Reblogging: Freya is NOT Queen of the Valkyries

I just had to turn down a submission to the Freya card contest because it referenced Her quite strongly as ‘Queen of the Valkyries.’ I really really felt bad about having to refuse but I felt that to accept would have been wrong on my part and it got me to thinking again about how prevalent this idea is — i’m not sure where it started, but I know that authors like D.J. Conway have not helped matters any at all. Freya is mighty and powerful and fierce and magical and She does receive half the battle slain, but She’s not Queen of the Valkyries. She has Her own attributes and powers so I decided to repost this piece that I wrote earlier this year, because Freya is awesome and I’m saddened that this incorrect idea keeps circulating. It does Her a disservice (and I know those who honor Her would not want that). Here’s the original piece: 

I have seen this error floating around the Internet and repeated by otherwise thoughtful people for over fifteen years. Personally, I blame D.J. Conway and assorted “Goddess” oriented Pagans (yay. Let’s roll all our Goddesses into one SUUU-PER Goddess and call it a day. * sarcasm *) determined to leave a doggedly feminist imprint on contemporary Heathen practice regardless of what the lore and our theology actually says. It seems incomprehensible to some folks that the Valkyries, powerful warrior beings, who are choosers of the slain, are under the aegis of Odin, not Freya, and, in fact, not any Goddess.(1)

The Valkyries belong to Odin, so much so that I’ve even seen some scholars claim they were His hypostases. They are, at the very least, extensions of His will. (We see this, for instance in the story of Brynhild, who violates His will and is punished for it). (2) Certainly one of their other, lesser known names is ‘Odin’s maids.” (3) The Valkyries are, in some ways, like the Greek Keres. They hunt the field of battle and enact fate: they choose the slain who are then destined either for Valhalla, or for Folkvangr. Here we see the only connection that Freya has with the Valkyrie: She cut a deal with Odin to receive first pick of the battlefield dead. This does not make Her a Valkyrie, neither does it make Her Queen of the Valkyries.

Part of the problem may simply be linguistic confusion. Wyrd Dottir, in her article about Freya and the Valkyries notes:

“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:

Eidandi Valfalls (in the Skaldskaparmal) which means ‘Possessor of the Slain’

Valfreyja (in Njal’s Saga) which means ‘Mistress of the Chosen’”(4)

We already know that Freya possesses half the slain warriors, thanks to Her deal with Odin, and of those warriors She is their Mistress – they reside in Her hall Folkvangr and as such owe Her fealty. Apparently from there, it is a hop, skip, and a jump in faulty logic to handing over possession of the Valkyries too.

R. Ellis Davidson notes that from their earliest history, Germanic peoples “believed in fierce female spirits doing the command of the war god, stirring up disorder, taking part in battle, seizing and perhaps devouring the slain.”(5) That war God is Odin. He is a god of many things, powerfully among them battle and death.

As Mardoll M. put it in a recent conversation, “To have the Waelcyrge(6) select battle corpses for His Hall ( the Einherjar) is part of the All Father’s magic, ecstasy, and His war God aspects. It’s His Wod and His Wod is tied to death.”(7)

I think this is a perfect example of the need to guard against putting politics before the Gods, the tradition, and the community. It is certainly in part due to unquestioning feminist scholarship, and unlearned feminist adaptation of the surviving lore that we have seen this particular fallacy gain such traction and it actually is incredibly disrespectful to Freya. Freya is powerful. She is a Goddess with Her own areas of sovereignty, including war, but it diminishes Her to spread these untruths. It says She isn’t powerful enough.

Notes:

  1. Though we do see the Goddess Eir listed amongst the Valkyries. Modern UPG, interestingly enough, connects Her with battlefield/combat medicine. The Norn Skuld, Who cuts the threads of one’s life, is likewise listed amongst the Valkyries. They are listed among them, not ever given sovereignty over them, which I find significant. What this says about Odin and His connection to fate I’ll leave for another post.
    2. Later Norse lore humanizes the Valkyries to a great degree moving them from occasionally being directed to guide mortal heroes to actually marrying mortal heroes. I personally suspect that later Christian writers conflated actual female warriors with Valkyrie much as we see actual female warriors being conflated with amazons by Greek and Roman writers. Likewise some scholars (like Rudolf Simek) associate them with the Disir, Idisi, or Matronae, powerful female ancestors, possibly warrior goddesses, or guardian spirits of the dead (one’s ancestral lineage?). It seems that quite a few different types of beings came to be conflated here, especially in later Anglo-Saxon writing. The Valkyries do bear some connection to the Nornir, but they are clearly not the Nornir who lay the laws of wyrd and direct fate (with the possible exception of Skuld). The Nornir determined fate, the Valkyries executed a very specific type of fate associated with death in battle, and in this function, they specifically obeyed and acted upon Odin’s will.
    3. Óðins meyjar, found in the Skáldskaparmál. They are also referred to as “Odin’s Disir” in the Guðrúnarkviða.
    4. See the full article here.
    5. See Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, 61-62.
    6. This is the Anglo-Saxon word for Valkyrie.
    7. Quoted with permission from a facebook conversation on May 2, 2016.
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About ganglerisgrove

