duty as a servant of Her.
Love of Jord
In the often animistic Heathen faith, the Earth itself is believed to be alive and a Goddess in Her own right. She is called Jord, which actually still means ‘Earth’ in modern Swedish. To love and honour Earth as one of our Great Mothers is an important part of the worship of Freya. Especially since Jord could be the same Goddess as Nerthus, who in turn could be Njord’s enigmatic Sister-Wife and Freya’s own Mother.
But even without familial ties, honouring Earth and Her nature comes naturally to those who serve and love any Vanir Deity. The Vanir are strongly associated with nature, fertility, earthly life and agriculture. To love the Vanir is to love Earth and the beauty of life on Her.
Speaking of ‘love’ doesn’t mean much without actions to show it. To love Jord means to care for the Earth and its creatures, to live in a way respectful of the environment and actively work to preserve our sacred Home. For this reason, I consider eco-friendly living and environmental activism as a natural part of Vanatru and of the worship of the Freya, the Vanadis.
In conclusion: love yourself, love others and love the Earth.
This concludes the series Knowing Freya. I hope you enjoyed it and learned more about the great Goddess of the falcon cloak!