Huldra: Northern European Forest Creature

Be watchful when you are hiking in the dark tall woods of Northern Europe, you just may come across a lovely woman that is really a creature termed ‘Huldra’ who are a legendary race of Norwegian forest spirits that dwell in the dark woods of Norway. Huldra is also known as Holder to Germanic folks. They are also spoken about in oral Sámi tradition and Lapplanders. According to Swedish folklore Huldra are called Tallemaja “pine tree Mary,” or skogsrå “spirits of the forest.” In Sámi folklore they are known as Ulda. The origin of the name Hulda connects her to the shaman Völva and the German figure Holder or Frau Holle.

Huldra-Theodor_Kittelsen

She emerges out of the dark woods as a bewitching stunning, fair skin woman with long wavy, blonde hair wearing a crown of flowers upon her head with a large gap in its back sometimes filled with tree bark. The Huldra also have cow tail on their lower backs. The Swedish skogsrå has a fox tail on its lower back.

The Huldra are practical jokers known to seduce single men to wed them. Once at the altar the Huldra will turn herself into an old crone in order to shock the groom to be. Once the wedding follows through this spirited creature will gain tremendous strength.

There is a male species of the Huldra termed a huldrekall who dwell beneath the earth in underground tunnels and are hideously, unattractive compared to the Hulda. They have enormous large noses similar to trolls.

 

Sources & References:

  • K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and LiteratureUniversity of Chicago Press, London, 1967
  • Charlotte S. Sidgwick, The Story of Norway, Oxford 1885. Rivingtons Waterloo Place London.
  • Huldra, Featured illustration Skogsrå, Wikimedia Commons in Public Domain
  • “Huldra”  Theodor Kittelsen 1892. Illustration at Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.
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Viking Ship ‘Naglfar’

‘Naglfar’ is an Ancient Norse Viking ship built from the dead Viking’s toes and fingernails. 
Yes, the Norse people trimmed the toe nails and finger nails of the dead Vikings and they built the Viking ship ‘Naglfar’ with them.

Legend has it that when Ragnarök finally begins, the ship Naglfar will sail to Vígríðr, carrying the army of the dead to fight the Norse gods.

The Poetic Edda mentions Naglfar in the 13th century from earlier ancestral sources, and the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson.

Verse from The Prose Edda

49. Hrym steers from the east, the waters rise, the mundane snake is coiled in Jötun rage. The worm beats the water, and the eagle screams: the pale of beak tears carcases; Naglfar is loosed.

The Naglfar Norse Ship is depicted in the Tullstorp Runestone in Scania, Sweden.

The Tullstorp Runestone displays Ragnarök apocalyptic event carved into the runestone revealing the magnificent  spectral ship Naglfar sailing beneath the gigantic wolf Fenrir.

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Sources:

*The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson 13th Century

*Naglfar ship illustration in Public Domain

Freyja’s Cats Bygul & Trjegul

The Norse goddess Freyja has two cats named Bygul and Trjegul who pull her chariot around Asgard home of the Aesir gods and goddesses. She enjoys traveling to the other worlds when she isn’t too busy ruling over Folkvangr.

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Above Illustration of Freyja with Bygul & Trjegul pulling her cart.

Some Norse farmers still leave food offerings for Bygul and Trjegul, Freyja’s large Norwegian Forest cats in order to attain a bountiful harvest.

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Above two photos of beautiful Norwegian Forest Cats whose ancestors may have carted around the Norse goddess Freyja (Public Domain)

Source & Reference:
Larrington, Carolyne (Trans.) (1999). The Poetic Edda. Oxford University Press.
ISBN 0-19-283946-2.

The Necklace of The Brisings

The Necklace of The Brisings or Brísingamen

Above Painting: Heimdall returns Brisingamen to Freyja, in an anachronistic painting centuries after the era of the myth’s popularity

Synopsis:

Brísingamen: The necklace was forged in fire by the dwarfs Alfrigg, Dvalinn, Berlingr, and Grerr.
To attain it Freyja had to begrudgingly, sleep with each of them, Loki discovered this information and told it to Odin, who requested him to snatch and hand over the necklace to him.
Next, Odin returned it to Freyja on the terms she must start an eternal battle between two kings. Freyja agreed to honor his plan.


