The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide
 The Sibyl's Prophecy
Codex Regius
MS No. 2365 4to  [R]
AM 544 4to [H]
1954 Guðni Jónsson
Normalized Text:

Þa comr hlinar
harmr aNaR f ram
er oðiN feR
við ulf vega
en bani belia
biartr at surti
þa mvn f riGiar
falla angan tyr.

Þa kemr hlinar
harmr annaR framm
enn oðinn f err
við vlf uega
enn bani belia
biartr at surti
þar man friggiar
falla angann.


Þá kømr Hlínar
harmr annarr fram,
er Óðinn ferr
við úlf vega,
en bani Belja
bjartr at Surti,
þá mun Friggjar
falla angan.

Selected English Translations
1823 Sharon Turner
1865 Benjamin Thorpe
The Vala's Prophecy
  Then Hlinar, the other grief goes forth.
When Odin goes to battle with the Wolf,
The striker of Beli shining
Opposes Surtur.
Then the husband of Frigga falls.

53. Then arises
Hlin´s second grief,
when Odin goes
with the wolf to fight,
and the bright slayer
of Beli with Surt.
Then will Frigg´s
beloved fall.

1888 Henry Morely
in Edda Sæmundar Hinns Frôða

1905 Ananda K. Coomaraswarmy  
The Sibyl's Sayings

54. Then to Hlín comes
Other harm,

When Odin goes
Against the Wolf.
Beli's slayer,

Brightly shining,
Fails with Surtur,
There falls he whom
Freyja loved.


Then is Hlein's second
sorrow afoot,
when Odinn fares
to fight the wolf;
Beli's bright bane
battles with Surt,
there falls fated
Frigg's delight.
1908 Olive Bray
The Soothsaying of the Vala”
1923 Henry Bellows
The Wise Woman's Prophecy
53. Soon comes to pass Frigg's second woe,
when Odin fares to fight with the wolf;
then must he fall, her lord beloved,
and Beli's bright slayer must bow before Surt.

53. Now comes to Hlin | yet another hurt,
When Othin fares | to fight with the wolf,
And Beli's fair slayer | seeks out Surt,
For there must fall | the joy of Frigg.

1962 Lee M. Hollander
“The Prophecy of the Seeress"
1996 Carolyne Larrington
The Seeress' Prophecy”
  Another woe awaiteth Hlín,
When forth goes Óthin to fight the Wolf,
And the slayer of Beli to battle with Surt:
Then Frigg's husband will fall lifeless.
Then the second grief of Frigg comes about
when Odin advances to fight against the wolf,
and the bright slayer of Beli against Surt;
then the beloved of Frigg must fall.
1997 Ursula Dronke
2011 Andy Orchard
'The Prophecy of the Seeress"
Then is fulfilled Hlin's
 second sorrow,
when Óðinn goes
to fight with the wolf,
and Beli's slayer,
bright, against Surtr.
Then shall Frigg's
 sweet friend fall

Then there comes for Hlín a second sorrow,
when Odin goes to fight the wolf
and Beli's bright bane against Surt;
then's when Frigg's beloved shall fall.

  The interpretation of this stanza presents two main problems:

1. Hlínar harmr annarr, "Hlin's second harm".  There is some confusion as to who is meant by Hlin. She is listed as a maid-servant of Frigg in Gylfaginning 35. However, it is not unsual in Eddic poetry to call the subject of the stanza by two different names in the first and second half of the stanza. In the context of this stanza, Hlin is best understood as a byname of Frigg. Most commentators accept this interpretation, and some go so far as to replace the name Hlin with Frigg (as in Bray and Larrington above). This suggests that Snorri Sturluson, the author of the Prose Edda, who also quotes this verse in Gylfaginning, either misunderstood the name, or created a maid-servant of Frigg from one of her by-names to round out his list of Asynjur.

