On Why Valkyries Ride Wolves – An Extract From ‘On Odin As Agni’

[Author’s Note: there are two salient occurrences which I can think of off-hand for Wolf-Riding female figures in the Nordic sphere. The Valkyries, and Hyrrokkin. In both cases, we could fairly extrapolate that there is something of a ‘Psychopomp’ role entailed here – the Wolf being correlate with the receiving, escorting, and journey of the soul of the departed (well, at that stage – the departing). So of course, the question becomes … is there a broader Indo-European, or at least Nordic typology to which this adheres? Enter my excerpt …

[-C.A.R.] ]

A further Ynglinga Saga saliency may perhaps be found in the accounting of the fate of King Olaf –

“The Swedes took it amiss that Olaf was sparing in his sacrifices, and believed the dear times must proceed from this cause. The Swedes therefore gathered together troops, made an expedition against King Olaf, surrounded his house and burnt him in it, giving him to Odin as a sacrifice for good crops. […]”
“The temple wolf, by the lake shores,
The corpse of Olaf now devours.
The clearer of the forests died
At Odin’s shrine by the lake side.
The glowing flames stripped to the skin
The royal robes from the Swedes’ king.
Thus Olaf, famed in days of yore,
Vanished from earth at Venner’s shore.”

Now there are a number of ways in which this could be read in light of our reconstructive typology. One is that it is simply the account of a pagan nobleman’s funeral – except presented as evidence of the barbarity of the heathen religion (i.e. due to the perceived lack of sacrifices to guarantee the fertility of the land, even though it is overpopulation which is responsible for the famine per Sturluson’s account, the Swedes had killed the king to offer him as the sacrifice instead). Another is that this is, indeed, a largely accurate rendition of that which had happened – and the standard sacrificial rite to the Sky Father to ensure the fertility of the land (which I looked at in “The Queen Of Serpents – The Serpentine Form Of The Indo-European Earth Mother”) had indeed gone unperformed by the King up until he became the main element in its eventual, fiery, completion.

For our purposes, it is enough to note that not only is this yet another fundamental proof for Odin as Sky Father (i.e. the God propitiated for the fertility of the land just as we find in the Vedic understanding for Him), but that this again has intriguing resonancies for those aforementioned Vedic presentations to the Flame of the Funerary and Offering Pyres. A “Temple Wolf” is how Odin is described here – directly akin to the “Kravya” term utilized to refer to the ‘Devouring’ head of Agni which consumes the flesh thusly offered, especially within the funerary pyre (c.f several occurrences of this theonym in RV X 16). Kravya, for us, means also “Wolf” (it is cognate with “Carnivore”) – and in one of the utilizations of this term in RV X 16 (line 11), it is not impossible that the term “Kravya-Vahana” has been understood not so much in the sense of the “Flesh-Conveyor” but rather as the “Flesh-eating Animal” [‘Vahana’ can also mean a steed or a mount] and therefore the “Wolf” of the “Temple” also referred to as “Odin’s Shrine”.

This notion of a ‘Wolf-Vahana’, however, is most prominently attested in the Nordic mythology instead as something of a ‘delegated role’ – as the Valkyries are stated to ride. Something that would most certainly keep with the metempsychotic or transmigratory role of the Funerary Pyre for Agni, even if it is not Agni directly and in person taking charge of these acts of conveyancing in that portion of the Nordic understanding. Perhaps the understanding is the result of the female followers of the Great God in question, that are often quite lethal to mortals (c.f the Maenads and the Ash-Nymphs of Dionysus, and also the intriguing Varoti [‘Vata-Putri’ – Daughters of Vata(-Vayu)] of the Kalash).

I would also surmise that part of what is being related in the Gylfaginning pertaining to the funerary vessel of Baldr also reflects this understanding – there, a certain Hyrrokkin (a name whose root is that of Flame) comes mounted upon a truly formidable wolf; summoned to dispatch the ship of Baldr out to sea – as it could not be moved (i.e. Baldr could not be properly dispatched on across the ocean (as liminal space between the worlds) upon the requisite conveyance-vessel – an understanding also found in the Vedas) in the absence of the Fire. Hyrrokkin’s push for the ship instantly causes it to not only be dispatched out onto the ocean – but the frictional movement of the ship upon its rollers causes it to burst immediately into flame (recall the rubbing of sticks to produce the sacral fire in the Vedic conceptr). The Wolf, meanwhile, that Hyrrokkin had ridden in upon is subdued at the behest of Odin – something that may accord with the Vedic conceptry for the ‘Kravya’ becoming subdued so that the other facing of Agni may instead be invoked [as seen in RV X 16].

[-C.A.R.]

One thought on “On Why Valkyries Ride Wolves – An Extract From ‘On Odin As Agni’

  1. Pingback: On Why Valkyries Ride Wolves – An Extract From ‘On Odin As Agni’ – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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