Valkyries

Description:

Maidens who chose which warriors on a battlefield would be slain. They also served mead in Valhalla.

Valkyries, were warrior maidens who attended Odin, ruler of the gods. The Valkyries rode through the air in brilliant armour, directed battles, distributed death lots among the warriors, and conducted the souls of slain heroes to Valhalla, the great hall of Odin. Their leader was Brunhild. Freya or Freyja, goddess of love, fertility, and beauty, sometimes identified as the goddess of battle and death. Her father was Njord, a fertility god. Blond, blue-eyed, and beautiful, Freya traveled on a golden-bristled boar or in a chariot drawn by cats. She resided in the celestial realm of Folkvang, where it was her privilege to receive half of all the warriors slain in battle; the god Odin received the other half at Valhalla. In Germany, Freya was sometimes identified with Frigg, the wife of Odin. Friday originates from Frigga's day. The Valkyrie is, in the oldest strata of belief, a corpse goddess, represented by the carrion-eating raven. The name in Old Norse, valkyrja, means literally, "chooser of the slain." The Valkyrie is related to the Celtic warrior-goddess, the Morrigan, who likewise may assume the form of the raven. Midway between the third and eleventh centuries, the Valkyries begin assuming a more benign aspect. Small amulets and pictures on memorial stones begin to depict the figure of the beautiful woman welcoming the deceased hero with a horn of mead to the afterlife. Valkyries are usually represented as blonde, blue eyed and fair skinned. They wear scarlet corslets and carry shields and spears. By this later time, the Valkyries, as demigoddesses of death, had their legend conflated with the folklore motif of the swan maiden (young girls who are able to take on the form of a swan, sometimes as the result of a curse). If one could capture and hold a swan maiden, or her feathered cloak, one could extract a wish from her. This is why Valkyries were sometimes known as swan maidens or wish maidens.

Although the sources consulted are not clear on this, the chief of the Valkyries seems to have been the goddess Freyja. She is the Norse goddess of love, fertility, and beauty, sometimes identified as the goddess of battle and death. Blond, blue-eyed, and beautiful, Freyja travels on a golden-bristled boar or in a chariot drawn by cats. She resides in the celestial realm of Folkvang. Like Odin, she received half of those slain in battle, but since ladies go first she was allowed first choice! Freyja possessed a magical cloak of falcon feathers that allowed her to take the shape of a falcon if she wished, making the swan maidens similar to the goddess by having "feather coats" or cloaks that enable their shape-shifting abilities and the power of flight. The Valkyries carry out the will of Odin in determining the victors of the battle, and the course of the war. Their primary duty is to choose the bravest of those who have been slain, gathering the souls of dying hero/warriors found deserving of afterlife in Valhalla. They scout the battle ground in search of mortals worthy of the grand hall. If you are deemed by the Valkyries as un-worthy of the hall of Valhalla you will be received after death by the goddess Hel in a cheerless underground world.

The descriptions of Odin's hall describe the Valkyries as foster-daughters, just as the einherjar (the chosen warriors of Odinn) are foster sons Freyja is said to be the first of the Valkyries, called Valfreyja, "Mistress of the Slain," she pours ale at the feasts of the Aesir . The Valkyries also have duties in the great hall. There, having exchanged their armour for pure white robes, they will serve the warriors they have chosen. Valhalla, the great hall of slain warriors is located in Asguard, the realm of Odinn. It contains 540 doors each of which leads to a room which can accommodate 800 warriors. The roof is made of warrior's shields. There the warriors spend their days fighting and their nights feasting, until Ragnarok, the day of the final world battle, in which the old gods will perish and a new reign of peace and love will be instituted.

A common misconception about the Valkyries is that they were fighting women. This is not so. No where will one ever find an account of a Valkyrie actually in combat, or even wielding a weapon. The Valkyries are connected with the legend of the Raven Banner. This banner was woven of the cleanest and whitest silk and no picture of any figure was found upon it except in the case of war, at which time a raven always appeared upon it, as if woven into it. If the Danes were going to win the upcoming battle, the raven appeared with his beak wide open, flapping its wings and restless on its feet. If they were going to be defeated, the raven did not stir at all, and its limbs hung motionless. Sometimes the blood-covered Valkyrie-prophetesses are seen themselves as weavers, to prophesy the outcome of the next day's battle. The Valkyries are also Odin's messengers and when they ride forth on their errands, their armor causes the strange flickering light that is called the "Aurora Borealis" (Northern Lights). Depending on who you talk to, the number of Valkyries varies from three to sixteen. Any maiden who becomes a Valkyrie will remain immortal and invulnerable as long as they obey the gods and remain virginal. It is often said that if you see a Valkyrie before a battle, you will die in that battle. The Valkyries appeared riding in a troop, often of nine war-like women.

Names:

  • Brynhild ("Byrnie of Battle" or "Mail-coat of Battle")
  • Geirahöd ("Spear of Battle")
  • Geironul
  • Geirskogul
  • Göll ("Loud Cry", "Battle Cry")
  • Göndul ("Magic Wand" or "Enchanted Stave" or perhaps, "She-Were-Wolf")
  • Gunn or Gunnr ("Battle")
  • Guth
  • Herfjötur ("War-Fetter")
  • Hervor (Warder of the Host)
  • Hild or Hildr ("Battle")
  • Hlathguth ("Necklace-Adorned Warrior-Maiden")
  • Hlökk ("Noise", "Din of Battle")
  • Hrist ("The Shaker")
  • Kára
  • Mist  ("The Mist" or "The Fog")
  • Olrun ("One Knowing Ale Rune")
  • Ţrúđr ("Power")
  • Ráđgri'đr or Randgríđr ("Counsel of Peace" or "Gods' Peace", "Shield of Peace")
  • Randgrith
  • Rathgrith
  • Reginleif ("Heritage of the Gods")
  • Róta ("She Who Causes Turmoil")
  • Sigrdrifa ("Victory Blizzard")
  • Sigrún ("Victory Rune")
  • Skeggjöld ("Wearing a War Axe")
  • Skögul ("Battle")
  • Skuld (Necessity, "She Who Is Becoming")
  • Sváva
  • Thruth