A month for Freyr: day 18

In his description of the so-called temple of Uppsala, Adam of Bremen says it contained three statues, one of which was of a god named Fricco. He granted peace and pleasure, was given sacrifices whenever marriages were celebrated and was depicted with a huge phallus. In all likelihood, the god in question was Frey, though the name Fricco, it seems, is etymologically problematic. Still, the description fits Ingui’s, which brings me to next topic: marriage!

In the old days, marriage was more of a transaction than a matter of romantic love. One married to build alliances, profitable contracts and establish a lineage; personal feelings were a secondary concern, if at all. Additionally, men could have several concubines, out of passion, yes, but also out of interest, especially when their social status was different: the women’s relatives became (subservient) allies and they naturally enjoyed the prestige brought by their association with someone of a higher strata. At least this is how it could go in medieval Iceland. Whether that was the case in pre-Christian Scandinavia is not entirely clear, but social structures can survive religious changes and both the material nature of marriage and the social games involved in concubinage were basic enough to remain true centuries later. To modern devotees of Frey, this may be shocking: how can a god who’s often perceived as kind and said to have wedded out of love give His support to arranged marriages? Yet we easily forget that the world wasn’t always as it is today and that the Gods adapt when They see value in things (at least that’s my impression). But what could possibly be positive to Ingui-Frey in a marriage where love is a minor concern?

The most obvious answer is friðr. Again, it doesn’t mean peace as opposed to war, but protection and help, social peace as opposed to feuding. Marriage as a contract between families creates bonds of friðr, an alliance whereby they must assist each other and keep peace between them. That alone creates an opportunity for people to prosper, which is also within the realm of Ingui, as would be any commercial deals that result from a wedding. If a marriage is a material contract, prosperity is, hopefully, its result. And then there is reproduction, since a union was expected to produce heirs and Frey’s sexual nature puts Him in the role of a child giver. Of course, I’m not saying that we should go back to the old form of marriage – I’m quite happy with unions that are based on a sincere desire to share a life and that each person is free to chose his/her partner. I’m merely trying to make sense of the past to understand what can be brought into the present.

Today, as in the old days, marriage is still a matter of friðr. It still establishes bonds of protection and assistance, both between the members of the couple and their families, and creates conditions for a more prosperous life, not the least with all the legal and fiscal benefits it entails. This is equally true for less formal unions that are nonetheless recognized by civil law and while reproduction is no longer the goal of every couple, for those that do intend to produce offspring Frey’s sexual aspect remains relevant. For those who don’t, sexual pleasure is still important and that’s within the realm of a phallic god; for those who choose to adopt, friðr is again the keyword, as the inclusion of a child in the family means that someone else becomes part of the bonds of protection and help. All of this takes us back to the role of Ingui as a household deity, which is thus joined with His legal side as a protector of human unions and the ensuing prosperity. A community is founded on common laws; a family is founded on shared lives. In a way, the former is a basic version of the latter. In a way, it’s an Ingui-continuum.

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