The moon sails through the trees.
I call the weeper of gold!
Lady of Sorcery!
I stand before you unafraid.
Keeper of the Brisingamen!
Reveal to me secrets of knot and braid.
Freyja! Moon Goddess! Queen of the Valkyries!
Give me the key to deep magicks...
(from "Moon Magick" by D.J. Conway) (1)
In the Norse pantheon, Freya (also "Freyja") rivals only Odin in her power over heaven and earth. She is the "Queen of the Valkyries" and, in fact, it is to Freya that Odin must offer up fully half of the souls of those Vikings killed on the battlefield. While Freya's husband is usually identified by the name of "Od", the nature of this "community property-like split" of valued, brave, warrior souls immediately leads us to suspect that this name just might be lacking a couple of letters (i.e.,"O-d-i-n").(4)
It is said that Freya somehow "lost" her husband, Od, and cried tears of gold which turned to amber when they fell into the sea.(2)
Freya is the daughter of Njord, a Norse god of fertility and/or the sea, who was a member of the old order of wild nature and fertility dieties called the "Vanir" that were traditionally at war with the "warrior gods" of another order called the "Aesir" (headed by Odin and Thor) and his sister (possibly "Nerthus"). When the two waring factions decided to make peace, Njord was sent to the home of the Aesir, called "Asgard", along with his wife and children: Freya and her brother "Frey" (also "Freyr"), the Norse god of wealth, fruitfulness and peace (5). Thereafter Freya took up residence in a grand hall called "Sessrumnir" in an opulent palace called "Folkvang".(8)
She is the patron goddess of crops and birth, sex, love, beauty, fertility, childbirth, divination, war, death, courage and wealth and the symbol of sensuality.(1)
Like Aphrodite (in the Greek pantheon) with whom she is often compared, she is considered much more a goddess of "lust" than "love" because of her many romantic liasons -- most notably with the four dwarves who fashioned her incredible necklace, "Brisingamen" (also called "The Milky Way" by the Norse).(1)
Freya is said to love music, the spring, flowers and, most particularly, all that is "fey" (elven and fairy-like). She was widely known for a special brand of trance magic based upon her "shapeshifting" and astral projection abilities called "Seidr" (which she also taught to all of the Aesir), is credited with the invention of the runic method of divination (runes) and owns an often-borrowed cloak made of falcon feathers which enables anyone who wears it to turn into a bird.(1)
As you might well guess, this last association makes falcons especially sacred to her; however, it is for cats that Freya has a very special affinity for she is known as "The Mistress of Cats" and is often depicted in a cart or chariot being drawn by two large grey (some legends say "black") cats who often carried messages for her.(7)
When this attribute is added to those of her sacred day, Friday, and her sacred number, 13, (3) one begins to see her traditional association with witches. In fact, after serving as draught animals to Freya for seven years, it was said that the cats (called "Gib-cats" and thought to be of the "Norwegian Forest Cat" breed) (6) were rewarded by being turned into witches disguised as black cats.(4)
(Norwegian Forest Cat)
She is also craftily portrayed in the "Rider-Waite" Tarot deck as the Queen of Wands with one of her cats (unhitched for the moment, it seems) at her feet. The depiction of Freya with cats at her feet is said to be a reflection of her domesticity.(4)
(5) Microsoft Encarta 2002
(6) Microsoft Encarta 2007
Black and white early 20th century depictions of Freya courtesy of: http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/vik_pets.shtml.
Norwegian cat photo courtesy of: