Death is something I have been closely connected with since a young age and in to my military career it became even more a part of my life. I have been fascinated by the idea of the afterlife and what is possibly to be after we leave this realm. As I do not believe the pirated ideologies of the Abrahamic faiths which, to be quite honest, were taken from far older Pagan beliefs and then twisted for their own agendas. On my spiritual path many many long years ago I began looking towards the Norse Goddess Hel and since then she has been a close part of my life providing me with a sense of comfort with death. I never have looked or reacted to death as what I suppose the “norm” could be classified as. But that topic regarding me could be for a future blog post regarding death. Today I want to give honor to Hel by sharing with my readers this in-depth post regarding all there is known about her along with some various outlooks and opinions.
I Am Hel (A Song of Solace) by Michaela Macha
I am Hel the Dark One, and I will get you all.
Every man and woman must come into my hall,
the young ones and the old ones, and I will not let you go,
even if all the worlds should weep for you.
I am Hel the Beautiful, be greeted and come in.
Enjoy my hospitality together with your kin.
Your ancestors are sitting next to Balder in the light,
I bid you welcome – I am Hel the Bright.
We greet you, our lady and mistress of eternity,
you will unite us with the ones who went before;
with our friends and families we keep forever company,
and we shall sing till sorrow is no more.MP3 Version
A friend of mine in Sweden wrote this several years ago and I like it so much I felt it was important to include here with credit to her.
The goddess Hel By Elinore Högstedt
Hel is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted Goddess aspects in history. She has been greatly perverted through the years by patriarchal domination and ultimately used by the early Christian church as a scare tactic to frighten the masses into “righteous” acts. To get the real story, we have to go back to the early Nordic people and look this death Goddess in the face.
According to Norse tradition, Hel is one of three children born to Loki, the trickster, and Angrboda, the giantess. Her body and face were described as half in light and half in darkness. She was half dead and half alive. Her face was at once beautiful to look upon and horrific in form. Her siblings were Fenrir, the wolf who would destroy Asgard during Ragnarok, and Jormungand, the Midhgard serpent who lies at the bottom of the ocean wrapped around the world with his tail in his mouth (it is he that holds the world together).
Hel is cast into the netherworld and becomes the ruler of that underworld to which souls who have not died in battle will depart. As thanks for making Her ruler of the netherworld, Hel makes a gift to Odin. She gives him two ravens, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory). Ravens are messengers between this realm and the next, opening pathways to death’s realm.
Her realm is named for her, Hel or Helheim. Because She accepts all to Helheim, she also becomes the judge to determine the fate of each soul in the afterlife. The evil dead are banished to a realm of icy cold death (a fate that the Nordic people found much worse in telling than a lake of fire) and torture. This particular aspect of Hel’s realm was the basis for the Judeo-Christian “hell” to which sinners are banished and tortured for eternity. Unlike the Judeo-Christian concept, Helheim also served as the shelter and gathering place of souls to be reincarnated. Hel watches over those who died peacefully of old age or illness. She cares for children and women who die in childbirth. She guides those souls who do not choose the path of war and violence through the circle of death to rebirth.
Because of Hel’s special role in the deaths of mothers in childbirth and children of all ages who die, She has become, according to some sources, the special guardian of children. Mother Goose is believed to be based on Frau Holle or Frau Holda who is a kindly and wise, if slightly horrific crone who rewards the industrious and punishes the lazy. The goose aspect is from a legend tradition that says that snow is a result of Frau Holda shaking out her bed linens.
One of the stories involving Hel is the decent of Balder into Helheim. Loki arranged for Balder to die by tricking him into a rigged contest. Because the contest was hosted in Asgard, Balder could not return to that place in death. His relocation sent him to the only other realm for the dead, Hel’s domain. His arrival to Helheim was welcomed with banquet and festival, proof that not all of Hel’s realm was torturous.
