Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 64

Not until three years later did the people, who had continued paying their taxes to the king by pouring gold, silver, and copper coin into the mound through three different openings, discover that Frey was dead. As their peace and prosperity had remained undisturbed, they decreed that his corpse should never be burned, and they thus inaugurated the custom of mound-burial, which in due time supplanted the funeral pyre in many places. One of the three mounds near Gamla Upsala still bears this god’s name. His statues were placed in the great temple there, and his name was duly mentioned in all solemn oaths, of which the usual formula was, “So help me Frey, Niörd, and the Almighty Asa” (Odin). [124]

Worship of Frey

No weapons were ever admitted in Frey’s temples, the most celebrated of which were at Throndhjeim in Norway, and at Thvera in Iceland. In these temples oxen or horses were offered in sacrifice to him, a heavy gold ring being dipped in the victim’s blood ere the above-mentioned oath was solemnly taken upon it.

Frey’s statues, like those of all the other Northern divinities, were roughly hewn blocks of wood, and the last of these sacred images seems to have been destroyed by Olaf the Saint, who, as we have seen, forcibly converted many of his subjects. Besides being god of sunshine, fruitfulness, peace, and prosperity, Frey was considered the patron of horses and horsemen, and the deliverer of all captives.

“Frey is the best

Of all the chiefs

Among the gods.

He causes not tears

To maids or mothers:

His desire is to loosen the fetters

Of those enchained.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson).

The Yule Feast

One month of every year, the Yule month, or Thor’s month, was considered sacred to Frey as well as to Thor, and began on the longest night of the year, which bore the name of Mother Night. This month was a time of feasting and rejoicing, for it heralded the return of the sun. The festival was called Yule (wheel) because the sun was supposed to resemble a wheel rapidly revolving across the sky. This resemblance gave rise to a singular custom in England, Germany, and along the banks of the Moselle. Until within late years, the [125]people were wont to assemble yearly upon a mountain, to set fire to a huge wooden wheel, twined with straw, which, all ablaze, was then sent rolling down the hill, to plunge with a hiss into the water.

“Some others get a rotten Wheele, all worn and cast aside,

Which, covered round about with strawe and tow, they closely hide;

And caryed to some mountaines top, being all with fire light,

They hurle it down with violence, when darke appears the night;

Resembling much the sunne, that from the Heavens down should fal,

A strange and monstrous sight it seemes, and fearful to them all;

But they suppose their mischiefs are all likewise throwne to hell,