Freyja & Odin as the Witching Gods

Before I begin I’d like to clarify that my personal belief is that the witching gods are two great shapeshifters and primordial powers of nature. They go under many masks and use many names, often depending on region (and weather changes.) You don’t even have to use a specific name to reach them; these beings are older than names. Sometimes I just call on the Hunter – or the Wild Man, or the White Lady, or the Lady of the Wildwood – and it works just as well. Moreover, I don’t believe that the Devil as Odin is the exact same being as the norse Allfather Oden, he just uses that form and name when it’s convenient for him and he is by no means restricted by it. The same goes for Freyja as the witch mother.

These two great initiators have turned out to be very regional for me, as I live in Sweden. They’re deeply embedded to the land I’m standing on; their names fleeting and changing with the tides, their influence and power felt all around me. I’ve communicated with nature spirits who’ve presented themselves as “the sons of Odin.” I’ve been shown the White Queen, her white animals and her Berkanan rune. I’ve followed these clues and started peeling back layers of the folklore and old cult practices in Scandinavia, coming closer & closer in unraveling the mystery of what these old forces are. There’s never going to be a crystal clear answer to this and I’ve accepted that, but I’ll sure as hell never stop trying to find it.

Freyja, Frö, Fru & local saints
Most of us know that Freyja only means ‘lady’ and is more of a title than a name. The witch queen taking on the mask of Freyja makes sense – she’s of the vanir (which is sometimes equated with the elves), rules fertility, and is a great teacher of norse magic. In my experience this aspect, or mask, is strongly connected to the season of spring and summer,  of sexuality and healing. The Freyja figure could be found in Swedish folk magic quite some time after Christianization, often in spells regarding love. The birch tree was said to be sacred to Her, as it was strongly connected to femininity, and she was regarded as the mother of all nature and its spirits. Frö was one of the names for this earthen Freyja and it means seed, a manifestation of the fertilized earth. Fru was another name she was worshipped under and it simply means ‘wife’ (this title was later taken on by Mother Mary) and has strong connection to an earthen mother role. Even long after Christianization echoes of these earthen fertility cults remained; the healing wells of St Helen and St Ingemo were said to be traces of old cults of Freyja.
This becomes especially clear in the case of St Ingemo. Ingemo was called a ‘saint’ but was never canonized by the church, which means that they basically just slapped the word saint in front of her name in order to keep the well worship alive. People pilgrimaged to St Ingemo’s well for its great healing powers and made offerings the birch trees nearby, who were considered sacred. It’s written in one of the few reports that people worshipped the saint “as a goddess.” Moreover, the name Ingemo is a modernization of Ingimodh. Ing is connected to the rune ‘Ingwaz’, which is connected to the god Frey, Freyjas counterpart, and tied to both earth and fertility. Modh means mind.

… the rune may be interpreted as a symbol of the tree goddess found in many cultures, female and motherly, source of nourishment and protection. This figure is archetypal, transcending the goddess-personae to which various peoples have ascribed it […] Tree spirits are common in European folklore, and the birch tree is a logical home for the white maidens who haunt Germanic legend.”
– Taking up the Runes, Paxson

The Scandinavian winter celebration of St Lucy, who’s called ‘Lucia’, is also said to have ties to the cults to Freyja. In folklore the Lucia figure differed vastly depending on village; in some cases she was the comforting light in the darkness and a protector during the cold months, in others she was evil personified and rode through the night out looking for blood. A dual nature, just as our beloved queen.

Freja by John Bauer

Odin, Frey, Frö
Odin as the black dressed Devil is common in our folklore. There are countless tales about people seeking him out at a crossroads saying “Oden ta mig, Oden ta mig” (Odin take me, Odin take me) three Thursdays in a row. He was sought after to increase wealth and luck, and according to trolldom trials the pacts with him lasted for seven years. He could either appear as a pale, dark clothed and serious man, similar to a priest, or he could be a wicked king who enjoyed feasting and dancing at the sabbats. During these festivities he was said to sit on a throne and engage in sexual activities with his witches. In other cases he married them off to his ‘sons’ instead, such as Näcken, Hin, Oon, Trå, Fan-ta-dig, and many more. We can assume that these sons are familiar spirits given to the witches, and the marriage act becoming union between the human and the Other; the Devil quite literary becomes the father of the witches.
Although the black clothed man is his most well-known shape, I had a hard time connecting him to the time of spring, summer, light and fertility. It just didn’t feel quite right and I knew there was a Green Man that I hadn’t found yet. And indeed, it didn’t take long before I started having visions of a carved tree doll with a big phallus; a common depiction of Frey.
Frey simply means ‘Lord’ and, just like his female counterpart Freyja, is more of a title than a name. He’s connected to the vanir and is the ruler of Alfheim, the realm of the elves, as well as the harvest. The elves, as we know, are the same beings that were later called the ‘nature spirits’ or ‘troll.’ (Elfshot = trollshot.) Fertility cults to Frey were wide spread and frequently practiced throughout Scandinavia, and he was also known as frö, which means seed.
In the guise of Frey the Devil strikes me more as the erotic aspect of the Faery King and appears more youthful than Odin. He enjoys beauty, song and dance and might come off as more benevolent than his wintry counterpart – that is as long as he’s pleased.

“In Scandinavia these blessings are peculiarly identified with the god Frey. ‘He rules over the rain and the shining of the sun, and therewithal the fruit of the earth,’ Gylfaginning tells us, ‘and it is good to call him for fruitful seasons and peace.’”
– The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England

In my own practice Odin is the hunter who reigns throughout the dark half of the year, he haunts the sky together with his consort Lussi (Lucia), Perchta, or Holda. During the spring and summer half they are Frey and Freyja, two fertility forces of lust and greenery. These masks and names are all used by the primordial king and queen, mother and father, of all that exist in nature – including us. They are patron to witches, bringers of knowledge, and the keys to our Land.

The Wild Hunt of Odin (1872)

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