Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Valkyries of True North

Valkyrie - M. Snyder

Surviving ice ages required knowledge of approximate astronomy, largely based on the location of north. At one time true north was not Polaris, but Deneb in Cygnus, the swan constellation in the Milky Way. This constellation is at the root of many bird mythologies, carried through time with oral tradition, and children’s stories and rhyme like Mother Goose. The importance of this knowledge was also preserved in images; feathered cloaks, bird goddesses, and fairies’ wings are a few symbolic remnants, shared by Valkyries, harpies, and angels.

During the Paleolithic Era, 12,500 BC, the Magdalenian culture began to symbolize the human condition. Stories about storks bringing babies, swans nurturing and comforting them and taking their young souls to heaven if they died, represented the importance of these winged animals in the life-sustaining cycles of the time. These stories connected birds with true North – with Cygnus the Swan, where heaven was located. Eider Ducks did comfort babies with warm down, and geese both comforted and protected young ones - with feathers, by providing food, and by eating poisonous snakes. By 9000 BC “mother” swans appear, anthropomorphic creatures created to symbolize the nurturing and protecting of little ones by nature and mothers together. Over time the mother-swans became swan-mothers, women with beautiful wings; these zoomorphic creatures became goddess-like in their cultural role. By 5000 BC, swan-mothers also comforted, protected, and escorted not just the souls of dead children, but also those of brave dead  young men to heaven. 

Several thousand years later, during the Hun wars of 450 AD,  these swan-ladies became Valkyries, beautiful war-like loyal women at the battlefield, fighting alongside the men, taking the souls of dead soldiers to heaven. Valkyries are associated with the bright rays of the sun - the Fire of the Valkyries. This ties them to the Sun-Child of 12,500 BC. Golden-haired women, with dazzling white arms and armor; they accompanied the brave fighters on the battlefield, riding swift horses or wolves during conflicts and wars. During more peaceful times Valkyries became family-oriented beings who married, had babies, and nurtured the good. 

"Valkyries" - W. T. Maud
These golden-haired women of the battle became legendary warriors with swords and spears, and could decide the course of a battle, escorting dead soldiers to Valhalla over the rainbow Bitfrost, where the heroes received mead (ambrosia) and were dressed in shining robes associated with clouds. Over time the Valkyries became the ones to decide who was slain. They were known as Odin’s Warriors of Asgard (at lake Azov, north of the Black Sea), and are often compared with the more recent Amazon women, although by reputation Valkyries were less cruel. 

During centuries when the Church was struggling to gain power and unite straggling, diverse religious beliefs, many symbols and mythologies of prior millennia were changed, eliminated, or adopted for Christian mythology. About 300 AD the beautiful brave Valkyries of the battlefield became the fearsome Harpies – winged, evil monsters with the bodies of birds, the heads of women, sharp claws, and a foul smell, who tormented souls with spite. The name harpie means snatcher, and they supplied the Underworld with souls of those who died before their time. Harpies - storm goddesses - were robbers and spoilers raging over battlefields, carrying off weak and wounded, and stealing children. The beautiful, winged Valkyrie goddesses became monsters – half-birds, half-females. Angels became, in Christian mythology, what the Valkyries had been for the goddess cultures. Winged and now male, angels are messengers of the gods, protectors of the innocent, escorting the souls of the righteous to heaven. In some mythologies Valkyries have maintained their ancient honor and duties. 

Michelle Paula Snyder
Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Symbologist Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid 
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon

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