The Legend:

The night was about to change over into dawn. The sky was a greyish green in the east, while the snowflakes were ghosting around Asgard. Only Loki sighted Freyja leave Sessrumnir. Her cats slept quietly by the warm hearth. Her chariot lay unused; in the half light she set off towards the Bifrost. Next, the Wiley Loki wrapped his cloak around himself and followed Freyja. The goddess glided over the snow, passing by the sleeping Asgard, her lips as she made her way over the rainbow that glowed all around her. The snow veils of Midgard were beaming in the rising sun. Dreaming of gold, desiring gold, Freyja crossed a barren plain, Loki scurrying after her. She found her way across a winding river silenced by ice; she passed the base of a giant glacier, chopped and bluish. Very dangerous it was. Finding her way across the snow at the end of the short hours of daylight she came to a group of huge rounded boulders, jostling under the shoulder of an overhanging cliff. Freyja discovered the thin string narrow path that led in and down. Her eyes formed tears from the cold and her tears streamed over her cheeks as a shower of gold. She continued down the rocky path until it led into a huge dank cavern. There she stood very still; listening to the water dripping into rock pools and the motion of a tiny stream pulsing over the rock. Freyja began to hear a tapping in the distance. As the goddess sauntered through the bleak cave, the sound of the tapping grew stronger and louder. Freyja moving through a narrow crevice and stepped in the middle of a sweltering smithy of four dwarfs, named Alfrigg, Dvalin, Berling, and Grerr. Suddenly, Freyja spotted the golden necklace, a choker of gold incised with a fabulous pattern. It was “breathtaking,“ so thought the goddess. She desired this beautiful necklace and decided to do what it takes to attain it. The four dwarfs stared at the goddess – she shimmered in the warm light of the forge.

The dwarfs had never seen such a brilliant goddess. Freyja smiled at the little dwarfs. “I will purchase this necklace from you, she stated.

The four swarfs looked at one another. Three shook their heads and the fourth replied, ‘It’s not for sale.’ “I want it,’ said Freyja. The dwarfs grimaced.

I’ll pay you with silver and gold – a fair price,’ said Freyja. Her voice began to rise. Freyja sauntered over to the bench where the necklace was displayed on.

‘I’ll bring you other rewards,’ replied Freyja. ‘We have plenty of silver,’ said one of the dwarfs. ‘And we have enough gold!’, shouted another dwarf.

Freyjas kept staring at the necklace desiring even more now.

Alfrigg, Dvalin, Berling, and Grerr huddled in a corner of the forge. They quietly whispered to each other so that Freyja couldn’t hear what they were saying to each other.

‘What is your price?’ asked the goddess. ‘It belongs to all of us,’ meaning each dwarf. “ so we share everything,’ claimed one of the dwarfs.

‘There is only one price that will satisfy us,’ replied said the third dwarf.

The fourth dwarf gleaned at Freyja and said ‘you!’

The goddess flushed with embarrassment. The dwarfs cornered her and said, ‘Only if you will lie one night with each of us will this necklace ever grace your lovely neck.’

Freyja was horrified by the repulsive appearance of the dwarfs large noses and stature. Especially, their deep-set greedy eyes.

Unfortunately for her, was her desire to acquire the necklace was greater than the thought of sexual relations with each dwarf.

‘As you wish,’ murmured Freyja shamelessly.

Four days and nights crept by, the goddess kept her end of the bargain. The dwarfs too kept their word too. They presented Freyja with the necklace and even helped fasten it around her pretty neck.

Quickly, Freyja shot out of the cavern and over the plains of Midgard as if her life depended upon it. She crossed over the Bifrost bridge and returned in the dark to Sessrumnir. Under her cloak, she wore the necklace of Brisings.


