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Valkyrie

Valkyrie

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In Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

, a valkyrie (from Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 valkyrja "chooser of the slain") is one of a host of female figures who decides who dies in battle. Selecting among half of those who die in battle (the other half go to the goddess Freyja's afterlife field Fólkvangr
Fólkvangr
In Norse mythology, Fólkvangr is a meadow or field ruled over by the goddess Freyja where half of those that die in combat go upon death, while the other half go to the god Odin in Valhalla...

), the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla
Valhalla
In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. Chosen by Odin, half of those that die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess Freyja's field Fólkvangr...

, ruled over by the god Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

. There, the deceased warriors become einherjar
Einherjar
In Norse mythology, the einherjar are those that have died in battle and are brought to Valhalla by valkyries. In Valhalla, the einherjar eat their fill of the nightly-resurrecting beast Sæhrímnir, and are brought their fill of mead by valkyries...

. When the einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök
Ragnarök
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures , the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water...

, the valkyries bear them mead
Mead
Mead , also called honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage that is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water. It may also be produced by fermenting a solution of water and honey with grain mash, which is strained immediately after fermentation...

. Valkyries also appear as lovers of heroes and other mortals, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty, sometimes accompanied by raven
Raven
Raven is the common name given to several larger-bodied members of the genus Corvus—but in Europe and North America the Common Raven is normally implied...

s, and sometimes connected to swan
Swan
Swans, genus Cygnus, are birds of the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and ducks. Swans are grouped with the closely related geese in the subfamily Anserinae where they form the tribe Cygnini. Sometimes, they are considered a distinct subfamily, Cygninae...

s or horses.

Valkyries are attested in the Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

, a book of poems compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

and Heimskringla
Heimskringla
Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings' sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson ca. 1230...

(by Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

), and Njáls saga, a Saga of Icelanders, all written in the 13th century. They appear throughout the poetry of skald
Skald
The skald was a member of a group of poets, whose courtly poetry is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age, who composed and performed renditions of aspects of what we now characterise as Old Norse poetry .The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is...

s, in a 14th century charm
Magical formula
A magical formula or spell is generally a word whose meaning illustrates principles and degrees of understanding that are often difficult to relay using other forms of speech or writing. It is a concise means to communicate very abstract information through the medium of a word or phrase...

, and in various runic inscriptions
Runic inscriptions
A runic inscription is an inscription made in one of the various runic alphabets. The body of runic inscriptions falls into the three categories of Elder Futhark , Anglo-Frisian Futhorc and Younger Futhark .The total 350 known inscriptions in the Elder...

.

The Old English cognate terms wælcyrge and wælcyrie appear in several Old English manuscripts, and scholars have explored whether the terms appear in Old English by way of Norse influence, or reflect a tradition also native among the Anglo-Saxon pagans. Scholarly theories have been proposed about the relation between the valkyries, the norns
Norns
The Norns in Norse mythology are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men, a kind of dísir comparable to the Fates in classical mythology....

, the dís
Dis
- Academic institutions :* DIS – Danish Institute for Study Abroad, an English language study abroad program located in Copenhagen, Denmark* Dili International School, DIS an International School in Dili, Timor Leste - Companies :...

ir, Germanic seeresses
Völva
A vǫlva or völva is a shamanic seeress in Norse paganism, and a recurring motif in Norse mythology....

, and shieldmaiden
Shieldmaiden
A shieldmaiden was a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior in Scandinavian folklore and mythology. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga and in Gesta Danorum. Shieldmaidens also appear in stories of other Germanic nations: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical Valkyries...

s. Archaeological excavations throughout Scandinavia have uncovered amulets theorized as depicting valkyries. In modern culture, valkyries have been the subject of works of art, musical works, video games and poetry.

Etymology


The word valkyrie derives from Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 valkyrja (plural valkyrjur), which is composed of two words; the noun valr (referring to the slain on the battlefield) and the verb kjósa (meaning "to choose"). Together, they mean "chooser of the slain". The Old Norse valkyrja is cognate to Old English wælcyrge. Other terms for valkyries include óskmey (Old Norse "wish girl"), appearing in the poem Oddrúnargrátr
Oddrúnargrátr
Oddrúnargrátr or Oddrúnarkviða is an Eddic poem, found in the Codex Regius manuscript where it follows Guðrúnarkviða III and precedes Atlakviða....

, and Óðins meyjar (Old Norse "Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

's girls"), appearing in the Nafnaþulur
Nafnaþulur
Nafnaþulur is a subsection of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the last part of the Skáldskaparmál. It is a listing in verse of names that may be used in poetry for various items, such as gods, giants, people, animals, and weapons...

. Óskmey may be related to the Odinic name Óski (Old Norse, roughly meaning "wish fulfiller"), referring to the fact that Odin receives slain warriors in Valhalla.

Poetic Edda


Valkyries are mentioned or appear in the Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

poems Völuspá
Völuspá
Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva addressing Odin...

, Grímnismál
Grímnismál
Grímnismál is one of the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda. It is preserved in the Codex Regius manuscript and the AM 748 I 4to fragment. It is spoken through the voice of Grímnir, one of the many guises of the god Odin, who is tortured by King Geirröth...

, Völundarkviða
Völundarkviða
Völundarkviða is one of the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda...

, Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar
Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar
Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar is a poem collected in the Poetic Edda, found in the Codex Regius manuscript where it follows Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and precedes Helgakviða Hundingsbana II...

, Helgakviða Hundingsbana I
Helgakviða Hundingsbana I
Völsungakviða, Helgakviða Hundingsbana I or the First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda...

, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Völsungakviða in forna, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II or the Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda...

, and Sigrdrífumál
Sigrdrífumál
Sigrdrífumál is the conventional title given to a section of the Poetic Edda text in Codex Regius....

.

Völuspá and Grímnismál



In stanza 30 of the poem Völuspá
Völuspá
Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva addressing Odin...

, a völva
Völva
A vǫlva or völva is a shamanic seeress in Norse paganism, and a recurring motif in Norse mythology....

 (a traveling seeress in Germanic society) tells Odin that "she saw" valkyries coming from far away who are ready to ride to "the realm of the gods". The völva follows this with a list of six valkyries: Skuld
Skuld
Skuld may refer to:* Skuld, one of a group of three norns in Norse mythology* Skuld , a princess in Norse mythology* 1130 Skuld, an asteroid discovered on 2 September 1929 and named after the Norn...

 (Old Norse, possibly "debt" or "future") who "bore a shield", Skögul
Skögul
In Norse mythology, Skögul and Geirskögul are valkyries who alternately appear as separate or individual figures...

 ("shaker"), Gunnr
Gunnr
Gunnar or Gunner is a valkyrie in Norse mythology. Her name means "battle" and is cognate with the English word "gun". She rode a wolf and took part in selecting the dead warriors together with two other Valkyries in order to bring them to Valhalla....

 ("war"), Hildr
Hildr
In Norse mythology, Hildr is a valkyrie. Hildr is attested in the Prose Edda as Högni's daughter and Hedin's wife in the legend of Hedin and Högni...

 ("battle"), Göndul
Göndul
In Norse mythology, Göndul is a valkyrie. Göndul is attested in Heimskringla, Sörla þáttr, and a 14th century Norwegian charm...

 ("wand
Wand
A wand is a thin, straight, hand-held stick of wood, stone, ivory, or metal. Generally, in modern language, wands are ceremonial and/or have associations with magic but there have been other uses, all stemming from the original meaning as a synonym of rod and virge, both of which had a similar...

-wielder"), and Geirskögul ("Spear-Skögul"). Afterwards, the völva tells him she has listed the "ladies of the War Lord, ready to ride, valkyries, over the earth".

In the poem Grímnismál
Grímnismál
Grímnismál is one of the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda. It is preserved in the Codex Regius manuscript and the AM 748 I 4to fragment. It is spoken through the voice of Grímnir, one of the many guises of the god Odin, who is tortured by King Geirröth...

, Odin (disguised as Grímnir), tortured, starved and thirsty, tells the young Agnar
Agnarr Geirröðsson
Agnarr Geirröðsson is the son of King Geirröðr in Norse mythology. Agnarr is solely attested in the poem Grímnismál in the Poetic Edda, the latter compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources. In Grímnismál he is described as aiding Odin, disguised as Grímnir, to escape from...

 that he wishes that the valkyries Hrist ("shaker") and Mist
Mist (valkyrie)
In Norse mythology, Mist is a valkyrie. Mist appears in valkyrie list in the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál and both of the Nafnaþulur valkyrie lists. No further information is provided about her...

 ("cloud") would "bear him a [drinking] horn
Drinking horn
A drinking horn is the horn of a bovid used as a drinking vessel. Drinking horns are known from Classical Antiquity especially in Thrace and the Balkans, and remained in use for ceremonial purposes throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period in some parts of Europe, notably in Germanic...

", then provides a list of 11 more valkyries whom he says "bear ale
Ale
Ale is a type of beer brewed from malted barley using a warm fermentation with a strain of brewers' yeast. The yeast will ferment the beer quickly, giving it a sweet, full bodied and fruity taste...

 to the einherjar
Einherjar
In Norse mythology, the einherjar are those that have died in battle and are brought to Valhalla by valkyries. In Valhalla, the einherjar eat their fill of the nightly-resurrecting beast Sæhrímnir, and are brought their fill of mead by valkyries...

