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Monday, 15 October 2012

Freja's cats.

The Prose Edda asks:
 "How should one paraphrase Freyja? Thus: by calling her Daughter of Njördr, Sister of Freyr, Wife of Ódr, Mother of Hnoss, Possessor of the Slain, of Sessrúmnir, of the Gib-Cats, and of Brísinga-men; Goddess of the Vanir, Lady of the Vanir, Goddess Beautiful in Tears, Goddess of Love. All the goddesses may be paraphrased thus: by calling them by the name of another, and naming them in terms of their possessions or their works or their kindred."
Freya- The Lady- always stayed in my mind as the goddess who rides a chariot pulled by cats.


Snorri  wrote:
 "Her (Freyja's) hall Sessrúmnir ("Seat-roomy") is great and fair. When she goes forth, she drives her cats and sits in a chariot; she is most conformable to man's prayers, and from her name comes the name of honor, Frú, by which noblewomen are called. Songs of love are well-pleasing to her; it is good to call on her for furtherance in love."

In Britain and Scandinavian countries, cats are associated with witches, and magic. Whilst calling a man a cat...a pussy...is a demasculinising insult.

The symbol of Freja's cats may have been changed by Christianity to represent Freya as the priests and missionaries saw her; a pagan, shape-shifting, lascivious 'witch'. Until Christianity was imposed as the state religion, Freya was seen as a powerful goddess, whose worship seemed to have been similar to that described by Tacitus, of the goddess Nerthus. She was a popular Goddess and her worship was difficult to eradicate. Until Christianity was introduced to the Vikings. Cats may well have been the possessions of the elite and thus a chariot drawn by cats was a symbol of her wealth.

Freja was connected to sex and death, there are references to her as a Queen of the dead (in Egil's saga). A goddess, like Inanna and Ishtar, of dualities: of love, war, sex and death. Freja was, to the Christians, a parody of the Virgin Mary, and her animals- the cats- became carriers of demonic influence...

And witches, such as Katla (her name preserved in Iceland by a volcano) were stoned to death.

The cat and key in the image is known as Borre style. It takes its name from the objects found in the ship burial in a great barrow at Borre in Vestfold, Norway, a few miles north of where the ship burial at Oseberg, and is dated to the 9th and 10th century, AD.

Borre style features gripping beasts, including a cat-like, flexible and bat-like creature, who give their power of shape-shifting, and secrecy to the object they decorate.

The term gib-cat seems to mean tomcat, i.e a male cat.

Freya's hall Sessrúmnir located in  Folkvang (is also a ship). It is the land beyond death ruled over by Freya and from where, those slain in battle depart to Valhalla.

It isn't too difficult to see her as the mother of all Valkyries. The Val part of the term-Valhalla, refers to those slain in battle. There is at least on reference to her as Valfreya...

Finally Wang is the Germanic pronunciation of Vang (field)...
Making me think of the Iron-Age chariot burial at Wet Wang (vaett-vangr, 'field for the trial of a legal action', or the "Wet Field" compared to the nearby dry field at Driffield).

A woman was buried with the chariot 2,300 years ago.

It was a secondary burial, or she had lain elsewhere for some days before her final burial whilst her grave was dug.

She was described as 'a mature lady' and her burial was unusual because normally a body would be placed in the grave with its head at the north. At Wet Wang, this pattern is reversed and the lady was placed in a small hollow in the southern end of the grave

She was brought to the grave at the top of a hill, perhaps on the chariot and placed in the earth, crouched upon her side upon a mat or blanket and with a mirror. Joints of a pig were sent with her. Next her chariot was dismantled and placed in the north side of the grave, and her horses were led away...