Our subject today is Norse mythology, and specifically the goddess Freya and her cats. And we are not talking about little lap kitties here. No, these cats were powerful creatures who pulled the goddess’s chariot.
The goddess Freya and her cats
The Norse goddess Freya in her chariot pulled by two blue cats© Patrimonio | Dreamstime.com - Freya Norse Goddess Photo
named Bygul and Trjegul.
Freya (or Freyja) was a fertility goddess and was associated with domesticity, womanhood, and female sexuality. She was also associated with sorcery and magic, as well as war and death. It was said that after a battle, Freya would lead a band of Valkyries to gather the fallen warriors—or half of them, at least. She would take her share of the dead to Folkvang, her hall in the home of the gods, while the other half went to Odin, god of wisdom and war. Freya might also have been the goddess on hand to greet women after death.
Freya’s chariot was pulled not by horses but by two male cats. Both cats were described as being blue or gray and had been a gift from Thor. Their names (bestowed upon them not by the ancient Norse but by a modern author, according to the Viking Answer Lady) were Bygul and Trjegul.
Why cats? Well, cats have been associated with femininity and fertility since ancient Egypt, so it isn’t surprising that cats would be associated with Freya in Norse mythology. But if Freya was the goddess of the feminine, why were her cats male? It may be that the association of Freya and these male cats represented a combination of female and male sexuality (Prehal, p. 16).
Thor gives Freya two blue kittens
|1981 Sweden stamp shows Freya in her chariot|
pulled by three…cats?
Stock image via AdobeStock.
One day while Thor was fishing, he heard a beautiful singing that lulled him to sleep. Soon enough, though, he was awakened by a horrible noise. Irritated, he went in search of the noise and came upon the magic Cat Bayun and two blue kittens. The kittens were asleep, and the cat, a male, was singing to them.
Thor asked if Cat Bayun was the kittens’ father, and the cat replied that he was. He’d met a pretty female in the spring and together they’d had these kittens, but now their mother had left him and he was stuck as a single father. He asked for Thor’s help, and Thor got the idea to give the kittens to Freya.
Bayun then turned into a bird and flew away, and Thor gathered up the kittens and took them to Freya. Those kittens grew into the cats that pulled Freya’s chariot.
Prehal, Brenda. Freyja’s Cats: Perspectives on Recent Viking Age Finds in Þegjandadalur North Iceland. Master’s thesis. Hunter College of the City University of New York. 2011.
The Encyclopedia of Ancient Myth and Culture. London: Quantum Books, 2003.
The Facts on File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend. 2nd ed. Vol. I. New York: Facts on File, 2004.