"; Skeggjöld ("axe-age"), Skögul, Hildr, Þrúðr ("power"), Hlökk
Hlökk
In Norse mythology, Hlökk is a valkyrie. Hlökk is attested as among the 13 valkyries listed in the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál, and additionally in both Nafnaþulur lists found in the Prose Edda.-References:...

 ("noise", or "battle"), Herfjötur
Herfjötur
In Norse mythology, Herfjötur is a valkyrie. Herfjötur is attested as among the 13 valkyries listed in the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál, and in the longer of the two Nafnaþulur lists found in the Prose Edda.Rudolf Simek says the name is kenning-like and that the name likely refers to the "fortune...

 ("host-fetter"), Göll
Goll
Goll may refer to:*Goll mac Morna, a character from Irish mythology*Goll, son of Garbh, of the Fomorians, early settlers in Ireland*Göll, one of the minor Valkyries of Norse mythology-Surnames:...

 ("tumult"), Geirahöð ("spear-fight"), Randgríð ("shield-truce"), Ráðgríð ("council-truce"), and Reginleif ("power-truce").

Völundarkviða



A prose introduction in the poem Völundarkviða
Völundarkviða
Völundarkviða is one of the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda...

relates that the brothers Slagfiðr
Slagfiðr
In Norse mythology, Slagfiðr is one of a trio of brothers along with Völundr and Egil. In the Poetic Edda poem Völundarkviða, Slagfiðr is attested as the seven year husband of the valkyrie Hlaðguðr svanhvít.-References:...

, Egil
Agilaz
Egil is a legendary hero of the Völundarkviða and the Thidreks saga. The name is from Proto-Germanic *Agilaz, and the same legend is reflected in Old English Ægil of the Franks Casket and Alamannic Aigil of the Pforzen buckle....

, and Völund dwelt in a house sited in a location called Úlfdalir ("wolf dales"). There, early one morning, the brothers find three women spinning linen on the shore of the lake Úlfsjár ("wolf lake"), and "near them were their swan's garments; they were valkyries". Two, daughters of King Hlödvér, are named Hlaðguðr svanhvít
Hlaðguðr svanhvít
In Norse mythology, Hlaðguðr svanhvít is a valkyrie. Hlaðguðr svanhvít is attested in the Poetic Edda poem Völundarkviða as the sister of the valkyrie Hervör alvitr , and as the seven year wife of Slagfiðr.-References:* Simek, Rudolf translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S...

 ("swan-white") and Hervör alvitr
Hervör alvitr
In Norse mythology, Hervör alvitr is a valkyrie. Hervör alvitr is attested in the Poetic Edda poem Völundarkviða as the sister of the valkyrie Hlaðguðr svanhvít , and as the seven year wife of the smith Völundr.-References:* Orchard, Andy...

 (possibly meaning "all-wise" or "strange creature"); the third, daughter of Kjárr
Kjárr
Kjárr, or Kíarr, is a figure of Norse mythology that is believed to be the reflection of the Roman Emperors. In Old Norse sources, he appears as a king of the Valir who were the people of Valland ....

 of Valland
Valland
In Norse legend Valland is the name the part of Europe which is inhabited by Celtic and Romance speaking peoples. The element Val- is derived from Walha, a Germanic root meaning "foreigner", usually applied to the Celtic and Italic inhabitants of Europe....

, is named Ölrún
Alruna
Alruna is a Germanic female personal name, from Proto Germanic *aliruna, from ali- "strange" and runa "secret", rune...

 (possibly meaning "beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

 rune
Runic alphabet
The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter...

"). The brothers take the three women back to their hall with them—Egil takes Ölrún, Slagfiðr takes Hlaðguðr svanhvít, and Völund takes Hervör alvitr. They live together for seven winters, until the women fly off to go to a battle and do not return. Egil goes off in snow-shoes to look for Ölrún, Slagfiðr goes searching for Hlaðguðr svanhvít, and Völund sits in Úlfdalir.

Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar



In the poem Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar
Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar
Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar is a poem collected in the Poetic Edda, found in the Codex Regius manuscript where it follows Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and precedes Helgakviða Hundingsbana II...

, a prose narrative says that an unnamed and silent young man, the son of the Norwegian King Hjörvarðr and Sigrlinn of Sváfaland, witnesses nine valkyries riding by while sitting atop a burial mound. He finds one particularly striking; this valkyrie is detailed later in a prose narrative as Sváva
Sváfa
In Norse mythology, Sváfa or Sváva is a valkyrie and the daughter of king Eylimi. Consequently she was probably the maternal aunt of Sigurd, the dragon slayer, although this is not explicitly mentioned in Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar where Sváfa's story appears.-Etymology:The etymology of the...

, king Eylimi's daughter, who "often protected him in battles". The valkyrie speaks to the unnamed man, and gives him the name Helgi (meaning "the holy
Hallow
To hallow is "to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate". The adjective form hallowed, as used in The Lord's Prayer, means holy, consecrated, sacred, or revered.-Etymology:...

 one"). The previously silent Helgi speaks; he refers to the valkyrie as "bright-face lady", and asks her what gift he will receive with the name
Germanic name
Germanic given names are traditionally dithematic; that is, they are formed from two elements, by joining a prefix and a suffix. For example, King Æþelred's name was derived from æþel, for "noble", and ræd, for "counsel". Many of these names are still used today, while others have fallen out of use...

 she has bestowed upon him, but he will not accept it if he cannot have her as well. The valkyrie tells him she knows of a hoard of swords in Sigarsholm, and that one of them is of particular importance, which she describes in detail. Further into the poem, Atli flyts
Flyting
Flyting or fliting is a contest consisting of the exchange of insults, often conducted in verse, between two parties.-Description:Flyting is a ritual, poetic exchange of insults practiced mainly between the 5th and 16th centuries. The root is the Old English word flītan meaning quarrel...

 with the female jötunn Hrímgerðr
Hrímgerðr
In Norse mythology, Hrímgerðr is a female jötunn. Hrímgerðr is attested in Poetic Edda poem Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar, where she engages in heated flyting with Atli Indmundsson.-References:...

. While flyting with Atli, Hrímgerðr says that she had seen 27 valkyries around Helgi, yet one particularly fair valkyrie led the band:
Three times nine girls, but one girl rode ahead,
white-skinned under her helmet;
the horses were trembling, from their manes
dew fell into the deep valleys,
hail in the high woods;
good fortune comes to men from there;
all that I saw was hateful to me.


After Hrímgerðr is turned to stone by the daylight, a prose narrative continues that Helgi, who is now king, goes to Sváva's father—King Eylimi—and asks for his daughter. Helgi and Sváva are betrothed and love one another dearly. Sváva stays at home with King Eylimi, and Helgi goes raiding, and to this the narrative adds that Sváva "was a valkyrie just as before". The poem continues, and, among various other events, Helgi dies from a wound received in battle. A narrative at the end of the poem says that Helgi and his valkyrie wife Sváva "are said to be reincarnated".

Helgakviða Hundingsbana I



In the poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana I
Helgakviða Hundingsbana I
Völsungakviða, Helgakviða Hundingsbana I or the First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda...

, the hero Helgi Hundingsbane
Helgi Hundingsbane
Helgi Hundingsbane is a hero in Norse sagas. Helgi appears in Volsunga saga and in two lays in the Poetic Edda named Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II. The Poetic Edda relates that Helgi and his mistress Sigrún were Helgi Hjörvarðsson and Sváva of the Helgakviða...

 sits in the corpse-strewn battlefield of Logafjöll. A light shines from the fell
Fell
“Fell” is a word used to refer to mountains, or certain types of mountainous landscape, in Scandinavia, the Isle of Man, and parts of northern England.- Etymology :...

, and from that light strike bolts of lightning. Flying through the sky, helmeted valkyries appear. Their waist-length mail armor
Mail (armour)
Mail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh.-History:Mail was a highly successful type of armour and was used by nearly every metalworking culture....

 is drenched in blood; their spears shine brightly:
Then light shone from Logafell,
and from that radiance there came bolts of lightning;
wearing helmets at Himingvani [came the valkyries].
Their byrnies were drenched in blood;
and rays shone from their spears.


In the stanza that follows, Helgi asks the valkyries (who he refers to as "southern goddesses") if they would like to come home with the warriors when night falls (all the while arrows were flying). The battle over, the valkyrie Sigrún
Sigrún
Sigrún is a valkyrie in Norse mythology. Her story is related in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, in the Poetic Edda...

 ("victory-rune
Runic alphabet
The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter...

"), informs him from her horse that her father Högni has betrothed her to Höðbroddr, the son of king Granmar
Granmar
Granmar was a king of Södermanland, in Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla. The same king also appears in the Volsunga saga.Granmar was married to Hilda, the daughter of the Geatish king Högne of East Götaland, and his son-in-law was the seaking Hjörvard of the Ylfings...

 of the Hniflung
Nibelung
The German Nibelungen and the corresponding Old Norse form Niflung is the name in Germanic and Norse mythology of the royal family or lineage of the Burgundians who settled at Worms....

 clan, who Sigrún deems unworthy. Helgi assembles an immense host to ride to wage battle at Frekastein against the Hniflung clan to assist Sigrún in her plight to avoid her betrothment. Later in the poem, the hero Sinfjötli
Sinfjötli
Sinfjötli or Fitela in Norse mythology was born out of the incestuous relationship between Sigmund and his sister Signy...

 flyts
Flyting
Flyting or fliting is a contest consisting of the exchange of insults, often conducted in verse, between two parties.-Description:Flyting is a ritual, poetic exchange of insults practiced mainly between the 5th and 16th centuries. The root is the Old English word flītan meaning quarrel...

 with Guðmundr. Sinfjötli accuses Guðmundr of having once been female, and gibes that Guðmundr was "a witch, horrible, unnatural, among Odin's valkyries", adding that all of the einherjar "had to fight, headstrong woman, on your account". Further in the poem, the phrase "the valkyrie's airy sea" is used for "mist
Mist
Mist is a phenomenon of small droplets suspended in air. It can occur as part of natural weather or volcanic activity, and is common in cold air above warmer water, in exhaled air in the cold, and in a steam room of a sauna. It can also be created artificially with aerosol canisters if the...