When Hlin is understood as Frigg, her "first harm" is commonly understood to be the death of her son Baldur, already mentioned in  Völuspá R33. There it says that upon Baldur's death, Frigg um grét í Fensölum, "Frigg wept in Fensalir". Frigg's second harm is the subject of R52/H45, which informs us that Odin goes to fight the wolf, and "Beli's bright slayer" to confront Surt. In Gylfaginning, and elsewhere, we learn that during the battle of Ragnarök, Odin is swallowed by the Fenris wolf, and Frey, who slew the giant Beli with a hart's horn, fights Surt to the death. Frey is at a sore disadvantage, since he gave away his sword to obtain the giantess Gerd for his wife.

2.  Friggjar falla angan, "Frigg's angan falls (i.e. dies)". In Eddic poetry, the word angan is unique to Völuspá.  It occurs here and in stanza R22/H27, where it says [R:] the witch Heid is "æ var hon angan illrar þjóðar", ever the angan of evil people, or [H:] Heid is "æ var hon angan illrar bruðar", ever the angan of evil women/brides.

In other contexts, angan means a "sweet odor", and is derived from the word angi, meaning "sweet odor";  "a spine or prickle, often used in the plural of a sprout, fiber in fruits or plants". Metaphorically, the root word angi also refers to a spoiled boy [Cleasby/Vigfusson]. In Völuspá, angan is most commonly interpreted as a metaphor, derived from "a sweet odor", meaning "delight" in R22/H27 and "beloved" in R52/H45. Thus, Heid is ever the "delight" of evil women (or people) and Frigg's "beloved" shall fall.

Frigg's beloved is most commonly interpreted as her husband Odin, and thus in some translations the word angan is actually interpreted as husband (as in Turner and Hollander above; of interest, Bray has actually rearranged the lines so that this phrase occurs immediately aftter Odin's death, demonstrating her belief that angan refers to Odin.) 

Clearly, angan is an ambiguous term, well chosen by the poet for his purpose. Certainly it can refer to Odin, as Frigg's "sweet scent". However, according to the content and context of the stanza, it can and likely does also refer to Frey. Otherwise, the inclusion of the Frey in this stanza is superfluous.

Andy Orchard (2011) observes: "'Frigg's beloved' is ambiguous, assuming that Hlin ('Protectress') is an alternative name for Frigg; she may be mourning either for Odin or for Frey."

The Goddess Frigg


Odin’s lawful wife Frigg is the oldest continually known Germanic goddess. Her name appears in the Anglo-Saxon transliteration of the Roman names of the days of the week. The modern designation of the fifth day, Friday, which corresponds to the Latin dies Veneris, Venus’ Day, is named for her, from the Anglo-Saxon Fricg (Frycg), Old Norse Frigg, Old Saxon Frî, Old High German Frîja. That Frigg is identified with Venus, the Roman goddess of Love, is fitting considering her name is thought to derive from a proto-Germanic word, *friyo, from the Indo-European *priya, meaning ‘dear, beloved.’


Frigg is widely recorded as Odin’s wife in sources dating from 750 AD onward. She and Odin have been directly linked since their first appearance together in the anonymous Origo Gentis Langobardorum, The Origin and History of the Lombards. There Odin and Frigg appear as Godan and Frea, engaged in a dispute over whom to show favor, the Winnili, Frea’s favorites, or the Vandals, Godan’s choice. Frea intervenes on behalf of the Winnilli and imposes her will over that of her husband, by tricking Godan into giving them a new name, and thus the victory. It should be noted that the Lombards or Longobards (“Long-beards”) are the same tribe as the “Longobardi” listed by Tacitus in Germania Chapter 40 as devotees of the goddess Nerthus, "who is Mother Earth," whom  they also "believe intervenes in human affairs and rides through their peoples.”



Fifty years later, the first-named Lombardian chronicler, Paul the Deacon (Paulus Diaconus), retells the same tale, informing us from his Christian perspective that it is a ridicula fabla (a silly story) told by old men. That it was preserved in a Christian chronicle long after the conversion of the Lombards to Christianity demonstrates its age and importance to the people. The information in these 8th century accounts coincides with what we learn of Odin in later Icelandic sources. Here, Godan and Frea already appear with the recognizable attributes and personality traits of Odin and Frigg. Godan is imagined as surveying the earth from his window. This corresponds to Odin’s position in the Prose Edda (Gylfaginning 17), which informs us that from his throne Hlidskjalf, Odin can view the entire world. The events of this tale are sometimes seen as an analog to the tale told in the prose prologue to the poem Grímnismál.


