In the Gylfaginning, Snorri describes Freyja as “the most famous of the goddesses. She lives in Heaven at a place called Folkvangr, and when she moves into battle, she gets half of the fallen warriors while Odin receives the other half”.
Freyja is the most important goddess of Old Scandinavian mythology, symbolising beauty, fertility, female strength and foremost the protector of lovers.
She belongs to the divine family of the Vanir, is the daugther of Njordr and his sister, and sister (and probably originally also wife) of Freyr.
Her prised items are her carriage which is drawn by gigantic cats (as Snorri says in Grímnismál: “Whenever Freyja travels, she sits in her carriage which is drawn by cats. She is fond of love songs and it is worthwhile calling upon her in matters of love”). Other possessions is a falcon garment , the boar Hildisvíni, and most important of all, the necklace Brísingamen.
Old Norse literature speaks frequently of Freyja. In Thrymskvida, the giant Prymr only wants to return Mjölnir if he gets Freyja as his wife. In Lokasena 30 she is accused of whoring, whilst in Hyndluljod she competes with a giantess in a contest of knowledge and in Oddrúnargrátr she is invoked together with the goddess Frigg.
Snorri emphasises her position as the most beautiful and most important of the goddesses and in the adventures of the giants she is the representative of the goddesses who is time and again desired by the giants.
But Freyja is more than a beautiful face.
She is descended of the Vanir and therefore is a goddess of fertility. She also teaches the Aesir magic, a knowledge which she brings with her form the Vanir. With regard to this, Snorri mentions that incestuous marriage was usual among the Vanir. In skaldic poetry, Freyja is known by a whole series of names, which Snorri lists. Names like Mardoll, Horn, Gefn or Vanadís characterize Freyja as a domestic guardian goddess.
Brísingamen: the symbol of Freyja
In Norse mythology, Brísingamen (or Brísinga men) is the torc or necklace of the goddess Freyja. The name is an Old Norse/Icelandic compound brísinga-men whose second element is men "(ornamental) neck-ring (of precious metal), torc".
The etymology of the first element is uncertain. It has been derived from Old Norse brísingr, a poetic term for "fire" or "amber" mentioned in the anonymous versified word-lists (þulur) appended to many manuscripts of the Prose Edda, making Brísingamen "gleaming torc", "sunny torc", or the like. However, Brísingr can also be an ethnonym, in which case Brísinga men is "torque of the Brísings"; the Old English parallel in Beowulf supports this derivation, though who the Brísings (Old Norse Brísingar) may have been remains unknown.
Brísingamen is referred to in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf as Brosinga mene. The brief mention in Beowulf is as follows (trans. by Howell Chickering, 1977):
...since Hama bore off
to the shining city the Brosings' necklace,
Gem-figured filigree. He gained the hatred
Of Eormanric the Goth, chose eternal reward.
This seems to confuse two different stories as the Beowulf poet is clearly referring to the Dietrich Cycle. The Þiðrekssaga tells that the warrior Heime (Hama in Old English) takes sides against Eormanric, king of the Goths, and has to flee his kingdom after robbing him; later in life, Hama enters a monastery and gives them all his stolen treasure. However, this saga makes no mention of the great necklace. Possibly the Beowulf poet was confused, or invented the addition of the necklace to give him an excuse to drag in a mention of Eormanric. In any case, the necklace given to Beowulf in the story is not the Brísingamen itself; it is only being compared to it.
In the poem Þrymskviða of the Poetic Edda, Thrymr, the King of the jötuns, steals Thor's hammer, Mjölnir. Freyja lends Loki her falcon cloak to search for it; but upon returning, Loki tells Freyja that Thrymr has hidden the hammer and demanded to marry her in return. Freyja is so wrathful that all the Æsir’s halls beneath her are shaken and the necklace Brísingamen breaks off from her neck. Later Thor borrows Brísingamen when he dresses up as Freyja to go to the wedding at Jötunheim.
This myth is also recorded in an 18th-century Swedish folksong called Hammar-Hemtningen (the taking of the hammer), where Freyja is called Miss Frojenborg, "den väna solen" (the fair sun).
Húsdrápa, a skaldic poem partially preserved in the Prose Edda, relates the story of the theft of Brísingamen by Loki. One day when Freyja wakes up and finds Brísingamen missing, she enlists the help of Heimdall to help her search for it. Eventually they find the thief, who turns out to be Loki who has transformed himself into a seal. Heimdall turns himself into a seal as well and fights Loki. After a lengthy battle at Singasteinn, Heimdall wins and returns Brísingamen to Freyja.
Snorri Sturluson quoted this old poem in Skáldskaparmál, saying that because of this legend Heimdall is called "Seeker of Freyja's Necklace" (Skáldskaparmál, section 8) and Loki is called "Thief of Brísingamen" (Skáldskaparmál, section 16). A similar story appears in the later Sörla þáttr, where Heimdall does not appear.
Finally, an archaelogycal point: A pagan völva was buried c. 1000 with considerable splendour in Hagebyhöga in Östergötland. In addition to being buried with her wand, she had received great riches which included horses, a wagon and an Arabian bronze pitcher. There was also a silver pendant, which represents a woman with a broad necklace around her neck. This kind of necklace was only worn by the most prominent women during the Iron Age and some have interpreted it as Freyja's necklace Brísingamen. The pendant may represent Freyja herself.
(based on Rudolf Simek's Dictionary of Northern Mythology)