Mythen & Learnings
To complete the "Trio Infernale", I would like to introduce you to the sister of Fenrir and Jörmundgandr today. I would like to show you that she is not only out of step physically, but also in her function as the goddess of death. You will experience my view of a woman, of a goddess, who is still omnipresent and in everyone's thoughts even in our modern times as Mother Hulda. But how did the goddess of death come to be the figure of Frau Holle in legends and fairy tales? Why should we listen carefully and learn here? Grab your horn, fill it with Starkstrom, buckle up, and let me take you to Helheim. Exceptionally with a return ticket.
As we already know, Hel is the daughter of Loki and Angrboda and the sister of the Fenriswolfs and the Midgardschlange. Her shape is human and yet she is not an Ase, but one of the giants. In another article we will learn why this fine and not so small detail is important. In Hel's case, blood is certainly thicker than water and her appearance deceives and deceives the observer. In the Edda, too, one has obviously played with the idea that nothing is as it seems.
Speaking of appearance - Hel's look is particularly worth mentioning, as it is described as black and white, divided in the middle from top to bottom. Or, if necessary, as young and old, dead and alive. If you like, Schrödinger's thought experiment in the infancy of a Norse goddess. Shakespeare's To Be or Not to Be in a more original form. It also reflects the most fundamental contrasts in time and space and in human nature. Good and evil, light and dark, one and zero. All of this finds its way into the essence of Hel and quite clearly symbolizes the dichotomy of her role.
Contrary to all Christian influences, we must not imagine the ruler of the "Helheim" named after her (the name "hel" can be translated as "hidden") as a female Satan. That role, at least in part, is more her father's. It is therefore not the embodied evil as we know it from the Bible. It is not the memorial certified from above that plays with people's fears, and it is also not a letter of indulgence that recommends people to duck their own dark side in order to ascend to heaven unscathed and wrapped in cotton wool. It's further proof that our culture, throughout its history of belief, has renounced origin and exchanged it for a questionable moral compass, just to avoid having to deal with itself. It should be said at this point that no religion is to be condemned here, but part of the early Christian indoctrination is to be uncovered and the power instrument of faith is to be partially unmasked. I don't think that the collection bag was invented in the spirit of Jesus. But from the beginning!
The world of legends
When she was banished from Asgard by Odin, like her siblings as a cruel creature that would bring terror, the giantess was drawn to the north or to the roots of the world tree below Midgard. There she established the ninth world "Helheim", the world of the dead, a cold snow realm. A realm which, unlike Hell, does not serve as a torture chamber and room of eternal damnation. Helheim is only referred to as hell in the Christian watered-down depictions. Another example of our ancestors' obscure denial of reality and the attempt to once again preach wine and, if necessary, pour a sip of hell. But the term "hell" doesn't do Hel's kingdom justice, because it's much more than that. It's the collecting basin for all the deceased. Regardless of rank and name, all the dead go here first. The non-monochrome goddess occupies an important place and fairly divides all the dead. She is, if you will, the Justitia of the dead. Fair and impartial. The drowned belong to the sea goddess Rán. All warriors find their honorable place in Valhalla at Odin's table, eat, drink the finest mead and celebrate until the day of the twilight of the gods (by the way, probably the best place to enter eternity😉) Hel has the rest, called straw dead, at their disposal. Where else would all those who died of old age or died in an accident end up? You can only get to Helheim via the otherworldly river Gjöll.
If you embark on your last journey, the golden bridge Gjallarbru awaits on the other bank of the Gjöll. Here the dead have to pass two guards, including Hel's beloved (hell) dog Garm.
This image can be viewed alongside Bifrost and Heimdall and understood for what it was meant to be. The Christian hell really has nothing to do with this. Arrived in Helheim, the dead are divided as described. All those who are denied the onward journey are personally judged by Hel and incorruptibly sorted fairly. The souls who have not brought evil upon themselves will find a warm place full of joy. Good-for-nothings and similar vagabonds come into a cold hall where muddy rivers filled with sharp blades await them. And the really bad guys are led to the end of Yggdrasil and tormented by the dragon Nidhöggr. At this point, the resourceful reader will draw certain parallels and perhaps ask himself where the difference between Christian pain and Nordic pain lies.
The answer is simple! According to fairy tales, in Christian hell lived an executioner and hangman, a masochist with a tendency to overestimate himself. In Helheim, in the Nordic region, lives a just judge. Punishment, yes, but not as an instrument of terror, which is already on everyone's lips during one's lifetime. The Norse men and women were incorruptible in this respect and knew that they could not buy their freedom but only make a difference through their actions. Of course, the Vikings were a people who probably didn't always act with a pure heart on plundering trips. And yet the belief in the afterlife also changes the way of life massively. One could speak of different educational methods. While the church in its early form used authoritarian threats as a means of chastisement, the Norse faith gave people free choice. The free choice to become aware of your role in the structure and to take responsibility for your own life. That's a world of difference. The Viking was only accountable to himself, his clan and the gods.
Here in this place, Hel dutifully fulfills her duty until Ragnarök dawns. Then, at her father's side, she will lead the army of the dead to the legendary battlefield to unite with her siblings. In my opinion, Ragnarök is also largely misunderstood and deserves a detailed article.
The tamed fairy tale version
As a tamed fairy tale character, the lady of the Nordic underworld has achieved general fame, which has lasted until modern times. The linguistic origin alone builds literal bridges: Holle, like Holdra or Huldra come from Hold and Hölle. And in the Norse Hell was Hel. If we jump briefly from the Germanic language roots to the Anglo-Saxon tongues, from which today's English emerged, we find there "hell" as a translation of hell. The brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm worked hard on the transformation from the goddess of the Nordic underworld to the fairy godmother, who continues to separate between good and evil. The two young girls fall through a fountain (well, if that's not a symbol for the underworld river Gjöll), are tested on their personality through various tasks and rewarded for charity and sense of duty. On the other hand, bad luck rains down on the lazy, insensitive and foolish girl. Of course, the Norse men and women also had a certain fear of falling out of favor with the gods. And yet there is a striking difference. Because while the "modern" form of Mother Holle uses similar educational doctrines as early Christianity, at least symbolically, the Norse gods manage to trigger a feeling of natural reverence and humility in people.