Of Being and Knowledge:Thoughts about Frigg, Nerthus, and Odin

By Winifred Hodge

This brief article summarizes a few of my thoughts, personal perceptions and experiences that help to shape my understanding of Frigg, of her relationship to Nerthus and her relations with Odin. I emphasize that in this article I am sharing my own personal perceptions, as I have expressed them in correspondence with other Heathens. I do not make any claims as to the universal validity of these perceptions. If they make sense to you, fine; if they do not, then toss them out!

Frigg and Nerthus

Are Frigg and Nerthus the same being? There are vague references to Frigg's parent as Fjorgynn (with some linguistic discussion as to whether it is her father or her mother who is referred to), with Fjorgynn as a term relating to features of the earth (firth? mountain? earth itself?). Based on these vague hints and also on my own personal understandings and experiences, I believe that Frigg (and Freya as well) is not the Earth herself, but the daughter of Earth. In this way, Frigg inherits much of Earth's nature, her godly standing, and her powers--the family resemblance is certainly there.

But Frigg is a more modern expression of the ancient earth Goddess. Frigg is closer to humanity and to the concerns of civilized human beings--just as one would expect a daughter to be more "modern" than her mother. She shares in some of her mother's nature and powers, but also embodies much of her own new and unique character, much that is new to humanity since ancient Earth herself came into being. This does not mean that Earth herself is or should be superseded by Frigg--not at all, of course! Earth is and will be what she always has been. But the needs of non-human beings and of primitive human beings are in some (not all) respects different from those of humans and human societies that have moved beyond the Stone Age, and we need deities with whom to work, to meet these needs.

My view of Frigg goes well beyond that of the mother of a nuclear family, and by extension the mother-goddess of human families--powerful and significant as that role indeed is. Frigg is also the goddess of social order, social structuring, social relations. Though Odin is not referred to as a "king," Frigg is known as "queen" of Asgard, and for good reason: she subtly weaves the web of frith that forms the fabric of society, for Godkind and humankind. This is where much of her power lies--a power that can indeed be compared to Earth's power in terms of its significance for the world, but which is really very different from Earth's power, though rooted in it. What would our world be, without social relationships and all that goes into creating and maintaining them, at all levels from individuals on up to nations and cultures? Has Frigg lost' power, by leaving behind some of Earth's powers, and taking up these newer, more modern (post-Stone-Age) powers?

I do not believe so, myself. It is the same power that mother and daughter share, at the root of it: the power of life itself. But Frigg wields the power of life expressed through different channels-- less through the channels of nature, and more through the channels of godly and human society, which is to say, most of what gives human life meaning, and makes it possible. Nor does Frigg detract from Earth's powers in any way: we will always need Earth, need to love and care for her, and accept her care in return. That cannot change. But Earth cannot give us what Frigg can, and we need both of their gifts in very truth--we could not live, nor would life be worth living, if we were missing either of their powers.

Here I will share with you a brief but very meaningful vision that I had of Frigg, several years ago--making no claims for it, other than it being my own personal experience and insight! But I think it has a bearing on this discussion, casting a light on it from a different perspective. I saw Frigg seated next to Ginnungagap, surrounded by the blackness of the void. Inside the Gap itself, I saw a seething mass of runes, coruscating with intense gold rims and the blackest of shades in their interiors. I had the sense that the runes were so star-hot they were cold, so outer-space-cold they were hot--that they passed beyond the physical boundaries where energies can be sensed and measured. Frigg, enveloped in her mantle of stars, was serenely reaching into the mass of runes, coiling handfuls of them onto her distaff, and spinning from this the thread with which to weave the worlds.

In trying to interpret this vision, I think it is not so much the physical world/earth that she is weaving, as it is the nonmaterial worlds of spirit, of culture, knowledge and wisdom. She is weaving some of the underlying patterns, such as the genetic and moral codes and their links with Wyrd, that shape the physical and social worlds, and the worlds of Spirit. In this respect, she is as Earth's equal, or perhaps greater than Earth, but she is of a different essence and wields a different power than that of Earth. They are similar in their powers of bringing forth and shaping, but those things which they bring forth are different, though related or connected with each other.

Seeing Frigg in this form, as I saw her in this vision, makes me wonder whether her spirit in some form does not also precede Earth, being greater than Earth in the sense of being more universal or cosmogonic. It is as though Frigg in a relatively undifferentiated, cosmogonic form existed before Earth, but also was born of Earth into her more personified form as the Goddess Frigg. As though her "birth" from Earth consisted of a reshaping of who she is, into a being with whom it is easier for us to relate than it is to relate to Earth and to Audhumla or some other form of the cosmic Ur-Mother. Her birth through Earth perhaps helped to bring her more "down to earth" in a way that we can relate to! But still in the core of herself she retains the powers of the cosmogonic Mother.

