Wyrd Designs – Correcting Common Misperceptions – Freyja & the Valkyrie

I am human, and therefore like so many others I have my personal ticks and pet peeves. Among them are common misperceptions that somehow seem to multiply faster than dirty laundry & dust bunnies, or the spam messages in my inbox.

Somehow, once upon a time someone first said that the Goddess Freyja was a Valkyrie, and since then that concept has been reiterated innumerable times across websites, and a plethora of books. While not trying to be disparaging of those who are not focused in the Northern Tradition, it seems that many of the problematic texts were written for a broader crowd who might mix and match their deities from across various traditions. I can only imagine that this misperception has occurred and been perpetuated so greatly because authors didn’t realize that the research they were using was faulty since they lacked a specialized knowledge as it relates to Freyja and the related deities and culture found within the Northern Tradition.

So allow me to say clearly and once and for all that the Goddess Freyja is NOT a Valkyrie.

So why all the confusion?

Relotixke's Freyja

Relotixke's Freyja

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 two 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 two 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 let that all sink in 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 of the slain according to both Gylfaginning and Skaldskaparmal 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 therefore She is a great Lady of the battle-dead. Odin also has a similar poetic name, Valfadir, and you don’t see folks calling Him a Valkyrie. No where in the source lore does it ever say that Freyja is a Valkyrie.

And now you know, and knowing is half the battle. ^_~

Naryuchan's Freyja

Naryuchan's Freyja

  • Cigfran

    I think the confusion has a lot less to do with any substantive error in linguistic analysis, and a lot more to do with the lazy eliding of “northern traditions” with new-age, goddess-centric neopaganism, that tends to ignore meaningful mythic distinctions in favor of a kind of generalized warrior/goddess mush.

  • Cigfran

    I think the confusion has a lot less to do with any substantive error in linguistic analysis, and a lot more to do with the lazy eliding of “northern traditions” with new-age, goddess-centric neopaganism, that tends to ignore meaningful mythic distinctions in favor of a kind of generalized warrior/goddess mush.

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    since they lacked a specialized knowledge

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a practitioner of any form of Northern Tradition. I have no specialized knowledge of the tradition, the culture, etc.

    But I have known for decades that Freya wasn’t a valkyrie because I read some introductory books on Norse mythology. I’m talking basic high school level stuff here.

    *sigh*

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    since they lacked a specialized knowledge

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a practitioner of any form of Northern Tradition. I have no specialized knowledge of the tradition, the culture, etc.

    But I have known for decades that Freya wasn’t a valkyrie because I read some introductory books on Norse mythology. I’m talking basic high school level stuff here.

    *sigh*

  • Kilmrnock

    i agree alot of pagans , and eclectic wiccans borrow deitties from other traditions , such as norse , celtic druidry, even hindu and american indian w/o doing the research to understand thier true attributes and capabilities . that is why in many cases the magic attemped doesn’t work b/c of being opposed to the dieties basic nature and context . i for one believe a pagan should choose one pantheon stay there and work within it . learn who and what the gods/goddesses involved are b/f working with or worshipping them . in my mind knowing what your actually doing , especially within a pantheon , is a real good idea.the whole idea of all gods and goddesses being aatritbuttes of their god and goddess dosen’t work too well when borrowing from other pantheons where this is not the case . they probably won’t get to desired affect , or will get alot more than they expected . i am a druid , that is one of my biggest gripes against wiccans , thier willingness to borrow a diety from us or another pantheon and giving him /her attributtes that don’t fit .like most other pantheons our gods are individuals with their own characteristics , and purpose or niche .i have seen many a non panteonist pagan use a god incorrectly , for example using the morrigan as a mother goddess. these folks need to show a wee bit of respect and atleast use a god in the correct way/context Kilm

  • Kilmrnock

    i agree alot of pagans , and eclectic wiccans borrow deitties from other traditions , such as norse , celtic druidry, even hindu and american indian w/o doing the research to understand thier true attributes and capabilities . that is why in many cases the magic attemped doesn’t work b/c of being opposed to the dieties basic nature and context . i for one believe a pagan should choose one pantheon stay there and work within it . learn who and what the gods/goddesses involved are b/f working with or worshipping them . in my mind knowing what your actually doing , especially within a pantheon , is a real good idea.the whole idea of all gods and goddesses being aatritbuttes of their god and goddess dosen’t work too well when borrowing from other pantheons where this is not the case . they probably won’t get to desired affect , or will get alot more than they expected . i am a druid , that is one of my biggest gripes against wiccans , thier willingness to borrow a diety from us or another pantheon and giving him /her attributtes that don’t fit .like most other pantheons our gods are individuals with their own characteristics , and purpose or niche .i have seen many a non panteonist pagan use a god incorrectly , for example using the morrigan as a mother goddess. these folks need to show a wee bit of respect and atleast use a god in the correct way/context Kilm

  • http://www.healingbead.com Tulin

    That is awsome and completely out of my knowledge base. Thank you for sharing it.

