It seems that there is no clear distinction between the valkyries and the norns. Skuld is for instance both a valkyrie and a norn, and in the Darraðarljóð (lines 1-52), the valkyries weave the web of war (see below). According to the Prose Edda (Gylfaginning 36), “Odin sends the valkyries to every battle. They allot death to men and govern victory. Gunnr and Róta two valkyries and the youngest norn, called Skuld, always ride to choose who shall be slain and to govern the killings”.
The valkyries' purpose was to choose the most heroic of those who had died in battle and to carry them off to Valhalla where they became einherjar. This was necessary because Odin needed warriors to fight at his side at the preordained battle at the end of the world, Ragnarök. In Valhalla the valkyries also “serve drink and look after the tableware and drinking vessels” (Prose Edda Gylfaginning 36).
In modern art, the valkyries are sometimes depicted as beautiful shieldmaidens on winged horses, armed with helmets and spears. However, valkyrie horse was a kenning for wolf (see Rök Stone), so contrary to the stereotype, they did not ride winged horses but instead packs of wolves that frequented the corpses of dead warriors.
Whereas the wolf was the valkyrie's mount, the valkyrie herself appears to be akin to the raven, flying over the battlefield and "choosing" corpses. Thus, the packs of wolves and ravens that scavenged the aftermath of battles may have been seen as serving a higher purpose.
- They possess excellent fighting skill as well as heightened strength, speed, agility, metabolism, etc.
- They also possess the ability to do some magic.
- Due to their divine nature, they are capable of awesome acts of power, such as imbuing their weapons with energy.
- Speaking with animals.
- They are capable of perceiving and communicating with the souls of the dead, conducting the souls of the dead to the afterlife, and smiting evil beings.
- It is also known that their mounts commonly fly.