It is a curious aspect of Norse mythology that two of its most prominent goddesses, Frigg and Freyja, have very similar names. In fact, some have speculated that they might have originally been the same deity, only to later acquire two separate personalities. Whether or not this is true, it does seem that some cultures conflated the two into a single figure, but we don’t know if this was a throwback or a new development. Some of the most significant Scandinavian texts definitely regard the two as different.
Frigg, sometimes known as Frigga, is primarily known as the wife of Odin, and hence Queen of the Aesir. While subservient to her husband, being queen did have its privileges. She was, after all, the only one other than Odin himself who was permitted to sit on his high seat of Hlidskjalf, from which someone can view all nine worlds.
Her role is primarily that of wife and mother, although she is not the mother of Odin’s most famous son. Thor‘s mother is an earlier wife of Odin’s, the earth goddess Fjörgyn. Frigg is, however, the mother of Baldur, and her most noteworthy part is her making all things swear an oath not to harm her son. She neglected to extract the oath from the mistletoe, however, and Loki took advantage of this.
The goddess is the deity of motherhood, marriage, and domestic arts.
She has the power of prophecy, and has her own home known as Fensalir, which translates to “Marsh Halls.”
While Frigg can be roughly compared to Hera in the Greek pantheon, Freyja is more similar to Aphrodite.
She is young, beautiful, and sexually promiscuous. Her husband’s name is Odr, but he is said to have left her. In addition to her role as goddess of love and beauty, she is associated with wealth, fertility, and even war. In fact, one poem says that her hall is the resting place of half of the warriors slain in battle, with the other half going to Valhalla.
Freyja is not one of the Aesir, the group of gods led by Odin, but rather part of the Vanir. This other set of deities remains part of Norse mythology, although the descriptions make them sound as if they were older gods who were largely displaced by the Aesir. In this case, however, the Aesir remained on friendly terms with the Vanir, and Freyja was presumably sent to Asgard as part of a deal between the two heavenly hosts. The goddess is known to have a cloak of falcon feathers, a boar named Hildisvíni, and a chariot drawn by two cats.
Long-time readers of my mythology posts might remember that I previously mentioned Freyja in this entry, specifically in regards to her sleeping with dwarves in exchange for a necklace. The strange thing is that there also exists a tale of Frigg selling her body for jewelry, even though it seems out of character for her. There’s actually another story of Frigg being unfaithful to her husband, this one involving Odin’s brothers Vili and Ve dividing the head god’s possessions amongst themselves when the one-eyed one is away for a long time, and their sharing Frigg between them. I wouldn’t think the highlight of this story was Frigg’s infidelity, however, but rather that ownership of a man’s household would include his wife as well.
Really, determining the identity of any particular god is a tricky task in any situation. As societies develop, gods take on the features and duties of other gods. Sometimes a previously unique god would become a mere attribute of another deity, and the reverse could happen as well. I get the impression that the Norse myths as we know them today show Freyja and Frigg as two distinct individuals who just happen to have similar names, but that doesn’t mean they were never regarded as one and the same at any time in the centuries during which these gods were worshipped.