  • http://www.healingbead.com Tulin

    That is awsome and completely out of my knowledge base. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Melia

    Maybe this will make you feel better…I’ve never heard the she was a valkyrie or every thought that she was…

  • Melia

    Maybe this will make you feel better…I’ve never heard the she was a valkyrie or every thought that she was…

  • Matt Gerlach

    I think part of the confusion is that, when she chooses to go to battle, she receives first choice among the slain, therefore she literally is “the Valkyrie,” the Chooser of the Slain, but that does not make her one of the valkyrie, meaning the order of spirits that are servants of Odin who gather the slain to bring them to valhalla.

    • Matt Gerlach

      And btw, that is one of the most beautiful images of Freya that I’ve ever seen. I’m going to have to find more space on my altar for a framed print-out of it.

      • Wyrd Designs

        I love DeviantArt for that reason, it’s such a great place to find artwork of our Gods and Goddesses!

    • K. C. Hulsman

      In so far as the evidence permits us to understand the exact nature of the Valkyries is unclear. We’re not sure if they are Goddesses, demi-goddesses, or select humans. In fact, with the exception of possibly two of the many Valkyries listed in the lore, they don’t appear to be Goddesses at all, (which is another nail in the coffin of the misperception).

      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, which certainly isn’t correct.

      And while Freyja may have a ‘choice’ she only culls from the choice herd of warriors the Valkyries have already reaped. The Valkyries are always tied to Odin in the stories, they serve in His hall. We see no mention of them ever serving in Freyja’s hall.

    • Luarkross

      Matt Guerlach is correct. The original source of this important description is the great “Poetic Edda”. It was found written on old sheepskin by people who were so hungry they almost ate it! But the realized how important the sheepskin was and they sacrificed their hunger to give us, the children of these gods, these great and numinous stories now contained in The Poetic Edda. A good translation from Old Norse has been done by one of our dearest Troth Elders James Chisholm; it is available on the web.

  • Matt Gerlach

    I think part of the confusion is that, when she chooses to go to battle, she receives first choice among the slain, therefore she literally is “the Valkyrie,” the Chooser of the Slain, but that does not make her one of the valkyrie, meaning the order of spirits that are servants of Odin who gather the slain to bring them to valhalla.

    • Matt Gerlach

      And btw, that is one of the most beautiful images of Freya that I’ve ever seen. I’m going to have to find more space on my altar for a framed print-out of it.

      • Wyrd Designs

        I love DeviantArt for that reason, it’s such a great place to find artwork of our Gods and Goddesses!

    • K. C. Hulsman

      In so far as the evidence permits us to understand the exact nature of the Valkyries is unclear. We’re not sure if they are Goddesses, demi-goddesses, or select humans. In fact, with the exception of possibly two of the many Valkyries listed in the lore, they don’t appear to be Goddesses at all, (which is another nail in the coffin of the misperception).

      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, which certainly isn’t correct.

      And while Freyja may have a ‘choice’ she only culls from the choice herd of warriors the Valkyries have already reaped. The Valkyries are always tied to Odin in the stories, they serve in His hall. We see no mention of them ever serving in Freyja’s hall.

    • Luarkross

      Matt Guerlach is correct. The original source of this important description is the great “Poetic Edda”. It was found written on old sheepskin by people who were so hungry they almost ate it! But the realized how important the sheepskin was and they sacrificed their hunger to give us, the children of these gods, these great and numinous stories now contained in The Poetic Edda. A good translation from Old Norse has been done by one of our dearest Troth Elders James Chisholm; it is available on the web.

  • Anonymous

    I… have to admit to being baffled that ANYONE would think Freyja was a Valkyrie, though I realise this is just because I was a voracious reader as a child. When I was very young, about eight or nine, I had this big book of myths and fairy tales – including a rather large collection of Norse myths (made as child-friendly as possible, of course). For whatever reason, the Norse myths were my very favourite, and I read them over and over again. I don’t remember the specific stories, but I do remember impressions I got, and I know that I learned about Odin’s Valkyries, and I learned about Freyja, and I was never given the impression that Freyja was connected to them. Rode with them, yes. Part of them, no.