Hel governs the world beyond that of the living. In magic, she makes thin the veil between worlds. Seidhr or Nordic shamans call upon Her protection and wear the helkappe, a magic mask, to render them invisible (like Hades helm of invisibility) and enable them to pass through the gateway into the realm of death and spirit. In divination, Her special symbol is Hagalaz, hail: The embodiment of the icy realm She rules. Hel stands at the crossroads in judgment of souls who pass into Her realm. In that, She is linked to Osiris and Isis as well as Hecate.
Hel has fallen from her privileged position as guardian and ruler through years of being represented as an evil, ugly entity waiting to devour and torture lost souls. Ignorance as used Her as a means of scaring children and adults into a supposedly righteous path (instead of allowing free will to guide their actions to do what is right). May we learn and dispel the slander of years by seeing Her for the protector, judge, and guide that She originally represented.
Correspondences of Hel
Colors: white and black
Moon phase: dark/new
Animals: owls, ravens
Herbs/Flowers: Jasmine, evergreens, any white flower
Stones: moonstone, quartz crystal, onyx, hematite, obsidian
Aspects: change, compassion, death, reincarnation, just rule
Wheel of the Year: Samhain and Yule
Rune: Hagalaz – hail SOURCE
Hel is attested to in the Prose and Poetic Eddas, in Hemskringla and Egils Saga. She is mentioned in the Gesta Denorum, and her name appears on bracteates (metal disc jewelry) from the Viking period, in Skaldic poetry, and on the Setre Comb, a 6th century artifact. She is well-known by her anglicised name Hela.
Like Greek Hades, her name is the same as the place she rules, and the name itself means “to hide”, “to cover” or “hidden place” (Hades’ name means “the hidden one”). Like Hades, both she and her realm were co-opted, corrupted and perverted by Christian colonists. Hel is both a mythical and literal place, the latter referring to grave burials. The mythic location is said to be furthest north of Miðgarðr and at the same time beneath it, the Underworld. It is separated, like Hades, from the land of the living by rivers that are challenging to cross.
In the Eddas, her brothers are Fenrir and Jörmungandr, the children of Loki and Angrboða. She is tasked by Óðin to give lodging to all who die of sickness and old age – what is called a “straw death.” She is depicted as half beautiful and alive, and half blue, the colour of cold, dead flesh. Modern artistic portrayals go further, and depict her as part corpse, an image popular in both modern paganism and pop culture.
In Norse Paganism (as in all religions) there are numerous unsettled theories regarding life after death. Modern paganism makes it clear that Hel is as it was in the pre-Christian Germanic world: not a place of universal torment or unending suffering for the sinful dead. It is far more rich and complex, and far less sinister. Nowhere in the lore does it say that Hel is a universal place of suffering, rather it has been misinterpreted as such, just like Hades in Greek myth often is.
This original concept of Hel shines through the cracks in Snorri, as honoured guests Baldr and Nanna, along with their entourage are hosted with a lavish welcoming party, and there is no indication that they are anything but comfortable and free to move about. Hel is even warm towards them – a gracious hostess, as is Norse tradition. Continue reading HERE.
Hel by Patricia Monaghan
by those ignorant
of your power:
Thus doe she endure,
the forgotten goddess,
never far from us,
never quite erased, Oh Hel, dark mother, we always come back to you, always, Always.
Within the Myrkþursablót tradition, there are certain sigils and bindrunes that act as keys to the old wisdom. These runes would serve as good tools for meditation and seiðr for those who yearn for the power they hold… Yet again, given the nature of rune magick, these are but a few that have come to me in trance and practice, and are shared here to serve as a guide to those wishing to begin their workings within this tradition. The runes being an unorthodox and (for the most part) unstructured form of magick, it is best for the adept to eventually use those that come to them in moments of gifted inspiration to best develop a relationship with the essences being worked with.
The Hel Rune Spell represents the death giantess, Hel. Hagalaz is Hel’s rune, as she is the ruler of Helheimr. Hagalaz is pure strife, as well as the cold hail raining on bare skin. Þurs symbolizes her hrímþurs blood, Iss her connection to Gullveig as her daughter and her Nifl-essence, and a myrkstave Algiz as her place within the death trinity.
Hel, Norse Goddess of the Dead