The Shades of Freyja

I would like to start out by stating that I am sure that the following will be confusing. I welcome any questions, as I’m still trying to work out exactly what I mean.

I have come to a conclusion as of late: I am much less a heathen than I am a devotee of Freyja. I do not deny the existence of other gods, and continue to have (considerably less central) relationships with other heathen deities. But everything is Freyja, and Freyja is everything.

My experience with heathenry lead me to my Lady Freyja. The goddess dancing in the golden sunlight of her own glory, the sexual drive of the cosmos, the tendency of two things to become one in order to become or create a third. The joy celebrating existence. The lover seeking out the ecstasy she once had and has lost. The utter feeling of loss at no longer feeling that ecstasy. The passion of the body, the dancing of the bodies flying through the cosmos, the tango of the aurora borealis. All these things are Freyja, and these are what I worship.

I have always had a tough time with most of the Norse deities. Odin and I had a falling out long ago, and now I honor him really only out of a feeling of duty as a heathen. Frey, despite the fact that I am sure I would love him, has never really come calling. I feel no need to worship the ancestors who feel so distant to me. I dearly love both Sjofn and Holda.

Many have told me that the worship of the heathen gods seems a bit arbitrary for me, and in many ways, it is. I have no need for the Viking manly warrior thing, as I have said many times. And it is difficult to get past that, even in my own better-informed brain. It is often difficult to get information out of the conscious and into the subconscious, and the fact that the heathens were not always war-mongering is a hard one for me. Plus, my ancestors are only third-most Germanic. They are mostly Irish (on my Father’s side) and some undocumented Native American (illegitimate through my mother’s side). So the ancestor argument is out for me.

But back to Freyja. Freyja is the only deity ever to leave me gasping for air in her glory, and she has done so many, many times.

Over the past several years in which I have been a heathen, there have been two times that non-heathen deities have shown up in my life, and in both instances, I was left remarkably confused as to whether I had met Freyja once again or some other deity entirely. I had learned that hard polytheists see every deity as a different deity and soft polytheists see every deity as the same deity. I considered myself a hard polytheist, so how could they be the same? But they felt the same and claimed to be the same, so how could they be different?

The first instance was with Erzulie Freda. She didn’t stay long because I found myself paralyzed by my confusion. Is she Freyja? Is she not? Both of them like flowers and jewelry and love and joy. They feel the same to me. And so I ended up just sticking with Freyja, and Erzulie disappeared into my memories.

The second was with Bast. This one didn’t confuse me as much, as it took place in a vision as I was falling asleep. Freyja came to me dressed in and Egyptian style, showing me the love stories in the Library of Alexandria. I sort of wrote it off as being a sleepy misunderstanding, or one of Freyja’s (many) whims to take on the glamour and beauty of another age and place. I have been pondering under the surface about Freyja’s relationship with Bast for a couple of years now, never really giving it a voice until recently.

But here’s the thing: I guess I’m not really a hard polytheist. Yes, I believe the gods are individuals and not just archetypes. But I think that individual deities are more like regional accents or separate species than they are like individual people. Nor do I think there is a singly divine pantheon misinterpreted in different places as the Romans did. Freyja is not every goddess. She is distinctly not several other heathen goddesses—she is not Skadhi or Hella, for sure. And she is certainly not many goddesses from many other pantheons—she is not Kali or the Morrigan or Hera. She is not even every love goddess—I’m almost certain she is not Aphrodite. But there are other goddesses she is, mostly.

I went to Central New Jersey Pagan Pride the other day and attended a workshop of Isiacism, the modern worship of Isis. He conflated many goddesses with Isis—Demeter being the one I remember most.

People mix and mingle and always have. There are no hard and fast lines around groups of people and who they worship. People borrowed gods and goddesses left and right. Sometimes the same god or goddess probably showed up in more than one place to start out with.

As I said before, the gods are more like an accent or a species than a singular. Philadelphia has an extremely different accent from Alabama, but there is no point in between where suddenly people have a different accent. The sounds morph from town to town, ever so slightly, until suddenly you compare one to another and there is no comparison.

The same is true with species. The definition of a species is a group of animals that can produce fertile offspring. But what of species that can produce non-fertile offspring? Aren’t they sort of half the same species, part of a whole? But even more importantly, I once read about this type of lizard with a large range north to south. Beginning at the southernmost place they live, each lizard can produce fertile offspring from any other lizard within a certain distance. But the southernmost and northernmost lizards cannot produce fertile offspring together. At which point does it become a different species? Where do you mark the difference?

