A month for Freyr: day 2

It is my belief that Ingui-Frey is, among other things, a god of the home. To some, this may raise a lot of question marks, since He’s not a female deity, certainly not a virgin and is never linked to the hearth, all of which are the typical traits of a home deity. But He may, however, be linked to the pantry or at least to that most basic of human food that is bread. I should add that this is not an historically recorded side of Him: for the most part, it is my UPG; partly inspired by the historical data, yes, yet largely built on my own experience, both with Him and as a Roman polytheist who’s attempting to integrate Frey in a Latin context. Your view may therefore be different, but to me Ingui-Frey is a Nurturer, a Provider and a Protector, which means He can play a role in the survival and renewal of the household.

There’s a paper by Stefan Brink called Lord and Lady – Bryti and Deigja, published by the University College of London in 2008. In it, he searches for the origins and meaning of the two words in the title and, at some point, he connects the Norse bryti and deigja with the Old English hlaf-brytta and hlaf-dighe: the breaker/distributor of bread and baker of bread, respectively. In his words, “in early Scandinavia we probably had the same institution, a kind of household defined on the basis of bread, as we find in Anglo-Saxon England” (p. 9). He goes as far as to say that it was a very old Germanic institution, similar to the Roman familia and “with obvious roots” in it. And then Stefan Brink lists the Old High German names for the head of the household which, he argues, would have a similar role to that of the Roman pater familias: hêrro, truthin… and frô. His duty, he adds, “was to protect his family and to put food on the table” (p. 13).

The linguistic connection with Ingui is obvious, since freyr is a title meaning lord and frô would be its OHG equivalent. Actually, it’s also found in Sweden: in the north, for instance, there’s a place called Fröson – Frö’s island – where there are archaeological traces of a pre-Christian cult and possibly a grove (cf. The Viking World, p. 253). But apart from a word link, there’s also a connection in content.

Ingui-Frey is a god of fertility. The earth’s abundance and animal reproduction are under His influence and the bounty is one of His blessings. He is therefore one of the deities responsible for the sustenance of the household and few types of food are as symbolic of that as the bread. It is, after all, one the simplest and oldest forms of food, easily made from grinded and baked cereals mixed with water. All that people needed for it was available even before we started farming, but because it nonetheless requires human intervention in the form of grinding and dough making, processes unlike any required in hunting, it is also synonymous with civilization. Our lives as villagers, as urban dwellers and hence members of a literal household are linked to bread. And Ingui-Frey is the Golden God of the fields and the Lord of the Harvest; He’s there when the crops grow, the soft rain falls and the vegetation is sacrificed. The most basic elements for the most basic of civilization’s food are part of His blessings and that, to use the Old English terms, makes Him Hlaf-Brytta: the Lord of Bread! He’s the Provider, the Nurturer of the household.

There’s more to it, namely Ingui’s phallic aspect, His connection with death and the mound, as well as His servants Byggvir and Beyla. In the end, it will all come together and show a god of the home, but this is a long set of posts, so I’ll leave those things for the next several days.

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3 thoughts on “A month for Freyr: day 2

  1. Pingback: A month for Freyr: day 2 | The Lure of Beauty

  2. I’ve been wondering about the same thing. Where is the household/hearth deity that you can find in almost all well documented IE cultures? There’s Hestia, Vesta, *Brigantí, Gabija, Agni, Átar…
    Where’s the Germanic cognate?

    • The thing is, ancient Germanic cultures are not well documented. For the most part, we have texts from the 13th century on Norse mythological narratives, but very little is know about the everyday life of ancient polytheists. There are a few occasional hints, like the Elves or the Disir, which may be a Scandinavian equivalent of the Matres. A few better known Powers are sometimes seen as deities of the household, namely Frigg and occasionally Freya. Snorri may mention one or two obscure goddesses, but that’s pretty much it.

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