In both sources, Odin and Frigg are depicted as a divine couple actively involved in human affairs. From his seat in heaven, Odin observes the affairs of men and grants victory in battle to those he favors. He and his wife disagree over their favorites and Frigg gains the upper hand. In the history of the Lombards, Frigg plays a more active part. She physically turns her husband’s bed before sunrise causing him to see her charges first and rename them. The Lombards revere her for this act.  Among the tribes who are said to worship Nerthus, we find the Longobardi and the Anglii. Thus it comes as no suprise that the Anglo-Saxon Æcerbót contains clear evidence that the Anglii continued to worship an earth-goddess for centuries after their conversion.

We find further evidence of the marriage of Odin and Frigg in the Merseburg Charms, two verses discovered in 1841 by Dr. Georg Waitz in a theological manuscript from Fulda, a city located in Hesse, Germany —home to many of the Frau Holle legends. These verses are believed to date from the 10th century, and comprise the earliest record of German paganism in that language. The Second Merseburg Charm contains the earliest known reference to Odin and Frigg’s son, Baldur. Rudolf Simek clearly states that “the Second Merseburg Charm should continue to be regarded as the first recording of the name Baldr.” Not surprisingly, we find Odin and Frigg associated with Baldur, their famous son, whose death is a central storyline in later Scandinavian sources.  The verse speaks of an otherwise unknown episode in Old Norse mythology, the laming of Baldur’s horse. Nevertheless, we can easily recognize many surfaces of contact. Here we find not only Wotan and Friia (Odin and Frigg), but Fulla (Volla) known from later Icelandic sources. In the Prose Edda, Fulla is said to be a handmaiden of Frigg, who keeps her casket and personal effects; here she is her sister, naturally explaining their close relationship.

From the 11th century, we find further evidence of the name Frigg in the work of Adam of Bremen, known as Gesta Ecclessiae Hammaburgensis Pontificum (IV, 25). In the temple at Old Uppsala, Adam describes three idols: Thor, Odin and Frikko, a male god with a large phallus. While Frikko is undoubtedly a male god best identified as Frey, his name presents a problem, since it does not correspond with that of Frey, but Frigg. The name Frikko is a masculine version of the name Frigg, leading some scholars to conclude that Adam of Bremen confused their names; that Frikko oversees marriage seems to confirm this view. Whether Adam confused their names or not, in Fricco, we have a solid reference to the name Frigg in the 11th century associated with Odin, Thor and Frey.


Mother Earth

Earth (Jörð) is a rather obscure figure in Old Icelandic literature. Physical descriptions of her are few and mainly refer to her as a personification of the land. A verse by Hallfreðr vanræðaskald preserved by Snorri refers to Earth as “Baleyg’s [Odin’s] broad-faced-bride”, whereas Martin L. West notes that “broad” is the most common epithet of the earth-goddess in Indo-European poetic tradition.  Because of such ancient parallels, several scholars assume that Jörd was once a powerful goddess in her own right, but surprisingly, we learn very little of her in the Northern sources. She is typically defined by her relationship to others. Most commonly, she is the "mother of Thor" and "wife of Odin"

 In popular accounts of Old Norse mythology, Jörd is best known as the mother of Thor. In a verse Snorri cites as evidence of this relationship, the skald Eyvind Skaldaspillir refers to Earth as “the mother of the giant’s enemy.” Thor is the well-known foe of giants and Earth is equally well-known to be his mother. This designation is supported by several poetic passages, leaving no doubt that “mother of Thor” is a genuine Earth-kenning. However, when examining the evidence contained in skaldic and Eddic poetry, one finds that Earth is designated as the "mother of Thor" relatively few times.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the skalds more often refer to Earth as "Odin's wife," typically substituting one of his many epithets for his name. At least 19 kennings of this type are found. In fact, these constitute the most common type of earth kenning, occurring about three times as often as the “Thor’s mother” type, but w
hile Earth is well-known as “the wife of Odin” in the poetic sources, it should be noted that Odin is never called “the husband of Earth.” Instead, he is known as the “husband of Frigg”:

angan Friggjar, “‘sweet scent’ of Frigg,” Völuspá 56

faðmbyggvir Friggjar, “dweller in Frigg’s embrace,” Haraldskvæði 12

frumverr Friggjar, “foremost husband of  Frigg,” Hallfreðr  vandræðaskald, Lv.


