While reading through the myths about Freya, I kept coming upon the story of her ‘necklace’ and how she came about it.
The basic story goes along the lines of the married Freya was wandering about and came across 4 dwarfs creating the most beautiful piece Freya had ever seen.
(This is where the necklace is assumed…because a goddess must have a pretty necklace. Why couldn’t it be a breast plate or a belt?)
She offered to buy it from the dwarfs. She was willing to spend whatever amount of silver and jewels they asked for. Alas, they laughed and laughed. Silver and jewels were the one thing the dwarfs had plenty of…They counter offered with the suggestion that Freya spent one full night with each of them.
Freya agreed without any haggling, the piece of shiny beauty was worth it in her opinion… She spent the next four nights with each of the dwarfs and on the 5th morning they handed over her prize and bid her adieu….
Freya headed back to her hubby, Od only to discover that he was nowhere to be found. Rumor had it that he found out about her ‘betrayal’ and left in despair. She sought the help of Odin who took her necklace and sentenced her to spend the rest of her existence searching for him crying tears of Gold and Amber.
So the story is twitching my sensibilities. It reeks of Christian overtones, and of course why wouldn’t it?
The Norse weren’t the ones to write these down. These stories, like most of the good ones, were passed down orally and only committed to paper after the Holy Roman Empire invaded and acculturated the pagan peasants.
These stories were written down through a Christian lens with all the guilt and shame and patriarchy they could muster….
So what does Freya have to say about her story? What lesson can we incorporate in our lives here in the present day?
That’s kind of the whole point of studying Goddesses to begin with…
So let’s start with the obvious Christian scare tactics and reframe them in a more accepting and less shaming view.
Desire- Freya saw something and she wanted it. She was willing to pay anything for it. What‘s wrong with that? Why is it that whenever a woman wants something, we judge her or discourage her or suggest she shouldn't have it or doesn't deserve it?
There’s a mindset that suggests that wanting things, desiring things is sinful. To want pretty things is worse. It’s vain and somehow more shameful than plain desire.
It took me a long time to realize that there's nothing wrong with wanting something as long as it doesn’t become an obsession, as long as we don’t hurt ourselves or others in the pursuit of obtaining said item.
Subsequently, I don’t think it’s wrong to feel pretty or beautiful or powerful. If a particular piece of jewelry or clothing make you feel these than by all means treat yourself!
When we feel good we emit a stronger vibration that has a ripple effect across the universe. And of course as a witch I believe what we send out comes back to us, multiplied!
Feeling good about ourselves is Good JuJu!
Payment – Freya offered precious metals and jewels because that’s what she and her society believed to be valuable. The dwarfs, being creatures of the underground where jewels and metals are created, had no use for more. What they didn’t have access to and desired for their own well-being, was time with a beautiful Goddess.
Lore tells us that dwarfs are dirty and smelly. They work with their hands, in the heat of fire forging metals and polishing jewels. They probably get turned down a lot.
So why wouldn’t they want to feel important and desirable for one night? Is that wrong? Is it wrong for Freya to agree to it?
The patriarchy suggests they are less than man and there for not worthy of equal respect. They also feel that only godless women would willing give up their body for pleasure.
Nowhere in any of the myths does it suggest that Freya balked at the idea. Nowhere does the story imply that she bartered anything else. Freya is considered to be a very sexual Goddess. She been known to have many lovers.
I realize this particular aspect of the story triggers our own wounds surrounding the objectification of women… Four ‘men’ were willing to pay for Sex from one woman. We have every right to be hurt and angry for all the times we were sexualized and objectified and propositioned and expected to put out in return for time and money spent on us….
We’ve all been there. It’s bullshit.
But I think that rather than getting pissed off by this story we have an opportunity to re-frame it to something closer to the truth.
Ancient Pagan societies had a different view on Women. Women were honored and revered. They were not objects, they were not owned. They were independent and respected; Goddesses more so. There are tales of Priestesses offering sex as a spiritual experience for men. It was believed that men could only connect with ‘God’ during orgasm.
Modern Pagans believe that the act of sex is a mixing of energies designed to heal and empower two individuals creating a karmic bond that connects the souls through time and space. When acted in the framework of mutual admiration and respect, Sex is healthy and life-affirming, even if its not within the framework of a committed long term relationship. (no guilt - no shame)
When we look at this story through Freya’s eyes, based on a Pagan viewpoint, She willingly entered into this agreement. There are two significant aspects that we should explore.
The first is Freya’s autonomy. Her body, Her choice. She chose to spend the night with each of the dwarfs. No One twisted her arm, no one gave her ultimatums. They didn’t bind and gag her or lock her in the tunnels until she relented. She said yes.
I get the impression that 4 nights with 4 dwarfs was a small price to pay for the work of art that she would cherish for eons. I also get the feeling that she wasn’t compromising herself. She was going to give each dwarf an amazing night worthy of the work they created. Goddesses are pretty honorable.
So we can all cringe and shudder and ask why.
Freya would answer, "Why not! What’s wrong with connecting with these beautiful souls?”
What we may see as gross and creepy, (unless you're a fan of the Hobbit series...mmmm...Thorin Oakenshield), She sees more clearly as living breathing sentient beings who only wish to feel beloved, desired and fully alive for a single evening.
But back to the literal story, Freya understands that just as the necklace will bring her joy and make her feel important, Her agreed upon payment will do the same for each of the dwarfs…
And that brings me to the second aspect; the idea of energy exchange.