At which point does white become gray?

There are no absolutes. There are no categories, only broad generalizations that break down in the middle. When is the difference between Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens?

The same is true with Goddesses. Freyja is the goddess of magic and sex and flowers and golden sunlight and jewelry and love songs. She like to drink sweet beverages and dance on hilltops in the grass. She is the friend of cats. All these things are true of Bast as well. Erzulie likes feminity and love and flowers as well. Is she not part Freyja? Where do you draw the line? How many shared attributes make a deity the same, how many different?

Strict hard polytheism no longer makes sense to me. There are too many shades and no clear lines between deities. There are no clear lines between anything in the universe, really. A goddess is a living category of existence, but the lines of those categories are blurred, just like with every other category imaginable. Sometimes, something is very definitely outside, and sometimes something is very definitely inside. Often, all that is clear is a blur, a resting on the edges, a liminal space between categories, the shades of deity.

Nevertheless, it is obvious to me now that my worship and my sacred centers around the category of Freyja. The sex organs of everything: from the pollen that, in the autumns, makes me have the “mini facial orgasms” I despise to the man who makes me have the real ones my body craves. The act of the coming together of things to make new things. The beauty of change. The glittering dance of existence. Jewelry and adornment and the making of things sacred. The sunlight of awareness. These things I worship. And I worship them in the Freyja who is sometimes the dancing Bast who protects Egyptians from the spoil of rodents, sometimes the winged Isis who searches for her dead Green husband, sometimes the Diasporic Erzulie who can never attain her hearts desires, sometimes as the Mater Dolorosa that is so often used to depict Erzulie.

Gods are not distinct categories. Nor are they archetypes. They are shades of being like the way the pronunciation words “pen” and “pin” are the same in the American South, but not in Philadelphia. Whether they are or are not the same depends only on the scale with which you are measuring.

Because everything is relative, I can say with no absolutes who is and is not Freyja or in which instances other goddesses are or are not Freyja. I can only hear the calling of my Lady dancing the cosmos.

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22 thoughts on “The Shades of Freyja

  1. Very interesting post. This was of particular interest to me because I used to be devoted to Bast. We grew apart eventually and Brighid came into my life, as did Druidism. I still honor Bast in some ways, but she doesn’t demand my attention anymore and the lessons she had for me were learned for the time being. I’ve never felt that Brighid was the same as Bast, though. I can imagine them being friends, in some way. I see Brighid in her hearth and I see cats curled up by the fire. I’m not sure about Freya as Bast, but you make some interesting points. I must say that I no longer consider myself a strict hard polytheist either. I think the way you do about the local variations of the Celtic Gods, for instance. Llew seems pretty darn similar to Lugh. I’ve not worked out how this works with other cultures except that perhaps they are related but are still distinct. In the end, I’m largely agnostic about it and am comfortable in saying that. 🙂

    • Yeah, I’m kind of agnostic about it as well. I don’t think you can be certain when you’re looking at things that lack distinct boundaries. In the end, it’s basically a matter of opinion. This makes sense to me, that they are sometimes the same and sometimes different, depending on the way they are measured. But I am at least certain that Freyja and Bast are good friends, and so it makes sense to me to worship both because I love Freyja so dearly.

      Llew and Lugh are probably much closer shades than Freyja and Bast. Perhaps Llew and Lugh are like a barely discernable difference between two shades of light brown, like the dough and the inside of a baked loaf of bread, while Freyja and Bast are more like clearly different Forest and Emerald Green. They’re both green, but they don’t always look the same.

  2. As you already knew, I came to a similar conclusion a while back about where my focus is, deity not culture. That was one important piece of the puzzle for me, it was such a freeing experience in ways I didn’t expect. I don’t feel obligated to get along with deities I just don’t connect with (or who really actively don’t want to connect with me) for whatever reason; don’t feel like a need to get along in a cultural model that, truth be told, I’m not that comfortable with (and yes, like you I know better that not all ancient Greeks were the uptight uber rational intellectuals that people like to believe they were, but its hard to keep that in mind in a whole sea of people that adore that image and try in every way possible to emulate it).

