Old-Germanian Symbol, 33 x 40 mm, two-faced design, Antique brass plated
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie (Old Norse valkyrja "chooser of the slain") is one of a host of female figures who decide who will die in battle. The valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin, where the deceased warriors become einherjar. There, 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.
Valkyries are attested in the Poetic Edda, a book of poems compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and Njáls saga, a Saga of Icelanders also written in the 13th century. They appear throughout the poetry of skalds, in a 14th century charm, and in various runic inscriptions.
The Old English cognate terms wælcyrge and wælcyrie appear in several Old English manuscripts, and scholars have explored whether the terms are derived through Norse influence, or an indigenous tradition from Anglo-Saxon paganism. Scholarly theories have been proposed about the relation between the valkyries, the norns, the dísir, Germanic seeresses, and shieldmaidens. Archaeological excavations throughout Scandinavia have uncovered amulets theorized as depicting valkyries. In modern culture, valkyries have been the subject of works of art, musical works, video games, and poetry.
The word valkyrie derives from Old Norse valkyrja (plural valkyrjur), which is composed of two words; the noun valr (referring to the slain on the battlefield) and the verb kjósa (meaning "to choose"). Together, the compound means "chooser of the slain". The Old Norse valkyrja is cognate to Old English wælcyrge. Other terms for valkyries include óskmey (Old Norse "wish girl"), appearing in the poem Oddrúnargrátr, and Óðins meyjar (Old Norse "Odin's girls"), appearing in the Nafnaþulur. Óskmey may be related to the Odinic name Óski (Old Norse, roughly meaning "wish fulfiller"), referring to the fact that Odin receives slain warriors in Valhalla.