The Wiley one made straight for Odin’s hall. He found Odin known also as the Terrible one.’ the father of battle, relaxing alone in Valaskjalf. His ravens, Hugin and Munin perched upon his shoulders as his loyal wolves lay at his feet.

‘Well,’ said Odin.

Loki smirked.

‘I can read your face…’

‘Ah!,’ interrupted Loki, his eyes gleaming mischievously. ‘but did you see hers?’

‘Whose?’ said Odin.

‘Did it escape you? Did you not see the events unfold from Hlidskjalf?

Loki sarcastically retorted, ‘ Where were you Odin, when the goddess you love, the goddess you lust for, slept with four dwarfs?’

‘Stop!’ shouted Odin.

Loki ignoring Odin’s warning and Odin quickly were turning into the green-eyed monster.

Loki was delighted to carry on his shaming of Freyja, just to watch Odin boil over like an erupting volcano.

‘Collect the necklace for me,’ said Odin rigidly, when Loki had gleefully, returned Freyja home to Asgard. Loki laughed in a sarcastic manner.

This enraged Odin even more. ‘You love to play the vile one!’ cried, Odin.

‘You set us all at each other’s throats. Now I see you flyte at her throat: get the necklace.’

The Wiley one replied, “ You know as well as I that Freyja will enter into that hall against her wishes.’

Odin now more angry than ever raises his voice and shouts to Loki, “ Fetch the necklace’! I don’t want the sight of your shadow until you bring the Brisings necklace to me.’

Loki now realized he had pushed the Allfather too far. Loki began to sweat and feeling a bit panicky walked quickly out of Odin’s hall.

Later that evening brave for the moment Loki glided across the sparkling snow to the hall Sessrumnir. He raced up the stairs twisting the doorknob only to discover it was locked.

Loki felt the blast of the winter wind up his back and tightly gathered his cloak around his body in the dark of the frosty night.

Suddenly, Loki remembered Sif being locked n her bedchamber, her silky, shining hair, his lips grimaced with a sigh. He then quietly morphed himself into a fly.

Sessrumnir was so craftily built that Loki couldn’t find a way into the hall.

He buzzed around the doorknob and door to find a way in but there was no way in even for a tiny fly.

He luckily found a way into the hall by flying up to the roof and sliding through a small opening under the roof.

Once Loki made his way into the hall he transformed back into his own image again.

Loki sleuthed inside making sure he didn’t disturb Freyja’s daughters and servants while they slept.

He snuck into Freyja’s bedchamber to find the goddess fast asleep still wearing the necklace. the clasp of the necklace was behind her neck and he couldn’t reach it without disturbing the goddess of love.

Loki decided to shape change into a flea and enjoyed crawling around her breasts and neck. he crawled onto her cheek and gave her a ravenous bite!

Freyja tossed and turned but didn’t wake up. She turned onto her side and Loki spotted the clasp. He quickly jumped off her onto the floor Loki morphed back into his own image.

He unclasped the clasp and quietly and swiftly snuck out of the hall disappearing into the cold, dark night.


The next morning Freyja woke up after scratching the side bitten by (flea Loki) on her itchy cheek she reached for the necklace that once graced her neck last night.

Freyja instantly jumped out of bed searching for her necklace. She spotted the opened doors of Sessrumnir hall and she knew this was the handy work of crafty Loki. Freyja realized only Odin would have ordered this theft job.

Freyja hadn’t figured out the fact that Odin and Loki knew how she had attained the Brisings necklace.

Freyja now quite angry rushed to Valaskjalf and challenged Odin on the theft of her brilliant necklace.

‘Where is my necklace, Odin?’ cried Freyja.

‘You have reached pretty low if you ordered my necklace to be stolen,’ snapped Freyja.

Odin snarled, ‘Who are you to accuse me when you are the one who has lowered her standards.’

‘Give me back my necklace Odin!’ cried Freyja streaming tears of gold.

