Heiðrún: The Greatest of All Goats
In chapter 38 of the Prose Edda poem Gylfaginning, a character called High states that regardless of the numbers of einherjar that come to Valhalla, Odin (i.e. the chief of Norse gods) always have enough drink (i.e. mead) to sustain those brave warriors that fell in battle. The question that begs to be answered is: where does the drink that sustain the einherjar come from? One word: Heiðrún.
In Norse mythology, Heiðrún is a legendary creature, specifically a goat, known for her association with the halls of Valhalla and the cosmic tree Yggdrasil. She is an important figure in the Norse afterlife and plays a role in providing sustenance to the esteemed warriors known as the Einherjar.
Heiðrún is often referred to as the “Greatest of All Goats.” She resides in the heavenly realm and feeds on the leaves Læraðr, a tree often identified as the sacred world tree Yggdrasil. Her remarkable trait is that she produces an endless supply of mead, a fermented beverage, from her udders.
The mead that Heiðrún produces is of great significance because it serves as the primary source of nourishment for the Einherjar, the chosen and honored warriors who dwell in Valhalla.
Alongside the meat of the magical boar Sæhrímnir, which is also provided in abundance, Heiðrún’s mead sustains the warriors, ensuring that they remain strong and ready for their role in the cataclysmic battle of Ragnarok.
In Valhalla, the valkyries are the attendants who serve as cupbearers, catering to the needs of the Einherjar, the honored fallen warriors. The character High, in the Prose Edda, informs Gangleri (King Gylfi in disguise) these attendants ensure that the drink is brought, the tables are set, and the ale cups are filled for the esteemed warriors.
READ MORE: Most Famous Valkyries in the Myths
Heiðrún’s role in Norse mythology highlights the celestial and otherworldly nature of Valhalla, the grand hall of the slain, and the divine connections between different realms in the Norse cosmology. As a mythical goat tied to the cosmic tree, she embodies the interconnectedness of the natural and divine worlds in Norse belief, further enriching the tapestry of Norse myth and symbolism.
Did you know…?
Our knowledge of the Heiðrún mostly derives from the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, compiled in the 13th century. The Prose Edda was assembled by Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet and politician. Not only is she mentioned in the Prose Edda poem Gylfaginning, but she also appears in the Poetic Edda poems the Grímnismál and the Hyndluljóð.