Most Americans are inundated from childhood with stories of the Greek and Roman Pantheons. We hear stories of Zeus’s conquests, Athena’s Wisdom, Apollo’s journeys across the skies, and Venus’s eternal beauty, but we miss out on myths and legends from other cultures with epic gods and goddesses that rival the Mediterranean deities.
Nordic mythology is just as rich as the tales we share as children, and their goddesses portray the best mix of divine femineity and proud independence. Here are the Norse Goddesses you should have learned about in school.
Discovering Norse Mythology
Norse mythology tells the thrilling tales of the gods and goddesses of the Nordic regions where Vikings ruled. Though the first written accounts date to the 10th century AD, many scholars agree they developed from oral traditions, and their origins are much earlier.
Despite its association with Scandinavian countries, you will find commonalities between Norse and Germanic myths. Germanic and Scandinavian cultures engaged in trade from the bronze age and shared a linguistic ancestor. Many Norse goddesses celebrated here have German origins, while others originating in Scandinavia may have gained renown in Germany. It is an exciting anthropological trail researchers are still following to this day.
Regardless of their origins, these Norse Goddesses inhabited Asgard, the Nordic equivalent of Mt. Olympus in Greek Myth.
Step into their realm and discover the fascinating world of Nordic Goddesses.
The Most Powerful Norse Goddess
Frigg ruled Asgard as Queen and led the Asynjur, the collective of Norse Goddesses. Wife of Odin, the Norse God of War and ruler of Valhalla, the Hall of Warriors, Frigg presided over marriage and fertility.
The Norse Goddess would move the heavens and Earth for her son, Balder, God of light. Unfortunately, her efforts were in vain, as Loki tricked a lesser god into killing Balder with his one weakness, a mistletoe. Unable to raise Balder from the underworld, Frigg hosted yearly celebrations to honor his light.
Nordic people honored Balder in the Festival of Lights, which typically took place in December.
The famous legend has hints of other myths, reminding us of Persephone and Hades and the common thread of earlier cultures who held rituals in accordance with the changing seasons.
Frigg appears in modern culture, lending her name to our favorite day of the week, Frigg’s Day (Friday).
The Most Famous Norse Goddess
Freya, the goddess of war, love, beauty, and gold, and magic rides forth in a chariot drawn by cats. She’s a stunning example of divine femininity, secure in her sexuality and unabashed in taking numerous lovers.
When Christianity overtook the Nordic regions, Freya’s sexuality was demonized, as the patriarchal religion scorned women’s sexual freedom. There’s no indication that the pre-Christian Nordic peoples held the same stigma. Nordic tribes in the Medieval period were remarkably egalitarian for their time. Women enjoyed the rights of landownership and could divorce their husbands. They were still limited to domestic roles, but the parts were respected and celebrated.
Freya oversaw many of the domestic roles and was worshipped throughout the region for her protection of women. In addition, she was a fierce warrior, rumored to have slain half the warriors ever killed in battle.
Freya’s knowledge and power know no bounds. It’s easy to see why she’s still celebrated today.
Are Frigg and Freya the Same?
Some anthropologists question whether Frigg and Freya are two distinct beings or a single goddess who morphed into two entities over time and tellings.
In many tales, Freya appears as Odin’s wife, and the different spellings become less distinct as we transverse time and geography.
Many claim they’re the same, but the lack of concrete evidence pre-dating the Viking era makes it difficult to say.
20 Norse Goddesses You Will Want to Worship
If Frigg and Freya aren’t awesome enough, here are 20 additional Norse Goddesses that played integral roles in Viking culture and folklore.
The Norse Goddess of the underworld offered Christians a brilliant name for their pit of despair. The realm of Hel became simply Hel, and it’s now associated with Lucifer’s kingdom in Christianity. Hel shares some similarities with the Greek goddess Hecate.
Eir is a goddess of protection, healing, and mercy. Though some sources call her a Valkyrie rather than a goddess, there is no consensus on which group she actually belonged to.
Fulla appears in both Germanic and Nordic myths. As the Goddess of service, she’s typically associated with Frigg, acting as a handmaiden and keeping her many secrets.
Thor’s daughter is associated with battle. Her name means Strength in Old Norse and is associated with flowers, trees, and grass.
Not much is known about Sjofn. She’s associated with love in the Prose Edda, a 13th-century compilation of Nordic myths written in Iceland, so some assume she’s Frigg in disguise.
Of course, people living in harsh winter conditions would worship the snow and mountains. Skadi is the goddess of the winter mountains.
The seafaring Vikings trusted the goddess of the sea for good favor on their voyages. She has nine daughters who create the crashing waves.
Protectress and goddess of justice, Syn guarded Frigg’s great hall and defended the accused in trials.
Sif was Thor’s second wife. The giantess was also the goddess of grain and fertility.
Some call Lofn the goddess of forbidden love, but it seems she received permission to arrange marriages. She’s described as peaceful, loving, and comforting.
Nanna is famous for her association with Balder. Not many stories remain of her as a goddess in her own right. She was Balder’s wife and so stricken with grief upon his untimely demise that she perished too.
Sigyn embodies loyalty. She stood by her husband Loki’s side even after he killed Balder, following him to the cave of banishment and protecting him from venomous snakes.
The goddess of peace and prosperity enjoyed walking among her worshippers. She may be one of the earliest Norse Goddesses, with evidence suggesting her worship as early as the Bronze Age.
(Jord) is the Norse equivalent of the Earth goddess. She’s mother Earth personified, and her son, Thor, is one of the most important gods of the Norse mythos.
Part of a brother/sister pair that sees the moon across the sky, Hjúki and Bil remind us of the Roman Apollo and Diana.
Nott is the Night personified. Her son Dagr represents the day, and together they ensure the sun floats across the sky.
(Iduna) ensures the gods and goddesses of Asgard maintain their eternal youth. As the goddess of youth (and apples!), her presence acts as a fountain of youth.
The goddess of plowing was critical to medieval architecture, especially in frigid northern regions. Gerjon is also the patroness of both virginity and fertility.
She who walks between worlds uses her power to help Frigg send messages and run errands. Gná can move between the mortal realms of men and the underworld and through the sky, earth, and heavens.
Hlin is a protector. She helps save people who Frigg deems worthy of protection. Some wonder whether Hlin is a separate goddess or another name for Frigg.
The sun features prominently in nearly every culture’s mythos, and the Norse are no different. Sól (or Sunna) is the sky goddess of German and Norse mythology. Her brother Manni represents the moon.
Rich Norse Culture
Norse mythology abounds with riveting tales of war, intrigue, cunning, and despair. The Norse Goddesses play a pivotal role in the mythos, representing the Earth, sun, agriculture, fertility, and everything that works together in the creation of life and the completion of death.
Explore the rich world of Norse mythology and celebrate its patron goddesses. It’s a fascinating new culture waiting to be discovered.