Frigg or Frigga (which means ‘Beloved’ in Old Norse) is a goddess found in Norse mythology. As the wife of Odin and the mother of Baldur, she is the ‘Queen of the Æsir’. This deity was worshipped as a sky goddess and is believed to be responsible for weaving the clouds. Additionally, the Norse believed that she had the power of prophecy and was in charge of weaving the fates. Love and marriage were also in the domain of this powerful goddess. As an interesting side, the English weekday name ‘Friday’ is etymologically derived from the name of this goddess.
Although possibly the most important goddess of the Æsir, little is said about her in the surviving primary sources on Norse mythology. Moreover, she is not an entirely unique goddess, as she shares a number of attributes with Freya, a goddess of the Vanir. Both, for example, are associated with love and marriage. Both are also speculated to have evolved from an earlier Germanic goddess known as Frija.
‘Frigg – the Goddess of Marriage.’ (CC BY SA)
Frigg, Goddess of Many Concerns
Nevertheless, in the case of Frigg, she oversees marriage sanctioned by society, whilst Freya’s domain is that of unsanctioned marriages. Thus, she is also regarded as a protector of the home and families.
As the ‘Queen of the Æsir’, Frigg serves as a role model for her female followers and the hearth is within her realm. The goddess is often called upon by her devotees for aid in the domestic arts and cottage industries, in particular the spinning of wool. According to Norse belief, this is also an activity that the goddess herself is involved in. The Norse goddess is said to use the wool of the cloud sheep to weave and spin Æsir garments.
Frigg spinning. (CC BY SA)
This deity was in charge of peace and the maintenance of social order. She was also known as the ‘Lady of the Hall’, whose duty it was to carry the mead horn around feasts that were thrown to send off or welcome back warriors. This association with feasting has also allowed her to be perceived as a patroness of diplomacy, and she was called upon by leaders in such matters.
A Norse Mother Goddess
In addition to this, Frigg may have been a paradigm of motherhood for her followers, as myths about her are closely associated with her son, Baldur. For instance, the longest night of the year is known by the Norse as ‘Mother Night’, and it was believed that this was the night during which Frigg gave birth to Baldur, the god of light and joy.
She is also believed to have the gift of prophecy, and it was through this that she foresaw the death of her beloved son. Unfortunately, the goddess was powerless to change Baldur’s destiny.
Still, she did all she could to keep Baldur safe. According to Norse mythology, the Queen of the Æsir went to all things that might be a danger; the elements, the environment, diseases, animals, and stones, amongst other things and begged them not to harm her son. There was only one thing that she missed, the mistletoe, as the goddess thought that it was too insignificant, and it would not hurt Baldur.
Loss of a Son
Eventually, the gods created a game for Baldur, which involved throwing all sorts of things at him, knowing that nothing could hurt him. Loki seized this opportunity to kill the popular god. He made a dart out of mistletoe, and gave it to Hodur, Baldur’s blind twin. Loki told Hodur that he would help him play Baldur’s game, and with the trickster’s assistance, the blind god threw the dart at his brother. As Frigg did not demand the protection of the mistletoe, the dart pierced Baldur’s heart, and he died.
Baldur dead before the Æsir. (CC BY SA)
Frigg made one last attempt to save her son. She sent an emissary, Hermodr, to the Underworld to negotiate with its ruler, Hel, for the ransom of Baldur. Hel agreed to release Baldur from her domain, on the condition that all creatures weep for him. Frigg almost managed to achieve the universal weep, but for the exception of one creature, a giantess by the name of Thökk, who, according to some, was Loki in disguise. As a result of this, Baldur was lost from the world forever.
Frigg Tricks Her Husband
We can learn some things about the relationship between Frigg and her husband Odin in another popular Norse myth detailing one of their arguments. In this tale, there were two warring Germanic tribes, the Vandals and the Winnilers. Odin said the Vandals were better and should win, but Frigg thought the Winnilers deserved victory more.
They decided the disagreement would be settled in the morning – whichever of the two tribes Odin saw first would be granted victory. Odin went to bed content, believing he’d see the Vandals first since they were visible from his side of the bed.
Odin and Frigga. (Public Domain)
But Frigg tricked her husband. She crept out once Odin had fallen asleep and told the women in the Winniler tribe to tie their hair in front of their chins as if they had beards. When she returned to the bedroom she turned the bed so Odin would rise on the opposite side – seeing the Winniler tribe first. Odin came through on his promise and the Winniler tribe was victorious.
Another interesting element that appears in Frigg’s stories is related to the handmaidens, who are also goddesses, who accompany her in the palace of mists called Fensalir. Of the 11 goddesses who are seated nearby while Frigg works away at the jewel-covered spinning wheel, three are named as Frigg’s favorites – Lin, Fulla, and Gna. Peter A. Munch, describes them:
“…Lin is set to guard those of mankind whom Frigg desires to preserve from harm. Fulla, a maiden with long flowing hair and a golden chaplet about her brow, carries Frigg’s hand casket, keeps watch and ward over her shoes, and shares her secrets. Gna runs errands for Frigg through the various worlds, especially in matters requiring despatch, in which instances she rides the horse Hofvarpnir, who races through the air and over the waters…”
‘Frigg and her Maidens’. The goddess Frigg, center, points to her left, seemingly commanding Gná, riding her horse Hófvarpnir, to run an errand for her. To Frigg’s right is Fulla, who is holding Frigg’s eski (an ashen box). Two other females are on Frigg’s right, but they are unidentifiable. (Public Domain)