".

Towards the end of the poem, valkyries again descend from the sky, this time to protect Helgi amid the battle at Frekastein. After the battle, all the valkyries fly away but Sigrún, and wolves (referred to as "the troll
Troll
A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In origin, the term troll was a generally negative synonym for a jötunn , a being in Norse mythology...

-woman's mount") consume corpses:
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
Troll
A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In origin, the term troll was a generally negative synonym for a jötunn , a being in Norse mythology...

-woman's mount was feasting on the fodder of ravens:


The battle won, Sigrún tells Helgi that he will become a great ruler, and pledges herself to him.

Helgakviða Hundingsbana II



At the beginning of the poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Völsungakviða in forna, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II or the Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda...

, a prose narrative says that King Sigmund
Sigmund
This article is about the mythological hero Sigmund; for other meanings see: Sigmund .In Norse mythology, Sigmund is a hero whose story is told in the Völsunga saga. He and his sister, Signý, are the children of Völsung and his wife Hljod...

 (son of Völsung
Volsung
In Norse mythology, Völsung was the son of Rerir and the eponymous ancestor of the ill-fortuned Völsung clan , including the greatest of Norse heroes, Sigurð...

) and his wife Borghild
Borghild
In Norse mythology, Borghild was the first wife of Sigmund. She bore him two sons, Hamund and Helgi.She is the personification of the evening mist, or perhaps the moon, who kills the light of day.- Volsungasaga:...

 (of Brálund) have a son named Helgi, who they named for Helgi Hjörvarðsson (the antagonist of the earlier Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar). After Helgi has killed the King Hunding in stanza 4, a prose narrative details that Helgi escapes and consumes the raw meat of cattle he has slaughtered on a beach, and he encounters Sigrún. The narrative says that Sigrún, daughter of King Högni, is "a valkyrie and rode through air and sea" and adds that she is the valkyrie Sváva reincarnated. In stanza 7, Sigrún uses the phrase "fed the gosling
Goose
The word goose is the English name for a group of waterfowl, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than true geese, and ducks, which are smaller....

 of Gunn's sisters". Gunnr and her sisters are valkyries, and these goslings are raven
Raven
Raven is the common name given to several larger-bodied members of the genus Corvus—but in Europe and North America the Common Raven is normally implied...

s, who feed on the corpses left on the battlefield by warriors.

After stanza 18, a prose narrative relates that Helgi and his immense fleet of ships are heading to Frekastein, but encounter a great storm. Lightning strikes one of the ships. The fleet sees nine valkyries flying through the air, among whom they recognize Sigrún. The storm abates, and the fleets arrive safely at land. Helgi dies in battle, yet returns to visit Sigrún from Valhalla once in a burial mound, and at the end of the poem, a prose epilogue explains that Sigrún later dies of grief. The epilogue details that "there was a belief in the pagan religion, which we now reckon [is] an old wives' tale, that people could be reincarnated" and that "Helgi and Sigrun were thought to have been reborn" as another Helgi and valkyrie couple; Helgi as Helgi Haddingjaskaði and Sigrún as the daughter of Halfdan
Halfdan
Halfdan was a late 5th and early 6th century legendary Danish king of the Scylding lineage, the son of king named Fróði in many accounts, noted mainly as the father to the two kings who succeeded him in the rule of Denmark, kings named Hroðgar and Halga in the Old English poem Beowulf and named...

; the valkyrie Kára
Kára
In Norse mythology, Kára is a valkyrie. Kára is attested in the prose epilogue of the Poetic Edda poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana II. The epilogue details that "there was a belief in the pagan religion, which we now reckon an old wives' tale, that people could be reincarnated," and that the deceased...

. The epilogue details that further information about the two can be found in the (now lost) work Káruljóð.

Sigrdrífumál



In the prose introduction to the poem Sigrdrífumál
Sigrdrífumál
Sigrdrífumál is the conventional title given to a section of the Poetic Edda text in Codex Regius....

, the hero Sigurd
Sigurd
Sigurd is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, as well as the central character in the Völsunga saga. The earliest extant representations for his legend come in pictorial form from seven runestones in Sweden and most notably the Ramsund carving Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) is a legendary hero of...

 rides up to Hindarfell and heads south towards "the land of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

". On the mountain Sigurd sees a great light, "as if fire were burning, which blazed up to the sky". Sigurd approaches it, and there he sees a skjaldborg with a banner flying overhead. Sigurd enters the skjaldborg, and sees a warrior lying there—asleep and fully armed. Sigurd removes the helmet of the warrior, and sees the face of a woman. The woman's corslet
Corslet
A corslet is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "a piece of defensive armour covering the body." In Ancient Greek armies, the 'hoplite', or heavy infantryman, wore a bronze corslet or known as the thorax to protect his upper body. The corslet consisted of two plates connected on the sides...

 is so tight that it seems to have grown into the woman's body. Sigurd uses his sword Gram
Gram (mythology)
In Norse mythology, Gram is the name of the sword that Sigurd used to kill the dragon Fafnir.It was forged by Wayland the Smith and originally belonged to his father, Sigmund, who received it in the hall of the Volsung after pulling it out of the tree Barnstokk into which Odin had stuck...

 to cut the corslet, starting from the neck of the corslet downwards, he continues cutting down her sleeves, and takes the corslet off of her.

The woman wakes, sits up, looks at Sigurd, and the two converse in two stanzas of verse. In the second stanza, the woman explains that Odin placed a sleeping spell on her she could not break, and due to that spell she has been asleep a long time. Sigurd asks for her name, and the woman gives Sigurd a horn
Drinking horn
A drinking horn is the horn of a bovid used as a drinking vessel. Drinking horns are known from Classical Antiquity especially in Thrace and the Balkans, and remained in use for ceremonial purposes throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period in some parts of Europe, notably in Germanic...

 of mead
Mead
Mead , also called honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage that is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water. It may also be produced by fermenting a solution of water and honey with grain mash, which is strained immediately after fermentation...

 to help him retain her words in his memory. The woman recites a heathen prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

 in two stanzas. A prose narrative explains that the woman is named Sigrdrífa and that she is a valkyrie.

A narrative relates that Sigrdrífa explains to Sigurd that there were two kings fighting one another. Odin had promised one of these—Hjalmgunnar—victory in battle, yet she had "brought down" Hjalmgunnar in battle. Odin pricked her with a sleeping-thorn in consequence, told her she would never again "fight victoriously in battle", and condemned her to marriage. In response, Sigrdrífa told Odin she had sworn a great oath that she would never wed a man who knew fear. Sigurd asks Sigrdrífa to share with him her wisdom of all worlds. The poem continues in verse, where Sigrdrífa provides Sigurd with knowledge in inscribing runes
Runic alphabet
The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter...

, mystic wisdom, and prophecy.

Prose Edda



In the Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

, valkyries are first mentioned in chapter 36 of the book Gylfaginning
Gylfaginning
Gylfaginning, or the Tricking of Gylfi , is the first part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda after Prologue. The Gylfaginning deals with the creation and destruction of the world of the Norse gods, and many other aspects of Norse mythology...

, where the enthroned figure of High
High, Just-As-High, and Third
High, Just-As-High, and Third are three men that respond to questions posed by Gangleri in the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning...

 informs Gangleri
Gylfi
In Norse mythology, Gylfi, Gylfe, Gylvi, or Gylve was the earliest king in Scandinavia recorded. The traditions on Gylfi deal with how he was tricked by the gods and his relations with the goddess Gefjon.-The creation of Zealand:...

 (King Gylfi
Gylfi
In Norse mythology, Gylfi, Gylfe, Gylvi, or Gylve was the earliest king in Scandinavia recorded. The traditions on Gylfi deal with how he was tricked by the gods and his relations with the goddess Gefjon.-The creation of Zealand:...

 in disguise) of the activities of the valkyries and mentions a few goddesses. High says "there are still others whose duty it is to serve in Valhalla. They bring drink and see to the table and the ale cups." Following this, High gives a stanza from the poem Grímnismál that contains a list of valkyries. High says "these women are called valkyries, and they are sent by Odin to every battle, where they choose which men are to die and they determine who has victory". High adds that Gunnr
Gunnr
Gunnar or Gunner is a valkyrie in Norse mythology. Her name means "battle" and is cognate with the English word "gun". She rode a wolf and took part in selecting the dead warriors together with two other Valkyries in order to bring them to Valhalla....

 ("war"), Róta
Róta
In Norse mythology, Róta is a valkyrie. Róta is attested in chapter 36 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, where she is mentioned alongside the valkyries Gunnr and Skuld, and the three are described as "always [riding] to choose who shall be slain and to govern the killings." Otherwise, Róta...