While Odin is known to have had other lovers than his wife Frigg, there can be little doubt that the first thing that would have occurred to a heathen audience hearing the expression “Odin’s wife” would have been Frigg, Odin’s traditional partner since the earliest recorded sources. As shown above, Godan (Odin) and Frea (Frigg) first appear as husband and wife in the 8th century History of the Lombards. They next appear together on German soil in the 10th century’s Second Merseberg Charm. An early skaldic kenning refers to the gods as “Frigg’s progeny,” [Egil’s Saga, ch. 79].  In Eddaic poetry, Odin and Frigg appear as husband and wife in Völuspá, Grimnismál, Vafþrúðnismál, Lokasenna, and Hrafnagaldur Oðins. In contrast, Odin and Jörd are never named as partners.

That Thor is the son of Odin and Earth is amply confirmed by poetic examples where Thor is known as “the son of Odin” (
Völuspá 55) and more often as “Earth’s son.”


Jarðar sunr, “Jörd’s son”, Haustlöng 14

Jarðar burr, “Jörd’s son”, Þrymskvida 1, Lokasenna 58.

Hlöðynar mogr, Hlodyn’s son, Völuspá 56

Fjorgynjar burr, Fjörgynn’s son, Völuspá 56.

Grundar svein, Ground’s son, Haustlöng 17.


These epithets refer to the physical earth and the personal earth-goddess at the same time. They are indistinguishable. In Hárbardsljóð 56, Thor is told to meet his mother Fjörgyn in Verland, the “land of men.” The phrase “Fjörgyn’s eel” (ál fjörgynr) is a kenning for snake, while á fjörgynju simply means “on earth.” The name Hlódyn first appears around 950 AD in a verse by Völu-Steinn (Skj I B, 93), where the poet contrasts the dark earth with the green dress of Hlódyn, when recounting the funeral of his son.  Similarly, the phrase myrk-Hlóðynjar markar, the “dark woods of Hlóðyn” in Einarr skálaglamm’s Vellekla  likens the forest to the dark hair of a woman. In many Indo-European traditions, earth is characterized as ‘dark’ or ‘black’ and plants are a common alloform of hair, demonstrating the great age of these concepts.

Today scholars recognize the names Fjörgynn, Hlóðyn, and Grund as synonyms of Jörd. In fact, all of the Old Norse divinities have alternate names. In the Younger Edda, Snorri Sturluson lists alternate names of Odin, Thor, and Freyja, among others. In Gylfaginning 3, Snorri says that Odin is known as All-father, Herran, Herjan, Hnikar, Hnikud, Fjölnir, Oski, Omi, Biflidi, Biflindi, Svidar, Svidrir, Vidrir, Jalg and Jalk. In Skáldskparmál 75, he calls Thor Atli, Asabragr, Ennilang, Eindridi, Bjorn, Hlorridi, Hardveur, Vingthor, Sonnung, Veud and Rym. In Gylfaginning 35, Snorri tells us that Freyja is known as Horn, Thrungva, Sýr, Skjalf, Gefn and Mardoll. In addition to those listed by Snorri, more names can be discovered by turning to poetic sources. Numerous epithets of Odin are listed in Grimnismál 46-54, and in almost every mythological poem of the Elder Edda that mentions Odin we find examples. In the prose introduction to Rigsthula, we learn that Heimdall is known as Rig. In Völuspá, Loki is called Hveðrung. Oftentimes a god is called by different names in the course of a single poem. In Hymiskviða, Thor is known as Hlorridi, Veurr, as well as Thor. In Thrymskvida, he is called Vingthor and Hlorridi. Sometimes the meaning is not as obvious. For example, in a verse preserved in Skáldskparmál 58, Frey is called “Beli’s bane” and said to ride the horse Bloody-hoof. In an adjacent verse, the same horse bears the mighty Atridi. Thus, Atridi is probably a byname of Frey.