    But for those making the mistake, I can see where the confusion might come from, and this is definitely a useful post to be able to point people to. :)

  • AzerothApple

    I… have to admit to being baffled that ANYONE would think Freyja was a Valkyrie, though I realise this is just because I was a voracious reader as a child. When I was very young, about eight or nine, I had this big book of myths and fairy tales – including a rather large collection of Norse myths (made as child-friendly as possible, of course). For whatever reason, the Norse myths were my very favourite, and I read them over and over again. I don’t remember the specific stories, but I do remember impressions I got, and I know that I learned about Odin’s Valkyries, and I learned about Freyja, and I was never given the impression that Freyja was connected to them. Rode with them, yes. Part of them, no.

    But for those making the mistake, I can see where the confusion might come from, and this is definitely a useful post to be able to point people to. :)

  • Luarkross

    For me Freya is the greatest of goddesses. She is associated with sex magick, abundance and the seeking of that which inspires wonder. It is said she seeks Ode, and the tears she shed that fell into the sea turned to amber and those that fell onto the land turned to gold. She wears and uses a magical necklace, the Brisingamen. She wears it around her neck or her hips, depending on her purposes/intentions. In my understanding, Freya does as she pleases without conventional restraints. She is treasured by all the Northern gods, especially Odhinn and Thor.

    One valkrie is Kara, who is told of in the Lost Lay of Helgi. She protected Helgi in battle, hovering above him as he fought. But when he accidentally cut off her leg with his sword, he was killed. Dianne Luark Ross, an Elder in The Troth and one of the first editors of Idunna, a journal of Northern Tradition

  • Luarkross

    For me Freya is the greatest of goddesses. She is associated with sex magick, abundance and the seeking of that which inspires wonder. It is said she seeks Ode, and the tears she shed that fell into the sea turned to amber and those that fell onto the land turned to gold. She wears and uses a magical necklace, the Brisingamen. She wears it around her neck or her hips, depending on her purposes/intentions. In my understanding, Freya does as she pleases without conventional restraints. She is treasured by all the Northern gods, especially Odhinn and Thor.

    One valkrie is Kara, who is told of in the Lost Lay of Helgi. She protected Helgi in battle, hovering above him as he fought. But when he accidentally cut off her leg with his sword, he was killed. Dianne Luark Ross, an Elder in The Troth and one of the first editors of Idunna, a journal of Northern Tradition

  • Luarkross

    Freya rode a boar with bristles that shined and glittered like gold. To me she certainly does not have fairy wings. She is a strong goddess who holds her own well. There is no mention in the myths and lore of her liking diamonds. Read Hilda Ellis Davidson.

  • Luarkross

    Freya rode a boar with bristles that shined and glittered like gold. To me she certainly does not have fairy wings. She is a strong goddess who holds her own well. There is no mention in the myths and lore of her liking diamonds. Read Hilda Ellis Davidson.

  • Brynhild Tudor

    And something tells me Brynhild is *not* the same as Sigrdriffa. Somehow they got mixed up and the latter was involved with Sigurd but the former got confused with her for some reason. It’s just a feeling I have. Can’t explain.

  • Brynhild Tudor

    And something tells me Brynhild is *not* the same as Sigrdriffa. Somehow they got mixed up and the latter was involved with Sigurd but the former got confused with her for some reason. It’s just a feeling I have. Can’t explain.

  • Brynhild Tudor

    What interpretation is most accurate when it comes to the Valkyries: Are they the grotesque corpse maidens the ancient lore says, or are they the blonde, blue-eyed, fair pretty young girls as modern interpretations say?

  • Brynhild Tudor

    What interpretation is most accurate when it comes to the Valkyries: Are they the grotesque corpse maidens the ancient lore says, or are they the blonde, blue-eyed, fair pretty young girls as modern interpretations say?

    • Kara_incarnate

      They were fair madens, some had blond hair, others red or brown, but all had long hair. The reason for the ancient interpretations is because men feared valkyrie, they were depicted as such for the same reasons as death, in todays world, is depicted as the grim reaper . If one saw one durring battle it ment you would likely die.

  • Brynhild Tudor

    I’m trying to figure out where my name came from, because I’m drawn to Druidry and a Welsh pantheon, yet my name, according to every source I’ve checked, is Nordic and I’ve not the slightest interest in Norse mythology and there are no NT Pagans in my area.

  • Brynhild Tudor

    I’m trying to figure out where my name came from, because I’m drawn to Druidry and a Welsh pantheon, yet my name, according to every source I’ve checked, is Nordic and I’ve not the slightest interest in Norse mythology and there are no NT Pagans in my area.

  • Relotixke

    I would have appreciated a note letting me know that you were using my artwork here.  Or at least a link back to my deviantart gallery.

    • Relotixke

      Oh.  Image link (face red) sorry.

  • Relotixke

    I would have appreciated a note letting me know that you were using my artwork here.  Or at least a link back to my deviantart gallery.

    • Relotixke

      Oh.  Image link (face red) sorry.


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