The Old English terms wælcyrge and wælcyrie occur in several Old English manuscripts. Scholars are undecided whether the term has been taken as a loan word from Old Norse, or whether it represents a similar tradition among Anglo-Saxon Pagan beliefs.
The Valkyries were believed to escort those who were slain in battle to Valhalla, the war-god Odin’s great mead hall. In Valhalla the deceased warriors become einherjar (Old Norse “single (or once) fighters”). By day they fight, preparing for the great battle at Ragnarök, and in the evening the feast and the Valkyries bring them mead. Representations of a female figure welcoming a slain warrior riding on Odin’s horse, Slepnir, occur on the Picture stone from Tjängvide, Alskog Parish, Gotland (see above). A similar scene on a stone from Broa may also represent the arrival of a slain warrior in Valhalla.
Next Page: The Names of the Valkyries
1. Darraðarljóð: Darraðarljóð is a skaldic poem in Old Norse found in chapter 157 of Njáls saga. The song consists of 11 stanzas, and within it twelve valkyries weave and choose who is to be slain at the Battle of Clontarf (fought outside Dublin in 1014). Of the twelve valkyries weaving, six of their names are given: Hildr, Hjörþrimul, Sanngriðr, Svipul, Guðr, and Göndul. ↩
2. Grímnismál: Grímnismál (Old Norse: ‘The Lay of Grímnir’) is one of the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda. It is preserved in the Codex Regius manuscript and the AM 748 I 4to fragment. It is spoken through the voice of Grímnir, one of the many guises of the god Odin. The very name suggests guise, or mask or hood. Through an error, King Geirröth tortured Odin-as-Grímnir, a fatal mistake, since Odin caused him to fall upon his own sword. The poem is written mostly in the ljóðaháttr metre. ↩
3. Gylfaginning: Gylfaginning (Old Norse: ‘The Beguiling of Gylfi’ or ‘The Deluding of Gylfi’ is the first part of Snorri Sturluson’s 13th century Prose Edda after the Prologue. ↩
4. Hákonarmál: Hákonarmál (Old Norse: ‘The Song of Hákon’) is a skaldic poem which the skald Eyvindr skáldaspillir composed about the fall of the Norwegian king Hákon the Good at the battle of Fitjar and his reception in Valhalla. This poem emulates Eiríksmál and is intended to depict the Christian Hákon as a friend to the pagan gods. The poem is preserved in its entirety and is widely considered to be of great beauty. ↩
5. Helgakviða Hundingsbana I: “Völsungakviða” or “Helgakviða Hundingsbana I” (“The First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane”) is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda. It constitutes one of the Helgi lays, together with Helgakviða Hundingsbana II and Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar. ↩
6. Helgakviða Hundingsbana II: “Völsungakviða in forna” or “Helgakviða Hundingsbana II” (“The Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane”) is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda. It constitutes one of the Helgi lays together with Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar. ↩
7. Nafnaþulur: Sigrdrífumál (also known as Brynhildarljóð) is the conventional title given to a section of the Poetic Edda text in Codex Regius. ↩
8. Sigrdrífumál: Sigrdrífumál (also known as Brynhildarljóð) is the conventional title given to a section of the Poetic Edda text in Codex Regius. ↩
9. Skáldskaparmál: Skáldskaparmál (Old Norse: ‘The Language of Poetry’;) is the second part of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda. ↩
10. Völundarkviða: Volundarkviða (Old Norse: ‘The lay of Völund’) is one of the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda. ↩
11. Völuspá: Voluspá (also Völuspá, Volospá or Voluspo´; Old Norse: ‘Prophecy of the Seeress’) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end, related to the audience by a völva addressing Odin. ↩