Freyas Rite, 1. Degree

It was on St. John’s Day in 1717 that the Freemasons again appeared in public, when four lodges in London formed a Grand lodge. After this day, the original three degrees of Freemasonry have been named St. John’s Lodges. From former secret lodges in England and Scotland, Freemasonry then spread to many countries in Europe and America in the first half of the 1700’s. In Norway, the first meeting was also held on St. John’s Day in 1749 at Bygdø Kongsgård near Oslo. This day, the longest day of the year, is still celebrated with bonfires by the water’s edge all over Scandinavia and great festivities.

The former sacred places in Western Norway, Eggja in Sogndal and Todneset on Tysnes, have quite unusual sun conditions. Midsummer they are met by the day’s first sun rays and by the last rays before the sun goes down. In the sanctuary at Tysnes, just under the surface, a small stone coffin (without lid) with burnt bone remnants, probably from the ancestors of the farm, was found under an archeologic excavation in 1915. There were traces of fire on the wall or mur that stood in the middle of the sanctuary; a knife was also found here[23].

In the photo (below) from the excavation of the hørgr, we see the stone altar on the right which is to the east. It consisted of white and bright stones with fine light sand in between. The south wall was removed during the excavation[24]. The stone coffin was found on the north side, outside the photo.

At Ranheim near Trondheim, archaeologists excavated in 2010 what is believed to be a hørg. Below is an artistic sketch, but made on a scientific basis, of what has been two sanctuaries, one older, perhaps from the Bronze Age or early Iron Age, and a later one with a high hall from the early Viking Age[25].

Two Horgs from Ranheim near Trondheim
The Shrine at Ranhein near Trondhein, excavated by Danish archeologist Preben Rønne, 2010

To the right is the old stone hørg, with the open coffin with remains of burnt human bones. There are two slate walking rings around the coffin, one probably for the initiation candidate and the other for Freya. The area between the walking rings was filled with white glimmering stones; I have collected some myself before all was destroyed and removed. Note also the four pillars in a square (with a flat roof); this was probably Frey and Freya’s house. The long stone walls run from the east to the west. To the left there is a large stone that may have been part of the original stone altar (where there has been fire).

The later sanctuary is the high hall (very similar to the Norwegian stave-churches), where postholes of four small pillars have been found. They confused the archaeologists, since they had no roof-bearing function. I believe we here find the origins of the four (or three) pillars which are placed in the lodge room of the Freemasons today. The Danish archaeologist Preben Rønne, who excavated the shrine, found a large stone inside the hall which may have served as an altar[26].

In my opinion, the ceremonies shown in the drawing cannot be correct, as the artist interpreted the stone walls as a road from the water up to the shrine.

The Gulating and Frostating laws have provisions on ættleiding. When a son was to be recognized as a member of the breed, a big feast (guild) was held on the farm, a three-year-old ox was slaughtered and a large amount of beer was brewed. The boy who was to be admitted into the breed, got a shoe made of the ox’ foot on his bare right foot.

Another Norse custom was to drag a child, who was to be admitted into the breed, out of a folded skin that symbolized the uterus. The skin was fastened around his waist; thus the adopted was «reborn».

The Edda poem Hyndleljod is about a king’s son Ottar who was initiated to Freya by the mur or wall. An initiation to Freya is also found in the Danish historian Saxo’s (Snorre Sturlasons’s contemporary) account of King Hadding’s journey to the underworld. Freya fetches Hadding in the hall and together they make a Journey into the underworld, where she eventually leads him to the mur, the wall. Here, Freya cuts off (with a knife) the head of a cock she has brought with her, and throws the head over the mur. Immediately a cockrow is heard from the other side. Thus, by the mur, there is new life. Hadding goes through a sacred wedding with Freya and becomes her frí, “husband” (Old Norse) by the mur, i.e. Hadding becomes a frí-murer at the mur. Possibly, the word frí could also mean Freya. (King Hadding then returns to Denmark with his young Norwegian princess.) As late as in the 1700’s, cocks were sacrificed on burial mounds in Norway during the midsummer celebrations.

The picture below shows two gold jewels (gullgubbe), one from Jæren in Norway and the other from Lundeborg on Funen in Denmark. Freya has a good grip around the candidate’s hand (on the right gullgubbe) when she leads him on the Journey. Note Freya’s braid, it can be associated with a noose around the candidate’s neck. Note also that he wears two different shoes. Does he wear an ox shoe on his rear foot?

To goldfoils with Freya leading the Candidate
Freya is leading the candidate om two gullgubber from Scandinavia. This is how the candidate is lead in a degree in the Scandinavian Freeasonty today

The Kymbo figure (below), with two gold rings around his neck, dates from the Migration Period, now exhibited in the Gold Room in the Historiska Museum of Stockholm. His feet are different from each other.

Kymbo figure from Sweden

We find all this symbolism in today’s Freemasonry. The coming Freemason gets a slipper on his right foot before being led into the room, a remnant from the ættleiding. The Freemason is lead on a Journey three times around the room and the around the coffin and is then told to take three steps over the coffin (with bone remnants of his ancestors). Then he is led to the altar (the mur) where he is initiated, the ritual does not tell to whom. After his initiation at the altar, the Freemason gets an apron around his waist, the symbol of the uterus which means that he is «born again». At the end of the meeting, he is placed in the northeast, the sacred direction in pre-Christian time where the sun rises in midsummer. In Scandinavian Freemasonry, the candidate «is met by love» when he arrives at the altar in the lodge room for his initiation.

Below we see the first degree candidate in the York rite with the noose around his neck and the slipper on his right foot[27] He is lead around the lodge room.

The midsummer feast in Scandinavia is associated with old fertility rites. The so-called Jonsok (St. John) wedding, which is still celebrated at Voss and in Hardanger in Western Norway, is probably a remnant of the initiation to Freya. The picture is from Voss around 1950. We see the young boy with a hat married to the young bride, “Freya”.

Freyas Rite
Jonsok wedding in Voss 1950. Young man with hat wedded to Freya

The Freemasonry meetings always end with a guild with good food and drink. The word mur is today replaced by the corresponding French word, mason.

[23] Eyvind de Lange, Utgravingsrapport fra Tysnes Prestegård, august 1915

[24] Knut Rage and Svein Ove Agdestein, Det førhistoriske anlegget på Todneset – horg, gravkammer eller ein kultplass for soldyrking? 2007

[25] Sketch done by artist and archaeologist Kari Støren Binns.

[26]  Preben Rønne, Horg, hov og Ve, et førkristent kultanlegg på Ranheim i Trøndelag, and in English:

[27] Duncans Ritual of Freemasonry, New York, p 28