, and Skuld—the latter of the three he refers to as "the youngest norn"—"always ride to choose the slain and decide the outcome of battle". In chapter 49, High describes that when Odin and his wife Frigg
Frigg
Frigg is a major goddess in Norse paganism, a subset of Germanic paganism. She is said to be the wife of Odin, and is the "foremost among the goddesses" and the queen of Asgard. Frigg appears primarily in Norse mythological stories as a wife and a mother. She is also described as having the power...

 arrived at the funeral of their slain son Baldr, with them came the valkyries and also Odin's ravens
Hugin and Munin
In Norse mythology, Huginn and Muninn are a pair of ravens that fly all over the world, Midgard, and bring the god Odin information...

.

References to valkyries appear throughout the book Skáldskaparmál
Skáldskaparmál
The second part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda the Skáldskaparmál or "language of poetry" is effectively a dialogue between the Norse god of the sea, Ægir and Bragi, the god of poetry, in which both Norse mythology and discourse on the nature of poetry are intertwined...

, which provides information about skaldic poetry. In chapter 2, a quote is given from the work Húsdrápa
Húsdrápa
Húsdrápa is a skaldic poem partially preserved in the Prose Edda where disjoint stanzas of it are quoted. It is attributed to the skald Úlfr Uggason. The poem describes mythological scenes carved on kitchen panels...

by the 10th-century skald Úlfr Uggason
Úlfr Uggason
Úlfr Uggason was an Icelandic skald who lived in the last part of the tenth century.The Laxdæla saga tells how he composed his Húsdrápa for a wedding...

. In the poem, Úlfr describes mythological scenes depicted in a newly built hall, including valkyries and ravens accompanying Odin at Baldr's funeral feast:
There I perceive valkyries and ravens,
accompanying the wise victory-tree [Odin]
to the drink of the holy offering [Baldr's funeral feast]
Within have appeared these motifs.


Further in chapter 2, a quote from the anonymous 10th-century poem Eiríksmál
Eiríksmál
Eiríksmál is a skaldic poem composed sometime in 954 or later on the behest of the Norwegian queen Gunnhild in honour of her slain consort Erik Bloodaxe. Only the beginning of the poem is extant....

is provided (see the Fagrskinna section below for more detail about the poem and another translation):
What sort of dream is that, Odin?
I dreamed I rose up before dawn
to clear up Val-hall for slain people.
I aroused the Einheriar,
bade them get up to strew the benches,
clean the beer-cups,
the valkyries to serve wine
for the arrival of a prince.


In chapter 31, poetic terms for referring to a woman are given, including "[a] woman is also referred to in terms of all Asyniur or valkyries or norns or dísir". In chapter 41, while the hero Sigurd
Sigurd
Sigurd is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, as well as the central character in the Völsunga saga. The earliest extant representations for his legend come in pictorial form from seven runestones in Sweden and most notably the Ramsund carving Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) is a legendary hero of...

 is riding his horse Grani
Grani
In Norse mythology, Grani is a horse owned by the hero Sigurd. He is the horse that Sigurd receives through advice from an old man . Grani is a descendant of Odin's own steed, Sleipnir.-Attestations:...

, he encounters a building on a mountain. Within this building Sigurd finds a sleeping woman wearing a helmet and a coat of mail
Mail (armour)
Mail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh.-History:Mail was a highly successful type of armour and was used by nearly every metalworking culture....

. Sigurd cuts the mail from her, and she awakes. She tells him her name is Hildr, and "she is known as Brynhildr
Brynhildr
Brynhildr is a shieldmaiden and a valkyrie in Norse mythology, where she appears as a main character in the Völsunga saga and some Eddic poems treating the same events. Under the name Brünnhilde she appears in the Nibelungenlied and therefore also in Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des...

, and was a valkyrie".

In chapter 48, poetic terms for "battle" include "weather of weapons or shields, or of Odin or valkyrie or war-kings, or their clash or noise", followed by examples of compositions by various skald
Skald
The skald was a member of a group of poets, whose courtly poetry is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age, who composed and performed renditions of aspects of what we now characterise as Old Norse poetry .The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is...

s that have used the name of valkyries in said manner (Þorbjörn Hornklofi
Þorbjörn hornklofi
Þorbjörn Hornklofi was a 9th century Norwegian poet. He was the court poet of King Harald Fairhair.-Bibliography:*Glymdrápa - A drápa on King Harald.*Hrafnsmál/Haraldskvæði - Another poem on King Harald using the málaháttr metre....

 uses "Skögul's din" for "battlefield", Bersi Skáldtorfuson
Bersi Skáldtorfuson
Bersi Skáldtorfuson was an Icelandic skald, active around the year 1000. He was a court poet to Earl Sveinn Hákonarson. During the Battle of Nesjar he was captured by King Óláfr Haraldsson's forces...

 uses "Gunnr's fire" for "sword" and "Hlökk's snow" for "battle", Einarr Skúlason
Einarr Skúlason
Einarr Skúlason was an Icelandic priest and skald. He was the most prominent Norse poet of the 12th century.He was descended from the family of Egill Skallagrímsson, the so called Mýramenn. For most of his life he lived in Norway, with the kings Sigurðr Jórsalafari, Haraldr gilli and the sons of...

 uses "Hildr's sail" for "shield" and "Göndul's crushing wind" for "battle", and Einarr skálaglamm
Einarr Helgason
Einarr Helgason or Einarr skálaglamm was a 10th century Icelandic skald.He was a court-poet of Lord Hákon to whom he dedicated his magnum opus, the Vellekla...

 uses "Göndul's din"). Chapter 49 gives similar information when referring to weapons and armor (though the term "death-maidens"—Old Norse valmeyjar—instead of "valkyries" is used here), with further examples. In chapter 57, within a list of names of ásynjur (and after alternate names for the goddess Freyja are provided), a further section contains a list of "Odin's maids"; valkyries: Hildr, Göndul, Hlökk, Mist, Skögul. And then an additional four names; Hrund, Eir
Eir
In Norse mythology, Eir is a goddess and/or valkyrie associated with medical skill. Eir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; and in skaldic poetry, including a runic...

, Hrist, and Skuld. The section adds that "they are called norns who shape necessity".

Some manuscripts of the feature Nafnaþulur
Nafnaþulur
Nafnaþulur is a subsection of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the last part of the Skáldskaparmál. It is a listing in verse of names that may be used in poetry for various items, such as gods, giants, people, animals, and weapons...

section of Skáldskaparmál contain an extended list of 29 valkyrie names (listed as the "valkyries of Viðrir"—a name of Odin). The first stanza lists: Hrist, Mist, Herja, Hlökk, Geiravör, Göll, Hjörþrimul, Guðr, Herfjötra, Skuld, Geirönul, Skögul, and Randgníð. The second stanza lists: Ráðgríðr, Göndul, Svipul, Geirskögul, Hildr, Skeggöld, Hrund, Geirdriful, Randgríðr, Þrúðr, Reginleif, Sveið, Þögn, Hjalmþrimul, Þrima, and Skalmöld.

Hrafnsmál



The fragmentary skaldic poem Hrafnsmál
Hrafnsmál
Hrafnsmál is a fragmentary skaldic poem generally accepted as authored by the 9th century Norwegian skald Þorbjörn Hornklofi. Hrafnsmál largely consists of a conversation between an unnamed valkyrie and a raven; the two discuss the life and martial deeds of Harald Fairhair. Due to this, the poem...

(generally accepted as authored by 9th-century Norwegian skald Þorbjörn Hornklofi
Þorbjörn hornklofi
Þorbjörn Hornklofi was a 9th century Norwegian poet. He was the court poet of King Harald Fairhair.-Bibliography:*Glymdrápa - A drápa on King Harald.*Hrafnsmál/Haraldskvæði - Another poem on King Harald using the málaháttr metre....

) features a conversation between a valkyrie and a raven, largely consisting of the life and deeds of Harald I of Norway
Harald I of Norway
Harald Fairhair or Harald Finehair , , son of Halfdan the Black, was the first king of Norway.-Background:Little is known of the historical Harald...

. The poem begins with a request for silence among noblemen so that the skald may tell the deeds of Harald Fairhair. The narrator states that they once overheard a "high-minded", "golden-haired", and "white-armed" maiden speaking with a "glossy-beaked raven". The valkyrie considers herself wise, understands the speech of birds, is further described as having a white-throat and sparkling eyes, and she takes no pleasure in men:
Wise thought her the valkyrie; were welcome never
men to the bright-eyed one, her who the birds' speech knew well.
The hymir
Hymir
In Norse mythology, Hymir is a giant, husband of the giantess Hroðr and according to the Eddic poem Hymiskviða the father of the god Týr. He is the owner of a mile-wide cauldron which the Æsir wanted to brew beer in; Thor, accompanied by Týr, obtained it from him...

's-skull-cleaver as on cliff he was perching.


The valkyrie, previously described as fair and beautiful, then speaks to the gore-drenched and corpse-reeking raven:
"How is it, ye ravens—whence are ye come now
with beaks all gory, at break of morning?
Carrion-reek ye carry, and your claws are bloody.
Were ye near, at night-time, where ye knew of corpses?"


The black raven shakes himself, and he responds that he and the rest of the ravens have followed Harald since hatching from their eggs. The raven expresses surprise that the valkyrie seems unfamiliar with the deeds of Harald, and tells her about his deeds for several stanzas. At stanza 15, a question and answer format begins where the valkyrie asks the raven a question regarding Harald, and the raven responds in turn. This continues until the poem ends abruptly.