‘You will never lay eyes upon it again, unless..’ Odin stated.

‘Unless what?’ mumbled, Freyja.

Odin said, ‘You must stir up dissent, stir up war.’

Your mission is to find two kings of Midgard (Midgard is the world of people) and pit them against each other to war. They must each have the support of twenty vassal kings.

Odin continued,” You must use your feminine wiles as to breathe new life into corpses.’ ‘They must do battle, shed blood, die and repeat this action every time.’

Freyja was perturbed with Odin that he would desire the world of folks that worship him would want to harm his own followers. However, Freyja’s desire for her necklace was much stronger than the welfare of the folk.

‘This is my terms,’ replied Odin.

Freyja had quite enough drama for one day and said, ‘ I Agree with your terms and will fulfill my side of the agreement.’
‘Now hand over my necklace!’

Below: Freyja and The Necklace of The Brisings  art courtesy of Thalia Took at Deviant Art

Freyja and necklace

Source and References:

  • Bellows, Henry Adams (Trans.) The Poetic Edda, Princeton University Press, 1936.
  • This short story is also known as “The Saga of Högni and Hedinn”. English translation can be found at Northvegr: Three Northern Love Stories and Other Tales.

Mythical Fólkvangr, The Goddess Freyja’s Field Of The Host

One may have heard that Odin has his own place for the dead called Valhalla. Many may not have heard that the Norse Vanir goddess Freyja has her own field for the battle worn dead named Fólkvangr.

According to Norse mythology, Fólkvangr  in the Old Norse language means “field of the host” or “people-field” or “army-field”) it is a pasture or field governed by the goddess Freyja where half the dead that fought in combat appear once dead, while the other half are sent to the god Odin in Valhalla. Fólkvangr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. According to the Prose Edda, within Fólkvangr is Freyja’s hall Sessrúmnir.

Freya and Freyr. Artist: Robert Pace

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Freyja helps other deities by lending the use of her feathered cloak. She initiates in events of fertility and love, and is often sought after by powerful jötnar who desire to make her their wife. Freyja’s  has an absentee husband, the god Óðr. She  has cried tears of gold for him, and seeks him out under a variety of names such as Gefn, Hörn, Mardöll, Sýr, Valfreyja, and Vanadís.

Below Art courtesy of  “Larme d’Or”, or “Freya’s Tears”. Artist:  Anne Marie Zilberman  

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The Goddess Freyja above illustration by “Freya” (1882) by Carl Emil Doepler  (Public Domain)

 

 

Source & Reference:

  • Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic by Claude Lecouteux ISBN 9781620554807 Copyright ©2005

Odin’s Ravens: Huginn and Muninn

In Norse mythology wherever the raven-god is mentioned in the Prose Edda, (Wöden or Odin) travels with his two loyal ravens named Huginn meaning (thought) and Muninn meaning (memory.)  According to the archaeological evidence, bracteates Odin has been connected to Huginn and Muninn since the 4th to 7th century CE termed the Migration Period. Bracteates are worn as amulets attached to a string and worn around the neck of the Germanic Kings of the past.

Photo below: B-bracteate of the B7 or “Fürstenberg” type, found in Welschingen (IK 389), displaying the goddess Freyja. (Public Domain)

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These feisty ravens fly around the nine worlds especially Midgard informing Odin on the news of folks and other beings.  Huginn and Muninn are mentioned in the Poetic Edda  written by Snorri Sturluson, compiled in the 13th century from early traditional sources such as the Prose Edda, and Heimskringla.  Odin’s ravens are also noted in the poetry of the skalds,

Below: Huginn and Muninn sit on Odin’s shoulders in an illustration from an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript. (Public Domain)

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In the Poetic Edda, a disguised Odin mentions he fears that they may not return from their daily flights.  In the Prose Edda and the Third Grammatical Treatise, the two ravens are described as perching on Odin’s shoulders. Heimskringla notes that Odin gave Huginn and Muninn an ability to speak.