Jere Fleck, in “Óðinn’s Self-Sacrifice—A New Interpretation. II: The Ritual Landscape”, Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 43, no. 4, 1971, observes:


“The discovery that one and the same person, place or thing is referred to under many different names should not be surprising. If our text were skaldic verse we would accept such polyonymy simply as the poet’s method of satisfying the strict metric demands of his chosen form. But the relatively unrestricted eddic strophe is far less demanding: such an explanation can not be the only one. The massive complex of heiti and kenning structures which we are about to discuss must be the result on the one hand, of a desire  to replace tabu lexemes with noa correspondencies and, on the other, of a feeling of the need for elevated and esoteric language when dealing with religious tremendum. The religious decoding of the relevant textual corpus therefore depends largely on establishing the identities obscured by polyonymy.”


In Skáldskaparmál 70, Snorri informs us that Earth too had many names. He cites poetic passages in support of each of the following bynames: Jörð, Fold, Grund, Land, Fief, Hauðr; Lauð; Hlödyn, Frón and Fjörgyn. By turning to poetic passages, we may add one more: Hlín. In verse 13 of Hávarðar saga ísfirðings, lines 5-6 read:

þann vissak mér manna
mest alls á Hlín fallinn
"No man fell upon Hlin to a greater advantage for me, than this man."

Here Hlin is used as a byname of Jörd. “To fall upon Hlin” means to “fall down om the ground”,  “to die.” Thus Hlin is a poetic synonym for Jörd. The name means “protector” from
hleina, “to have peace and security” and may be related to the word hlein meaning “a rock projecting like a pier into the sea” as well as a perpendicular loom used for weaving.


In poetic sources, the name Hlin frequently occurs in kennings for women, indicating her divine status. The name of any goddess can be used as the base of a kenning for woman. As such a base, Hlin was a favorite. In Gylfaginning 35, Snorri lists Hlin as a minor goddess  —the twelfth Asynje — appointed to watch over those whom Frigg desires to protect from harm. In fact, Snorri portrays Hlin, Jörd and Frigg as distinct goddesses. He lists them all twice as Asynjes: once in Gylfaginning 35-36 and again in the þulur where all three names appear in a list of the Asynjur. Despite this, Hlin’s status as an independent goddess is not supported by the older poetry, which is Snorri’s acknowledged source. As seen above, Hlin is used as a byname of Jörd in Hávarðar saga ísfirðings 13, while in Völuspá R52/H45, Hlin is used a byname of Frigg. The stanza reads:


“Then Hlin’s second grief comes to pass, when Odin goes to fight the Wolf and Beli’s bright bane (Frey) against Surt. Then Frigg’s angan shall fall.”


The kenning Friggjar angan is almost universally interpreted to mean Odin, Frigg’s husband. The word angan, usually translated as “joy” or “delight,” is used both here and in Völuspá R22, where it is commonly thought to be a figurative use of its literal sense “sweet scent,” “perfume.” According to the stanza in question, Hlin’s “second grief” occurs when Odin goes to fight the wolf and Frey meets Surt; then “Frigg’s sweet scent (angan) shall fall.” The use of the name Hlin, which means protector, may be ironic here since Frigg is helpless to protect those she loves. Snorri’s identification of Hlin as an independent goddess while quoting this verse from Völuspá has caused some confusion among scholars.

Under “Hlin”, Anthony Faulkes in the index to the Everyman edition of his translation of Snorri’s Edda writes: “…perhaps another name for Frigg; her first grief would have been the death of Baldr.” Rudolf Simek states: “Presumably, Hlin is really another name for Frigg and Snorri misunderstood her to be a goddess in her own right in his reading of the Völuspá stanza.” Most translators accept the identification of Hlin and Frigg, and some go so far as to replace the name Hlin with Frigg’s in this verse. In her 1997 translation of  the Poetic Edda, Carolyne Larrington replaces Hlin with Frigg and notes that Frigg’s second grief was the death of her husband Odin; her first being the death of her son Baldur. This is the most common interpretation of the verse.

