Hel is one of the gods and goddesses of death in Norse mythology. She was placed in Helheim by Odin and ordered to provide room and board for those who die from illness or old age.

If you die in battle, you may end up with Odin in Valhalla or with Freyja in Fólkvangr. If you die at sea, you may end up staying with Rán. If you die a virgin, you might end up as one of Gefjon’s servants, and Helheim is for the rest. That’s what they say at least. There’s no proof of anything when it comes to any form of afterlife.

Hel has nothing to do with the Christian notion of Hell though, apart from the adopted name. It’s not a punishment for your sins. And the saying ‘Go to Hel’, just meant ‘Die’, not quite the same as the ‘Go to Hell’ you hear in our time. The stay might actually be a pleasant one, according to some sources. Some say it’s quiet and peaceful, and some mention feasts in Hel’s halls. Helheim is separated from the world of the living by the river Gjóll, which flows from Hverlgelmir.

The only way in is via the bridge guarded by Móðguð, and the gate guarded by Garm. In Gylfaginning Helheim is said to be divided into nine different sections. Most of these seem to be peaceful, quiet, sometimes boring and grey. Nástrónd is the exception, where the worst of the worst are said to end up. Gylfaginning also mentions Éljúðnir as being Hel’s residence.

In Volspá, her realm is referred to as ‘The Halls of Hel’. Personally, I have a thing for recycling, even when it comes to humans 🙂 I believe in reincarnation. Mostly because of the fact that energy can never be destroyed, it can only change. But first we spend a time in the realms of the dead. My hope is to find myself in the halls of Hel, feasting at her table, because I intend to live for a very long time.

What’s your view on death? What do you think happens after you die?

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project, created by Rowan Pendragon.

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