When you see a Valkyrie before battle, know then, that you will die, for their primary duty is to choose the bravest of those who have been slain, gathering the souls of dying heros.
Valkyries gallop across the skies over bloody battles, bright armour gleaming in the sun, distributing death among the warriors. On great white steeds you see them, urging on the champions, their cries weaving with the clash of weapons and the screams of the dying. They wheel through the ranks of the slain and judge the bravery of each man. For Valkyries conduct the souls of slain heroes to Valhalla, the great hall of Odin All-Father.
Valkyries are said to choose carefully amongst the slain warriors, allowing only the souls of the bravest to enter heaven. If a Viking warrior falters in his fight, if he is struck down while fleeing, he is not worthy. There is no joyous welcome into the Great Hall of Valhalla for the coward, instead the cold underground awaits him, a desolate afterlife presided over by the goddess Hel.
A Valkyrie is originally a corpse goddess, represented by the carrion-eating raven. The name in Old Norse, valkyrja, means literally, “chooser of the slain.” She is another aspect of the Celtic warrior-goddess, The Morrigan, who also assumes the form of the raven.
As the Viking Lady tells it, the Valkyrie who can weave victory can also weave defeat, for the Valkyrie had the art of the war-fetter, which allowed the valkyrie to bind a warrior with terror, or release a favored warrior from those same bonds. Like the Norns, the valkyries are intimately involved in weaving or spinning the fates of men.
The leader of the Battle Valkryies is Brunehilde, made popular by Wagner in his music. Brunehilde has the privilege of high rank and works directly with the goddess Freya who receives half of all the heroes slain in battle- (Odin gets the other half.)
The delightful strawberry blonde Freya is the goddess of fertlity, sexuality and beauty. She is known for travelling in a chariot drawn by cats, and lives in the celestial realm of Folkvang. Our day Friday is named after Freya, the Northern European aspect of the southern Venus.
The Valkyries also share the folkloric motif of the swan maidens, young girls who are able to take on the form of a swan. If you could capture and hold a swan maiden, or seize her feathered cloak, you could make her grant your wish. Swan-maidens are found in folk stories all across Europe. In a typical tale, a man spies upon a group of women bathing in a lake. He is discovered, the women rise from the water, wrapping themselves in feather cloaks, change into swans and fly away. The man grabs one cloak, a swan maiden is trapped. He marries her and she bears him sons, but finally she finds her hidden cloak, immediately puts it on and leaves, without a backward glance.
Valkyries, as messengers of Odin Allfather, ride forth on their errands with their shining armour glistening and sparkling in the night sky. You can see this eerie flickering light today in the Aurora Borealis. Next time you look up at the Northern Lights give a greeting to the Battle Maidens. Raise your glass as they gallop past attired in scarlet corselets and gleaming helmets, with shields and spears held aloft. Remember, they are carrying a horn of mead for the slain champion who waits to be welcomed to Valhalla.
The Valkyries will stop their wild rides at Ragnorak, when the world ends.
Skoal! To the Northland! Skoal!