At this point, the only thing that prevents us from concluding that Frigg, Jörd, and Hlin are alternate names of a single individual is Snorri’s treatment of them as three distinct personalities. An attempt to explain this apparent contradiction by suggesting that the name of one of Odin’s wives can be substituted for the name of any other, since in poetic kennings the name of any goddess can be used as the base for a woman-kenning, is patently absurd! It would be equivalent to saying that the name of any one of Odin’s sons could be substituted for the name of any other; that Thor could be used in place of Baldur and visa versa.


This ill-considered supposition finds no support in the extant poetic sources. Instead, we find that Frigg and Jörd are both referred to as Odin’s wife, and that the byname Hlin (as well as the poetically unattested expression “Gunnlod’s rival,”) can be used to designate either Frigg or Jörd. It should now seem obvious that the heathen poets who composed these poems knew Jörd as an alternate name of Odin’s wife Frigg— in other words, that Odin’s wife Frigg represents the Earth in the Germanic tradition.

 In Gylfaginning 49-50, Snorri tells the most complete version of the Baldur story.  It begins in media res, first we find Frigg requesting all earthly things to do her son Baldur no harm. Oaths are obtained from plants, rocks, animals, etc. Alone Frigg forgets the most fragile of flora, the waxy mistletoe, which doesn’t take root earth, but hangs on trees as a parasite. This naturally explains how, despite all species swearing oaths, that mistletoe could still be used to slay him:



The beginning of the story is this, that Baldr the Good dreamed great and perilous dreams touching his life. When he told these dreams to the Æsir, then they took counsel together: and this was their decision: to ask safety for Baldr from all kinds of dangers. And Frigg took oaths to this purport, that fire and water should spare Baldr, likewise iron and metal of all kinds, stones, earth, trees, sicknesses, beasts, birds, venom, serpents. And when that was done and made known, then it was a diversion of Baldr's and the Æsir, that he should stand up in the Thing ("the legislative assembly of Iceland; an assembly of men") and all the others should some shoot at him, some hew at him, some beat him with stones; but whatsoever was done hurt him not at all, and that seemed to them all a very worshipful thing." [Arthur Broedur tr.]



Frigg soliciting oaths from all things is consistent with her role as Mother Earth. Not once, but twice, she requests all earthly things do her bidding. She sends messengers out over all the world demanding oaths of them, first to do her son baldur no harm, then to ask all things to weep for his return from the underworld, as they would weep “when they come out of frost into heat,” during the spring thaw. At this point, Frigg’s role as the earth-goddess should be evident. Only Snorri's presentation of Jörð and Frigg as seperate entities have prevented this conclusion.

In Adam of Bremen, we discovered that the name Frigg (Fricca) is closely related to a byname of the god Frey, called Fricco there.  As god of good weather and harvests, Frey no doubt has some relationship to the Germanic earth mother.
Therefore, it seems unlikely that the presence of the god Frey in Völuspá R52/H45 is entirely superfluous. So, with this tentative conclusion in mind, let’s look at what the sources have to say of Frigg and her relationship with the harvest god— Could he too be Frigg's angan?


Friggjar Angan
: Frigg's Beloved

This stanza, Völuspá R52/H45, refers to the events of Ragnarök. It informs us that when Odin faces Fenrir, and Frey faces Surt, Frigg's “angan” will die. The word “angan” is typically understood figuratively and taken to mean “delight” or “joy” based on its literal meaning “sweet scent.” Modern scholars and translators, almost to a person, narrowly interpret the phrase Friggjar angan as “Frigg’s husband,” i.e. her “delight.”  Hlin’s first grief is understood to mean the death of her son Baldur; her second grief is thus the death of her husband, Odin.  Yet, as we have seen, the deaths of both Odin and Frey are recounted here. Thus, both can rightly be called her "angan".


