Note: Translations often differ. Sometimes the differences are mild and other times they're great. In the passages quoted below, the differences between the English translations are not meaningful.
Much is made about Freyja's decided control over her own sex life. There are several references to lovers but most of this comes from the Eddic poem The Flyting of Loki, whereby a drunken Loki goes about insulting every god before him in the hall. With lack of evidence to learn about Her feelings on the subject, we may turn to the lovers themselves and see if any patterns develop that should shape our knowledge of Her choices.
In The Flyting of Loki the word 'flyting' means a kind of 'acceleration' or 'hastening' which one may assume means Loki's quickening of his own fate, for he very deliberately intends to cause a stir in the hall. Larrington's translation prefers to name it Loki's Quarrel. Loki's turn at Freyja is one of the most entertaining of all.
Hush thee, Freyja, I full well know thee:
thou art not free from fault:
all Æsir and alfs within this hall
thou hast lured to love
from The Flying of Loki, trans. by Lee M. Hollander
Freyja retorts with rage, calling his accusations false. Loki, however, continues.
Hush thee, Freyja, a whore thou art,
and ay wast bent on ill;
in thy brother's bed the blessed gods caught thee,
when, Freyja, thou dids't fart.
from The Flying of Loki, trans. by Lee M. Hollander
Then Freyja's father Njord speaks in her defense - yet in a manner most mild.
That's harmless, if, besides a husband,
a woman has a lover or someone else;
from Loki's Quarrel, trans. by Larrington
What are we to make of this text? Before taking any of it too seriously, it must be noticed that the whole poem, from start to finish, doesn't fit with most other lore about any of the gods. For instance in this poem Freyja does not own Brisingamen, instead a Goddess named Gefjon does who sits in the hall with Her. Loki also accuses Idun of being man-crazy, describes Njord swallowing maiden's urine and claims to have personally slept with Tyr's wife - a goddess not mentioned anywhere else in the lore. In all, these stanzas serve as entertainment more than educated lore. Worse, comparison with the bulk of the lore suggests that this poet was very ill-informed and extremely insensitive to it. He was obviously Christian and had no problems putting puzzle pieces together that really don't belong for his own agenda.
When reviewing the comments about Freyja, we can glean little to nothing from this famous exchange. Most likely, the penman knew nothing about Freyja except that she was worshipped by women and men for lustful purposes. Had Freyja been the only goddess he accused of lechery and lust - his quips might mean something. Instead, they appear to be quite generic in context. The only comment Loki makes that *might* refer to other lore is Freyja having sex with Frey. Freyja is a goddess of love and lust and Frey is a god of virility and impregnation - the combination is unavoidable. Furthermore, the runic links between them (discussed in more detail below ) are profound as a mated pair - but not in the traditional manner.
So this oft-quoted poem is less than useful - but least it has been addressed. Even Njord's defense of Freyja may be nothing more than a Christian attempt to disgrace Heathen ways by describing them as honorless and without regard to wedding oaths.
Who is Odur ?
The truest teller of Freyja's lifestyle is her husband Odur . He is not mentioned often in the lore - mostly as reference to the incident in which he left Freyja, which led her to wander the earth in search of him. Medieval Scandinavian lore recounts her eventualy finding him - and the laurel wreath that she wore at that meeting became the symbol for brides thereafter. Some modern Freyja worshippers prefer to believe that she never recovered Odur - that she somehow 'got over him' and 'moved on'. They use this as a means to justify Her lustful actions - both in the lore and in their own fantasies.
In truth, studying a god by the name of Odur is worthless in understanding Her. The word 'Odur ' means 'Passion' with a capital "P". By that token, the entire tale of their separation takes on a completely more relatable meaning:
Freyja is married to Passion. One day, she finds and takes possession of the most beautiful jeweled necklace in the nine worlds - the Brisingamen. By acquiring such a magnificent object - she loses Her Passion. Lost without it, She falls into despair and wanders the Earth looking to reclaim Her Passion.
Whether she finds Passion again or not doesn't affect the power of the tale. The story is not about a man and a woman - it's about a passionate woman, the risk of achieving one's dream and being left without anything left to achieve. This isn't something that occurs to everyone - but in smaller doses it is relatable. On the one hand, a woman who becomes Queen has little left to achieve in her life - yet she is expected to live and serve day after day. This is a common ailment of medieval systems - and among the problems it leads to is experimentation and infidelity (compare with the many Empresses of Rome). On the other hand, every person can relate to the concept of 'beware of what you wish for, you just might get it'.
