Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Lords and Ladies

According to Edred (“Bad Boy of Ásatrú”) Thórsson's ground-breaking 1999 work of revisionist witch history, Witchdom of the True, those seeking Keltic origins for Wicca are barking up the wrong tree of life.

They should instead, he says, be sniffing around the roots of Yggdrasil. Historically speaking, the Lord and Lady of modern Wicca, he holds, are actually none other than Frey and Freyja.

It's a contentious idea, especially among contemporary heathens.

We don't know whether or not the heathen English worshiped Frey and Freyja. It's certainly possible that they did, but we have no proof. (Anglo-Saxonist Stephen Pollington calls the evidence "circumstantial.") Considering how little we know about pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon religion, the lack of evidence doesn't prove much.

If, however, the Hwicce—the Anglo-Saxon tribe which, according to maverick archaeologist Stephen Yeates, gave rise to modern witchery—did indeed know Frey and Freyja, we can say what they would likely have called them. Both Norse names have cognates in the Old English word-hoard.

Frówe (= German frau) meant “woman” to the Anglo-Saxons. It didn't survive into modern English, but if it had, we would today say Frowe (rhymes with know). (It might also have been written Frow, but personally I prefer the other spelling, since the final -e keeps the O long.)


Old English is plentifully supplied with words that mean “lord.” The hlaford—“loaf-ward”—is the lord as protector, and possibly also as source of fertility. The drighten is the lord as leader of the war-band, the dright. The fréa—cognate with the Norse word Frey—is the lord as loved one. Related to free, friend, and possibly frig (!), it stems ultimately from the old Indo-European root *pri-, “love.” Looking through Beowulf, I note that fréa frequently pairs with the name of a tribe or people: fréa Hwiccena, "King of the 'Witches.'"

In the extant literature fréa, while never used of a pagan god, is frequently applied to Christ, so it is clearly a title, if not a name, that a god can wear.

Like its feminine equivalent, fréa did not survive into modern English. If it had, there are two possibilities for what it might have become.

On analogy with géa, which lived on as yea (as in “— or nay”), fréa may have become Frea (rhymes with lay). Perhaps today we would write this Freigh.

Or, perhaps more likely (by analogy with léa, “lea,” and péa, “pea[fowl]”), it would still today be spelled Frea but pronounced like free. The homophony is certainly a happy one.

If the Old Ways had survived in England, it's also possible that the influence of the Norse god-name Frey might have pulled the Old English god-name into its orbit, thus favoring the rhymes-with-lay pronunciation. But both versions could have lived on in different dialects. It's impossible to say.

“There is one Lord,” says Edred Thórsson, “and the Lady is his sister.”

Free and Frow, Freigh and Frowe, Lord and Lady, the ancestors would have called them.

And wouldn't you know it? Some of us still do.


Edred [Thórsson], Witchdom of the True: A Study of the Vana-Troth and the Practice of Seiðr (1999). Rûna Raven Press.

Above: Male and female figurines, Tripolye culture

Ukraine, 3rd millennium BCE


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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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