In Old Norse they were called Valkyrjor (sing. Valkyrja) which meant "choosers of the slain." They were described as beautiful maidens wearing breastplates, and helmets, carrying shields and spears, and riding fiery chargers over the battlefields of men. They were invisible except to those fated to die, and fought undetected on the battlefield, slaying those chosen for death and protecting certain mortal heroes. The Valkyries were able to take the forms of swans, and also of wolves and ravens, both animals sacred to Odin. They could become wives and mistresses of mortal heroes, often fighting beside them and protecting them in battle. They were mistresses of magic, and knew the secrets of Odin's runes. They appeared in groups of nine, and often played a part in Norse legends and sagas, such as the story of Seigfried.
They were also call the Oskmeyjar, the Wish-maidens, because they fulfilled Odin's wishes in battles. Half the warriors chosen by the Valkyries went to Vallholl, where they were called the einherjar, the foster sons of Odin. There they feasted and were served mead and beer by the Valkyries, and spent their days in endless combat, in preparation for Ragnarok, the battle of the Gods, when they would be called to fight for Odin. The other half of the slain belonged to Freya, Odin's wife and commander of the Valkyries.
The Valkyries present a strong and beautiful image - lovely but terrible
maidens, skilled in both battle and magic, flying above the fields of mortal
conflicts to carry out the will of Odin. In their hands lay the fate of
warriors and heroes, and the outcome of every battle. The Norse warriors
both revered and feared the Valkyries, who might be their protectors or
their killers, according to the desires of Odin, the chief of the gods.
This page last updated 3/8/00
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