The Ancient Egyptians weren’t the only ones to have a cat goddess. Everywhere cats go humans fall in love with them and so does their mythology. Norse mythology is no exception; the goddess Freya is known for her love of cats.
The Goddess Freya
The goddess Freya comes to us from Norse mythology which was popular in northern Europe- especially in Scandinavia before it became Christianized. She is a goddess of the highest order, having powers comparable to the Norse ruler of the gods, Odin. Some theorize that Freya is a personification of the Earth itself. She is the goddess of cats, fertility, war, love, sex, beauty, magic and in some ways death. Her name (or at least one of its many variations) is the word from which we get the word Friday. As with any type of ancient mythology, many stories exist and some are contradictory. There is a lot of controversy about whether Freya and Odin’s wife Frigg are the same goddess or not.
The Many Sides of Freya
The lover. It is said that she was married to a god named Od (perhaps a personification of the sun), but he disappeared and she went looking for him throughout the whole universe. As she went along, she cried tears of gold for him. When she found him he had been turned into a sea monster, but she stayed by his side.
- The untamable woman. Many tales tell of her promiscuity claiming that she has slept with many different gods, humans, and even dwarfs. In a scene where Loki (the god of mischief) confronts her publically about her promiscuity, she denies it. Then another god questions whether it is really wrong for a married woman to sleep with other men. She also possessed a powerful necklace called the Brisingamen that would make her irresistible to men when she wore it. She got the necklace by sleeping with some dwarfs.
- Queen of the Valkyries. The Valkyries are a group of female demi-gods who ride horses down to earth to retrieve the souls of those who died heroically in battle. Freya was allowed to take half of the dead warriors to her hall and the rest would go to Odin. Of course, Freya got first choice.
- A fortune teller and magician. While stories disagree, some say that Freya could tell the future through her weaving. Those who say that Freya and Frigg are separate goddesses believe that attribute to belong to Frigg. There is little doubt, however, that she was a practitioner of seidr, a type of magic that alters destiny. She was able to cast spells, read runes, and even taught Odin some magic.
- A shape-shifter. Freya has a cloak of falcon feathers that allow her to turn into a falcon. Every now and again she loaned this cloak to other gods.
- Cat lover. Freya had many cats as pets and is often represented by a gray cat. She used them to pull her chariot, send messages, and assist in casting spells.
How Freya Got Her Cats
Early one morning Freya was woken up from a blissful sleep by thunderous noises that were happening outside. When she got out the front door, there was Thor (the god of Thunder) riding around in a chariot pulled by 2 goats. Freya quickly got his attention and gave him a lecture about making so much noise while she was trying to sleep. Thor told her that he planned to go fishing and would be gone soon.
As promised, Thor left for the river to go fishing for a water dragon. While he was there heard a very annoying sound that was followed my a lovely, soothing song. The song lulled Thor to sleep. All of the sudden the annoying sound started again and jolted Thor from his sleep. He was angry that he was so rudely awakened and he went to investigate.
After a bit of walking, Thor found two large kittens sleeping in a tree with another cat singing to them. Thor confronted the singing cat asking if he was intentionally trying to lull him to sleep to do him harm. The cat replied that the two kittens were his children, Bygul and Trigul, and he was simply singing them to sleep. He explained that he was a single father and that it is difficult to raise children alone.
Thor thought of Freya and what a nice gift the cats would make for her. The father cat insisted that these were special cats and needed a very good home, which insulted Thor and made him angry. As Thor lunged toward the father cat, the cat bared his teeth and showed his claws. Before Thor could reach the cat, the cat turned into a bird and flew away.
Thor took the 2 giant kittens in his chariot and presented them to Freya. She loved the cats so much that she uses them to pull the chariot that she uses to ride through the heavens every day. To this day, her cat-lead chariot is one of the things she is most known for.
Thor found Freya’s cats through their father’s singing. Do your cats ever sing to you?
Sources & Digging Deeper