Skip to main content



VALKYRIES , supernatural female figures of Norse myth and literature, share many features with the dísir, fylgjur, hamingjur, Norns, and landvættir in the extant texts, and there is little terminological consistency. A primary function of the valkyries is indicated by the etymology of the word valkyrja, a compound of valr (carrion) and a nomen agentis based on the verb kyrja (to choose). Regarded as the maidens of Óðinn, the valkyries chose who was to die in battle and brought the chosen ones to him in Valhǫll, where they joined the einherjar, Óðinn's warriors. Valkyries rode through the air, bore weapons, and could be fierce in appearance, although they may have been shape-changers. Their personal names ordinarily make reference to battle. In Valhǫll, valkyries served mead to the einherjar, a scene perhaps portrayed on the Ardre VIII picture stone (Gotland, Sweden; eighth century) and elsewhere. Sometimes, however, valkyries protected heroes in battle, a characteristic shared with the fylgjur. The valkyrie Sigrdrífa of the Eddic poem Sigrdrífumál may be associated with healing, which suggests the matronae of early Germanic religion. Like the Norns, valkyries weave fate in the poem Darraarljóð. There is also confusion with human or semidivine heroines, and in one heroic cycle a valkyrie is twice reborn in different identities.

Given the existence of the matronae in ancient Germanic times, the general prominence of male gods and the relative importance of the Æsir over the Vanir in Norse mythology, it seems apparent that female figures were of greater importance in Germanic religion than Norse mythology would indicate. Scholars have regarded the valkyries as derived from earlier goddesses of death or perhaps a fertility cult, but their association with Óðinn may be ancient and primary. If so, believers may once have attributed to valkyries shape-changing powers and the ecstatic "sending" of their spirits.

See Also

Eddas; Óðinn.


Nils Lid discusses the various female figures of Scandinavian religion in the section "Valkyrjer og diser" of his "Gudar og gudedyrking," in Religionshistoria, edited by Nils Lid (Oslo, 1954). Folke Ström's Diser, norner, valkyrjor (Stockholm, 1954) treats three of these groups and argues for association with a fertility cult and sacral kingship. Useful studies of the literary valkyrie are those of Lise Præstgaard Andersen, Skjøldmøeren kvindemyte (Copenhagen, 1982) and Helen Damico, Beowulf's Wealhtheow and the Valkyrie Tradition (Madison, Wis., 1984).

John Lindow (1987 and 2005)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Valkyries." Encyclopedia of Religion. . 19 Aug. 2018 <>.

"Valkyries." Encyclopedia of Religion. . (August 19, 2018).

"Valkyries." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved August 19, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.