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loki

Common Misperceptions: Freyja & the Valkyries

So I was recently reading something and felt like screaming. There are certain things that, though incorrect tend to thrive in utter perpetuation, and it just drives me nutty. That is one of the problems some time with our religion, everyone wants to think they're an expert. Even I'll be the first to admit that while I well versed in certain areas, other areas I'd want to do research on first before I comment.

So after reading this... I now want to go on a campaign to smite some sense into the widespread Heathen and even pagan communities and correct some points of misinformation.



The Goddess Freyja is NOT a Valkyrie, she is not Queen of the Valkyries, and we have no firm evidence that substantiates that the Valkyries are even Goddesses.

Ok so let that set in a moment.

So why all the confusion?

In the case of Freyja I think the culprit that has led many astray is that they take Her poetic names that incorporate the "val" from the Old Norse word valr which is of course the origin also for the word valkyrie, and they ASSUME it means Freyja is a valkyrie.

To understand why this isn't the case, first we need a bit of a word/language lesson.

The word valkyrie is composed of 2 Old Norse words. The first valr means 'corpses on the battlefield' and the second kjosa means 'to choose,' thus the word valkyrie means 'those who choose the slain.'

Freyja's 2 Poetic names that also share the root valr are:
  1. Eidandi Valfalls (in the Skaldskaparmal) which means 'Possessor of the Slain'
  2. Valfreyja (in Njal's Saga) which means 'Mistress of the Chosen'


Food for thought: Freyja's name in Old Norse literally means 'woman', or 'mistress.'

So file all that away for a moment.

As most know, the battle-slain go to Valhalla (yep the val in valhalla is also derived from the same valr root), but only half go to Odin's great hall. The other half go to Freyja, and to her great Hall, Sessrumnir (which in Old Norse means 'seat-roomer' or 'room with many seats')--Considering the number of warriors she surely plays host to, the hall would need many seats indeed!

But Her title of Valfreyja isn't pointing to her as a leader of the Valkyries, but rather simple as a great Lady of a Hall, in this case a hall that hosts the battle-slain, and a great Lady of the dead. Odin also has a similar Poetic Name, Valfadir, and you don't see folks calling him the "King" of the Valkyries, or even calling Him a Valkyrie. No where does it ever say that Freyja is a Valkyrie.

So now we move to the Valkyries... in so far as the evidence permits us to understand, their exact nature is unclear. We're not sure if they are Goddesses, demi-goddesses, or select humans.

Some scholars theorize that the Valkyries are an evolutionary offshot of the tradition of the Idis, Disir, Matrons, which appear to have given rise to the Norns, Swan Maidens, and Valkyries. But this is just one of many theories, and is at the day just that: a theory.

While it is true that some sources do list among the Valkyries the names Skuld and Þrúðr, scholars are uncertain if those names mean they're one in the same with the Goddesses of those names. There's numerous places within our lore when the same name is used to refer to different things/people. But more than this, the name Þrúðr, in old Norse means 'power; woman' and was a common part of female names and place names in antiquity. Most names of the Valkyries are very specifically tied and related to elements of war and battle.

They even are called as Odins meyar ('Odin's girls'), and as such they become part & parcel, an extension of Odin, and servants to Him. In this context I find it unlikely a Goddess as powerful as Freyja would also be a Valkyrie. If this was so, then that would be like saying Freyja is one of Odin's servants.

In so far as sources permit analysis the Valkyrie appear to be solely tied to Odin, and specifically denoted as serving Odin.

I can only think of two possible reasons this is so: one that the Valkyrie were always a function of Odin, and that during the peace that caused the Vanir to exchange hostage Gods with the Aesir, that Freyja was given the first choice over her half of the battle slain, but ultimately the Valkyries were still Odin's servants first and foremost.

The second possible reason is due simply to the gender biases of Christian Europe in which these texts were written and preserved, as well as to their writers. Because of these gender biases, only examples where the Valkyries stated as belonging to Odin remain. I could see it as being entirely possible for the Valkyries to equally serve both a God or a Goddess. Especially when we look at stories of the Wild Hunt and see in some areas it's connected with Odin, and other areas the Goddess Frau Holle. Both deities are examples of deities worshipped for a wide range of things from the well-being of the community, to associations with death.

P.S. Oh and let us not forget to blame Wagner's Ring Cycle, where he took these traditions, threw them in a blender, and once blended wrote drunk from the mess. Unfortunately, many people are more familiar with THAT mess than the true lore and stories.

Comments

I've never heard the one about Freya being subservient to Odhinn, just ouch.
"Freya being subservient to Odhinn" That is so funny. I can't remember what saga it is in but there the Gods are are afraid of Freya when she is mad.

Another thing people forget is that Freya gets FIRST choice of the dead. Odin the second. Who do you think has the better warriors. ;P

I'm always surprised at what things people come up with. It's all in the Sagas and other historical works. One just has to read.

On a person note- for a long time I worked with Freya. She is afraid of no man or God.

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