Many of us have heard of Valhalla, an immense hall placed in Asgard
, ruled by the supreme God of Norse mythology and the chief of the Aesir, the all-father Odin. Many have thought that the einherjar
, great warriors who fell in battle, are destined to be brought only to Valhalla, where they will wait for Ragnarok.
However, not much is known of the field just as vast and as welcoming to the passed fighters, home of the goddess Freya, “the field of people
” – Folkvangr (Old Norse Fólkvangr
, meaning "field of the host
" or "people-field
"). Today, we are going to change this and allow you to learn all the essential things regarding Folkvangr.
Freya the Ruler of Folkvangr
We are not going to talk a lot about Freya here since she is certainly going to be in the spotlight of some other article. Still, it wouldn’t be fair towards one of the most important Goddesses that we don’t say anything about her while talking about Folkvangr, her realm.
Freya Wearing Her Necklace Brisingamen
Freya is known as the Goddess of love, beauty, gold, magic, and fertility. Freya’s hall in Folkvangr is called Sessrumnir
. It is described as a vast and beautiful place. Each day, Freya rides from it in a chariot, which is pulled by two huge cats and watches the battles of Folkvangr. Around her neck, she has a necklace
, and her chariot is followed by the boar Hildsvini
. She has a large cloak made of falcon feathers, which she often allows other Gods to use.
Her father is a Norse God of wind and a member of the Vanir tribe, Njord. Freya's brother is the God of peace and prosperity, Freyr, but we’ll talk about them a little bit more later. She is married to Odr, with whom she has two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi. Odr is often absent, and it is said that Freya cries tears of red gold while looking for him.
Because of many similarities, it is often speculated that Frigg, wife of Odin, and Freya are the same person and that Odr is actually Odin. It may be entirely possible that this is the reason that Freya is always away from her husband. He is ruling Valhalla, while she is ruling Folkvangr.
Freya's Influence in Modern Culture
When the Christianization started in Scandinavia, almost all of the personality traits that Freya had in lore were taken over by the Virgin Mary.
Freya has influenced many works of art, and to name a few, Der rings des Nibelungen
by Richard Wagner, and the first stanza of the national anthem of Denmark, Der er et yndigt land
, written by Danish poet Adam Gottlob in 1819.
Also, for those who seek representations of Freya nowadays, she appears in the video game God of War
as the Witch of the Woods
, former wife of Odin, and the mother of the antagonist Baldur. Folkvangr is not mentioned.
The Difference Between Folkvangr and Valhalla
As its name suggests, Folkvangr is a field, one of the twelve realms in Asgard, inhabited with the bravest of the dead, as well as its ruler Freya and her daughters Hnoss and Gersemi.
Namely, after each battle, Odin
and Freya would choose the einherjar who have proven themselves to be the most courageous fighters and divide them among themselves. The fallen Viking warriors will later be brought to either Folkvangr or Valhalla. The less fortunate ones, however, had no choice and would go to Hel. In the underworld, they would live eternally, but only merely continuing their ordinary lives on earth: eating, drinking, and sleeping.
There are not many differences when it comes to practicality and routine in these two dwelling places of the Gods. In fact, life in both of them equally would be an envy of any Viking warrior. In Folkvangr, as well as in Valhalla, warriors would fight amongst each other every day, making sure they will be prepared when the Ragnarok comes. Many of them would be injured, many of them slaughtered; however, in the evening, their wounds would heal, and they would be ready to feast.
Actually, the only real difference between Valhalla and Folkvangr lies in the way of entering them. Namely, those who die honorably are chosen between Odin and Freya to enter their respective realms. The ones chosen by Odin enter Valhalla, while those who are selected by Freya enter Folkvangr.
Aesir-Vanir War and the Creation of Folkvangr
Gods of the Nordic mythology are, in most cases, parts of the two tribes. Gods from Asgard are called Aesir, while the gods of Vanaheim are called Vanir. The leader of the Aesir is Odin, while the leader of the Vanir is the God of wind, Njord. Most of the Norse tales tell us that Gods got along well most of the time, but it was not always like that.