Free-range tribalist Heathen, Galina Krasskova, has been a priest of Odin and Loki since the early nineties. Originally ordained in the Fellowship of Isis in 1995, Ms. Krasskova also attended the oldest interfaith seminary in the U.S.- the New Seminary where she was ordained in 2000 and where she later worked as Dean of Second Year Students for the Academic year of 2011-2012. She has even given the opening prayer at the United Nations Conference “Women and Indigeny”. Beyond this, she took vows as a Heathen gythia in 1996 and again in 2004, She is the head of Comitatus pilae cruentae and a member of the Starry Bull tradition. She has been a member of numerous groups through the years including the American Academy of Religion. She has also served previously as a state government contracted expert on the Asatru faith, and been a regular contributor to various print and online publications geared towards modern pagans and polytheists, and for a time had her own radio program: Wyrd Ways Radio Live. Ms. Krasskova holds diplomas from The New Seminary (2000), a B.A. in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Religious Studies from Empire State College (2007), and an M.A. in Religious Studies from New York University (2009). She has completed extensive graduate coursework in Classics (2010-2016) and is pursuing a Masters in Medieval Studies at Fordham University (expected graduation 2019) with the intention of eventually doing a PhD in theology. She has also been teaching University classes in Greek and Latin. As part of her academic career Ms. Krasskova has written a number of academic articles, and also presented at various academic conferences including Harvard University, Claremont University, Fordham University, Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, Villanova University, and the City University of New York. An experienced diviner and ordeal master, her primary interest is in devotional work and the reconstruction of Northern Tradition shamanism. Her very first book, The Whisperings of Woden was the landmark first devotional text to be written in modern Heathenry. Ms. Krasskova has a variety of published books available running the gamut from introductory texts on the Northern Tradition, as well as books on shamanism, runes, prayer, and devotional practices. She is also the managing editor of “Walking the Worlds,” a peer-reviewed academic style journal focusing on contemporary polytheism and spirit work and the first journal of polytheology. While very busy with teaching and school, she does also occasionally lecture around the country on topics of interest to contemporary Heathenry and polytheisms. A passionate supporter of the arts Ms. Krasskova enjoys going to the opera, theater, and ballet. Her affection for the arts began early as she discovered dance, which she pursued professionally becoming a ballet dancer: first with a regional company in Maryland, then in New York City. After suffering career ending injuries, she would find new forms of expression in the visual arts. For a few years Ms. Krasskova co-owned an art gallery in the Hudson River Valley of New York, and over a course of numerous years she has studied a multitude of art mediums: glassblowing, watercolor, acrylic, photography and more! She is now an avid collage artist, acrylic painter and watercolorist and has even enjoyed placement in international artist-in-residencies programs in New York, New Mexico, and Poland. Her work has been exhibited globally from New York to Paris. She has taken her passion for the arts and polytheistic devotion, to create the Prayer Card Project. Since so much religious iconography has been destroyed, or defaced in the course of human history, she is actively making new religious prayers and iconography available to the various modern polytheistic communities to support those who are building their religious communities, building their devotional practices, and hungering for art that represents their religious faith. All while also supporting the artists within these burgeoning communities.

Posted on August 19, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. In this, They’re even more similar to the Greek situation with Ker and the Keres as opposed to the Moirai (or even Ananke)–everyone has a fate according to the Moirai, but not everyone has a ker unless they die violently and/or in battle.

    This post actually comes at a rather opportune moment, for reasons I’ll share another time, perhaps…!?! 😉

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  2. I have noticed the Goddess ideology in a lot of Pagan places. I do believe that you are correct – it may have to do with politics and the like. And the Christian refugees who want more of a Divine Goddess to counteract the very Male God.

    It is hard to glean through all these sources to the actual sense of whatever Goddess you are trying to learn about.

    Then again, the study of history itself has the same problem with politics and lack of credible sources. Consider David Barton and his efforts to Christianise U.S. history. I discovered a similar activity concerning Anne Bolyen of Tudor England – rather than examine a complex woman who lived 500 years ago, she has been claimed as a feminist martyr of the patriarchy.

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  3. Australia should get the dingo of duty LOL

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