Last week I wrote about the overlap and differences between the Wicca (and all-around “generally Pagan”) Wheel of the Year and Heathen holidays. In the course of writing that article, I learned a bit about Heathen holidays myself – as is often (and happily) the case when we write articles for the Realm. I learned that Valentine’s Day is also a remembrance day, the Heathen Feast of Váli.
Váli is a son of Odin and the giantess and goddess Rindr (who is sometimes referred to as Rind, and is sometimes written as a human princess – not a giantess). This means Váli is half-brothers with Baldr, and Thor. Indeed, Váli was designed to avenge Baldr’s death. More on this in a bit.
You might think modern observances of the Feast of Váli are on Valentine’s Day because he is the embodiment of love and passion between Odin and Rindr. Not so. Not so at all. Depending on the source, their coupling to conceive Váli was either consensually clinical or completely calculated. Most descriptions where Rindr is described as a giantess simply state she was “impregnated” by Odin. Váli could have been a test tube baby for all we can tell from these stories.
Another narrative that describes Rindr as a human princess is much more a tale worthy of telling. In this story it is foretold the princess Rindr will give birth to the last son of Odin. This son will restore honor to the Æsir by avenging Baldr’s death. [Baldr was killed by another of his brothers, Höðr, who was tricked into shooting mistletoe at Baldr by…you guessed it, Loki. Why did Loki want to kill Baldr? That is fodder for another post!] Odin hears of this foretelling and sets to action to bring it to fruition. He disguises himself as a man à la Gandalf and offers to help Rindr’s father rid his kingdom of ever encroaching enemies. The king accepts his offer and agrees to let Odin try his luck with Rindr, who thus far has shunned all male attention because she wants to be a Valkyrie (and thinks she must remain a virgin to be a Valkyrie).
Odin saves the kingdom as a precursor to sacrificing Rindr’s maidenhood. But she will have none of it. She tells Odin/Gandalf to go jump in a lake (I’m taking serious interpretive license here). Odin doesn’t give up though, he sneaks into her room and enchants her with magic. Then he disappears. The magic renders Rindr comatose, then despondent (Hey, maybe this is a love story after all). She shrinks away from everyone and everything and become frail. Desperate, her father sends messengers across the kingdom asking for a cure. A wise woman named Vecka answers his call and comes to his castle to cure Rindr. Her ministrations not only lift Rindr’s spirits and her health, they fill her with longing. Vecka is no common old woman. She is THE Old Man; she is Odin in yet another disguise. Vecka and Rindr lay together as women save the moment of…uh…exchange…where Odin / Gandalf…um…administers his ultimate cure. Váli is conceived.
But his is not a destiny of free will. In most stories, Váli grows to a man in a single day. And he has a single purpose – to kill his half-brother Höðr as recompense for Höðr’s killing (though coerced) of their half-brother Baldr. And so he did. I couldn’t find an accounting of how, only that it happened. [I couldn’t find any images of this either – or of Odin’s seduction of Rindr.]
So what does this have to do with Valentine’s Day? Apparently, nothing.
Other days of celebration include Valentine’s Day – celebrated as Feast of Váli due to bad etymology. Honestly, folk, there is no connection. The Pagan elements of the celebration come from the Roman [Lupercalia]. We don’t do any of that stuff until Waluburg’s Night, for the simple, yet logical, reason that mid-February is not the time to be practicing outdoor fertility rites in Northern Europe. However, those who wish to celebrate Váli on this day should go right ahead, since no one has ever thought of a better time for it and it’s more fun than moping if you haven’t got anyone to practice modified Roman [Lupercalia] rites with.” — Hrafnar, Feeling the Harvest
Maybe the association is because the name Váli kind of looks like Valentine. It’s certainly not because there are similarities between Váli and St. Valentine. Maybe the St. Valentine Massacre (with the targeted killing and all), but not St. Valentine. But hey, why not celebrate Váli and meditate on honor and revenge on Valentine’s Day? It’s really the perfect alternative for those who aren’t romantically involved or romantically inclined.
What about you? Is the Feast of Váli something that interests you?
Featured image, a dagger through the heart. I found this image on several sites but could not find a source. If you know the source, please share it!