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Above illustration: a plate from a Vendel era helmet featuring a figure riding a horse, holding a spear and shield, and confronted by a serpent. The rider is accompanied by two birds. (Public Domain)

In Chapter Seven of the Ynglinga saga, Snorri Sturluson writes, “Odin could shift his appearance. When he did so his body would lie there, as if he were asleep or dead, but he himself, in an instant, in the shape of a bird…went to distant countries on his or other men’s errands.”

muninn clasp

Photo and replica above courtesy of Irish Archaeology of Muninn, one of Odin’s ravens. Bronze harvest clasp found in Vadstena, on the island of Gotland, Sweden.

 

Source and Reference:

  • Hollander, Lee Milton. (Trans.) (2007). Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-73061-8
  • Jensen, Stig (1990). “Odin from Ribe” as collected in Old tidens Ansigt: Faces of the Past. Det kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab. ISBN 87-7468-274-1
  • Poul Kjærum, Rikke Agnete Olsen. Oldtidens Ansigt: Faces of the Past (1990), ISBN 978-87-7468-274-5

 

 

 

 

Freyja, Scandinavian Goddess

Freyja means Lady or Mistress, also known as Freya.

Freyja is the Scandinavian goddess of fertility, lust, beauty, wealth, gold as well as being a witch skilled in magick and enchantment. She is the main goddess of the Vanir, daughter of Njörðr.

Here are a some Folklore Facts about this lofty goddess.

Freyja is not Frigg the queen of the Aesir goddesses and is married to Odin. Many scholars still debate this topic that over time Frigg and Freyja somehow combined in identity. However, Frigg is the goddess who has the English word Friday named after her.

She enjoys love and poetry and is famous for her promiscuity. Freyja worship was erotic and she is connected to several Eastern deities, like Cybele. Freyja represents the planet ‘Venus’ which is the love planet.

Freyja has a brother ‘Freyr’ who is the Norse god of harvest and bounty.
She has two large male Norse forest cats that pull her and her chariot among the clouds, named, ‘Bygul’ and ‘Trjegul’.
Freyja has a wild boar at her side his name is ‘Hildisvini,’ who once was a man. Sadly, or not, the dark elves turned him into a boar.

She is married to the god Óðr who is rarely around and she searches for him under various names such as including the thrice-burnt and thrice-reborn Gullveig/Heiðr, the goddesses Gefjon, Skaði, Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa, Menglöð, and the 1st century CE “Isis” of the Suebi. Freyja cries tears of gold when she can’t fine him.
She has a falcon cloak that enables her to travel throughout the nine worlds. 
Freyja is known as an accomplished sorceress of the Norse nine worlds.
She is the leader of the Valkyries, female goddesses that help her collect the fallen brave soldiers souls from the battlefield.

Odin and Freyja collect the dead souls of valiant soldiers on the battlefield and carry half of them, off to Valhalla the hall of Odin and the other half Freyja takes to her hall Sessrúmnir in Folksvangr. She reigns over ‘Folksvangr’ in the heavens.
Freyja has a magickal gift of Seidr, she can shape-shift and change her environment that surrounds her.
Odin taught her Rune wisdom and in exchange she taught Odin her spell craft.
Freyja takes pride in her amber necklace called Brísingamen. This frisky goddess bargained to attain the Necklace of Brísingamen also known as Brisings, by sleeping with four crafty dwarfs that created it.

Her most desired fruit are strawberries and her number is 13 and she is the goddess of Friday this is her good fortune day, Friday the 13th.

 

Source and Reference:

  • Britt-Mari Näsström, Ph.D. Freyja, the Great goddess of The North. ISBN 10:1593860196
  • Featured Art: Freia—a combination of Freyja and the goddess Iðunn—from Richard Wagner’s opera Der Ring des Nibelungen as illustrated (1910) by Arthur Rackham in Public Domain.

Freyja (1905) by John Bauer (1882–1918) Public Domain
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