by Alfgeir Starkhendr

(Introductory comments: Brísingamen (“Fiery necklace” or “Necklace/Belt/Ring of the Fiery Ones”) is as emblematic of Freyja as the Hammer Mjöllnir is of Thor, or the Spear Gungnir is of Odhinn. Of this legend we only have the following paragraph from the Flateyjarbók—this translation has been provided by a scholarly friend (including his caution concerning a difficult line):

Odhinn loved Freyja greatly and She was the fairest of all women in that time. She had Herself a house which was both fair and strong, so that men say if the door was closed and locked that no person might come into the house against Freyja’s will. That was one day when Freyja went to the stone; it was open. The Dwarves were smithing a gold necklace. That was then well fully made. Freyja looked well upon the necklace. The Dwarves also looked well upon Freyja. She demanded to purchase the necklace from the Dwarves and offered for it gold and silver and other good treasures. They said that was not the wealth for it. They said each wanted for himself his part in the necklace and they would have nothing except that She lay his night with each of them. And whether She let that come out better or worse, then they would sell it (this sentence was difficult, my edition was not standard text, please don’t quote it). And after four nights were at all end they gave Freyja the necklace. She went home to Her house.

Other lore concerning Her and Her world helpful in reading this poem: Sessrúmnir (“Roomy-seated”) is Freyja’s abode, where She also keeps those warriors whom She chooses (half the battle-slain) and others who were close to Her in life and choose to be with Her after death. It is located in or near Folkvang (“Field where the armed folk gather”) which is in turn in the World of Vanaheim. Freyja has the title Vanadís, implying Her to be the Ruler of the Vanir, as well as other names. She is the chief practitioner (at least) of seidhr magic, which includes oracular scrying, mind-magic both manipulative and non-manipulative, and possibly other uses such as healing and working with Wyrd. Seidhr often involves “sitting out” in a wild or lonely place. She often travels the Worlds, usually either with Her hawk or falcon cloak, or in a wain or chariot drawn by Her two cats, or upon Hildisvíni (“Battle-swine”), a magical golden boar forged for Her by two other dwarves, Dáin and Nabbi.

It is thought by some that Freyja is the original North European Witch-Goddess, and that Brísingamen is the original version of the Goddess’ Circlet of life, death and rebirth. Notes, numbered by verse, follow--Alfgeir Starkhendr, aka Bill the Witch Doctor)


High o’er Folkvang Freyja flew,
Far from Sessrúmnir She sat out to See
From Her eyrie. Her eyes opened wide to the Sight
And did scry the night sky for Her prey.

High in the North, in the West She saw
And knew Her need, the Necklace bright.
No rest would She take till from fiery forge
‘Twas struck from the wealth of Earth and Stars.

By Seidhr She saw into Svartalfheim, (note 3)
In the deepest halls of the Dwarves,
Four who were fit to find and to forge
This fairest Ring of Fire:

Dvalin the Old to lend of his lore; (note 4)
Náin the Cold that the Ring would turn true;
Dólgthrasir the Deep to find the best fire;
And Aí the Young for his strength of limb.

So dwelt She in their dreams that night
And gave them to see none other
Than Her face above their finest work,
Flickering fair upon Her breast.

She held their hearts within Her wings
And kissed them close upon their souls.
Then, rising aloft, She left them in longing,
Again to be blessed by Her breath within.

So She stole away from their forge of dreams,
Having sown this restless and reckless wish,
Stirred strife in stag-hearts, though Vanadís vowed (note 7)
That Her greatest gift would be theirs.

The four did wake from seidh-sent dreams.
Each sought out the others struck in such wise,
And knew one another by the fires within
Their eyes—saying nothing, each set to work.

Full three nights through they mined and made true
The fairest fires of Deep Earth and Sea.
Full three nights long they forged and made fine
Four coils burning beauteous and bright.

Full three nights all hallowed their work with might
Drawn from the longing She sent them n dream.
In Nine Nights of Need-fire was Necklace forged— (note 10)
Born thus was the Ring of the Brísings.

By seidhr She saw Her will was worked;
Her need fulfilled, She flew down from Folkvang
Down to Dwarf-gate, by the stone-strong ways.
Gaping it greeted Her—within She went.

Down mighty roads amidst mountain-roots,
Hard-hewn by hands with Cunning and Craft;
Dim-lit by Deep Earth’s own gold-red glow,
She fared to find Her driven Dwarves.

In a mine all misty with bellows-breath,
On their harrow of hot and hallowed stone,
She spied the sparkling dream-spun Ring.
All merry, its makers danced madly ‘round.

‘Twas flowing flame in four tongues twined—
Wyrd-woven and seamless all around,
Shot through with shimmering færie fire
Drawn up from its deep and darkling heart.

She shone Herself forth from the shadowy mists
And smiled at the smiths and their work.
Knowing full well for what She had come,
Smiled too the dream-smitten Dwarves.

Though fairer the Asker to Dwarven eyes
Than any in all their deep world,
Bright She burned in all hues of beauty—
Bared She Her Soul to their souls.


“From the hoard that I hold in Mine holy stead
Offer I now your worth thrice o’er
Of anything wonderous, so fine and fair,
Wrought by the rarest of skills.”


“Thy wonders are not the wealth for our work—
Offer aught else that would warm us!
Ne’er before have we brought forth such beauty;
We would have the delight of our dreams.”

Though fairer the Asker to Dwarven eyes
Than any in all the wide worlds,
Brighter She burned in all hues of beauty—
Bared She Her Soul to their souls.


“From the hoard that I hold in Mine holy stead
Offer I now your worth thrice o’er
Of silver, færie-hued as the soft Moon’s light,
And cold as the ice that I thaw.”


