Fólkvangr is a meadow or field ruled by the Norse goddess Freyja.
It is where half of those that have died in combat go upon their deaths.
The other half go to the Norse god Odin in the Halls of Valhalla.
Fólkvangr is attested in the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. Fólkvangr is a field where Freyja receives half of those who died in battle and it is also the name of a ship. Both the field and the ship are attested in the Prose Edda.
Their are three primary places where the dead are perceived to go:
- Helheim (Old Norse Helheimr, “the home of the goddess Hel“),
- Valhalla (Old Norse Valhöll, “the hall of the fallen”), and
- Folkvangr (Old Norse Fólkvangr, “the field of the people” or “the field of warriors”).
According to the Prose Edda, within Fólkvangr is Freyja’s hall “Sessrúmnir” (Old Norse ‘seat-room’). Sessrúmnir is where the goddess Freyja resides with her daughters Hnoss and Gersemi. Sessrúmnir is specifically referred to as a hall in chapter 24 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning. After describing Fólkvangr, High tells Gangleri of Freyja’s Hall, Sessrúmnir, which he describes as being large and beautiful.
It is also possible that Sessrúmnir was once the abode of Óðr who is the husband of Freyja and father of their daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi. Not much is written about Óðr, except that he often went away on long journeys and that Freyja wept when she missed him.
Óðr’s name also means “Divine Madness, frantic, furious, vehement, or eager” in Old Norse.
There’s speculation with his name meaning “madness” and his frequent long trips, that being married to Freyja may have drove him crazy time to time. But this is baseless speculation. We all love our wives, right?
Several scholars have also suggested that, because many other similarities existing between the two, Óðr may just have been another name for the god Odin.
Fólkvangr directly translates into English as ‘people-field.’
It is also known to mean: “Folk’s Field”, “Field of the Folk”, ” Field of the People”, “Field of the Warriors”, “Field of the Host”, “Field of the Army”, or “Army Field.”
If we understand the Fólk element of Fólkvangr, then Fólk is to be understood as great number of people or “army.” When the Northmen came down to the call of Ariovistus, they didn’t just come in small groups or tribes, 24,000 Harudes came as a distinguishable force. The Harudes came as a Fólk.
Understanding vangr of Fólkvangr being a field or meadow, then Fólk-vangr is an Army Field or Fielded Army.
If one understands Fólkvangr as meaning “Field of the Host.” The word Host referring to a large sum of people. An army of people. Fólkvangr is then understood as a field for an army of people (the host of folks).
We understand Valhalla as being: “the Hall of the Slain.” Usually only someone of importance would be slain. A regular man would simply be killed in battle.
For example: The battle lasted throughout the remainder of the day. Many warriors from both sides were killed in battle until the king was finally slain. It was then that all hope was abandoned and the invaders seized the field.
This rationalization would speculate that the slain leaders of the warriors would go to Valhalla, while the regular soldiers or vikings killed in battle would go to Fólkvangr.
Perhaps those that went to Valhalla became part of the Officer Corp to lead those sent to Fólkvangr that became the mass of the Army.
The visualization of Freyja’s realm, Fólkvangr, by most Norse is that of: a vast field where half of the chosen battle slain are gathered, with her Hall Sessrúmnir located within its huge meadows.
Freyja’s Hall Sessrúmnir is referred to in the Prose Edda, ch20 “Skáldskaparmál.” In this chapter, Freyja is referred to as being the possessor of the fallen slain and of Sessrúmnir. It is in chapter 75 that Sessrúmnir is among a list of ship names. Is Freyja’s Hall a great ship?
The writer Rudolf Simek theorizes that one of the two notions of Sessrúmnir (as a ship or as a hall) may come from a misunderstanding; as the meaning of the name can be understood in both cases as “space with many or roomy seats.”
Do the chosen fallen that go the Freyja get loaded aboard her ship, or possibly aboard a ship in a great fleet?
The dead from the battlefield are divided equally, with half to Valhalla and half to Fólkvangr. This is to say, half of the fallen are put aboard a ship and the other half sent to train from combat. A modern military comparison would say: half go to Odin’s Corp (Army?) and half to Freyja’s Corp (Marines?).
With the goddess Freyja receiving half the slain and her Hall Sessrúmnir possibly being a named ship with many seats; we can speculate that Freyja loads half the slain to a seat on her ship(s). Her Hall is referred to as a space with many seats or roomy seats. Perhaps Freyja’s Hall is a huge ship with many seats for oarsmen.
Our description of her Hall is extremely vague. Her Hall also being listed in a ship and the presence of so many ship burials laid in vast fields. It’s a great possibility that Freyja hosted a fleet of ships manned by half the slain in battle.
Half of the Slain forming Odin’s land army and half of the slain forming Freyja’s fleet, we can speculate that their was a stratagem in place to attack from two fronts at Ragnarok.
This is a very feasible and proven effective battle tactic. Odin takes half the slain where they become einherjar and train for battle until the coming of Ragnarok. Freyja takes the other half of the chosen battlefield dead and brings them aboard her ships for an invasion landing. The god’s possible attack plan would be: Freyja leading the invasion by sea as Odin marches by land to flank the enemy.
Think of D-Day World War II. Freyja leading the Allied Forces making the landing invasion on the beaches of Normandy with Odin leading the Soviet forces over land to the East.
by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing
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