Understanding the Norse gods

When I have a day to myself, as I did today, I play with the computer and generally poke around the web in search of interesting problems connected with being pagan. Today it was the genealogy of the Norse gods.

The past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about a book about Norse myths I had when I was growing up. I wish I could remember something about it so I could find it again. (I gave away most of my childhood books to my nephews, so perhaps one of them has it. The only two I kept, and still have, are Viking Adventure and Tarzan and the City of Gold.)

The book of Norse myths presented the relationships of the gods in a different way from most of the presentations I’ve seen as an adult. Most significantly, it made Frigga and Freyja the same person. It had Freyr and Freyja as brother and sister, children of Njörd and Jörd, who in turn were children of Night. That much I remember. I wish I could remember the rest.

I don’t think it is anything new that Freyja and Frigga might originally have been the same goddess (so Odhinn and Odhr would be the same god), but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a full analysis or any discussion about how the various gods would then fall into relationship with one another. Early on, I encountered a categorical assertion that Freyja and Frigga were completely separate. I took it in uncritically. No doubt that idea played some role in my decision to part with my childhood book that “confused” the two. Nevertheless, I’ve noticed over the years that there is always some footnoted suggestion that the two might once have been identical.

What is more interesting to me is the identification of Jörd as the sister/wife of Mjörd. Makes sense to me, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it anywhere else. It would give a name to the goddess so often given only as “perhaps some form of Nerthus.”

So, with the vastness of a day away from work, I spent some time looking for more information. I was able to find a William Reaves article that argues for Odhinn’s wives Jörd and Frigga being the same person. I didn’t spend the time today to follow all his arguments because I wanted to see if there might be other theories elsewhere. Apparently not. My childhood book would have made Odhinn’s two wives mother and daughter, not identical as in Reaves’ argument. Is it really possible that the original form of the myth had Odhinn married one woman (Jörd, apparently the first wife if she was mother of Odhinn’s eldest son Thor’s), and then later to her daughter (Frigga/Freyja)? And, would a children’s book actually present the myth that way? I wonder. Maybe I just remember it that way.

I seem to remember from my childhood book that Freyja married Odhinn as part of the settlement that ended the war between Vanir and the Aesir. Can that be right?

I didn’t find my answers today, but now that the question has come to the forefront of my consciousness, I’ll be alert for further clues. And, with luck, I’ll have more time to explore later this weekend. However, this might be one instance where I need to leave off looking through the web and start looking in a real library with real sources.

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