    I’m still a hard polytheist, but it is softer than it once was. I’ve always been willing to believe Germanic and Norse, Irish and Welsh, Greek and Roman and the like were basically the same pantheons; it was the cross cultural stuff I had more of an issue with. I had always saw that sort of thing done rather thoughtlessly, deities boiled down to their lowest common denominator and linked through that without the person having any experience whatsoever with the other god (or either god). I run into more of the there are only twelve gods in the entire universe and everything else is a reflection of these universal powers than you might, and that is one I really disagree with. But I started hearing arguments from people that had experiences similar to yours, hearing syncretic theories that made sense to me. So while its never happened to me personally (its my experience that Hermes and Odin are definitely not the same being, there is a lot in common but plenty of differences in the way they come across), I do believe that it can and does.

    • It does feel freeing, and I feel like I’m finally being honest with myself. And it feel wonderful not to be worrying about these things I’ve been worrying about for years.

      The thing about syncretism, like with everything, is that it’s easy to go too far in either direction. It would be easy to say that all love goddesses are the same, or that Freyja and Bast are the same simply because they both have something to do with love and cats. Which ignores the wonderful mulitplicity of deity, the amazing way that they can surprise you beyond their own little boxes of what they’re supposed to be, beyond the attributes that can be listed next to their names. On the other hand, it’s easy for hard polytheism to go too far, saying that every possible deity must always be a different deity, and that leans too far to me toward suggesting that the world is just a succession of static cultures, as if the Germans had one culture and the Celts had another culture and the Greeks had another and so on. But real life rarely lies in extremes, and saying that all gods are always different from each other can lose the nuances, the patterns of change, the relationships between groups of people whether they be trade or intermarriage or war or colonization. Groups of people borrow from each other to amazing extents and travel amazing distances.

      But yeah, it’s important with syncretism to do it thoughtfully and with actual interactions with the gods. I couldn’t say whether Odin and Hermes are the same because I’ve never met Hermes, but I trust you, since you’ve met both. It’s important to look beyond listable attributes to the core of the deity. It’s important to actually get to know them and meet them, which is easy to forget in the googling age.

  3. I get what you’re saying here. It sounds like you’re trying to say in much deeper terms that all of the gods are some of the gods, no?

    I also agree that in many cases, a god will appear across pantheons, in different names but that not all gods that appear similar are the same. Most of what I believe about specific deities is pretty much limited to Greek and Roman/Pre-Roman Italic because that’s what I know best and even then, most of it is based only on what I’ve read of mythology, history and religion and based on that, what I’ve decided makes sense to me- though I hope this is a little better than just pulling it out of my ass. I believe that the Greek Apollo and the Roman Apollo are the same god while Artemis and Diana are not the same goddess and Leto and Latona might be the same but I don’t know. I don’t think that Ares and Mars are the same god, or that Aphrodite and Venus are the same goddess. I also don’t think that Apollo is Soranus or Veiovis or Bellenos or Lugh or most of the other gods of which people frequently say he is a cognate- and I am absolutely certain that he is not Helios or Aesklepios though I’m pretty sure that he is Paeon (and to make it more confusing, that Aesklepios might also be), but I think they are all related in varying degrees of closeness. I also think he’s related in some manner to Heimdall and- at least in my extremely limited knowledge- Bragi.

    • That would be as accurate of a single sentence summary as any I can think of.

      Your comment about both Apollo and Aesklepios being Paeon, but not each other is what I’m getting at, really. It makes more sense to me if I think of the gods as a spectrum like color. Put Paeon in the middle, and both Apollo and Aesklepios overlap with him, so can be the same as him, but they are never overlapping with each other. It’s confusing to think of individuals as a spectrum instead of a point, but it helps me to understand them. The form of gods is confusing at any rate. But I think to think of them as a spectrum solves the problems of gods being sometimes the same and sometimes different, depending on the person experiencing them or the time or something else. As I said, it all depends on your unit of measure. Hardcore soft polytheists basically say “well, is it a warm color or a cool color?” while hardcore hard polytheists are measuring with the absolute highest resolution tools science can provide. But I’m just looking at what I see.

  4. This was a very courageous post to make and I applaud you for speaking your truth.

    My own perceptions of Deity have shifted a lot over the past twelve months, to the point where I no longer consider myself a hard polytheist either – my polytheism is much more squishy, somewhere between “all Gods are one” and “all Gods are individuals completely different from every other God”. There are other Deities I consider cognates of Frey and stemming from the same root, so to speak, and while I do worship other Gods I’d be lying if I said 95% of my attention wasn’t focused on Him and by extension His mother; anyone else is an afterthought to me.

