In Norse religion, Fólkvangr (Old Norse “field of the host” or “people-field” or “army-field”) is a meadow or ruled over by the goddess Freyja where half of those that die in combat go upon death, while the other half go to the god Odin in Valhalla. Fólkvangr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. According to the Prose Edda, within Fólkvangr is Freyja’s hall Sessrúmnir. Scholarly theories have been proposed about the implications of the location.
In the poem Grímnismál collected in the Poetic Edda, Odin (disguised as Grímnir) tells the young Agnar that Freyja allots seats to half of those that die in her hall Fólkvangr, while Odin receives the other half (Fólkvangr is here anglicized to Fôlkvang and Folkvang):
- Fôlkvang is the ninth, there Freyia directs
- the sittings in the hall.
- She half the fallen chooses each day,
- but Odin th’ other half.
- The ninth is Folkvang, where Freyja decrees
- Who shall have seats in the hall;
- The half of the dead each day does she choose,
- And half does Othin have.
In chapter 24 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, High tells Gangleri (described as king Gylfi in disguise) that Freyja is “the most glorious of the ásynjur“, that Freyja has a dwelling in the heavens called Fólkvangr, and that “whenever she rides to battle she gets half of the slain, and the other half Odin, as it says here: [the stanza above from Grímnismál is then quoted]”. High then continues with a description of Freyja’s hall Sessrúmnir.
In Egils saga, when Egill Skallagrímsson refuses to eat, his daughter Þorgerðr (here anglicized as “Thorgerd”) says she will go without food and thus starve to death, and in doing so will meet the goddess Freyja:
- Thorgerd replied in a loud voice, ‘I have had no evening meal, nor will I do so until I join Freyja. I know no better course of action than my father’s. I do not want to live after my father and brother are dead.’
Britt-Mari Näsström says that “as a receiver of the dead her [Freyja’s] abode is also open for women who have suffered a noble death.” Näsström cites the above passage from Egils saga as an example, and points to a potential additional connection in the saga Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, where the queen hangs herself in the dísarsalr (Old Norse “the Hall of the Dís“) after discovering that her husband has betrayed both her father and brother. Näsström comments that “this Dís could hardly be anyone but Freyja herself, the natural leader of the collective female deities called dísir, and the place of the queen’s suicide seems thus to be connected with Freyja.”
Freyja receives the slain heroes of the battlefield quite respectfully as Óðinn does. Her house is called Sessrumnir, ‘filled with many seats’, and it probably fills the same function as Valhöll, ‘the hall of the slain’, where the warriors eat and drink beer after the fighting. Still, we must ask why there are two heroic paradises in the Old Norse View of afterlife. It might possibly be a consequence of different forms of initiation of warriors, where one part seemed to have belonged to Óðinn and the other to Freyja. These examples indicate that Freyja was a war-goddess, and she even appears as a valkyrie, literally ‘the one who chooses the slain’