So, Freyja's choice of lovers - married or no - is completely understandable as a woman who is obsessed with Passion - both attaining it and keeping it.
Who is Odin?
Many scholars have made an automatic equation of Odin with Odur mostly due to Odur's translation as "passion" and Odin's translation as "The Passion".
It may be argued with points on both sides - but there is are several factors that demand the separation. Frigga is described as the mistress of the home, who is the silent hostess of Valhalla. Her name means 'Love' in sense of 'bonding'. Freyja is not silent at all, and has her own set of lore about her. Frigga, as described in the lore, is a dutiful and wise married woman - a mother and grandmother - who knows everything including when not to say anything. This measure of moderation is not something one would expect from a woman married to 'The Passion'. Freyja, however, shows no such moderation. She freely applies her affections as She desires, including the attainment of the Brisingamen.
The lore does state that Odin learned magic from Freyja, and it is insinuated to varying degrees (depending upon the translation) that they were lovers during that time.
Odin's name is very similar to Odur 's - what does that tell us? Well, technically, the -in suffix simply translates to the English article "the" - so Odin mean "The Passinon". As stated before, Odur means Passion - but it must be admitted that it means other things too. Odur also mean 'leader' or 'forward'. The literal translation of the word means "at the forefront" or "forward of all". It is used to mean 'Passion' because Passion is the most extreme emotion and it should be noted that both the words Odur and Passion refer to both extremes of Lust and Rage. In the case of Odur , the name is clearly intended to mean Passion. When it comes to Odin, the root Odur means "forward of all" as in "all-father".
Even so, there is no reason NOT to believe that Freyja and Odin were intimate. Certainly Odin has a long list of lovers of his own. Freyja, as well, is so enamored with Passion, that it would not be out of character to love the foremost of all the gods whose very name also means the foremost of all passions.
Who is Ottar?
From the Lay of Hyndla, Ottar is the only listed mortal man whom Freyja shows any interest in. Lee Hollander offers that some scholars believe the poem to be a late addition referring to a specific historical figure named Ottar Birtingr who rose from pure obscurity to marry the widow of King Harald Gilli.
The word 'Ottar' literally means 'the tip of a spear' and is an eloquent and poetic name. Furthermore, it is completely compatible with both Odur and Odin. Ottar is the "most forward point of a spear" just as Odur and Odin are the "most forward" of their own matters respectfully.
The man Ottar Birtingr is an unusual case in and of himself. His last name "Birtingr" literally means "the culmination of bright/light" or simply "brightness" which is another powerful reference to Freyja's own history as the Goddess of Light named Berchta or Berta (Bertha). There is enough integrated lore in his name alone to suggest that he is another mythical figure. If his story is truly historical it is complicated. He started with nothing and rose to power is both an amazing achievement worthy of a 'Builder-Type' blessed by Freyja. History or Myth, he is a serious blow to those who would have one believe that the Germanic ideal was to remain subservient within a defined caste.
Who is Ing?
Yngvi-Frey is "Lord Ing" with his title being Frey/Lord and his name being Ing. The word Ing itself is complicated and not easily translatable. It certainly is not a kenning (metaphor), so it is clearly a welcome and distinct concept that the God represent or has control over. The closest snap-definition I can come up is is 'Soul', but that does not convey the drama that Ing really means. The Judeo-Christian concept of 'Soul' is more static and ever-present, while the concept Ing represents is purely active and ever-evolving/ever-growing. I will discuss this more fully in a minute.
Freyja is her title and translates to 'Lady'. Her name is Berchta or some derivative. The name Berchta is also not easily translatable. The word is the origin for the tree known as 'Birch' but is also the origin of 'Birtu', an ancient Icelandic word for 'light' or 'brightness'. The continental goddess of the same name is referred to that the 'bringer of light' or the 'bearer of light'.
That Freyja was once the same as Berchta is supported by: 1) Anglo-Saxon worship of the correlation between Freyja and Birch Trees; 2) numerous references of Freyja being 'Bright'; 3) careful study of Skirnirsmal where Frey's version of idyllic beauty is described as having glowing bright arms (people are often referred to as trees and arms as limbs of trees - and glowing bright tree-limbs refer to Birch Trees); 4) Runes.
