Sunday, 10 August 2014

Valkyrie Kara

This is quite a difficult valkyrie to discuss in the next subject. She's known by two names, Sigrun and Kara. Sigrun was a mortal woman and a valkyrie, who went through a metamorphosis and became Kara, a supernatural valkyrie of the air. Kara's name means "curly" and "wild curls". This makes reference to her hair, that was cascading and plaited or in ringlets.

To start with she was a beautiful princess named Sigrun. She worked as a shield maiden, rode horses, wore armour and was part of a group of other valkyrie shield maidens. It was said there were nine altogether, making up a magical number. She had flowing curly hair that she braided and her eyes were like aquamarine stones. 

She was the daughter of King Hogne, who ruled over Ostergotland, or East Gothland, a realm that was in ancient Sweden. Today it's full of little islands, fairytale castles and modern cities. It's possible that King Hogne, Sigrun's father, was part of the legendary Wulfings or "Wolf Clan". This story probably goes back to the 7th Century when Hogne ruled.

In the Volsunga Saga, Hogne had three children, two boys named Dag and Bragi, and a girl that was Sigrun. The medieval Icelandic historian, Snorri Sturluson, wrote that Bragi was a god of poetry and whose father was Odin. According to other legends, Bragi is the son of king Hogni and other Bragis appear as sons of different men in other poems and legends. It's possible that Bragi was a popular boys name and also likely Bragi manifests in stories again and again in different variations. Besides him, Sturluson wrote that king Hogne was said to be the father of Hildur and Hilda, brother and sister.

Putting aside that confusion, and focusing on the valkyrie Sigrun. Her father wanted her to marry Hothbrod, the son of the warrior king Granmar. She didn't love him. Already she is said to have been a shield maid with supernatural abilities, enabling her to tell the future, ride through the air and summon magical storms. Perhaps she was capable of projecting herself across vast distances using sorcery. She travelled across a sea and came to a great longship. On there was a handsome, muscular man who was startled to see Sigrun at first. He introduced himself as Helgi Hundingsbane, the son of hero Sigmund and the princess Borghild. Helgi and Sigrun instantly fell in love with one another. She tells him about herself, her life and how her father wanted to marry her off to Hothbrod.

What followed next in the story was an angry war. Helgi went with warriors to the kingdom of Granmar and killed everyone in a bloody battle. Only Sigrun's brother Dag survived and this made him bitter and angry towards his sister and her new lover. Sigrun was pleased that Hothbrod and her father was dead so that she could be free to marry Helgi.

Helgi and Sigrun married and had children. Then Dag wanted revenge. He sought Odin, who gave Dag a weapon to kill the strong Helgi. This is how Dag killed Helgi, when Helgi wa asleep in bed, Dag pierced his heart with a spear. Sigrun was overcome with distress at losing her husband. She worked with dark sorcery to punish her brother, and had him sent into the forest where he remained, eventually turning into a wolf.

Helgi was buried in the ground along with his sword and treasures. When Sigrun visited his grave every day, she encountered her husband's ghostly form that was so cold it made her tears turn to ice. She continued visiting his grave where they kissed but her husband's spirit stopped appearing one day. She visited the grave in the hope that Helgi's spirit might return to her but he didn't. Eventually she died of a broken heart, and was reborn as a Valkyrie named Kara.

She was reunited with her husband again but she became a Valkyrie of storms and escorted souls of warriors to Valhalla. Little of Sigrun as Kara was written about. A mortal woman turning into a valkyrie might have been connected to the ancient Northern beliefs in reincarnation, or reaching a higher spiritual goal in the next plane. Her name Kara was associated with curls and storms, perhaps hair or maybe even spiralling whirlwinds.   


The Volsung Saga