Njáls saga



In chapter 157 of Njáls saga, a man named Dörruð witnesses 12 people riding together to a stone hut on Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 in Caithness
Caithness
Caithness is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom . Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is...

. The 12 go into the hut and Dörruð can no longer see them. Dörruð goes to the hut, and looks through a chink in the wall. He sees that there are women within, and that they have set up a particular loom
Loom
A loom is a device used to weave cloth. The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the warp threads under tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads...

; the heads of men are the weights, the entrails of men are the warp
Warp (weaving)
In weaving cloth, the warp is the set of lengthwise yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom. The yarn that is inserted over-and-under the warp threads is called the weft, woof, or filler. Each individual warp thread in a fabric is called a warp end or end. Warp means "that which is thrown...

 and weft
Weft
In weaving, weft or woof is the yarn which is drawn through the warp yarns to create cloth. In North America, it is sometimes referred to as the "fill" or the "filling yarn"....

, a sword is the shuttle
Shuttle (weaving)
A shuttle is a tool designed to neatly and compactly store weft yarn while weaving. Shuttles are thrown or passed back and forth through the shed, between the yarn threads of the warp in order to weave in the weft....

, and the reel
Reel
A reel is an object around which lengths of another material are wound for storage. Generally a reel has a cylindrical core and walls on the sides to retain the material wound around the core...

s are composed of arrows. The women sing a song called Darraðarljóð
Darraðarljóð
Darraðarljóð is a skaldic poem in Old Norse found in chapter 156 of Njáls saga. The song consists of 11 stanzas, and within it twelve valkyries weave and choose who is to be slain at the Battle of Clontarf . Of the twelve valkyries weaving, six of their names are given: Hildr, Hjörþrimul,...

, which Dörruð memorizes.

The song consists of 11 stanzas, and within it the valkyries weave and choose who is to be slain at the Battle of Clontarf
Battle of Clontarf
The Battle of Clontarf took place on 23 April 1014 between the forces of Brian Boru and the forces led by the King of Leinster, Máel Mórda mac Murchada: composed mainly of his own men, Viking mercenaries from Dublin and the Orkney Islands led by his cousin Sigtrygg, as well as the one rebellious...

 (fought outside Dublin in 1014 CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

). Of the 12 valkyries weaving, six have their names given in the song: Hildr, Hjörþrimul, Sanngriðr, Svipul
Svipul
In Norse mythology, Svipul is a valkyrie. Svipul is attested among valkyrie list in the poem Darraðarljóð and the longer of the two Nafnaþulur valkyrie lists in the Poetic Edda book Skáldskaparmál. In addition, the name Svipul appears as a synonym for "battle" in Skáldskaparmál...

, Guðr, and Göndul. Stanza 9 of the song reads:
Now awful it is to be without,
as blood-red rack races overhead;
is the welkin gory with warriors' blood
as we valkyries war-songs chanted.


At the end of the poem, the valkyries sing "start we swiftly with steeds unsaddled—hence to battle with brandished swords!" The prose narrative picks up again, and says that the valkyries tear their loom down and into pieces. Each valkyrie holds on to what she has in her hands. Dörruð leaves the chink in the wall and heads home, and the women mount their horses and ride away; six to the south and six to the north.

Heimskringla



At the end of the Heimskringla
Heimskringla
Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings' sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson ca. 1230...

saga Hákonar saga góða, the poem Hákonarmál
Hákonarmál
Hákonarmál is a skaldic poem which the skald Eyvindr skáldaspillir composed about the fall of the Norwegian king Hákon the Good at the battle of Fitjar and his reception in Valhalla. This poem emulates Eiríksmál and is intended to depict the Christian Hákon as a friend to the pagan gods...

by the 10th-century skald
Skald
The skald was a member of a group of poets, whose courtly poetry is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age, who composed and performed renditions of aspects of what we now characterise as Old Norse poetry .The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is...

 Eyvindr skáldaspillir
Eyvindr Skáldaspillir
Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir was a 10th century Norwegian skald. He was the court poet of king Hákon the Good and earl Hákon of Hlaðir. His son Hárekr later became a prominent chieftain in Norway.His preserved works are:...

 is presented. The saga relates that king Haakon I of Norway
Haakon I of Norway
Haakon I , , given the byname the Good, was the third king of Norway and the youngest son of Harald Fairhair and Thora Mosterstang.-Early life:...

 died in battle, and although he is Christian, he requests that since he has died "among heathens, then give me such burial place as seems most fitting to you". The saga relates that shortly after Haakon died on the same slab of rock that he was born upon, he was greatly mourned by friend and foe alike, and that his friends moved his body northward to Sæheim in North Hordaland
Hordaland
is a county in Norway, bordering Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Telemark and Rogaland. Hordaland is the third largest county after Akershus and Oslo by population. The county administration is located in Bergen...

. Haakon was buried there in a large burial mound in full armor and his finest clothing, yet with no other valuables. Further, "words were spoken over his grave according to the custom of heathen men, and they put him on the way to Valhalla". The poem Hákonarmál is then provided.

In Hákonarmál, Odin sends forth the two valkyries Göndul and Skögul to "choose among the kings' kinsmen" and who in battle should dwell with Odin in Valhalla. A battle rages with great slaughter, and part of the description employs the kenning
Kenning
A kenning is a type of literary trope, specifically circumlocution, in the form of a compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun. Kennings are strongly associated with Old Norse and later Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon poetry...

 "Skögul's-stormblast" for "battle". Haakon and his men die in battle, and they see the valkyrie Göndul leaning on a spear shaft. Göndul comments that "groweth now the gods' following, since Hákon has been with host so goodly bidden home with holy godheads". Haakon hears "what the valkyries said", and the valkyries are described as sitting "high-hearted on horseback", wearing helmets, carrying shields and that the horses wisely bore them. A brief exchange follows between Haakon and the valkyrie Skögul:
Hákon said:
"Why didst Geirskogul grudge us victory?
though worthy we were for the gods to grant it?"
Skogul said:
"'Tis owing to us that the issue was won
and your foemen fled."


Skögul says that they shall now ride forth to the "green homes of the godheads" to tell Odin the king will come to Valhalla. The poem continues, and Haakon becomes a part of the einherjar in Valhalla, awaiting to do battle with the monstrous wolf Fenrir.

Fagrskinna




In chapter 8 of Fagrskinna
Fagrskinna
Fagrskinna is one of the kings' sagas, written around 1220. It takes its name from one of the manuscripts in which it was preserved, Fagrskinna meaning 'Fair Leather', i.e., 'Fair Parchment'. Fagrskinna proper was destroyed by fire, but copies of it and another vellum have been preserved...

, a prose narrative states that, after the death of her husband Eric Bloodaxe
Eric Bloodaxe
Eric Haraldsson , nicknamed ‘Bloodaxe’ , was a 10th-century Scandinavian ruler. He is thought to have had short-lived terms as the second king of Norway and possibly as the last independent ruler of the kingdom of Northumbria Eric Haraldsson (Eric, anglicised form of ; died 954), nicknamed...

, Gunnhild Mother of Kings
Gunnhild Mother of Kings
Gunnhild konungamóðir or Gunnhild Gormsdóttir is a character who appears in the Icelandic Sagas, according to which she was the wife of Eric Bloodaxe . Many of the details of her life are disputed, including her parentage...

 had a poem composed about him. The composition is by an anonymous author from the 10th century and is referred to as Eiríksmál
Eiríksmál
Eiríksmál is a skaldic poem composed sometime in 954 or later on the behest of the Norwegian queen Gunnhild in honour of her slain consort Erik Bloodaxe. Only the beginning of the poem is extant....

. It describes Eric Bloodaxe and five other kings arriving in Valhalla after their death. The poem begins with comments by Odin (as Old Norse Óðinn):
'What kind of a dream is it,' said Óðinn,
in which just before daybreak,
I thought I cleared Valhǫll,
for coming of slain men?
I waked the Einherjar,
bade valkyries rise up,
to strew the bench,
and scour the beakers,

wine to carry,
as for a king's coming,
here to me I expect
heroes' coming from the world,
certain great ones,
so glad is my heart.


The god Bragi
Bragi
Bragi is the skaldic god of poetry in Norse mythology.-Etymology:Bragi is generally associated with bragr, the Norse word for poetry. The name of the god may have been derived from bragr, or the term bragr may have been formed to describe 'what Bragi does'...

 asks where a thundering sound is coming from, and says that the benches of Valhalla are creaking—as if the god Baldr had returned to Valhalla—and that it sounds like the movement of a thousand. Odin responds that Bragi knows well that the sounds are for Eric Bloodaxe, who will soon arrive in Valhalla. Odin tells the heroes Sigmund
Sigmund
This article is about the mythological hero Sigmund; for other meanings see: Sigmund .In Norse mythology, Sigmund is a hero whose story is told in the Völsunga saga. He and his sister, Signý, are the children of Völsung and his wife Hljod...

 and Sinfjötli
Sinfjötli
Sinfjötli or Fitela in Norse mythology was born out of the incestuous relationship between Sigmund and his sister Signy...

 to rise to greet Eric and invite him into the hall, if it is indeed he.