Frigg, Odin, and Power

If we hold this view of Frigg, how might this affect our understanding of Odin's nature and powers, and of the relationship between Frigg and Odin?

Another vision that I had, some years ago, is germane to this question. This was before I had grown close to Odin. I knew I needed to do that, and part of me wanted to, but I kept shying away from closeness with him, feeling at that point somewhat wary and distrustful. I was working mainly with Frigg at the time, so finally I got the idea of asking her to help. I knew that she loves Odin and thinks highly of him, and he of her. So I asked her to help me understand more of her relationship with him, as a way of getting closer to him through her.

Well, the Gods sometimes give us a little more than we bargain for, and that was certainly the case, this time! Frigg snatched me up one night, unprepared, just as I was falling asleep, and drew me into a place like outer space. I was a tiny mote, and Frigg and Odin were the size and power of supernova suns, with me the tiny mote floating right between them. The two of them were just at that moment turning toward each other, with the thought of love in their minds. The power that flowed from their love and passion was literally awesome--power that generates worlds, even universes--Big Bang power.

I was there only a split second, and realized this was no place for a mortal to be. Even in that brief instant, I felt that all my hair had burned away, and my skin was blackening to a crisp. I left that place with the utmost rapidity! Then I got up and looked in the mirror, and though I had all my hair, my skin was indeed very red, as though I was badly sunburned. I asked Frigg politely to remember, next time, that I am mortal and subject to mortal limitations, and to please be careful of me! But it was quite an experience, and it certainly did respond to my request to Frigg, to show me more of her relations with Odin! ("Be careful what you ask for: you might get it!")

Based on some interpretations of the development and history of our faith, Odin can perhaps be seen as an "upstart God," one who in ancient times was a less-important God of storm and wode, and a psychopomp, in comparison to the overarching Sky Father God who perhaps was the same as Tyr. I am familiar with what the various interpretations of the lore have to say on this subject, but I do not have a sense, from personal experience and perception, about what the real truth of the matter is. However, I would like to simply suggest this idea for consideration. If the vision I saw of the power of love between Odin and Frigg is true, then perhaps Odin the upstart' gained his present degree of power by wedding Frigg, and together weaving this power out of their love and their respective natures. Making a hard-headed marriage of state to gain power from it, and making a success of his personal marriage relationship nevertheless, are actions that would fit very consistently with Odin's usual way of going about things!

Frigg, Odin, and Knowledge

In my perception, Frigg and the Norns weave the secret patterns of the multiverse. Odin seeks to unravel the strands of truth, hidden in these secrets. Weaving and unraveling: between the two processes, the multiverse is in a constant state of Becoming, of re-creation and renewal. It is endlessly woven, and mysteries are endlessly generated, which Odin seeks endlessly to learn and understand because by being understood and known by him, the mysteries attain a higher degree of reality and power.

I see truth as generally multi-layered and complex, not simple and absolute. The layers of truth can often conflict with each other, or seem to do so. This is how it seems to me when I am in the Well, peering through layer upon layer of interwoven truths. Simply learning a single truth about a matter does not approach to full wisdom, in my view. Rather, we begin to gain wisdom when we are able to perceive a cross-cutting sample of these layers of truths (I think we generally cannot perceive all of them) and integrate across them, spinning a multi-stranded, multi-colored cord of knowledge by the power of seeing and understanding the layers. This cord is then strong enough to hold the weight of the deeper truths. Sort of like a fishing-line, for deep-sea fishing! Here the sea' is the one Well--the conjoined Wells of Wyrd, Mimir, and Hvergelmir; while the fish' are the truths worked into its layers.

Frigg knows automatically how to spin this cord of wisdom and how to fish with it, as part of her being, part of who she is. For Odin, constant seeking is required of him: exploration, action, learning. He gains something by this requirement, by having the process be difficult for him, rather than having it be a part of his being as with Frigg. Frigg knows all but speaks it not. I believe this is because there is no way to put into words the knowledge that she has, in the form in which she holds this knowledge. It does not lend itself to verbal expression. But Odin, because of his struggle, learns not only the knowledge itself, but also learns the process of learning about the knowledge. Because of this, he is more able to communicate it to us directly, to teach us knowledge and teach us how to gain knowledge for ourselves. Frigg is the weaver of mysteries. Odin is the distiller of knowledge out of mystery, drop by inspired drop: Odhroerir's Master!

Frigg is not unable to teach us about the mysteries, of course, but her ways are somewhat different. She teaches most often by experience and intuition. Odin teaches by runes and the sacred words, by language, intellect, and wode. The minds of both of them are subtle and great, and hold far more than we can ever encompass. The power each of them has, alone, is enormously enhanced when their powers are conjoined. I think that the entertaining wrangles which are told us in the myths--the contests of wit between Frigg and Odin--are but pale reflections of that primal, creative explosion that happens when they truly come together.


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