V - Valkyrie Picture

In Norse mythology, a Valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who decide which soldiers die in battle and which live. Selecting among of those who die in battle, the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin. There, the deceased warriors become einherjar. When the einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök, the valkyries bear them mead. Valkyries also appear as lovers of heroes and other mortals, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty, sometimes accompanied by ravens, and sometimes connected to swans or horses.
By this later time, the Valkyries, as demigoddesses of death, had their legend conflated with the folklore motif of the swan maiden (young girls who are able to take on the form of a swan, sometimes as the result of a curse). If one could capture and hold a swan maiden, or her feathered cloak, one could extract a wish from her. This is why valkyries were sometimes known as swan maidens or wish maidens.
A lthough the sources consulted are not clear on this, the chief of the Valkyries seems to have been the goddess Freyja. She is the Norse goddess of love, fertility, and beauty, sometimes identified as the goddess of battle and death. Blond, blue-eyed, and beautiful, Freyja travels on a golden-bristled boar or in a chariot drawn by cats. She resides in the celestial realm of Folkvang. Like Odinn, she received half of those slain in battle, but since ladies go first she was allowed first choice! Freyja possessed a magical cloak of falcon feathers that allowed her to take the shape of a falcon if she wished, making the swan maidens similar to the goddess by having "feather coats" or cloaks that enable their shape-shifting abilities and the power of flight.
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