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Chariots of Freya

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 18 Sept 2015, 02:04

Somehow I came upon this fascinating cat-lore.

Norse deity Freya rode in a chariot drawn by two cats: "kõttum tveim" in Old Icelandic. The illustration captures their robust spirit well, I feel.

No necessary

Credit: Ludwig Pietsch, 1865

In the Old Icelandic literature Freya's team are also called "fressa", which probably means "tomcats", who don't piss about. But "fressa" may also mean "bears" though, big guys, and so there was a scholarly debate in the mid 1800s (involving people like Jakob Grimm, of the fairy tales, for example). The modern view supports cats (of course).

I wondered if Freya's cats had names (like Santa's reindeer). One source claimed they were called "Bygul" and "Trejgul" and that may be: I haven't read the Icelandic Eddas. I was doubtful though, because in Latin there are names "Biga" and "Triga": which mean—guess what?—nothing to do with cats. It's the number of wheels on a wagon (i.e. chariot), 2 or 3.

So maybe "Bygul" and "Trejgul" are just a clever joke. I don't know. But then you see the idea that of a Goddess in a chariot pulled by big cats goes back further than the Norse sagas. There are illustrations from Greek and Roman times that show what are plainly leopards and tigers pulling the chariots of the goddesses and gods.

Some of the 19th scholars suggested that Freya's chariot may not have been pulled by north European cats (not even the awesome Norwegian Forest Cats) but by big cats, based on rumors passed on by traders and storytellers who moved between the Mediterranean and northern Europe. It's a long journey but cat power may have made it possible.

Freya's chariot of cats still lives today, as you can see in the clip. This would be a "Quintiga".


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