The einherjar were warriors who would come to Valhalla, the majestic mythical hall for the warriors who died in battle, and who would be brought there by the Valkyries, helpers of the god Odin, who was the ruler of Valhalla.
It is important to mention that, according to Norse beliefs, only those warriors who died bravely and were picked by the Valkyries were worthy to come to Valhalla and spend their afterlife there.
The einherjar spent their days in Valhalla by preparing for Ragnarök, a sort of Judgement Day in the Norse mythology, and would be served endless amounts of mead. Along with mead, they would feast on the tasty pork from the great pig Sᴂhrímnir.
The warriors would also engage in battles and fights among themselves as a part of the daily routine to prepare for the great battle in the field of Vigriðr. This field was supposed to be the location where the final clash of gods and the dark giant Surtr would take place, as a part of Ragnarök.
The Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda
This mead consumed in Valhalla was magical since it was produced by Heidrun, the mythical goat. This mythical goat is mentioned both in the Poetic Edda and in the Prose Edda.
The Poetic Edda is a compilation of Old Norse poems. It has several versions, which all come from the manuscript called Codex Regius. The manuscript is the most important source for information on Norse mythology.
Also, it is important because it had a great influence on Scandinavian literature later in history. Many of the poems in the Poetic Edda had qualities and dramatic effects, which later on brought changes in the poetic meter in Nordic languages.
Heidrun is mentioned twice in the Poetic Edda. In one of the poems, the goat's name is used as an attempt to insult the goddess Freya - the goddess of beauty, love, and harmony. The giantess Hyndla used the name Heidrun with the aim of insulting Freya.
Another poem described Heidrun as the goat eating buds of the mythical tree and producing magical mead for the warriors in Valhalla, as part of a continuous process so that the warriors would never run out of mead.
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, or simply Edda, is a textbook written in Iceland in the 13th century. The Prose Edda is the fullest and the most detailed source of information on Norse mythology.
This compilation, written by the scholar Snorri Sturluson around 1220 AD, mentions Heidrun in the same way as poems in the Prose Edda do – as a mythical goat producing endless amounts of mead by grazing buds from the tree called Lᴂrarðr. This mead would be collected in a huge cauldron, and Valkyries would bring the mead to the warriors who spend their days preparing for Ragnarök.
The einherjar were warriors who would come to Valhalla after dying in battle. Photo: Leah Morillon / Pexels
Heidrun and Eikthyrnir
Heidrun wasn't the only one to feed off of Lᴂrarðr. According to some sources, a mythical stag named Eikthyrnir and some other animals did the same.
As previously mentioned, Heidrun grazed on buds while Eikthyrnir ate the leaves from the crown of the tree. The stag stood on the top of the tree, which was located on the top of Valhalla.
A kind of liquid, most probably water, would drip from his horns into the well which was located in Helheim, where the dishonorable dead spent their afterlife. The drops dripping from Eikthyrnir's horns created many rivers.
According to myths, Heidrun and Eikthyrnir lived in the Lᴂrarðr tree, as mentioned in the Poetic Edda. However, some theories - on which a lot of scholars agree - state that Lᴂrarðr was actually Yggdrasil, the well-known great world tree in Norse mythology.
Honoring the animals
All the animals mentioned in this article played an important role in the lives of the Vikings. They would provide them with food – meat or milk, and oftentimes also fur and leather to produce clothing, shoes, and other necessities in their daily life.
It could be the case that the Vikings were honoring these animals by giving them such important roles in their poems, stories, and myths, as they were aware that it would be challenging, if not impossible, to survive in real life without them.
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