It's All in a Day's Work: Frige's Power of Creating and Maintaining

By: Winifred Hodge

One of Frige's greatest powers is the ability (and the determination!) to create and maintain a healthy and fruitful condition of orderliness in both the material and the non-material domains. This ability is expressed in her patronage of householding and housekeeping, where she teaches and supports all functions having to do with the well-being of the family. This includes not only housekeeping per se, but the management of money and property, hospitality, child-raising and teaching, health, and family relationships.

Frige's ability to order these matters is not confined to the small scale of the individual household, though that is one essential aspect of it. The same kinds of wisdom, power and knowledge required to properly run a household are also needed to run a business, an organization, a city, state, nation, or an international organization. This is especially true when one remembers how much was done in the household during Heathen times. In addition to the functions householding still implies today, it also included the production of food, fiber, pharmaceuticals, and most other materials needed for daily living, and performed the functions of school, hospital, pharmacy, bank, nursing home, and many other operations that are now more in the commercial sector rather than the household.

The differences between householding and these commercial and public undertakings are primarily one of scale, and do not relate to the basic nature of what one needs to know and do. Whether in the home or the organization, one must know how to organize materials and work functions, manage one's finances, manage supply and production, train and supervise people, ensure good relations among people, plan for the future, and many other activities. The Greek word "economy" (oikonomia) simply means "the law/ordering (nomia) of the household (oikos)"; while "ecology" means "the science of the household." The roots of these words reflect the overall unity between the work, functions and interactions occurring within the household, with those occurring outside it, at the larger scales of national economies and natural ecosystems. Differences of scale, while they may mean a lot to us, are not as significant to the deities since they are not bound by the limitations we are. Thus, for Frige, one might say that either running a household, or running the United Nations, is simply "all in a day's work!"

Frige's ordering function extends to all kinds of relationships: personal relations between individuals, kindred and kinship relationships, larger groups, and society at large. Frige is the frithweaver, bringing about not only peace, but "right relationships" that can maintain themselves peacefully over time, without constant struggle and grief. The majority of her handmaidens, sometimes seen as names for her own aspects, are concerned with this right ordering of relationships. For example, Var ensures the sanctity of oaths and promises; without this sanctity, relationships become weak and chaotic. Sjofn and Ljofn support the smooth path of love and affection; I see their work supporting not only "romantic" man-woman love, but all the different kinds of love, affection, friendship and caring. Syn (whom I call the "Just Say No!" goddess) ensures that we keep our healthy personal boundaries strong, knowing when and to whom and to what we must "say no" in order to preserve our integrity, dignity, health and peace of mind--and our relationships.

Snotra teaches us of courtesy, manners, protocol, diplomacy--and not just the superficial forms of them, but the wisdom and the social ethics that underlie them. The whole purpose of these ways of ordering social interactions is to maintain good relationships with each other: to reduce opportunities for strife and misunderstanding, and to smooth the path of friendliness and trust. When these things break down, social chaos, strife and war ensue, bringing danger to all. Hlin, the protector, provides a safe refuge from the breakdown of social order and the dangers of embittered relationships, until they can be healed or left behind.

Vor is goddess of awareness; without awareness and understanding of other people, their environments and circumstances, it is difficult to maintain good relations with them. Gna, Frige's messenger goddess, can be seen as the process of communication between one person and another. Without this ongoing communication, relationships collapse into complete disorder. The relationships Frige is concerned with--and has the power to help with--range from the intimate relations within a family and among Ásatrúar, through the everyday social relations within our workplaces and neighborhoods, and all the way up to the diplomatic relations between different countries and cultures. And if we ever end up meeting with extraterrestrial beings, we could most certainly use the assistance of Frige and her ladies then, as well!

Frige extends her ordering abilities even beyond the household, work-sphere, and relationships at all levels. Working with Eire, another of her companion-goddesses, Frige orders the interweaving strands of body, mind and soul to promote health and healing. She also orders knowledge and wisdom. Frige is said to "know all, though she does not speak it." The "all" referred to in this quotation applies mainly to the knowledge of the Norns, the knowledge of Wyrd. As anyone who has tried to perceive Wyrd directly knows, this kind of information can seem to us like an impossibly confused and chaotic tangle of bits and pieces. To be able to translate "chaotic tangle of bits and pieces" into "true knowledge and wisdom" requires a very high degree of ordering power--an ability symbolized by Frige's spinning and weaving skills. Saga is seen as another of Frige's companions or aspects, and her skill is the ordering of disconnected bits and pieces of knowledge into the meaningful "whole" represented by history or by a tale, poem or song.

Fulla is Frige's sister, and though Snorri describes Fulla as rather subordinate to Frige, the fact that they are sisters, and other literary clues, shows that Fulla has greater power than Snorri describes. Fulla's primary power is the gift of abundance, of fullness: no small matter, and an attribute of the "Great Goddess" in every religion. But in Snorri's description, Fulla looks after Frige's possessions, and keeps her secrets. "Looking after Frige's possessions" must surely involve putting and keeping them in order. And what are Frige's possessions? Her power, her knowledge, her wisdom. It is as though Fulla is the secret core of Frige's ordering powers. Thus, here we have the uniting of Frige, "The Beloved" (the essence of relationship) with Fulla, "Abundance," and with the power of right ordering. This seems to hint that we should see these things as a unity: right ordering and right relationships lead to abundance and fullness--not only material fullness, but emotional and spiritual, as well. It does make sense!

It is important to understand that the power of right ordering underlies many of Frige's aspects, abilities and strengths, and is a key part of who she is, in terms of her character and personality. This common thread serves to tie together apparently unrelated aspects of her powers, some of which are represented by her handmaidens. Understanding how and why she seeks to bring about order in all these different ways helps one see the underlying unity of her manifold works and purposes in Midgard.


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