Once we recognize Hlin and Frigg as alternate names of the Earth, “angan” literally blossoms with new meaning. The word angan is etymologically related to the word angr meaning “grief” or “sorrow,” making the expression Friggjar angan a near doublet of Hlinar harmr. It may also carry additional meaning. To fall, figuratively, means to die, as when the poet cited earlier speaks of a dying man “falling to Hlin.” Hlin represents the Earth. Since Hlin is an alternate name for Frigg, when Odin goes to meet the wolf and Frey goes to meet Surt, the "sweet scent" of Earth itself will die. To emphasize this point, a secondary meaning of the word angan is “spines” or “prickles” and is used specifically to refer to “plant fiber.” Thus the death of Friggjar angan also signifies the conflagration of earth’s fragrant flowers and trees, filling the air with the reek of smoke. Völuspá confirms this by saying that flames will play against the vault of heaven and the burnt crust of the earth will sink into the sea. Frey too is cut down by Surt’s sword, called the “bane of branches” (sviga lævi, Völuspá 50), a kenning for fire. As the god of crops, his fruits produce the “sweet scent” of the Earth, which will die when earth is set ablaze. As we have seen, the name Fricco, a masculine form of the name Frigg, is used to designate the god Frey in the temple at Uppsala by Adam of Bremen in the 11th century, suggesting a closer link between the two. We have already seen that angan can refer to Odin; as Frigg’s lover, he is her “sweet scent.” Might it refer to Frey as well? Certainly the context suggests it may, or else his presence in the verse is without significance.

The Eddaic poem Lokasenna informs us that Frey was the product of an incestuous union. He is the child of Njörd and his unnamed sister. In verse 36 of that poem, Loki says:

"Hættu nú, Njörðr,
haf þú á hófi þik,
munk-a ek því leyna lengr:
við systur þinni
gaztu slíkan mög,
ok er-a þó vánu verr."

36. Cease now, Niörd!
in bounds contain thyself;
I will no longer keep it secret:
it was with your sister
you had such a son;
hardly worse than thyself.

Ynglingasaga ch. 4 confirms this relationship, stating that “while Njörd lived with the Vanir he had his sister as wife, because that was the custom among them. Their children were Frey and Freyja. But among the Aesir it was forbidden to marry so close akin.” Thus, when Njörd came to live among the Aesir, logic dictates that he could no longer keep his sister as his wife. Unfortunately, Njörd’s sister remains unnamed in our fragmentary sources. Scholars who have hazarded to guess, most often identify the unnamed sister of Njörd as Nerthus, the earth-mother since the two names are etymologically related, and a wide range of evidence supports the veneration of a male-female divine pair associated with fertility across northern Europe. While we cannot determine the name of Njörd’s sister, we do discover a brother of the earth-goddess whose name may prove relevant to our investigation.

In Gylfaginning 10, Snorri informs us that Jörd’s brother was named Auð, a name that means ‘wealth.’  As a mythic personality, Auð is likewise unknown. However, in a proverb from Vatsdaela Saga 47, a wealthy man is said to be “as rich as Njörd.”

Þá mælti Þróttólfr: “Eigi skiptir þat högum til, at Húnrøðr, góðr drengr, skal vera félauss orðinn ok hlotit þat mest af okkr, en þræll hans, Skúmr, skal orðinn auðigr sem Njörðr.

Then Throttolf said, “It is not as it should be that Hunrod, a good man, should have become penniless, mostly on our account, while his slave Skum grows as rich as Njörd.”

Snorri informs us that Njörd rules over the motion of the wind and moderates the sea and fire. Men pray to him for good voyages and fishing. He is so rich and wealthy that he can grant wealth of land or possessions to those that pray to him. In addition, the Codex Regius manuscript of Snorri’s
Gylfaginning 23, contains a variant. There the name Auðr reads Uðr, a proper name equivalent to Unnr, “wave.” Thus the name of Jörd’s brother may be interpreted as “wealth” or “wave”, names which apply equally as well to Njörd as a god of rich coastal harbors. Thus, although the name of Njörd’s sister is lost to us, we have strong circumstancial evidence that Njörd was known as Jörd’s brother. Since we have discovered that Jörd is also a byname of Frigg, we can surmise that Njörd and Frigg are siblings. At once this explains the long suspected relationship between the names Njörd and Nerthus, the Germanic Earth mother in Tacitus, Germania ch. 40. Indeed they are a pair, as many scholars have theorized, not unlike their own children, Frey and Freyja.  Frigg is not only the mother of Baldur and Thor, but most likely also the mother of Frey and Freyja! If so, she is truly the mother of the gods. The relevation of these relationships allow us to plumb the depths of the Völuspá verse in question.

