Freja

POPULAR MYTH-CONCEPTIONS:

Freyja as Leader of the Valkyries?

This is not something found in the sources. The earliest reference to the idea that Freyja was the leader of the Valkyries is in Walhall: Germanische Götter- und Heldensagen by Felix and ‎Therese Dahn, 1885, which reads:

"However, in Walhall's golden halls, they exchange the warlike for peaceful action; they fill the white-armed, feasting and drinking gods' horns with foaming mead and ale they keep drinking utensils and crockery. In both roles, their leader is Freya, as such called Val-Freyja, so that they only appear as cupbearers to all of the gods and hand the drinking horn to those entering Odins hall."

The idea is not from Richard Wagner's Opera cycle (1876 ff.). There Freyja replaces Idun, as the keeper of the gods golden apples. Like Idun she is stolen by giants.

Indeed Freyja does serve mead in Valhal, like the Valkyries do, according to Snorri Sturluson in Skaldskaparmal 24:

"When Hrungnir arrived at the hall door, the Aesir invited him to drink with them. He entered the hall and requested a drink. They then took the bowls that Thor was accustomed to drink from, and Hrungnir emptied them all. When he became drunk, he gave the freest vent to his loud boastings. When Freyja went forward to refill the bowls for him, he boasted that he was going to drink up all the ale of the Aesir.  He said he was going to take Valhal and move it to Jotunheim, demolish Asgard and kill all the gods except Freyja and Sif, whom he was going to take home with him."

In Gylfaginning 24, Snorri expands upon his ultimate source, Grimnismal 14:

"Freyja is the most renowned of the goddesses; she has in heaven the dwelling called Fólkvangr,[1] and wheresoever she rides to the strife, she has one-half of the kill, and Odin half, as is here said:

Fólkvangr 't is called, | where Freyja rules Degrees of seats in the hall; Half the kill | she keepeth each day, And half Odin hath.

Her hall Sessrúmnir is great and fair. When she goes forth, she drives her cats and sits in a chariot; she is most conformable to man's prayers, and from her name comes the name of honor, Frú, by which noblewomen are called. Songs of love are well-pleasing to her; it is good to call on her for furtherance in love."

No where do the sources say Freyja is the Leader of the Valkyries. Instead we find Skuld, the youngest Norn in that role.

Voluspa:

20. Thence come maidens, much knowing, three from the sea, which under tree stands; Urd hight one, the second Verdandi, - on a tablet they graved - Skuld the third. they laid down laws, they allotted life human born; örlog (destiny) pronounced.

30. She saw Valkyriur coming from afar , ready to ride to the gods’ people: Skuld held a shield, and Skögul another. Gunn, Hild, Göndul, and Geirskögul. Now are tallied Herian´s maidens, ready to ride over the earth the Valkyriur.

-William P Reaves

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