    Plus, I think the attitude that one has to worship “all the Gods” is not really in line with the ancients where there were tribes dedicated to one or two specific Deities, and culti of individual Deities. It’s not like one’s beliefs have to be perfectly in line with the ancients to be valid anyway, we live in the 21st century, not the 5th, and there’s room for modern expressions of faith. But I think a lot of what passes itself off as Heathenry today is… misguided, and I think it’s perfectly fine to say that rather than being religion X, you are a devotee of Deity Y. At the very least, it’s honest.

    So thank you for sharing this. 🙂

    • I have to agree with you. While I may not worship all the Gods, I at least honour and respect them. But honour =! worship. I think Hera and Zeus and Ares are pretty awesome, but I’m not compelled to give them cultus on a regular basis. Doing so because I’m “obligated” I think would be a mockery of my service, regardless of what the ancient Greeks did.

  5. I stumbled across your blog today, via a google search about Pagan Pride (I was at the Isis workshop as well). I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading through your posts. They are very thought provoking and so very well spoken. I quite enjoyed the read! Thanks for sharing your point of view.

    • Oh hi! Nice to meet you. I was the one in the floral dress cuddling up to the cute boy.

      Thanks so much for your compliment on my writing! Now I’m gonna have to go peruse your blog, too. It looks good. 🙂

  6. I think my own views of the Gods are similar to this, though my experiences are still in motion, so my opinion is in a perpetual state of “maybe”.

    The way I view it, we married and bred with people throughout other cultures. I have mostly Irish, Scottish, Welsh and British blood, however in there is a dose of Portuguese and Spanish as well as a smidge of Ukranian and Dutch/German somewhere too. Most of us “Westerners” are mutts. Even in Asian there was migration and other kinds of Asians mixed, though I know some Asian cultures today are quite strict about inter-racial marriages. Here in Australia most traditional Vietnamese parents would be heartbroken if their daughter dated (or worse, wanted to marry) a non Vietnamese man. I had a friend who was Viet and she was dating a Chinese man, thought they both looked perfectly Asian to me, her parents hated her boyfriend, but tolerated them together because they assumed they’d never marry.

    Point is, racial purity is a myth. Even our Gods intermarried and bred… the Aseir and the Vanir came together, many of them had offspring with Jotuns and some even married them!

    I think I’ve ended up going on a slight tangent here… I’ve been thinking about blogging about this for a week or so. But my point is, why is it so hard to believe that the Gods traveled outside their own original ‘land’? We did. We took our Gods with us. Faiths intermingled. I see nothing wrong with syncretism. I think of it as Eclectism done thoughtfully and respectfully.

    Ancestrally I have right to call on many pantheons, though I have only really perused Diety that has gotten my attention, which is a grand feat considering how dead-headed I can be, spiritually speaking.

    And Freyja is a perfect center point for worship. I can’t believe she didn’t have cults all over the Northern European lands. They would have been fun cults indeed.

  7. This is how I feel on my view of our world and the deities. I’ve gone from pretty hard core polytheist, to a pretty soft one, to somewhere in the middle now, and I think I like it here. Without repeating almost most of what you’ve said here, I agree with you, and I think it’s ridiculous one must feel ashamed or embarassed when feeling this way, especially when one has, for lack of a better word, proof.

  8. That was a wonderful post, and I agree entirely. I don’t think deities are bound by time, culture or place.
    I’ve been learn about and practice hellenic polytheism, mainly because I am very strongly drawn to a greek deity, and I find (modern) greek practise works very well for me so far.
    I also still worship Freyja; I started out with heathenry, and though it didn’t work for me, Freyja did stick around. So far, Freyja and Aphrodite seem very, very different ( and at this point I don’t even feel inclined to worship Aphrodite) – but other gods very similar yet not. It’s confusing, but you did an amazing job of saying just exactly what I couldn’t really work out. Many people seem to want to “adopt” the culture of the gods they worship as well, at least I seem to run into them a lot. I don’t think the gods are quite that bound to human customs, and the spectrum idea definitely makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen the same sort of idea around about “relationships” between gods ( as in love interests, children etc) and that seemed to work too. It’s really hard to wrap your mind about, but deities seem to have a different err…sense of self? not the best way to put it, but…

    Oh btw, I’m songsforthesea from LJ. I should update there, but I’ve been away a lot lately ( the wordpress thing is my religious-ish blog, I’m not replacing LJ)

  9. Pingback: Dancing joy | Witchy Rambles

  10. Pingback: Dancing Joy | Stone Spiral Creations

  11. Interesting post. Think Freya has reached out to me too.

    I am not a heathen practitioner and definitely not one that cares about race. But being Irish doesn’t make you non-norse. The vikings ruled Dublin for over 300 years!

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