were they, lo
they rode over the barrow.
were they, when they rode over the land.
the mighty women
made ready their strength
and they sent forth the screaming spears.”
Valkyrie is an Old Norse Germanic Goddess whose name, “Valkyrja” literally means:
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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
depicts them as foster-daughters, just as the Einherjar (the chosen
warriors of Odin) are foster sons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
are a few names of the Valkyries for those who wish to pursue their own persona
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)
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)
Hervör (Warder of the Host)
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)
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)