Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hel- The Goddess of the Dead and the Afterlife

To conclude, or end my research blog, I found it appropriate to conduct research on Hel, the Norse Goddess of death and the afterlife. Hel or Hella's name means "to conceal" or "the Hidden", and is often decribed as "half-dead, half alive herself. The Vikings viewed her with considerable trepidation. The Dutch, Gallic, and German barbarians viewed her with some beneficence, more of a gentler form of death and transformation. She is seen by them as Mother Holle; a being of pure Nature, being helpful in times of need, but vengeful upon those who cross her or transgress natural law" (The Gods and Goddesses of the Norse Religion). Through my research, I found that Hel is also the ruler of nine worlds in the Land of the Mist, also known as Niflheim, which is a cold Northern land in which many frost giants and dwarves live.

She is sometimes referred to as the Queen of the Underworld, and is relevant to the Christian interpretation and representation of "Hell", the eternal punishment site of the unrepentant sinner. She is understood to be the daughter of Loki, who is often represented as Lucifer, or the devil. She is described as an extremely frightening sight, and "piebald, with a face half-human and half blank, or more usually, half alive and half dead. It is told that when She was born, disease first came into the world. She was said to sweep through towns and cities bringing plague: if she used a rake, some would survive; if a broom, none would" (Hel, Norse Goddess of the Dead and the Underworld Art Cards). 

As I continued to research Hel, I found that she was known to induce terrible disease, decay, and other miseries such as death. She was Loki's youngest child, and the sister of the evil giant wolf Fenris, and Jormungand, the giant serpant of Midgard. Some legends indicate that "Odin (since Loki was his blood brother) kept Hel with him to be raised in Asgard. But the other gods were uncomfortable with Hel's appearance (she was born with her bones exposed on one side of her body) and they avoided her. Unhappy and lonely, Hel told Odin that she wanted to leave Asgard. Odin then gave to her the misty world of Nifelheim/Helheim to rule over. To Hel go those who died of sickness, old age, and those who did not die in battle. She would judge those who were good and evil and give them their just rewards (there were different levels of Helheim, ranging from a 'heaven' to a 'hell" (Olson). The Christian interpretation of the Hell as eternal punishment is not the only modern relevance to the goddess Hel. Hel's archetype is the crone, and is depicted as one of the three stages of the life of a woman, mother, maiden, and crone. "In the Pagan tradition the Goddess is often split into three to depict the different stages of a woman's life: mother, maiden and Crone. "The Crone represents the wise old woman whose child bearing days are behind her. Other associations with this Archetype include: compassion, transformation, healing and bawdiness death and endings. She is the respected older woman or grand parent at the heart of family who enjoys life and sharing her experience. Unfortunately the word Crone or Hag often has negative connotations as many wise woman and midwives were persecuted as witches in the middle ages.Shadow Crone is the bitter, old woman who has failed to learn from her life. She blames all her failings and unhappiness on a society that no longer respects the elders. As a result she becomes increasingly isolated and fearful. Hella is a Crone as she is Goddess of the underworld. Despite her role and her appearance she is still a powerful woman who is respected by the Other Gods" (Norse Gods and Goddesses- Crystalinks). Through my research of the many Norse goddesses, I have gained a greater insight into the relevance of the goddesses of the ancient norse mythology,and the everlasting connections that they pose in today's society. 

Works Cited
 "The Gods and Goddesses of the Norse Religion." Wizardrealm. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. <>.
"Hel, Norse Goddess of the Dead and the Underworld Art Cards." A-Muse-ing Grace Gallery--The Magical Art of Thalia Took. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. <>.
Olson, Agnes D. "Hel (also Known as Hela), Norse Goddess of the Dead, Agnes D. Olson, SciFi Fantasy Art." Elfwood - Science Fiction and Fantasy Art, FanArt & Stories. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. <>.
"Norse Gods and Goddesses - Crystalinks." Crystalinks Home Page. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <>.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Julie, thank you for sharing this blog. Most of the research that I have also conducted for an essay on Death was found at a created website that didn't list any references; but the information was very well put together! Thank you for citing your sources. I will be using your blog in my essay! Thanks again, Eric