“Loud were they, lo
               when they rode over the barrow.
                                   Bold were they, when they rode over the land.

When the mighty women
                                made ready their strength
                and they sent forth the screaming spears.”

The Valkyrie is an Old Norse Germanic Goddess whose name, “Valkyrja” literally means: 

" Chooser of the Slain "

     Valkyries (from the Old Norse Valkyrja, in Norse mythology, daughters of the principal god Odin, are often called Odin's maidens. At his bidding, they flew on their horses over the fields of every battle to choose the souls of the heroic dead. Belief in the existence of magic horsewomen from heaven was widespread in Germanic and Scandinavia cultures, though they were called by different names.

     The Valkyries carried out the will of Odin in determining the victors in battle and of course the war.  As each Valkyrie performed differing tasks according to Odin’s instruction, it was their prime duty to ride into the battlefield and choose the fallen heroes of the field. To be chosen by a Valkyrie and carried off on her white steed to Valhalla was considered an honor to the dying Viking warrior, for Valkyries only chose the bravest of the slain, gathering souls found deserving of an afterlife. They traveled far-and-wide searching for the dead in battlefields, oceans and seas for mortal men worthy of the grand hall. However, if the Viking warriors are deemed unworthy by the Valkyries, the goddess Hel in a cheerless underground world received them after their death.  

      The word for Valkyrie was used by Anglo-Saxon scholars to polish the names of the Greco-Roman goddesses of vengeance and retribution, the Furies or Erinyes, as well as for the Roman goddess of war, Bellona.  The Valkyrie goddess, in the oldest of beliefs, was a corpse goddess represented by the carrion-eating raven. They are related to the Celtic warrior-goddess, the Morrigan, who likewise may assume the form of the raven. The Irish “badb” is at one-and-the-same time a seeress foretelling the fate of men upon the battlefield and is also the carrion crow or raven.

     The Valkyries were depicted as young, beautiful, but fierce women who dressed splendidly in full armor and swords when riding their horses. The were also know to turn themselves into swans, wolves or ravens. In later historical periods, the Valkyries, as a Demi-goddess of death, had their legend replaced 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).  She frequently shape-shifted into a semblance of a swan as a means of camouflage. In her role as a swan maiden, the Valkyrie can travel “through air and through water.”

      A Valkyries horse was created from air, and when they traveled to Earth, frost and dewdrops would fall from their manes onto the ground. The Valkyrie was also Odin's messengers and when they ride forth on their errands, their armor causes the strange flickering lights known as the “Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

      Often the Valkyries would make personal visits upon the earth appearing as a swan searching for a stream to bathe in. This act was dangerous for the Valkyrie goddess, for if any man secured the swans plumage the Valkyrie could not return to Valhalla and if he so desired, she was destined to become his mate. If one could capture and hold a swan maiden, a feather or her feathered cloak, one could extract a wish. This is why Valkyries were sometimes also known as wish maidens.

      Midway between the third and eleventh centuries, the Valkyries began to assume a more benign roll. Small amulets or pictures on memorial stones begin to depict the figure of a beautiful woman welcoming the deceased hero with a horn of mead into the afterlife. The Valkyries were considered to be young and beautiful with each one possessing mystical attributes befitting their names. The Goddesses are usually bestowed with silky fair skin, long flowing golden hair beneath a silver winged helm or headdress of “spiritual light feathers” and having blue-eyes. A Valkyries armor may consist of a scarlet corselet, a shield known as the “shield-maiden of truth” and a spear. Modern artists’ renderings depict her in a silver metal fish-scaled breast and back-plate armor and sometimes a short sword at her side, however this has not been established by any historical writings or Viking artifacts.

      It’s often said, that if you see a Valkyrie before battle “you will die in that battle.” The Vikings believed that when a brave warrior was about to die in the midst of fighting, he would suddenly see the figure of a Valkyrie, there to take him into the sky and transport him to Valhalla. To all others in the fray she would remain invisible. Before battles, the name of Odin was invoked, so that he could send the Valkyries to choose the best of those fighters who would die.

