My orientation is not a scholarly one, rather, I tend to be a bit of mystic. So, you're not going to see a lot of citations here, but you will see writings on personal experience, perception and meditations. Keep that in mind as you read, this is an inspired account, and not necessarily something to cite on your Scandinavian studies mid-term report.
When one refers to "mysteries" in the esoteric sense, one is referring to a concept of an idea that somehow conveys numinous knowledge, and can't be readily understood if told directly. Deeper understanding of the runes generally involve mysteries of this sort, it's not enough to know that fehu = cattle, you also have to know what it meant to the old Norse, how that might related to modern day rune work, and eventually develop an internalized understanding of the rune for yourself.
Deeper understanding of the Gods and Goddesses involves mysteries of this sort. Thor isn't just some red-bearded guy who smashes Jotuns, although that image is useful for a deeper understanding of him.
Besides the mysteries specific to an individual God or Goddess, I believe strongly that there are what may be called "individual mysteries", each one of us has certain patterns, characters, conclusions that are true for us over and over again. Our luck works a certain way, as do our misfortunes. Knowing how Wyrd works with ourselves is a vital part of self-knowledge and finding our way in life.
I mention this as a caution when writing about Freya, because I associate many things with Freya, and I sometimes find it difficult to understand where Freya has helped me understand myself, and where she has revealed herself to me. That said, I attempt to present as complete a picture of my experience as possible, and trust that the reader is capable of judging for themselves whether the truths I have found are true for them as well.
I know that I loved the Norse Gods at the age of ten. I remember eagerly reading D'Aulaire's Norse Gods and Giants, and saying to my mother, "I wish people still had these Gods!". Many years later, I was to find out, yes, people did still have these Gods, meaning they still revered them, and treated the myths as religion, not mythology. Even at the age of ten, Freya was for me the most vivid and interesting of the Goddesses. I do not recall being unduly horrified by the myth that details the acquisition of Brisingamen, possibly because to a child, having sexual intercourse with dwarves is no more distasteful than the thought of having sex with humans. The accounts of Freya being used as a bargaining chip with sundry Giants did bother me, and my already formed sense of female self-determination. I was however, moved by the tales of Freya looking for her lost husband, and weeping tears of gold. My imagination was taken with the account of her chariot being drawn by cats, and by mention of Freya's daughter, Hnoss.
I look back at my feelings as a child, and I see a spontaneous emotional expression that disappeared as I became an adolescent. As a teenager, I tended to find any religious expression incomprehensible. However, even then, I always had a strong mystical streak, and I don't think there was ever a time that I did not believe in "magic" meaning a great many things, including psychic ability, the possibility of willing things to happen, and what Dion Fortune has called "the invisible reality behind appearances".
As an interesting side-note, I was an avid drawer as a teenager, and many of my class notes had the margins (and whole pages) filled with doodles of one kind or another. One image I drew over and over again, and worked very hard at in my senior year was that of a bare-breasted woman, with a stately face and almost an iconic quality. When I look at these drawings now, I cannot but see them as depictions of Freya, and yet I know there was no conscious thought of her in my mind when I drew these pictures. It is pleasing to think that I had some sort of connection with her even then, but speaking honestly, I really can't say one way or the other.
In college my second year, I got involved with U-Mass Pagan Students, and a Wiccan coven. Even back then, I had "Norse leanings", but was not inspired to learn more of the Norse community by what I had read in Drawing Down the Moon. Eventually though, the Wiccan coven broke up, and although sorely lacking raw material with which to go on, I founded an Asatru Kindred with two other people in the spring of 1991.
At first, I really didn't have any idea where to begin. It's quite one thing to state, "I will go honor Freya now", and quite another to determine what exactly "honoring Freya" meant. After giving it a little thought, I decided putting together an appropriate shrine would be a good start, and I would go on from there. Even then, I had no idea where to begin, and kept putting it off.
The shrine finally got started after I attended a Women's Ritual at a small Wiccan gathering. I don't typically attend Women's Rituals, but this was literally such a small gathering there was no way I could avoid doing so. It turned out to be a really lovely ritual, not so much in what was done, but in the women present really bringing together a good atmosphere.
The rite at the Women's Ritual was one to welcome women to the world of adulthood, the way the organizer explained it, it was "For those of you, and I think that's most of us, that didn't get such a welcome". What I think really brought through the strength of this rite was the presence of the organizer's daughter. She was a somewhat chubby teenager and generally not what we would call conventionally attractive. None the less, she exuded a confidence and ease in dealing with others that many adult women would envy.
I was very much struck by her because she seemed to exemplify what entry into womanhood should be. Ideally, a maturation in body and mind should also be accompanied by a sense of celebration, increasing confidence and self-sufficiency, and a supportive introduction to the adult world. There was something deeply satisfying about taking part in such a rite, and having one of the participants be a living example of this ideal.
At the end of the ritual, each one of us was given a small cowrie shell to symbolize womanly strength, and I knew then that it was time to set up a small shrine to Freya, and this small shell would be the start of it.
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