Valkyrie

Valkyrie (“Choosers of the Battle-slain”; Old Norse valkyrja, pl. valkyrjar): The valkyries are representative of warfare, but are also magicians, guardians, female lovers of heroes, bird-women, and keepers of knowledge. They are concerned with fertility and fecundity and have many points in common with the Dises (deities), the Norns (the Germanic Fates), and the fylgjur (personal tutelary spirits).

They are in Odin’s service, and their names are most often of a warlike nature, formed from words like battle, combat, sword, spear, fury, bravery, and so forth. Régis Boyer has analyzed the thirty-eight valkyrie names that have been preserved in the texts; from his study it becomes apparent that they escape any strict classification as one-third of them are engaged in two different functions.

The valkyries select the slain warriors who will populate Valhalla. They attach themselves to the kings and princes who are worshippers of Odin, helping them, counseling them, bringing them luck, and even marrying them after their death. If they disobey Odin they are punished—as in the case of Brynhildr, who, pricked by the sleep-thorn, lies on Hindarfjall Mountain waiting for the one who will awaken her. In Valhalla the valkyries serve beer to the warriors.

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