A Reader’s Question about Freya and Her Cats

From Katherine B.: What are the names of Freya’s cats? 

Normally, I would have answered this one privately and moved on with my day, but I’ve been seeing erstwhile answers to this question cropping up lately and they’re just wrong. This mildly annoys me and so, I figured I’d answer the question here. The answer is simple too: we don’t know. 

Firstly, we don’t even know how many cats Freya has, and we certainly don’t know their names. 

I have seen two answers posited, but both are assumptions not anything drawn from extant lore. 

The first is that Her cats (and both answers assume She only has two) are named after Her daughters Hnossa and Gersimi. 

The second is that they’re named Beegull (bee-gold, i.e. honey) and Tregull (tree-gold, i.e. amber). This is not in the lore. It’s from a series of fiction novels written by Diana Paxson, who is Heathen. These names likely have traction partly because of that, and partly because they represent two things that are sacred to Freya as well. Still, nowhere in the surviving lore do these names, as the names of Freya’s cats, exist. 

I should also note that the names Diana Paxson gave are also used in a very sweet children’s book, which is a lovely way to encourage young kids to think about the Gods and to start learning devotion. There’s creative license, however, inspired by devotion, in this case to acclimate children to our Gods, and then there’s actual lore-based knowledge. It’s important to know the difference.  (1). 

Freya’s cats are supernatural, powerful beings that are part of Her retinue. They are part of Her mysteries, and knowing Their names is a privilege, one probably reserved for those initiated into Her mysteries if even then – Their names are part of these Beings’ power. Her cats are cats but also “Other”– just like Auðumla is a cow, but so much more. To even say they are “cats” as we conceive of them is somewhat questionable and I’ve known those devoted to Freya who saw very large felines, much larger than housecats in their contemplations of Her. I’ve seen regular cats, lynx, other large predatory cats (cougars, lions), Norwegian forest cats, and even wolverines suggested by Freya’s folk. The answer is we just don’t know and as with any Holy Being, maybe They choose how They appear to our limited vision. What we can assume is that They are creatures of power, part of Her retinue, and perhaps we can learn much by considering why cats are so clearly Her creatures in our tradition. 

On an only slightly related note (because cats lol), here is a video about Manul cats. They are awesome. If I ever see one, I will probably die having been bitten to death because I will not be able to resist petting it. LOL.  . 

Notes:

  1. There’s no issue if one agrees, based on one’s own devotional experience, that “Beegull” and “Tregull” are the name of two of Her cats, but were I writing about that, I’d footnote exactly this: “no names are given for Freya’s cats in the surviving lore, but drawing on the work of Diana Paxson (and I’d note which works), some Heathens believe Her cats are named Beegull and Tregull.” Then I might note whether or not I agreed with this on my own devotional practice. Personally, I’ve never been given any names for Her cats, but She is not one of my primary Deities. Though I honor Her regularly, I don’t carry Her mysteries.

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on July 13, 2022, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I cannot express how much I love the idea of Freyja’s cats actually being wolverines. Freyja is the Goddess who drew me into traditional Germanic religion, and wolverines are some of my favorite animals (baby wolverines are unreasonably cute) so that idea makes me very happy.

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  2. I always remember how the chain Gleipnir, that binds Fenrir was made from several ingredients, one of which was the sound of a cat’s footfall. 🙂 So clearly cat is powerful. We of course have the story of Thor trying to lift a huge cat, that was really Jormungand. We know Vikings traveled with cats and archaeology tells us they helped to spread domestic cats. So there was a fondness there. I always figured that Freya’s cats had the ability to present as any type of feline as they are tie to the power of cat, and thus can link to any representation of cat across a multitude of branches of DNA.

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  3. Paxson coined the names “Bjegull” and “Trjegull” in her early novel Brisingamen, which is about exactly what it says on the tin: A young woman comes into possession of a magical necklace which puts her in touch with the goddess Freya. IIRC, Paxson has said it was writing that novel that brought the One-Eyed God into her life. I recommend it if you’ve never read it.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      It’s a good novel. The names, however, came from Paxson, not any surviving lore–and that’s ok, but I’m starting to see those names crop up even in badly researched academic articles and that’s not so ok. while the names work very well for fiction, we do not know in reality what Freya’s feline retinue is named, nor even how many there are. That book, and I think it’s a trilogy, is excellent though.

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      • Oh, I know–people quote the names as if they are Ancient Lore, but they’re not, they can be traced back to the exact source. Paxson also wrote a trilogy based on the Volsunga Saga/Nibelungenlied: The Wolf and the Raven, The Dragons of the Rhine, and Lord of Horses. Brisingamen takes place in the present day (as of its publication), whereas the trilogy is historical.

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