Valkyrie, Chooser of the Dead
In honour of Women’s History Month, let me introduce to you some of the toughest women in the Norse Mythology, The Valkyrie.
The Valkyrie “Val-kur-ee” Valkyrie roughly translates to mean, ‘Chooser of the slain.’ It being one of their main tasks as godly warriors. The Valkyrie were strictly female, all serving under Odin. With Freya as their leader. (Freya is mentioned in an earlier article, the goddess of love friday-s-blog-spot ).They saw more war than any other god or goddess. The Valkyrie were comprised of mostly goddesses. However, there were a few human women who were given the honour of becoming a Valkyrie. Virgin daughters of great kings, and heroes, who proved themselves, could be taken up to be among the ranks of the Valkyrie. All the Valkyrie were beautiful to look upon, but fierce to behold. Odin gave each Valkyrie gleaming armour, that made them look like beams of light when on earth, concealing their presence to humans. In the Saga of the Volsungs, an Icelandic poem telling of Sigurd the hero. It was described that to look at a Valkyrie was like ‘staring into a flame.’ Some drawings, especially modern interpretations, depict the Valkyrie with wings on their backs. Which was unnecessary, because each Valkyrie was gifted a warhorse that could fly through the sky. Not a Pegasus, that is another mythology altogether. The Valkyrie horses galloped through the sky, as if running on land. With any kind of battle or war on earth, between the Norse clans, the Valkyrie were there. They swooped down to observe, sometimes to join in the fighting. A Valkyrie could tip the scales of any conflict whenever they wanted. If they, or Odin, favoured a particular clan that army would be the victor. That is why sacrifices to Odin were performed before a battle, to gain favour from him and the Valkyrie. More importantly, the Valkyrie were the chooser of the slain. They were there to gather the heroes who had fallen. The souls of the dead were carried from the battle field, and whisked up to either Valhalla, or to goddess Freya’s dwelling, Folkvang. That is why Vikings and Norse clans believed perishing in battle was the most honourable way to die. It guaranteed your place in Valhalla; their equivalent to heaven. When not in battle, the Valkyrie served the wine at feasts. It was a great honour to the dead heroes staying in Valhalla, to have their cups filled by the beautiful goddesses of war. Historians are unsure of how many Valkyrie there were. In different poems and tales different numbers and names are listed. In old Germanic clans, it was said there are only three Valkyrie. Named Skuld, Urd and Verdandi. While the poem Edda says there were twelve. Some of the Valkyrie names indicated that they were born for the art of war. Such as Svipul, which means ‘battle’, or Rota roughly translated means “Sleet and storm’. There are also goddesses, like Brunhild, believed to be Odin’s own daughter, her mother probably being a human. She was mentioned both in the Edda poem and the Volsung poem. Although the stories vary a bit, in both poems, Brunhild is punished for disobeying Odin. She favoured one waring clan over the other, against Odin’s wishes. As punishment, Brunhild was sent to earth, to become mortal. Where she married and lead battles, and schemed against her enemies on earth.
Valkyrie were feared and respected by true Norse warriors. Many prayers went up to them, to guide the humans in times of war, and to be taken by them at the time of death. Tokens were made in their honour in the form of pendants, carvings and drawings. Such as this figurine, found by an archaeologist near the village of Hårby on the island of Fyn in Denmark. Follow the link bellow to read more about it. The Valkyrie from Hårby - Wikipedia
Although the Valkyrie are mentioned often in Norse songs and written poems, and documents. They are often side characters, helping in wars, and waiting to carry the dead. The few stories there are with a Valkyrie as the main protagonist, does not paint them in their warrior light, but rather as damsels in distress. Which is disappointing, considering how powerful they were depicted to be.
Article written by, Billie-Gean Richard
Sources used Books: Norse myths and Tales, Epic Tales. By Flame Tree Publishing Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman Websites: https://mythologysource.com/ https://thenorsegods.com/ Norse Mythology – Mythopedia
All photos used are from these websites, unless stated otherwise.