“Thy silver is not the wealth for our work—
Offer aught else that would warm us!
Much of our might in this brightness is bound;
We would have that which life loveth most.”

Though fairer the Asker to Dwarven eyes
Than aught that had e’er been seen,
Still brighter She burned in all hues of beauty—
Bared She Her Soul to their souls.


“From the hoard that I hold in Mine holy stead
Offer I now your worth thrice o’er
Of gold, fiery-hued as the sweet Sun’s light,
And hot as the blood from the blade.”


“Thy gold is not the wealth for our work—
Offer aught else that would warm us!
For the four-fold fires we have bound, fast and flowing,
We would fain have the fairest of fires.”

Though longing they looked on her loveliness,
She gave them now to see all.
Star-bright She burned in all hues of beauty—
Bared She Her Soul to their souls.


“What then is the wealth each would ask for his work,
For his share in these shimmering coils?
Mine one and true wish is to feel its sweet warmth
Upon My breasts bare and bright.”


“Naught will we have but what Thou canst give,
And to each our own shining share:
One night to lie with the Lady of Love—
That is the wealth for our work!”


“A dangerous night dost thou name as thy need;
Thou mayest be mad by the morn.
Ne’er again will thy world seem the same—
Is this then the share thou wouldst wish?”

(Dwarves, all together:)

“O Stirrer of Strife, weave this wyrd for four Dwarves (note 29)
Who have forged Brísingamen bright.
Whether for better or whether for worse—
That is the wealth for our work!”

Fair Freyja the lovely coils did lift (note 30)
From the hammer-hard hands of the four—
Brísingamen, hot with the fires of life
On the brightest of breasts did shine!

Caught She up Dvalin the Old in Her Coils,
Who is kin to Durin’s line,
As the dusk-long shadows grew on the Tree,
To give him the wealth for his work.

She led him long in his night of need
As the hind doth lead the stag,
And by bellows-breath kindled hot and bright
In his heart Her luck and love.

Caught She up Náin the Cold in Her Coils
Who is kin to Dáin’s line,
As the dusk-long shadows grew on the mound,
To give him the wealth for his work.

She held him long in his night of need
As the root doth hold the stone;
By crack and cry from the cold did quicken
In his heart Her fire of life.

Caught She Dólgthrasir the Deep in Her Coils
Who is kin to Mjóthvitnir’s line,
As dusk-long shadows grew on the strand,
To give him the wealth for his work.

She rode him long in his night of need
As the wave doth ride the rock;
By lashing lust the dawn did show
In his heart Her shining light.

Caught She up Aí the Young in Her Coils
Who is kin to Aurvang’s line,
As dusk-long shadows grew on the forge,
To give him the wealth for his work.

She sang to him long in his night of need
As the anvil doth sing to her hammer;
By might and mound was made by morn
In his heart Her jewel of joy.

Blessed were the Brísings by the Bright Lady;
Held in the deeps of the Dwarves;
Hallowed their Crafts both of hand and of mind;
In their hearts now Her harrow of love. (note 39)

Brightly beamed the fair face of Freyja
As back to Folkvang She fared:
“By the seidhr I sang to the dreaming Dwarves,
I drew forth Mine Own might from their forge!” (note 40)



Verse 3—Svartalfheim (“Black-Elf Home”) is where the Dwarves or Black Elves live, underground in Midhgardh (“Middle-enclosure,” or our world), Nidha Fells in Niflheim, and perhaps other worlds as well.

Verse 4—Yes, I know that the names of the four are given as Alfrigg, Dvalinn, Berling and Grerr in the Flateyjarbók, but these are the names She gave me. It may be that the dwarves have more than one name they might be known by in different mythic contexts, not unlike the Goddesses and Gods, or, for that matter, many mortals.
The Dwarves, in this poetic vision, may be described thusly:

Dvalin the Old—as implied, his main contribution is his lore and wisdom as the elder Dwarf of the four. He is the same as the Dvalin who dwells in stag-form in the World-Tree’s branches.

Náin the Cold—Náin (“Corpse-like”) is not dead, but a godhi (priest) of death among Dwarfkind even as humans have such. As the fire of life can’t exist without the shadow of death, his help in forging Brísingamen is necessary “that the Ring would turn true.”

Dólgthrasir the Deep—the ablest miner of the four, who is not only thoroughly at home underground but under the sea as well (unlike many Dwarves, he seems not to mind the water, although he still makes his home under the land).

Aí the Young— Aí means “grandfather,” but whether he has this by-name because Dwarves live so long that grandfathers are still junior kin, or because he happens to be a grandfather at a young age, or from some quirk of Dwarvish humor, I don’t know, but this is how I understand his name. Whatever may be the case here, he is the ablest smith of the four, especially with Dvalin, Náin and Dólgthrasir guiding his smith-strength and skills.

In verses 31, 33, 35 and 37 these Dwarves are described as “______, who is kin to ______’s line,” by which I mean that the Dwarves have a kind of collective being, existing in bands or kinships, with an elder member as leading spokesdwarf (Dáin, etc.). The original wording was “_____, who is of a kind with _____.” The impression I have is that a new Dwarf-kindred, the Brísings, was thus formed by Freyja’s larger working here, with Dvalin, Náin, Dólgthrasir and Aí as its first members.

Verse 7—It is thought that Dwarves may take stag-form by daylight. Dvalin at least is named as one of the stags who graze the branches of the World-Tree.

Verse 10—Need-Fire spellcraft, among the most powerful, was worked by kindling a magical fire by the friction method (rubbing sticks together). Here the Need-Fire is one of both spirit and lust, within the Dwarves.

Artwork by Ilias Patrinos.