Helmeted valkyries came down from the sky
—the noise of spears grew loud—they protected the prince;
then said Sigrun—the wound-giving valkyries flew,
the troll-woman's mount was feasting on the fodder of ravens:
Helgakviða Hundingsbana I
(Freeeedoooooooommmm! I yell into the wind. You knew it was coming, I am inevitable).
But where to start with the glorious slaughter maidens, shield-rim guardians, friends of the raven, wolf-riders, spear-giantesses….
Valkyrja: Chooser of the Slain. This is their solemn duty, to select those to die in battle and take them away to Valhalla and Folkvangr, to be divided between Odin and Freyja equally.
We have around 50 individual names for the valkyries, though in all likelihood we’ve lost many more to time – and even those depend on where you stand with the idea of reincarnation in Nordic literature.
Some of the more prominent are Hildr, Brynhildr, Gunnr, Skogul, Hrist, Mist, Sigrun, Geirskogul, and Kara. But we also have Eir, Skuld and Thrudr also listed as valkyries – and it’s really up to interpretation on whether they are one and the same being as the goddesses and the norn.
Regardless, many valkyries appear in the Eddas and Sagas, often appearing in pairs, threes, sixes, nines, or twelves. In their earliest attestations, the valkyries are bloodthirsty, monstrous, almost primordial and feral beings who delight in slaughter. Over time, however, you can see a paradigm shift as they become more – for lack of a better word – domestic. They become the wives of heroes and daughters of Kings, becoming more guardians and guides, and stripped of, seemingly, the bulk of their older duties.
This change in some ways foreshadowed the gradual shift of the other gods and goddesses in that they become more human, leaning more into the Christianised perspective eventually portrayed in the Heimskringla and Gesta Danorum. More mortal, more able to die.
But, personally, the valkyries fascinate me because of how much has been largely agreed in heathen and academic spaces to be true. While that is mostly a discussion for another day, there’s certainly a movement occurring right now in regards to reanalysing elements of the lore to see what new conclusions can be drawn, or new paths to travel down.
But yes, valkyries, they’re cool as heck.
- Sif, Marketing Officer