This month will be about death! Well, the afterlife, really. In Norse Mythology, there were several places you could end up in, and not all of them pleasant…
The brave warriors are brought to Valhalla
Every time there is a battle, Odin sends his valkyries there. The valkyries are fierce women, clad in shining armor, who can ride through air and across water. Their task is to select which warriors are going to die, and then they select the best and bravest of those warriors and bring them to Valhalla.
Valhalla is Odin’s golden hall in Asgard. It has 540 doors, and 800 men can pass through each door. Odin gathers all the best warriors in Valhalla to create a powerful army for Ragnarok, and these dead warriors are called einherjar. Every morning the einherjar go outside and fight each other, to practice for battle. When it’s time for the first meal of the day, they all turn back to Valhalla.
In Valhalla they are served food and drink by the valkyries. The boar Serimnir is slaughtered and its meat cooked every day, and the meat is always enough for everyone to eat as much as they want – but every evening Serimnir returns to life again (only to be slaughtered again the next day). The einherjar are served as much mead as they want, and they eat and drink well for the rest of the day.
But some of them are taken to Folkvang
Folkvang is the name of Freya’s home, and it’s said to be very beautiful. Freya has the right to pick half of the men taken by Odin to Valhalla, and bring them to Folkvang instead to be at her service. Freya also has full access to the part of Valhalla that is called Vingolf (“the room of friends”) where all the goddesses are allowed to stay when they want to.
And the rest of the dead will go to Hel
If you die of illness or old age, you will end up in Helheim – the realm of the death goddess Hel. Hel is the daughter of Loki and sister of the Fenrir wolf and the Midgard serpent. Half her body and face looks like a blueish corpse, and the other half looks like a normal living person. Hel was thrown into Helheim and became its ruler because Odin got to know that she and her brothers would cause the gods much harm.
There are many rivers in Helheim, like the Gjoll River with its bridge Gjoll Bridge which is covered in gold. Helheim is a very gloomy place, and it is surrounded by a huge entrenchment and guarded by Hel’s loyal watchdog Garm. There is constant famine in Helheim and hunger is the most common feeling among the guests in Hel’s halls. And those who die in Helheim go to Niflhel, far beneath the first realm of death and even darker.
Stora boken om vikingarnas gudar och myter by Lars Magnar Enoksen (ISBN 978-91-7738-792-3)
Nordiska gudar och hjältar by Anders Baeksted (ISBN 91-37-09184-0)