Ing has a Rune named after him known as Ing/Ingur/Ingwar. Frey and Freyja are divine twins, equal in most, if not all things. It stands to reason that she might have her own rune as well. The only rune that fits is the rune known and Beorc/Berkano which is literally 'of the Birch'. What is remarkable is the fundamental visual relationship they pose. The rune Ing may be placed betwixt and between the twin triangles of the rune Berkano to form a triangle.
This triangle may be added to another triangle to create another Berkano, which may then have another Ing rune inserted between them to form another. This action may be repeated ad infinitum and the form of Berkano may be reversed interpreted ad infinitum as well. [Press the 'Play' button in the graphic to see a demonstration.]
This then represented the process of procreation. An individual be represented by a triangle. As such, they are mixture of the twin powers of their father and mother (Berkano) along with the divine touch of their own individual identity and actions (Ing). One may find a mate and create a child, of which one will be but a part of the greater whole that is the child.
The Lord Ing represents/controls the divine spark of individuality in each person. Lady Birch is the binding of two individuals together for the the purpose of forging something new. In order for new life to form, the coupling ruled over by Freyja must be blessed by Frey, the Lord of Fertility.
As each triangle is a person with direction and purpose, the most forward tip of the life-spear is named Oddr, and is the perfectly defined mate of Freyja, thus explaining Freyja's preference for lovers named Odur , Odin and Ottar - all representatives of the same thrust of life and the completion of the bonding process that Freyja begins with love and sex.
The god Odin, is the god of Od , which is defined as 'passion or forwardness'. This is the passion for and of life. He is ever changing and forever wandering, never settling into place. Yngvi-Frey, on the other hand, is the one who settles into place in order to procreate.
Freyja has but one child. A daughter named 'Hnoss' ( "Treasure" or "Precious Thing"). Hnoss herself does not seem to have been worshipped in her own right for any particular purpose and she may have even been understood to be a no more than a child, with no role to play other than to exist. This should be compared against Aphrodite's son Cupid, for whom much of Aphrodite may be understood by studying his worship.
There is a very specific lack of evidence of worshipping Freyja in order to beget children. That worship was delegated to Yngvi-Frey or Thor - both male gods.
At this point it should be important to point out that Thor also has a rune to himself, known today as Thurs/Thurisaz, which is shaped exactly like the lunging triangle formed by the melding of Berkano and Ing.
That triangle is the power of procreation - the irresistible force by which living beings counteract the entropic forces of nature. [Press the 'Play' button in the graphic to see a demonstration.]
Thor is the god of action, power and force which was/is experienced as thunder (a large thunderstorm may exert more energy than 50 nuclear bombs). As this raw active power, he is the perfect representation of this procreative process. The power of forging new life is the most perfect weapon against the powers of destruction and entropy represented by his enemies, the Thurs (don't get confused). Another representation of the power of forging overcoming elements of destruction is Thor's mighty hammer Mjolnir.
But according to my rune-theory, without the foundation of Berkano, and the strength that brought Thor's parents together, Thor would not just incapable of exerting any force, but he would not even exist in the first place.
Berchta-Freyja, as the goddess who rules over the bringing together of lovers, is also the one who brings together all people and elements in the universe so that they may be harnessed and forged into greater identities. She associate with the Dwarves, the divine smiths of the universe, for all of these reasons and performed/promised sexual acts in perfect character.
Berchta-Freyja is the light to which we all collect from the darkness. She is the enlightenment of familiarity and unity. She is the enabler of potential so that greater things may be brought to the next level.
As a woman, She is a soother of ills and strife, leading people to love one-another for both moments and eternity. As a person, She is the seeker of newer and greater challenges, striving for the ultimate in procreation and construction.
It is for all of these reasons that every piece of lore about her was written. No wonder she was associated with gold, wealth, love, sex, and communal harmony.
Freyja is not a whore or a slut who has sex with everyone she can because she can. She is a passionate figure who seeks out passion where she desires it - yet the evidence before us leads one to believe that the one's she chooses are passionate leaders and builders who affect the world around them. This should be understandable to every woman.
Many males (and some females) worship Freyja as a sex goddess with whom they frolic in their fantasies in lieu of a less spiritual imaginary friend. The Truth of Her frowns on this practice, for Freyja is about bringing people together leading to something more.
Freyja appears to have been worshipped much more by women than by men - so the substitution of a Freyja for a live woman simply makes no sense. Once in the arms of a woman, however, Her presence is enveloping - for it is both Her passion to induce it and to revel in it.