“THE RIDE OF THE VALKYRIE” BY CESARE VIAZZI, 1906
Valkyries, Goddesses of Life, Death, Battle, and Magic, serve as psychopomps, divine escorts guiding souls to the next realm. The original Valkyries were daughters of Odin and Herta, but their ranks swelled to also include deified priestesses of Odin. Their leader is Freya, operating under her nom de guerre, Valfreya. Individual Valkyries like Brunhilde, Hilda, and Sigrun achieved renown and are sometimes venerated independently. They are also venerated alongside Freya, Herta, and/or Odin.
The name Valkyrie may derive from Valr or “fallen in battle” and Kyria, “she who chooses.” They are not exclusively battlefield goddesses: they also serve as escorts for those dying elsewhere, but they are now most famous for their role on the fields of war. Valkyries travel to battlefields where they determine a battle’s course: who wins, who loses, who lives, and who dies. According to Norse cosmology, souls of half the dead warriors journey to Freya’s hall while the other half go to Valhalla, Odin’s hall. The Valkyries select the warriors going to Valhalla and serve as their escort.
Souls arriving at Valhalla are greeted by Valkyries bearing drinking horns filled with Odin’s best mead. In Valhalla, Valkyries supervise hospitality services, keeping an eye on distribution of drinking vessels and tableware, serving as Odin’s hostesses.
The Norns are sometimes classified among the Valkyries: they may perform double duty. Like the Norns, the Valkyries are weaving goddesses, although their materials are unique:
• Arrows serve as shuttles for the Valkyries’ looms.
• Severed human heads serve as weights.
• Entrails form their warp; their weft is consistently crimson.
Valkyries are bird goddesses. They manifest as birds and communicate as birds. Their origins may lie in ancient swan goddesses. They serve a similar function as those other bird goddesses, Sirens and Vila and possibly Dakinis.
Valkyries are also erotic, shamanic goddesses (and many may be deified shamans). They enter into sacred marriages with shamans, warriors, and heroes (not necessarily mutually exclusive). Valkyries guide, protect, and sponsor their human lovers, sometimes battling with other spirits on their behalf. It’s crucial to recall that Valkyries are not only involved in decisions regarding which soldiers die in battle: they also help determine which soldiers survive. The Valkyries teach shamanic skills, martial arts, battle spells, and rune lore. They teach and sponsor women and men.
• The Valkyrie (Die Walküre) is the second of the cycle of four operas comprising Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungs and features the famous musical theme “The Ride of the Valkyries.” • Valkyrie, the Marvel Comics superheroine, is an incarnation of Brunhilde.
Valkyries are psychic, spiritual, and magical warriors as well as martial artists. They may be invoked to battle on your behalf in many contexts not only actual, literal war.
Valkyries manifest as shield maidens, sometimes beautiful, sometimes not. They also manifest as ravens and swans.
Horn (as for drinking)
Despite romantic nineteenth-century illustrations of Valkyries riding horses, Valkyries ride wolves. In fact, Valkyrie horse is a traditional Norse kenning (poetic circumlocution; euphemism; sacred word puzzle) for “wolf.” Modern Valkyries may perhaps show a preference for Honda Valkyrie motorcycles.
Bees, swans, horses, wolves, crows, ravens
The Valkyries are associated with the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.