Ragnhild Tregagás charm


A witchcraft trial
Witch-hunt
A witch-hunt is a search for witches or evidence of witchcraft, often involving moral panic, mass hysteria and lynching, but in historical instances also legally sanctioned and involving official witchcraft trials...

 held in 1324 in Bergen, Norway, records a spell used by the accused Ragnhild Tregagás
Ragnhild Tregagås
Ragnhild Tregagås or Tregagás was a Norwegian woman from Bergen. In 1324/1325 she was accused and convicted for exercising witchcraft. She was sentenced to strict fasting and a seven year long pilgrimage to holy places outside of Norway...

 to end the marriage of her former lover, a man named Bárd. The charm contains a mention of the valkyrie Göndul
Göndul
In Norse mythology, Göndul is a valkyrie. Göndul is attested in Heimskringla, Sörla þáttr, and a 14th century Norwegian charm...

 being "sent out":
I send out from me the spirits of (the valkyrie) Gondul.
May the first bite you in the back.
May the second bite you in the breast.
May the third turn hate and envy upon you.


Old English attestations



The Old English wælcyrge and wælcyrie appear several times in Old English manuscripts, generally to translate foreign concepts into Old English. In the sermon Sermo Lupi ad Anglos
Sermo Lupi ad Anglos
The Sermo Lupi ad Anglos is the title given to a homily composed in England between 1010-1016 by Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York , who commonly styled himself Lupus, or 'wolf' after the first element in his name [wulf-stan = 'wolf-stone']. Though the title is Latin, the work itself is written in...

, written by Wulfstan II, wælcyrie is used, and considered to appear as word for a human "sorceress". An early 11th-century manuscript of Aldhelm's De laudis virginitatis (Oxford, Bodleian library, Digby 146) gloss
Gloss
A gloss is a brief notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text, or in the reader's language if that is different....

es ueneris with wælcyrge (with gydene meaning "goddess"). Wælcyrge is used to translate the names of the classical
Classical mythology
Classical mythology or Greco-Roman mythology is the cultural reception of myths from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Along with philosophy and political thought, mythology represents one of the major survivals of classical antiquity throughout later Western culture.Classical mythology has provided...

 furies
Erinyes
In Greek mythology the Erinyes from Greek ἐρίνειν " pursue, persecute"--sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses" -- were female chthonic deities of vengeance. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath"...

 in two manuscripts (Cotton Cleopatra A. iii, and the older Corpus Glossary). In the manuscript Cotton Cleopatra A. iii, wælcyrge is also used to gloss
Gloss
A gloss is a brief notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text, or in the reader's language if that is different....

 the Roman goddess
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

 Bellona
Bellona (goddess)
Bellona was an Ancient Roman goddess of war, similar to the Ancient Greek Enyo. Bellona's attribute is a sword and she is depicted wearing a helmet and armed with a spear and a torch....

. A description of a raven flying over the Egyptian army appears as wonn wælceaseg (meaning "dark one choosing the slain"). Scholarly theories debate whether these attestations point to an indigenous belief among the Anglo-Saxons shared with the Norse, or if they were a result of later Norse influence (see section below).

Female figures and cup and horn-bearers



Viking Age
Viking Age
Viking Age is the term for the period in European history, especially Northern European and Scandinavian history, spanning the late 8th to 11th centuries. Scandinavian Vikings explored Europe by its oceans and rivers through trade and warfare. The Vikings also reached Iceland, Greenland,...

 stylized silver amulets depicting women with long gowns, their hair pulled back, sometimes bearing forth drinking horn
Drinking horn
A drinking horn is the horn of a bovid used as a drinking vessel. Drinking horns are known from Classical Antiquity especially in Thrace and the Balkans, and remained in use for ceremonial purposes throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period in some parts of Europe, notably in Germanic...

s have been discovered throughout Scandinavia. These figures are commonly considered to represent valkyries or dísir. According to Mindy MacLeod and Bernard Mees, the amulets appear in Viking Age graves, and were presumably placed there because "they were thought to have protective powers".

The Tjängvide image stone
Tjängvide image stone
The Tjängvide image stone, listed in Rundata as Gotland Runic Inscription 110 or G 110, is a Viking Age image stone from Tjängvide , which is about three kilometers west of Ljugarn, Gotland, Sweden.-Description:...

 from the island of Gotland
Gotland
Gotland is a county, province, municipality and diocese of Sweden; it is Sweden's largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea. At 3,140 square kilometers in area, the region makes up less than one percent of Sweden's total land area...

, Sweden features a rider on an eight-legged horse, which may be Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir
Sleipnir
In Norse mythology, Sleipnir is an eight-legged horse. Sleipnir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson...

, being greeted by a female, which may be a valkyrie at Valhalla. The 11th-century runestone U 1163 features a carving of a female bearing a horn that has been interpreted as the valkyrie Sigrdrífa handing the hero Sigurd (also depicted on the stone) a drinking horn.

Runic inscriptions



Specific valkyries are mentioned on two runestones; the early 9th-century Rök Runestone
Rök Runestone
The Rök Runestone is one of the most famous runestones, featuring the longest known runic inscription in stone. It can now be seen by the church in Rök , Östergötland, Sweden...

 in Östergötland
Östergötland
Östergötland, English exonym: East Gothland, is one of the traditional provinces of Sweden in the south of Sweden. It borders Småland, Västergötland, Närke, Södermanland, and the Baltic Sea. In older English literature, one might also encounter the Latinized version, Ostrogothia...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, and the 10th-century Karlevi Runestone
Karlevi Runestone
The Karlevi Runestone, designated as Öl 1 by Rundata, is commonly dated to the late 10th century and located near the Kalmarsund straight in Karlevi on the island of Öland, Sweden...

 on the island of Öland
Öland
' is the second largest Swedish island and the smallest of the traditional provinces of Sweden. Öland has an area of 1,342 km² and is located in the Baltic Sea just off the coast of Småland. The island has 25,000 inhabitants, but during Swedish Midsummer it is visited by up to 500,000 people...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, which mentions the valkyrie Þrúðr. On the Rök Runestone, a kenning
Kenning
A kenning is a type of literary trope, specifically circumlocution, in the form of a compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun. Kennings are strongly associated with Old Norse and later Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon poetry...

 is employed that involves a valkyrie riding a wolf as her steed:
That we tell the twelfth, where the horse of the Valkyrie [literally "the horse of Gunn
Gunnr
Gunnar or Gunner is a valkyrie in Norse mythology. Her name means "battle" and is cognate with the English word "gun". She rode a wolf and took part in selecting the dead warriors together with two other Valkyries in order to bring them to Valhalla....

"] sees food on the battlefield, where twenty kings are lying.



Among the Bryggen inscriptions
Bryggen inscriptions
The Bryggen inscriptions are a find of some 670 medieval runic inscriptions on wood and bone found from 1955 and forth at Bryggen in Bergen, Norway. It has been called the most important runic find in the twentieth century...

 found in Bergen
Bergen
Bergen is the second largest city in Norway with a population of as of , . Bergen is the administrative centre of Hordaland county. Greater Bergen or Bergen Metropolitan Area as defined by Statistics Norway, has a population of as of , ....

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, is the "valkyrie stick" from the late 14th century. The stick features a runic inscription
Runic alphabet
The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter...

 intended as a charm. The inscription says that "I cut cure-runes", and also "help-runes", once against elves
Elf
An elf is a being of Germanic mythology. The elves were originally thought of as a race of divine beings endowed with magical powers, which they use both for the benefit and the injury of mankind...

, twice against trolls, thrice against thurs, and then a mention of a valkyrie occurs:
Against the harmful skag-valkyrie,
so that she never shall, though she never would -
evil woman! - injure (?) your life.


This is followed by "I send you, I look at you, wolfish perversion, and unbearable desire, may distress descend on you and jöluns wrath. Never shall you sit, never shall you sleep ... (that you) love me as yourself." According to Mindy MacLeod and Bernard Mees, the inscription "seems to begin as a benevolent formulation before abruptly switching to the infliction of distress and misery, presumably upon the recipient of the charm rather than the baleful valkyrie", and they posit the final line appears "to constitute a rather spiteful kind of charm aimed at securing the love of a woman".

MacLeod and Mees state that the opening lines of the charm correspond to the Poetic Edda poem Sigrdrífumál, where the valkyrie Sigrdrífa provides runic advice, and that the meaning of the term skag is unclear, but a cognate exists in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I where Sinfjötli accuses Guðmundr of having once been a "skass-valkyrie". MacLeod and Mees believe the word means something like "supernatural sending", and that this points to a connection to the Ragnhild Tregagás charm, where a valkyrie is also "sent forth".

Valkyrie names



The Old Norse poems Völuspá
Völuspá
Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva addressing Odin...

, Grímnismál
Grímnismál
Grímnismál is one of the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda. It is preserved in the Codex Regius manuscript and the AM 748 I 4to fragment. It is spoken through the voice of Grímnir, one of the many guises of the god Odin, who is tortured by King Geirröth...

, Darraðarljóð
Darraðarljóð
Darraðarljóð is a skaldic poem in Old Norse found in chapter 156 of Njáls saga. The song consists of 11 stanzas, and within it twelve valkyries weave and choose who is to be slain at the Battle of Clontarf . Of the twelve valkyries weaving, six of their names are given: Hildr, Hjörþrimul,...

, and the Nafnaþulur
Nafnaþulur
Nafnaþulur is a subsection of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the last part of the Skáldskaparmál. It is a listing in verse of names that may be used in poetry for various items, such as gods, giants, people, animals, and weapons...

section of the Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

book Skáldskaparmál
Skáldskaparmál
The second part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda the Skáldskaparmál or "language of poetry" is effectively a dialogue between the Norse god of the sea, Ægir and Bragi, the god of poetry, in which both Norse mythology and discourse on the nature of poetry are intertwined...

