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The Goddess Frig: Reassessing an Anglo-Saxon Deity
By Ethan Doyle White
Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural, Vol.3:2 (2014)
Abstract: This article critically examines the evidence for the existence of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Frig, exploring toponyms, day names, Old English textual sources, archaeology, and comparisons with continental Germanic mythologies. Challenging previous assertions that she was the consort of the god Woden and was associated with love and motherhood, it furthermore contends that this scholarly misinterpretation of the deity has had wider repercussions, affecting the way that contemporary Pagans interpret this particular divinity. Ultimately, it argues that far less can be said about Frig with any certainty than has been previously supposed, suggesting that a case can even be made that she had never existed as a deity in Anglo-Saxon England at all.
Introduction: The world of the Anglo-Saxon gods will forever remain a mystery to us, existing just beyond the reach of written history. This pagan world sits in an enigmatic realm that is in many respects prehistoric, an alien headspace far removed from our own intellectual universe. Situated within a polytheistic cosmos, clouded from us by centuries of Christian theology and Enlightenment rationalism, we can discern the existence of a handful of potential deities, who though long deceased have perhaps left their mark in place-names, royal genealogies, and the accounts of proselytizing monks. Such sources have led scholars to put together a pantheon for early medieval England, populated by such murky figures as Woden, Þunor, Tiw, and a goddess known as Frig. Though no unequivocal evidence for her existence has survived for us today, it has long been believed that this enigmatic figure has left her mark on the names of various villages and hamlets across England, in veiled Old English references to sex, and in the name of one of our own days of the week, Friday. However, despite decades of scholarship in the field of Anglo-Saxon studies, the subject of Frig has been largely neglected, and it is hoped that this contribution will go some way to rectifying this unfortunate omission.