In Norse mythology, valkyries are spirits and female warriors in the service of the god of wisdom and war, Odin. According to ancient myths, valkyries were dressed in armor and could fly. Their mission was to descend from the sky by flying to distribute death among warriors and then take their souls to Valhalla to become Einherjar. The name "Valkyrie" means in Old Norse valkyrja defined as "chooses the slaughtered". Valkyries are Norse characters who choose who should die or live.
The Valkyries: Who Are They Really?
There is no exact distinction between norns and valkyries. Valkyries are female maidens and warriors who accompanied the god Odin, father of Thor, on the Wild Hunt. Their main objective was to select the Einherjars to transport them to Valhalla, in order to prepare them for Ragnarök.
The valkyries possess a modern image as elegant and noble women who aided King Odin in the kingdom of Valhalla. They were romantic characters, golden-haired maidens, who served meat and drink to the heroes in the realm of Valhalla. They are often depicted with stunning pearly stallions who were the personification of clouds. They have a wet mane that spread a dew on the ground. However, this representation is very selective and hides some aspects of the Valkyries.
Even if these warrior women have an idyllic image, they are also fearsome, ferocious creatures with bloodthirsty origins. Valkyries were sinister spirits who flew over battlefields with Odin, on their winged horses. During this time, they were armed with helmets, spears and armor where one could perceive the northern lights. Carnage, chaos and a thirst for slaughter reigned among the valkyries who gave them a representation of savage amazons and bloodthirsty goddesses taking immense pleasure in seeing the severed limbs and bloodstained bodies of warriors. They were able to kill warriors to take over their minds.
This horrifying and dreadful side of the valkyries is perfectly illustrated in the poem from the Saga of Njal. An illustration where we can distinguish twelve valkyries before the battle of Clontarf, seated and busy weaving the tragic fate of the warriors.
Valkyries: other meanings
The name "valkyrie" was also used to refer to mortal, often sovereign women such as queens and princesses. According to some accounts, the priestesses of some tribes were also called by this name.
Among other Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons, the valkyries designated the female spirits of carnage. Among the Celts and the Nordic peoples, they had common beings for several centuries like the goddesses Badb and Morrigan.
The valkyries: warrior goddesses
Aside from their roles on the battlefield, valkyries were also of great help during warrior training in combat. They could revive them or heal them after a day of training. The valkyries wove a great relationship with the trained fighters, transmitting great wisdom and better knowledge. This was the case of the valkyrie Sigrdrifa who transmitted the art of combat and the attitude to adopt on the battlefield for the man she trains without, however, falling in love with him. Indeed, the negative stereotype of valkyries pushing heroes off the battlefield is completely shattered.
The valkyries had a bond with their fighters and could offer protection during bloody wars to them. They could protect them in battle by warning them in their dreams. Valkyries had the ability to predict impending death and the unfolding of the future in dreams. These female warriors could also take the warrior as a husband in order to transmit all the wisdom and ideology of Odin to him, to then eliminate him in order to transport his spirit to the kingdom of Valhalla.