, provide lists of valkyrie names. In addition, some valkyrie names appear solely outside of these lists, such as Sigrún
Sigrún
Sigrún is a valkyrie in Norse mythology. Her story is related in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, in the Poetic Edda...

(who is attested in the poems Helgakviða Hundingsbana I
Helgakviða Hundingsbana I
Völsungakviða, Helgakviða Hundingsbana I or the First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda...

and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Völsungakviða in forna, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II or the Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda...

). Many valkyrie names emphasize associations with battle and, in many cases, on the spear—a weapon heavily associated with the god Odin. Some scholars propose that the names of the valkyries themselves contain no individuality, but are rather descriptive of the traits and nature of war-goddesses, and are possibly the descriptive creations of skalds.

Some valkyrie names may be descriptive of the roles and abilities of the valkyries. The valkyrie name Herja
Herja
In Norse mythology, Herja is a valkyrie attested in the longer of the two Nafnaþulur lists found in the Prose Edda.Rudolf Simek says the name is etymologically related to the Old Norse herja and Old High German herjón , and derives from Proto-Germanic word *Herjaza...

has been theorized as pointing to a connection to the name of the goddess Hariasa
Hariasa
Hariasa is a Germanic goddess. Hariasa is attested on a stone bearing a Latin dedication to her. The stone was found in Cologne, Germany and dated to 187 CE .-Etymology:...

, who is attested from a stone from 187 CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

. The name Herfjötur
Herfjötur
In Norse mythology, Herfjötur is a valkyrie. Herfjötur is attested as among the 13 valkyries listed in the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál, and in the longer of the two Nafnaþulur lists found in the Prose Edda.Rudolf Simek says the name is kenning-like and that the name likely refers to the "fortune...

has been theorized as pointing to the ability of the valkyries to place fetters. The name Svipul
Svipul
In Norse mythology, Svipul is a valkyrie. Svipul is attested among valkyrie list in the poem Darraðarljóð and the longer of the two Nafnaþulur valkyrie lists in the Poetic Edda book Skáldskaparmál. In addition, the name Svipul appears as a synonym for "battle" in Skáldskaparmál...

may be descriptive of the influence the valkyries have over wyrd or ørlog
Wyrd
Wyrd is a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. The word is ancestral to Modern English weird, which retains its original meaning only dialectally....

—a Germanic
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

 concept of fate
Destiny
Destiny or fate refers to a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual...

.

Old English wælcyrge and Old English charms



Richard North says that the description of a raven flying over the Egyptian army (glossed as wonn wælceaseg) may have been directly influenced by the Old Norse concept of Valhalla, the usage of wælcyrge in De laudibus virginitatis may represent a loan or loan-translation of Old Norse valkyrja, but the Cotton Cleopatra A. iii and the Corpus Glossary instances "appear to show an Anglo-Saxon conception of wælcyrge that was independent of contemporary Scandinavian influence".

Two Old English charms mention figures that are theorized as representing an Anglo-Saxon notion of valkyries or valkyrie-like female beings; Wið færstice
Wið færstice
Wið færstice is an Old English medical text composed in, surviving in the collection known now as Lacnunga. Wið færstice means 'against a sudden/violent stabbing pain'; scholars have often sought to identify this as rheumatism, but other possibilities should not be excluded. The remedy describes...

, a charm to cure a sudden pain or stitch, and For a Swarm of Bees
For a Swarm of Bees
For a Swarm of Bees is an Anglo-Saxon metrical charm intended to keep honey bees from swarming. Towards the end of For a Swarm of Bees, the swarming bees are referred to as "victory-women" :...

, a charm to keep honey bee
Honey bee
Honey bees are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis...

s from swarming. In Wið færstice, a sudden pain is attributed to a small, "shrieking" spear thrown with supernatural strength (Old English mægen) by "fierce" loudly flying "mighty women" (Old English mihtigan wif) who have ridden over a burial mound:
They were loud, yes, loud,
when they rode over the (burial) mound;
they were fierce when they rode across the land.
Shield yourself now, you can survive this strife.
Out, little spear, if there is one here within.
It stood under/behind lime-wood (i.e. a shield), under a light-coloured/light-weight shield,
where those mighty women marshalled their powers, and they send shrieking spears.


Theories have been proposed that these figures are connected to valkyries. Richard North says that "though it is not clear what the poet takes these women to be, their female sex, riding in flight and throwing spears suggest that they were imagined in England as a female being analogous to the later Norse valkyrjur." Hilda Ellis Davidson theorizes that Wið færstice was originally a battle spell that had, over time, been reduced to a evoke "a prosaic stitch in the side". Towards the end of For a Swarm of Bees, the swarming bees are referred to as "victory-women" (Old English sigewif):
Settle down, victory-women,
never be wild and fly to the woods.
Be as mindful of my welfare,
as is each man of eating and of home.


The term "victory women" has been theorized as pointing to an association with valkyries. This theory is not universally accepted, and the reference has also been theorized as a simple metaphor for the "victorious sword" (the stinging) of the bees.

Merseburg Incantation, fetters, dísir, idisi, and norns



One of the two Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 Merseburg Incantations
Merseburg Incantations
The Merseburg Incantations are two medieval magic spells, charms or incantations, written in Old High German. They are the only known examples of Germanic pagan belief preserved in this language...

 call upon female beings—Idisi—to bind and hamper an army. The incantation reads:
Once the Idisi sat, sat here and there,
some bound fetters, some hampered the army,
some untied fetters:
Escape from the fetters, flee from the enemies.


The Idisi mentioned in the incantation are generally considered to be valkyries. Rudolf Simek says that "these Idisi are obviously a kind of valkyrie, as these also have the power to hamper enemies in Norse mythology" and points to a connection with the valkyrie name Herfjötur
Herfjötur
In Norse mythology, Herfjötur is a valkyrie. Herfjötur is attested as among the 13 valkyries listed in the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál, and in the longer of the two Nafnaþulur lists found in the Prose Edda.Rudolf Simek says the name is kenning-like and that the name likely refers to the "fortune...

(Old Norse "army-fetter"). Hilda R. Davidson compares the incantation to the Old English Wið færstice charm, and theorizes a similar role for them both.

Simek says that the West Germanic term Idisi (Old Saxon idis, Old High German itis, Old English ides) refers to a "dignified, well respected woman (married or unmarried), possibly a term for any woman, and therefore glosses exactly Latin matrona" and that a link to the North Germanic term dísir is reasonable to assume, yet not undisputed. In addition, the place name Idisiaviso
Idistaviso
Idistaviso is the location on the Weser river where forces commanded by Arminius fought those commanded by Germanicus at the Battle of the Weser River in 16 CE, attested in chapter 16 of Tacitus' Annales II...

 (meaning "plain of the Idisi") where forces commanded by Arminius
Arminius
Arminius , also known as Armin or Hermann was a chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest...

 fought those commanded by Germanicus
Germanicus
Germanicus Julius Caesar , commonly known as Germanicus, was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a prominent general of the early Roman Empire. He was born in Rome, Italia, and was named either Nero Claudius Drusus after his father or Tiberius Claudius Nero after his uncle...

 at the Battle of the Weser River
Battle of the Weser River
The Battle of the Weser River, sometimes known as a first Battle of Minden, was fought in 16 AD between Roman legions commanded by Emperor Tiberius' heir and adopted son Germanicus, and an alliance of Germanic tribes commanded by Arminius...

 in 16 CE. Simek points to a connection between the name Idisiaviso, the role of the Idisi in one of the two Merseburg Incantations, and valkyries.


Regarding the dísir, Simek states that Old Norse dís appears commonly as simply a term for "woman", just as Old High German itis, Old Saxon idis, and Old English ides, and may have also been used to denote a type of goddess. According to Simek, "several of the Eddic sources might lead us to conclude that the dísir were valkyrie-like guardians of the dead, and indeed in Guðrúnarkviða
Guðrúnarkviða
Guðrúnarkviða I, II and III are three different heroic poems in the Poetic Edda with the same protagonist, Gudrun.In Guðrúnarkviða I, Gudrun finds her dead husband Sigurd...

I 19 the valkyries are even called Herjans dísir "Odin's dísir". The dísir are explicitly called dead women in Atlamál
Atlamál
Atlamál in grœnlenzku is one of the heroic poems of the Poetic Edda. It relates the same basic story as Atlakviða at greater length and in a different style...

28 and a secondary belief that the dísir were the souls of dead women (see fylgjur
Fylgja
In Norse mythology, a fylgja is a supernatural being or creature which accompanies a person in connection to their fate or fortune...

) also underlies the landdísir
Landdísir
In Norse mythology and later Icelandic folklore, landdísir are beings who live in landdísasteinar, specific stones located in Northwestern Iceland which were treated with reverence into the 18th and 19th centuries...

of Icelandic folklore
Scandinavian folklore
Scandinavian folklore is the folklore of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Swedish speaking parts of Finland.Collecting folklore began when Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden sent out instructions to all of the priests in all of the parishes to collect the folklore of their area...

. Simek says that "as the function of the matrons was also extremely varied—fertility goddess, personal guardians, but also warrior-goddesses—the belief in the dísir, like the belief in the valkyries, norns, and matrons, may be considered to be different manifestations of a belief in a number of female (half-?) goddesses."