In our first world Western civilization we pay for everything with money, or more often with a plastic card that symbolizes money. We swipe our cards and numbers are deducted out of our bank accounts….
We work and we receive a paycheck, or more common these days, numbers show up in our account symbolizing money that we’ve earned in exchange for the services we’ve provided.
We don’t have the benefit of holding the result of our hard work in our hands as a physical tangible thing. We don’t get the sense that our labor is important in the lives and well being of our employers.
In ancient times it wasn’t about numbers in a bank account, it was gold and jewels or more commonly trade. I have eggs, you have bread, we barter, we share, we both walk away winners. They traded tangible items, the traded service, they worked together to benefit the whole community.
Freya was willing to trade her time and sexuality for a priceless work of art because she felt the trade was fair; She, too, was priceless. Her time was just as valuable and unique as the necklace that she desired.
I don’t think today’s women are taught that. For centuries, we’ve been second class citizens, thought of as property, weak, less valuable. It’s changing; we’ve come a long way. The mindset still lingers in our psyche. We have a bad habit of making ourselves smaller, apologizing for our existence, putting others before ourselves. We were conditioned to be this way. We each have a responsibility to ourselves to change the way we view the work we do for others. We have to know that it’s valuable and it’s important.
We can no longer walk around with the shame and guilt that centuries of oppression have burden us with.
Freya is here to tell us to stand tall, revel in all the goodness you can provide the world and know in your heart and bones that you are worthy of whatever your heart desires.
Consequences and Infidelity – We know from other myths that Freya was incredibly independent and she took many lovers. We also know that she was blissfully in a loving relationship with her husband Od.
You know this totally didn’t sit well with newly established patriarchy. They couldn’t have their women going off shagging any guy the fancied…. I mean how would they measure their wealth if they didn’t know who their kin were? How would they pass down their riches if there was a possibility that their kids were bastards?
So what does a self respecting religion do with this story? They give it dire consequences. We spin the story so that she loses her most beloved relationship and her hard earned prize and then wanders the world for the rest of her life in a state of despair.
There are always consequences to our actions. There’s no getting around that. Sometimes the consequences are sad but sometimes they’re really good. (I had that revelation when I was working with Isolt last year.)
I think the ending of this story was classic Christianity. It twisted the story to be a warning, and attempt to control the masses with fear, shame and guilt.
I don’t condone extramarital affairs by any means. I don’t think everyday humans are equipped to deal with the insecurity they cause. We’re fragile. We have fragile egos. We take everything personally. Its hard not to feel like we’re not good enough when our significant others finds someone else to spend their time with.
Plus, as a witch, I don’t believe sex is ever just sex. *see above about sex creating a karmic bond*
*Soap box warning*
If you’re current relationship isn’t working for you then end it before you begin another. If you’re not brave enough to do so, if your not strong enough to sacrifice whatever it is you’re afraid to lose then you’re not ready for a new relationship. "Stepping out" hurts people more than break ups. It shatters trust and burns more bridges than anyone ever anticipates.
That’s my advice however I’ll never judge you if you can’t follow it. I’ve loved too many people who’ve blurred the lines and made mistakes, including myself. Sometimes you have to go through the fire to learn the lesson….
*end of soap box rant*
Back to Freya.
If we look at the story as a metaphor. Freya spends 4 nights in the throws of shadow work and emerges with a shiny new understanding of life, herself and the world. She grew spiritually.
When that happens, the people we love up close and personal may drift into the background and move on with their own work….or not. Spiritual work, Self work, personal growth or enlightenment – what ever you want to call it, ALWAYS leads us down a different path.
Sometimes the people we love grow with us or at the very least travel a path that’s parallel to ours. But more often than not, our paths diverge and we drift apart. (This is the part of marriage that needs to be worked on if its going to last)
It’s possible that Od didn’t share Freya’s shiny new understanding which lead to his disappearance.
Reparation - According to the story, Freya asked Odin for help in finding her beloved. Odin knew about her infidelity. He took the necklace and sent Freya to search for her husband as reparation for her (sins, actions, transgressions?)
When we mess up we have to do what we can to make things better. That’s just being a decent human. However, I think this part was also added in to complete the fear-shame-guilt trifecta.
Even from an allegorical point, it doesn’t support the Story of Freya as an Independent Goddess.
It does however reflect a very human reaction to the consequences of personal growth. We have an epiphany, we become enlightened…We can no longer view the world from the old paradigm.
As we move through our days speaking and acting from our new point of view we’re going to get reactions from our friends and family. They’re going to notice and in some cases feel threatened by us. At this point we can continue on this path and move away from the nay-sayers or we can stop, force ourselves back into the previously acceptable mold and try to find happiness.
The operative word is “try” (and I know this from personal experience). Happiness is elusive when you try to be something your not. Life is suffocating when you cram yourself into a mold that doesn’t fit.
So the storytellers may have been trying to scare women into submission and convince them to follow the status quo but we can take the story as a reminder not to give up our hard earned enlightenment for anyone, not even our favorite people.
Even if Od literally left and Freya really did go looking for him, (because who wouldn't go looking for their favorite person?) I don’t think she would have spent the rest of her days in mourning. Life is beautiful and Freya knew how to live it to the fullest. She would know the importance of finding a balance between the heart ache and the joy.