The Cult of Freyr

The Ancient Cult of the Wagon-Gods

Yngvi-Freyr, God of the World and the Ancestors

Fertility god Freyr seems to be one of the most important Nordic gods for the rural population, before his cult is displaced from the Cult of the Skygods, the Aesir. Freyr means Lord in old Norse and often referred to as Yngvi-Freyr. He was associated with sacral kingship and is considered to be the God of the World. ( in Old Norse: veraldar góð )

Veraldar góð is a suitable description for a cthotonic deity like Yngvi- Freyr. The old sagas attested him that Freyr bestow peace and good harvests on mortals in exchange for offerings and sacrifice. He belongs, like his twin sister Freyja and his father sea-god Njördr, to the Vanir tribe which are a tribe of gods of fertility and wisdom. As a member of the Vanir tribe Freyr cult is closely tied to cult of Alfar. ( in Old Norse: elves)

There are hints that the god Freyr was associated with elves. The gods gave him Álfheimr (literally “elf-world”). However, elves are frequently mentioned in the phrase Æsir ok Álfar (‘Æsir and elves’). This was clearly a well established prayer, indicating a strong tradition of associating elves with the group of gods known as the Vanir, or even suggesting that the elves and Vanir were one and the same.

The Álfablót or the Elven sacrifice is a pagan Scandinavian sacrifice to the elves towards the end of autumn, when the crops had been harvested and the animals were most fat. However, since the elves were collective powers with a close connection to ancestors and fertility, it is possible that the álfablót concerned ancestor worship and the life force of the family.

Cult of the Wagon-god

Yngvi is a name of the god Freyr, perhaps Freyr’s true name, as freyr means ‘lord’ and has probably evolved from a common invocation of the god. Yngvi-Freyr likely refer to the connection between the god and the Germanic kings‘ role as priests during the sacrifices in the pagan period, as Frea and Freyr are titles meaning ‘Lady’ and ‘Lord’. In Norse mythology, Yngvi-Freyr,  was the Ancestor of the Yngling lineage, a legendary dynasty of Swedish kings, from whom also the earliest historical Norwegian kings claimed to be descended.

This may refer to the origins of the worship of Ingui in the tribal areas that Tacitus (Roman historian) mentions in his Germania as being populated by the Inguieonnic tribes. A later Danish chronicler lists Ingui was one of three brothers that the Danish tribes descended from. The strophe also states that “then he (Ingui) went back over the waves, his wagon behind him” which could connect Ingui to earlier conceptions of the wagon processions of Nerthus and the later Scandinavian conceptions of Freyr’s wagon journeys.

We have also much more historical letters about this ancient wagon cult, which seems to be very specific for fertility gods.

The 14th century Icelandic Ögmundar þáttr dytts contains a tradition of how Freyr was transported in a wagon and administered by a priestess, in Sweden. Freyr’s role as a fertility god needed a female counterpart in a divine couple (McKinnell’s translation 1987[6]):

In this short story, a man named Gunnar was suspected of manslaughter and escaped to Sweden, where Gunnar became acquainted with this young priestess. He helped her drive Freyr’s wagon with the god effigy in it, but the god did not appreciate Gunnar and so attacked him and would have killed Gunnar if he had not promised himself to return to the Christian faith if he would make it back to Norway. When Gunnar had promised this, a demon jumped out of the god effigy and so Freyr was nothing but a piece of wood. Gunnar destroyed the wooden idol and dressed himself as Freyr, then Gunnar and the priestess travelled across Sweden where people were happy to see the god visiting them. After a while he made the priestess pregnant, but this was seen by the Swedes as confirmation that Freyr was truly a fertility god and not a scam. Finally, Gunnar had to flee back to Norway with his young bride and had her baptized at the court of Olaf Tryggvason.

The Wife of Freyr is now available on