As the beloved son of Frigg and her brother Njörd, Frey can also be designated Friggjar angan, Frigg’s sweet scent, invoking the tender image of a mother and child. The same imagery is invoked in the first line of the verse, which alludes to “Hlin’s first grief”, the death of her son Baldur. Thus, in this verse, Frigg’s second grief entails not only the loss of her husband, but the loss of another son, as well as her own fragrant vendure, and ultimately of her own life. Frigg loses everything dear to her. Even her most powerful son, Thor — Miðgarðs véur— will be powerless to protect her. Her own name Hlin, which means “protectress” is thus used ironically, since she cannot protect those she loves anymore than they can save her from sinking beneath the waves, once the fires of Ragnarök have been lit. At last, the poet’s brilliance in the selection of a single word is brought to light. This verse is one of Völuspá’s most significant and most tragic.

If Frigg is the sister of Njörd, and the mother of Frey and Freyja, another episode in Lokasenna becomes deeper and more comic. In that poem, after Loki exchanges barbs with Odin, Frigg intervenes. Both invoke the earth-goddess immediately before Frigg speaks. Odin reminds Loki that once he once fyr jörð nedan, “down below the earth,” acting as a milkmaid. Loki retorts that Odin went yfir verþióð (cp. Verland, Hárbarðsljóð 56), over the world of men acting as a völva. Frigg advises Loki that their fate in bygone days should never be spoken of. When Loki lashes out, admitting that he is the reason Frigg no longer “sees Baldur riding to his halls,” Freyja rises to her defense. Freyja echoes Frigg’s words in verse 29, stating that Frigg knows all fate, but remains silent regarding it. When Loki attacks Freyja, her father Njörd rises to her aid. Frigg, Freyja and Njörd appear to act like a family unit: Frigg comes to her husband’s defense, Freyja comes to her mother’s, and Njörd to his daughter’s. At the beginning of the exchange, Loki mentions the son of Odin and Frigg; while, at the end, Loki mentions the son of Frigg and Njörd. Freyja, the daughter of Frigg and Njörd is placed directly between them. Loki blasts the three of them with charges of sexual misconduct of the kind common among the Vanir. First he accuses Frigg of sleeping with her husband’s brothers (26):


"Þegi þú, Frigg,
þú ert Fjörgyns mær
ok hefr æ vergjörn verit,
er þá Véa ok Vilja
léztu þér, Viðris kvæn,
báða i baðm of tekit."

“Shut up Frigg,

You are Fjörgynn’s girl

and have ever been eager for men

when you, Vidrir’s (Odin’s) wife,

embraced both Vili and Ve

in your bosom.”

Next, Loki accuses Freyja of having taken “every Aesir and Alfar gathered here” into her bed. This must include her father and her brother. Loki underscores this point by stating that when the gods discovered Freyja “beside her brother,” she farted. Njörd defends his children stating that there is no harm in a woman finding herself a man, and counterattacks calling Loki ragr for having birthed children. Loki reminds Njörd that he was sent to the Aesir as a hostage, and that giantesses’ known as Hymir’s daughters once used his mouth as a urine-trough. He ends by revealing that Njörd begot his son with his own sister. The sister, as stated above, is unnamed, but the audience likely knew and undersrtood the poet's intent. Frigg's placement in the poem affirms this.

Other Eddic poets too seem to have been aware of this relationship between Frigg and the Vanir deities. For a more detailed investigation of Frigg's role as the Earth Mother in Germanic mythology, please see:


Odin's Wife

Mother Earth in Germanic Mythology