The Wheel of the Year is constantly turning and as Summer reluctantly making way for Autumn, a rather poignant day is fast approaching for those of us who reside in Australia and New Zealand - that of ANZAC Day which occurs on 25 April every year. I wrote about the history surrounding this day last year on my other blog. Instead, I thought I would write about the Valkyries, the Norse deities who would roam the battle fields deciding which soul will die and which would live.
The name valkyrie is derived from the Old Norse word "valkyrja" meaning "chooser of the slain", who were also known as "battle maidens" or "shield maidens". Whilst minor Deities within the Norse pantheon, their role was considered to be very important. Aside from deciding who would die and who would survive the battle, the Valkyries also decided which were the braver of the souls, who would then be brought into Valhalla, the Hall of the Afterlife that was resided over by Odin, to became einherjar ("lone fighters"). Odin needed warriors to fight at his side at the preordained battle at the end of the world, Ragnarök.
As "swan maidens", they were said to have worn garments made of swan feathers that allowed them to fly, carrying off the slain warriors to the hall called Valhalla where, as "mead maidens", the Valkyries would "serve drink and look after the tableware and drinking vessels".
Brynhild was the most famous of all the Valkyries and within the Volsunga Saga, Odin punished her for assigning the wrong king to die in battle by condemning her to marry a mortal. Brynhild vowed that she would only marry the bravest of warriors, so she slept in the "Ring of Fire" until the bravest hero could ride through the flame. Sigurd had rode through the flame twice. The second time, she was duped into marrying Gunnar, the brother of Gudrun, while her hero married Gudrun. In the end, she caused Sigurd's death. Brynhild overcome with grief, died in Sigurd's funeral pyre.