Hel, and Death

25 Mar


“To go to Hel” means to die. Hel is a place, and seen as a figure. In most instances, she is seen as female, but rarely also as neutral. While Oden’s Valkyries take the victorious slain-in-battle, Freyja another portion of the dead, Hel presides over the rest. She is envisioned as a crone-like woman, fierce and dreary with half her face made of flesh and the other half made of darkness. Sometimes she appears in artwork with half her face a skull.

Hel is the unseen, Hel is the dark feminine of the unknown. The realms primordial and mysterious, frightening and yet certain: death comes to all. Whereas Valhal is the place where warriors so certain and confident even in death go, Hel is the resting place for most mortals, it is thought.

For warriors and other mortals alike, death is a certainty, but the human flesh fears what it has not yet experienced. We do not fear the abyss which came before our birth, oddly enough, but we fear the abyss which comes afterward.

In the nordic mindset, perhaps the hero’s death receives a more golden glow than that of the average man because the warrior is thought to have overcome his fear of death. He or she no longer worries about the abyss, instead embraces it as it comes. A Warrior in this regard is not necessarily someone who takes up a weapon, but someone who lives life without fear, and boldly breaks down walls to become more. Whatever the case, it is important to contemplate death.

Why? It is our obliteration. It is our abyss. It is where our ego dissolved and where our accumulation of wealth ends. We become dissolved in it, perhaps to walk the earth again in another form, but our existence, our reputation during this time on earth will cease for us. Hel is the guardian of this realm of darkness in which we are cleansed of all that we strove for in our lives. Death is not a punishment, it is not a reward, it is a part of life and a lesson for the soul.

Hel’s face is partly moral-like and partly shrouded, as in fact are all of us in a sense. We walk with one foot in the grave. We will know an end someday. But there is no reason to fear this inevitable aspect of life. It is as much our birthright as it is to enjoy life, and to embrace the light. How can we enjoy life if we fear death? We must not worry about death, for surely it will come for us.

“Hell” in christian-political terms is a place of punishment. It is not really used to make people more spiritual, but to modify their behavior so they will behave in accordance to whatever ruling body has in mind. Acting a certain way out of fear of “hell” will not make a person more spiritual, but smaller and fearful, shrunk to the point of not being able to learn and grow in life. Seemingly, this has passed on to our modern understanding of paganism where it is more favorable to go to “Valhal” than it is to go to “Hel”, so it is perhaps for this reason that the warrior, the viking is seen as the primary, principle archetype embraced in nordic heathenism? Are we so afraid of the cold depths of death that we must play the strongest warrior to overcome our fear of weakness and the unknown?

Whether we swing an ax, sow the fields, or seek the mystic path of shamanism, we must all acknowledge our dark side. We all have fears in our psyche, in our minds, manifested in our DNA from generations. We have inherited many good things from our ancestors, but also hidden there in our bodies, souls, genetic makeup, are the embedded memories of sadness and torment, of pain and suffering and fear. If we attempt to hide this part of our legacy, we are further damning ourselves to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers and foremothers. They would and they do want us to learn from what has come before. In order to evolve and become better people and a better people (group, civilization) we must bring our darkness into the light. This means not shying from the darkness. When we let our darkness come into light, our fears, our weaknesses become exposed, and we get to know what they are and THEN work on them. Until we know what they are, we can only pretend to be perfect, fearless warriors. We are not that until we can confront our own weakness.

The treacherous wolf, the wizened old Hel, the shaman, the warrior, these exist in each of us. We can learn from them. Hel is the guardian of the underworld and can inspire and guide us to our own darkness, weakness and inheritance of pain, which can then teach us once we confront it. We can then move beyond it, grow beyond it, and annihilate the ego to become larger in the spirit. Hel is the daughter of the trickster, Loki who is always doing things that force the other gods to grow out of their comfort zones. They are forced to see things in a new way, and change and become something more. As such, Hel can reinforce this hastening to evolution, and increase our spiritual growth through the experience of death, both figurative and literal.


One Response to “Hel, and Death”

  1. Lucius Svartwulf March 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on A Heathen's Path and commented:
    sorry for the lack of writting. been out of it with flu, I think. Here’s a good article though

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