Jacob Grimm
Jacob Grimm
Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm was a German philologist, jurist and mythologist. He is best known as the discoverer of Grimm's Law, the author of the monumental Deutsches Wörterbuch, the author of Deutsche Mythologie and, more popularly, as one of the Brothers Grimm, as the editor of Grimm's Fairy...

 states that, though the norns and valkyries are similar in nature, there is a fundamental difference between the two. Grimm states that a dís can be both norn and a valkyrie, "but their functions are separate and usually the persons. The norns have to pronounce the fatum [fate], they sit on their chairs, or they roam through the country among mortals, fastening their threads. Nowhere is it said that they ride. The valkyrs ride to war, decide the issues of fighting, and conduct the fallen to heaven; their riding is like that of heroes and gods [...]."

Origins and development



Various theories have been proposed about the origins and development of the valkyries from Germanic paganism to later Norse mythology. Rudolf Simek suggests valkyries were likely originally viewed as "demons of the dead to whom warriors slained on the battlefield belonged", and that a shift in interpretation of the valkyries may have occurred "when the concept of Valhalla changed from a battlefield to a warrior's paradise". Simek says that this original concept was "superseded by the shield girls
Shieldmaiden
A shieldmaiden was a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior in Scandinavian folklore and mythology. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga and in Gesta Danorum. Shieldmaidens also appear in stories of other Germanic nations: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical Valkyries...

—Irish female warriors who lived on like the einherjar in Valhall." Simek says that the valkyries were closely associated with Odin, and that this connection existed in an earlier role as "demons of death". Simek states that due to the shift of concept, the valkyries became popular figures in heroic poetry, and during this transition were stripped of their "demonic characteristics and became more human, and therefore become capable of falling in love with mortals [...]." Simek says that the majority of the names of the valkyries point to a warlike function, that most of their names do not appear to be very old, and that the names "mostly come from poetic creativity rather than from real folk-belief."

MacLeod and Mees theorize that "the role of the corpse-choosing valkyries became increasingly confused in later Norse mythology with that of the Norns, the supernatural females responsible for determining human destiny [...]."

Hilda Ellis Davidson says that, regarding valkyries, "evidently an elaborate literary picture has been built up by generations of poets and storytellers, in which several conceptions can be discerned. We recognize something akin to Norns, spirits who decide destinies of men; to the seeresses
Völva
A vǫlva or völva is a shamanic seeress in Norse paganism, and a recurring motif in Norse mythology....

, who could protect men in battle with their spells; to the powerful female guardian spirits attached to certain families, bringing luck to youth under their protection; even to certain women who armed themselves and fought like men, for whom there is some historical evidence from the regions round the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

." She adds that there may also be a memory in this of a "priestess of the god of war, women who officiated at the sacrificial rites when captives were put to death after battle."

Davidson places emphasis on the fact that valkyrie literally means "chooser of the slain". She compares Wulfstan's mention of a "chooser of the slain" in his Sermo Lupi ad Anglos sermon, which appears among "a blacklist of sinners, witches, and evildoers", to "all the other classes whom he [Wulfstan] mentions", and concludes as those "are human ones, it seems unlikely that he has introduced mythological figures as well." Davidson points out that Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 traveler Ibn Fadlan's detailed account of a 10th-century Rus
Rus' (people)
The Rus' were a group of Varangians . According to the Primary Chronicle of Rus, compiled in about 1113 AD, the Rus had relocated from the Baltic region , first to Northeastern Europe, creating an early polity which finally came under the leadership of Rurik...

 ship funeral on the Volga River
Volga River
The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It flows through central Russia, and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, eleven, including the capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga's drainage...

 features an "old Hunnish
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 woman, massive and grim to look upon" (who Fadlan refers to as the "Angel of Death") who organizes the killing of the slave girl, and has two other women with her that Fadlan refers to as her daughters. Davidson says that "it would hardly be surprising if strange legends grew up about such women, who must have been kept apart from their kind due to their gruesome duties. Since it was often decided by lot which prisoners should be killed, the idea that the god "chose" his victims, through the instrument of the priestesses, must have been a familiar one, apart from the obvious assumption that some were chosen to fall in war." Davidson says that it appears that from "early times" the Germanic peoples
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 "believed in fierce female spirits doing the command of the war god, stirring up disorder, taking part in battle, seizing and perhaps devouring the slain."

Freyja and Fólkvangr



The goddess Freyja and her afterlife field Fólkvangr
Fólkvangr
In Norse mythology, Fólkvangr is a meadow or field ruled over by the goddess Freyja where half of those that die in combat go upon death, while the other half go to the god Odin in Valhalla...

, where she receives half of the slain, has been theorized as connected to the valkyries. Britt-Mari Näsström points out the description in Gylfaginning where it is said of Freyja "whenever she rides into battle she takes half of the slain", and interprets Fólkvangr as "the field of the Warriors". Näsström notes that, just like Odin, Freyja receives slain heroes who have died on the battlefield, and that her house is Sessrumnir
Sessrúmnir
In Norse mythology, Sessrúmnir is both the goddess Freyja's hall located in Fólkvangr, a field where Freyja receives half of those who die in battle, and also the name of a ship. Both the hall and the ship are attested in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson...

 (which she translates as "filled with many seats"), a dwelling that Näsström posits likely fills the same function as Valhalla. Näsström comments that "still, we must ask why there are two heroic paradises in the Old Norse view of afterlife. It might possibly be a consequence of different forms of initiation of warriors, where one part seemed to have belonged to Óðinn and the other to Freyja. These examples indicate that Freyja was a war-goddess, and she even appears as a valkyrie, literally 'the one who chooses the slain'."

Siegfried Andres Dobat comments that "in her mythological role as the chooser of half the fallen warriors for her death realm Fólkvangr, the goddess Freyja, however, emerges as the mythological role model for the Valkyrjar and the dísir."

Modern influence



Valkyries have been the subjects of various poems, works of art, and musical works. In poetry, valkyries appear in "Die Walküren" by H. Heine (appearing in Romanzero, 1847), "Die Walküren" (1864) by H. v. Linge, "Sköldmon" (appearing in Gömda Land, 1904).

Works of art depicting valkyries include "Die Walküren" (sketch, 1818) by J. G. Sandberg, "Reitende Walküre" (fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

, previously located in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 palace but now destroyed, 1865/1866 by M. Echter, "Valkyrien" and "Valkyriens død" (paintings, both from 1860), "Walkürenritt" (etching
Etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

, 1871) by A. Welti, "Walkürenritt" (woodcut
Woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

, 1871) by T. Pixis, "Walkürenritt" (1872) by A. Becker (reproduced in 1873 with the same title by A. v. Heyde), "Die Walkyren" (charcoal
Charcoal
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...

, 1880) and "Walkyren wählen und wecken die gefallenen Helden (Einherier), um sie vom Schlachtfield nach Walhall zu geleiten" (painting, 1882) and "Walkyrenschlacht" (oil painting, 1884) by K. Ehrenberg, "Walkürenritt" (oil painting, 1888, and etching, 1890) by A. Welti, "Walküre" (statue) by H. Günther, "Walkürenritt" (oil painting) by H. Hendrich, "Walkürenritt" (painting) by F. Leeke, "Einherier" (painting, from around 1900), by K. Dielitz, "The Ride of the Valkyries" (painting, from around 1900) by J. C. Dollman, "Valkyrie" (statue, 1910) and "Walhalla-freeze" (located in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is an art museum in Copenhagen, Denmark...

, Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, 1886/1887), "Walkyrien" (print, 1915) by A. Kolb, and "Valkyrier" (drawing, 1925) by E. Hansen.

In music, valkyries play a major role in "Die Walküre
Die Walküre
Die Walküre , WWV 86B, is the second of the four operas that form the cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner...

" (1870) by Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 (the second of the four operas that comprise Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

), in which the "Ride of the Valkyries
Ride of the Valkyries
The Ride of the Valkyries is the popular term for the beginning of Act III of Die Walküre, the second of the four operas by Richard Wagner that comprise Der Ring des Nibelungen. The main theme of the Ride, the leitmotif labelled Walkürenritt, was first written down by the composer on 23 July 1851...

" begins Act III. The heroine of the cycle, Brünnhilde, the chief valkyrie in Wagner's mythos, is stripped of her immortality for defying the god Wotan (Odin) and trying to protect the condemned Siegmund.

Operation Valkyrie
Operation Valkyrie
Operation Valkyrie was an emergency continuity of government operations plan developed in Nazi Germany for the Territorial Reserve Army of Germany to execute and implement in case of a general breakdown in civil order of the nation...

 was a German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 plan that was converted into an attempted coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 that failed after the July 20 Plot
July 20 Plot
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government...

 (1944). The 2008 film Valkyrie
Valkyrie (film)
Valkyrie is a 2008 American historical thriller film set in Nazi Germany during World War II. The film depicts the 20 July plot in 1944 by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler and to use the Operation Valkyrie national emergency plan to take control of the country...

is based on events surrounding the operation.

See also

  • Valravn
    Valravn
    In Danish folklore, a valravn is a supernatural raven. The ravens appear in traditional Danish folksongs, where they are described as originating from ravens who consume the bodies of the dead on the battlefield, as capable of turning into the form of a knight after consuming the heart of a child,...

    , a supernatural "raven of the slain" appearing in 19th century Danish folk songs