If you have spent any amount of time looking around my site, (welcome! I’m so glad you’re here!!) you’ve probably noticed that I frequently use the term “Shieldmaiden.” You might be asking questions like: what is a Shieldmaiden? What am I referring to when I use the term?
Am I borrowing from a popular TV show on basic cable?
Am I making references to paganism? (short answer: no. Pagans do not have exclusive claim to Shieldmaidens)I actually began blogging on another platform, close to 15 years ago (give or take. It’s been so long ago now, I really can’t remember… it was the same time that I got my Myspace page really tricked out. So, yeah, a while ago). At that time, blogs weren’t necessarily about having a focus, or a niche – you could just ramble your thoughts onto your web-log and release them out into the world. But even then, I had the inklings of the trajectory that I would eventually be on. I liked the concept of the Shieldmaiden (more on that later), and wanted to use that as a theme-–even as an identity. Thinking it was better to use a term less “general” than shieldmaiden, I opted to zero in on the shieldmaidens of Norse mythology: Valkyries. I blogged under this theme for several years, but when I decided to move to this new website, I reconsidered. The specificity of Valkyries eventually turned out to be more of a hindrance than a help. But I still loved the concept.
In fact, the concept and historicity of shieldmaidens, though currently made popular on a basic-cable television show, is not exclusive to Viking culture. JRR Tolkien was inspired by Old English, Germanic and Norse mythologies (all of whom claimed to
have female warrior figures) and provided my first introduction to the idea, and even the word, Shieldmaiden. I first read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring series, (which includes the story of the epic Shieldmaiden Eowyn) when I was about 12–but even before that, I was introduced to this warrior in Rankin and Bass’ abbreviated animated retelling of the Lord of the Rings story. Though there is probably much to criticize in their production, I feel they captured the strength and determination of Eowyn in an impressive way. Their portrayal showed a woman that is powerful and confident, yet unmistakably female (I mean, look at her hair! Long flowing locks, and a headband to keep it out of the way during battle). She was one of my first heroines. Eowyn, if you haven’t read the books or seen the movie, ends up playing a key role in the victory of good over evil (not even sorry if I’ve spoiled anything here, the statute of limitations has run way out on this one). In fact, it is her female-ness that is an essential part of her ability to overcome her evil foe.
Shortly before I re-launched my blogging efforts though this site, I heard a wonderful talk by the filmmaker Lauralee Farrar, where she referred to herself as a Handmaiden to the Lord. I loved the word-picture she painted, and was inspired to picture myself this way also. To be a handmaiden is to be in a position of intimacy and honor, service and humility. But, with all respect to Lauralee (and to Mary, whom I believe she was referring to) the idea of being a Handmaiden felt lacking in something. Then I recalled the image of the Shieldmaiden that I had been introduced to in my youth. She is everything that the Handmaiden is, but more–because when opposing forces threaten to knock down her door, she is armed, trained and prepared to resist.
This is what I wanted to be. A servant of Christ who is also strengthened by him to be victorious over the hardships, battles and attacks that come. This gave my personal study focus and direction, and my life started changing. As I studied, I knew that this is something that is so important not only in my life, but in the lives of other women as well. Surely I am not the only woman out there who desires to be Victorious in Christ? Surely I am not the only one who wants to wear the Armor of God, who wants to fight like a woman (an Ezer), and also be a spiritual force to be reckoned with. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who had been inadvertently taught that to be a woman of faith was secretly a state of subtle victimhood? Maybe I wasn’t the only one that didn’t want to live that identity anymore. I want to be a Shieldmaiden of Christ.
Who’s with me?