Correcting Common Misconceptions – Freyja & the Valkyrie

I am human, and therefore like so many others I have my personal ticks and pet peeves. Among them are common misconceptions 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 misconception 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?

freyja_by_relotixke-d36zcid
Freyja by Relotixke

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. ^_~

 

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