      Although the sources consulted are not clear on this, the chief, or queen of the Valkyries, seems to have been the goddess Freyja. She is the Norse goddess of love, fertility, and beauty and sometimes identified as the goddess of battle and death.  Like Odin, she receives half of those slain in battle. Surveying the battlefields seeking valiant souls, in a chariot driven by two cats; in agreement with Odin, she was entitled to half of the dead heroes herself, bringing them not to Valhalla, but to her own banquet hall, Sessrumnir. 

     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 “feathered coats” or cloaks that enable their shape-shifting abilities and the power of flight. Freyja is said to be the first of the Valkyries called Valfreya, “Mistress of the Slain,” she pours ale at the feast of Aeir.

     When not gathering souls from the battlefields, Valkyries shed their garments of war and donned the white virginal robe of a goddess. They spend their time in Valhalla's huge golden hall, big enough to hold all of the warriors the Valkyries could ever bring there, serving mead (honey wine) to the fallen heroes who would feast and engage in sacred, raucous drinking bouts. The descriptions of the Valkyries, depicts them as foster-daughters, just as the Einherjar (the chosen warriors of Odin) are foster sons.

     Any maiden who becomes a Valkyrie remains immortal and invulnerable as long as they obey the Gods and remain virginal. The most famous of the Valkyries was Brynhild (also known as Brünnehild, Brunhild, or Brunhilda), who appears in a number of myths and legends. According to Icelandic "Volsunga Saga" she was the leader of the Valkyries. Although she was Odin's favorite, she once disobeyed his bidding as to who was to live and who was to die, and so incurred his wrath. He punished her by putting her in a magic sleep, surrounded by a ring of fire. Only a hero who was fearless enough to brave the flames would have the power to awaken her.

     The Valkyries often appear riding in troops of nine war-like women. The most 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; and only rarely carrying a weapon. In fact, women warriors in the Viking Age are mostly myth, spurred on by folks such as Saxo Grammaticus, who as a Christian priest was aghast at the relative freedom and societal power of real-life Viking women.

      Therefore, he wrote many-many stories about women warriors that relied much more on his classical education’s references to the Greek Amazon legends than to any Viking practices. Saxo’s aim was to present a woman female warrior, then to create a virile hero who would defeat her with nothing but his aura of virility and manly good looks.

      During research on the subject of the Valkyrie Goddesses, the most common figure seems to be numbered between nine and twelve handmaidens of Odin and some say three to sixteen, yet other information from various sources say there may have also been up to thirty-six in number.

      The Valkyries had many descriptions under which they were called by such as: Battle Maidens, Corpse Maidens, Shield Maidens, Helm Maidens, Wish Maidens, Swan Maidens, White, Helm-White, Bright, Sun-Bright, All-White, Southern Maids, Southern One and Goddesses.

 Here are a few names of the Valkyries for those who wish to pursue their own persona characterization:

Brynhildr (Bernie of Battle or Mail-coat of Battle)
Friagabi (Giver of Freedom)
Gefn (The Giving)
Geirahöd (Spear of Battle)
Göll (Loud Cry-Battle Cry)
Göndul (Magic Wand or Enchanted Stave or She-Were-Wolf)
Gunnr (Battle)
Gunwar (Gunnvör in Old Norse, Gunnora in Old English, War-Oath)
Hede (Heiőr in Old Norse)
Heath (often found as a witch-name & related to Heathen)
Herfjötur (War-Fetter)
Hervör (Warder of the Host)
Hild (Battle)
Hildr (Battle)
Hirst (The Shaker)
Hlathguth (Necklace-Adorned Warrior-Maiden)
Hlökk (Noise, Din of Battle)
Hörn (Lady of Flax)
Mist (The Mist or The Fog)
Olrun (One Knowing Ale Rune)
Prungva (She Who Pines for Lost Love)
Prúőr (Power)
Randgriőr (Shield of Peace)
Ráőgriőr (Counsel of Peace or God’s Peace)
Reginleif (Heritage of the Gods)
Róta ( She Who causes Turmoil)
Sigrdrifa (Victory Blizzard)
Sigrún (Victory Rune)
Sýr (The Sow, The Protector)
Skeggjöld (Wearing a War Axe)
Skjálf (Shield, She Who Protects)
Skögul (Battle or Rager)
Skuld (She Who is Becoming-Necessity)
Swanhwid (Svanvit in Old Norse, Swan-White)
Vanadis (Goddess of Vanir)