Goddess Freya, who belonged to the Vanir and was the daughter of Njord, was known as the most capable practitioner of seidr, an immensely powerful type of magic. Like all practitioners of magic, she traveled around the world and would sell her craft to anyone who had money and needed something solved by unconventional means.
While moving from town to town, from realm to realm, she eventually came to Asgard using the name Heidr, meaning Bright. Many of the Aesir immediately liked Freya. After all, she had a magical solution to all of their problems. On the other hand, the values of the Aesir, which they were proud of, namely loyalty to their kin, honor, and respect for the law, started to be forgotten because of the selfish desires they have been fulfilling with Freya's magic.
Not long after that, they started blaming Freya for their own selfishness. They said that she was greedy and decided that she deserves death. They burnt her three times and all three times she has risen from the ashes.
Because of this, two divine tribes started to hate each other, and eventually, the war started between the two. The Aesir fought plain war using weapons and sheer force, while the Vanir used their strongest suit, magic. The war lasted for some time (we don’t know how long), with both sides winning at some point in the war.
Finally, two tribes of Gods, tired of the constant struggle, decided to make peace between them. It was agreed that the best way to honor the peace between the two was to exchange hostages. Njord, along with his son Freyr and his daughter Freya, were sent to the Aesir, while Hoenir and Mimir went to the Vanir.
Freya's Father, Norse God Njord
The Vanir were convinced that Hoenir is very wise and very valuable. They didn’t notice that Hoenir was wise only when Mimir was with him to counsel him. Whenever Mimir was not by his side, Hoenir would answer to any question with: "Let others decide.” It took a while before Venir realized that they were fooled in the exchange of hostages. Thus they decided to behead Mimir and send his head to Odin, the all-father.
Even though Vanir broke the pact by killing one of the hostages, neither side wanted to keep on fighting. Instead, all of them spat into a cauldron, and when they saliva combined, Kvasir was created, the wisest of all beings. As a token of good faith and friendship toward the Vanir, Odin decided to give Folkvangr to Freya and give her the right to have a first pick from the fallen warriors.
Is Folkvangr in Asgard?
As we previously stated, Folkvangr is one of the 12 realms of Asgard. Still, in reality, there is no firm evidence of that. Some historians of the mythology place it in Asgard in accordance with Grimnismal
, one of the primary sources of Norse mythology. On the other hand, Grimnismal
never explicitly states that this realm is part of Asgard.
As we said before, the Aesir live in Asgard, while the Vanir live in Vanaheim. Snorri says in his work, Poetic Edda
, which is aside from Grimnismal
the most important source of Norse mythology, that Asgard inside its walls has Valhalla, Vingolf (home of the Goddesses of Aesir) and Gladsheimer which is a temple. At no point in the text is it explicitly stated that Folkvangr is a part of Asgard.Poetic Edda
says that Folkvangr, along with ship town, Noatun, and home of the elves, Alfheimr, are in heaven, or, more precise, in the sky. The sky is a very broad term for Norse mythology. It can mean both Asgard and Vanaheim, and if we know that Freya is a Vanir, who mostly live in Vanaheim, well, we can at least put its location under a question mark.
It is interesting to think about all of this in terms of the symbolic. For Norse people, a large part of their religion was related to constellations that they used on their travels. If we think about that, it can be speculated that a large number of seats in her great hall are actually supposed to be some constellation in the sky. Maybe even the Milky Way. When you try to picture it, you can even see the chariots pulled by two cats across the field of Folkvangr.
This brings to an end story about Folkvangr, the field of people. We hope that you managed to learn something and that some of you who read this might have a chance to share this knowledge with a fellow Viking.
Also, it would be nice to tell him that you prefer Folkvangr to Valhalla and leave him in awe. Because, who wouldn’t like to see the Goddess Freya in all her beauty and see her magic first hand?
As always, feel free to tell us what do you think in the comment section below, and if you have some more questions or you know something else about the magical Folkvangr, please, let us know. Until then, keep your mead strong and your fighting spirit high, and we’ll see you in some next hall or maybe one day, in Folkvangr.