Other feminine beings who exercised control over the fates of men
and were closely related to the Norns, were the Valkyries. Victory lay in
their government, and mortality in battle; Odin sent them forth to “choose
the slain” or the heroes who were doomed to fall. They were therefore also
called the Maidens of Odin. They were beautiful young girls; armed and
fully panoplied, they rode through the air and over the waters, to the ends
of the world. At home in Valhalla they served as cupbearers to the Æsir
and Heroes in the halls of Odin. There were two classes of Valkyries: an
original order, the celestial Valkyries; and another order, half mortal and
half divine, who lived for a time among men as mortals but who later came
to Odin in Valhalla, evidently a sort of feminine counterpart to the Heroes.
The number of the celestial Valkyries is variously computed, as nine or as
nine times nine; they were frequently imagined as riding about in three
groups. Those most commonly mentioned were Gondul, Skogul (also
called Geir-Skogul, or Spear-Skogul), Lokk, Rist, Mist, Hild, and others.
Skuld was also counted among the Valkyries. Besides these, there were other
Valkyries who created dissension among the Heroes and who were employed
only in the most menial tasks.
Valkyries, Norns, Familiar Spirits, Attendant Spirits, and occasionally
even certain of the goddesses, notably Freyja, were known by the general
designation of Disir. Dís (plural dísir) was no doubt originally a term used to
denote a distinct group of gods. Worship of them consisted of a special
kind of sacrifice (dísablót), doubtless a more intimate cult, participated in
only by women; the Disir were supposed to have particular concern for the
good of the home and the family, and in so far were not noticeably different
from the Attendant Spirits of a family (kynfylgjur, spádísir), which have been
discussed above. From their number, however, proceeded a goddess who
was to become the centre of a more general cult; and it must have been
this goddess — perhaps Vanadís, Freyja — who was worshipped in
Disarsal near Uppsala. In connection with the annual sacrifice to the Disir
at Uppsala were held also a court assembly (dísaþing) and a market; until
very recent times the market-fair of Uppsala at Candlemass, early in
February, was commonly called “Distingen,” that is, the Disir court.
Peter Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1926, pp. 32-33.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson. Norræna Society, London-New York. 1906.
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