PDA

View Full Version : Is Worship of Hel acceptable?



odinsson
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 03:03 AM
What does everyone here think of the goddess Hel and worship of her? Is this acceptable? I've been pondering this for a month or so.

Athalwulf
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 04:07 AM
I believe that Hel's character may have been Christianized to appear more like a devil figure, but even so, what would the purpose of worshiping her be?

To my knowledge, she is the one who watches over all those who die from natural causes or sickness, nothing more. If I have missed something please inform me.

theTasmanian
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 08:13 AM
i think that the German tribes saw her as a god of change or changing in death;)

Ulf
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 08:23 AM
I know she's mentioned in the Eddas, but is there any archaeological evidence of her existence?

Cythraul
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 08:47 AM
If worship of Hel was synonymous with death-worship, then that was OK for our Pagan ancestors. Death was not something to be feared or made taboo like in our Christian society, it was a glorious transition. That's not to say that everyone was committing suicide, but I feel that the lines between 'alive' and 'dead' were more blurred than they are now. Death wasn't a big, bad reaper who we should run scared from and never mention.

Pino
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 10:01 AM
I dont think she would have been thought of much by the warriors who had Valhalla on there mind.

Shes not one of the important Gods or Godesses in my opinion, apparently she looks half dead and half alive I think the Gods sent her well away from Asgard to look after the dead for good reason.

Ulf
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 11:22 AM
Page 312 V.1 ---- Jacob GRIMM .*

The ON. gen. Heljar shows itself in the other Teutonic
tongues even less doubtfully than Frigg and Freyja or any of the
above-mentioned goddesses : Goth. Halja gen. Haljos, OHG. Hellia,
Hella gen. Hellia, Hella, AS. Hell gen. Helle ; only, the personal
notion has dropt away, and reduced itself to the local one of halja,
hellia, hell, the nether world and place of punishment. Originally
Hellia is not death nor any evil being, she neither kills nor
torments ; she takes the souls of the departed and holds them with
inexorable grip. The idea of a place evolved itself, as that of oegir
oceanus out of Oegir, and that of gban mare from Gban ; the
converted heathen without any ado applied it to the christian
underworld, the abode of the damned ; all Teutonic nations have
done this, from the first baptized Goths down to the Northmen,
because that local notion already existed under heathenism,
perhaps also because the church was not sorry to associate lost
spirits with a heathen and fiendish divinity. Thus hellia can be
explained from Hellia even more readily than ostara from Ostara.

In the Edda, Hel is Loki's daughter by a giantess, she is sister
to the wolf Fenrir and to a monstrous snake. She is half black and
half of human colour (...)
after the manner of the pied people of the Mid. Ages ; in other
passages her blackness alone is made a subject of comparison(...)

Her dwelling
is deep down in the darkness of the ground, under a root of the
tree Yggdrasill, in Niflheim, the innermost part of which is there-
fore called Nifihel, there is her court (rann), there her halls, Her platter is named hungr, her knife sultr,
synonymous terms to denote her insatiable greed. The dead go
down to her, fara til Haljar, strictly those only that have died of
sickness or old age, not those fallen in fight, who people Valhalla,
Her personality has pretty well disappeared in such phrases as
hel sl, drepa, berja hel, to smite into hell, send to Hades ; helju
vera, be in Hades, be dead, Fornald. sog. 1, 233. Out of this has
arisen in the modern dialects an altogether impersonal and distorted
term, Swed. ihjl, Dan. ihiel, to death. These languages now
express the notion of the nether world only by a compound, Swed.
helvete, Dan. helvede, i.e., the ON. helvti (supplicium infernale),
OIIG. hellewzi, MHG. hellewze. One who is drawing his last
breath is said in ON. liggja milli heims oc heljar (to lie betwixt
home and hell), to be on his way from this world to the other.'
The unpitying nature of the Eddic Hel is expressly emphasized ;
what she once has, she never gives back: haldi Hel vi er hefir, Sn.
68 ; hefir nu Hel, Saem. 257 like the wolf in the apologue (Rein-
hart xxxvi), for she is of wolfish nature and extraction ; to the
wolf on the other hand a hellish throat is attributed (see SuppL).

Two lays in the Edda describe the way to the lower world, the
Helreiđ Brynhildar and tlie Vegtamsqviđa ; in the latter, Ođin's
ride on Sleipnir for Baldr's sake seems to prefigure that which
Hermođr afterwards undertakes on the same steed in Sn. 65-7.
But the incidents in the poem are more thrilling, and the dialogue
between Vegtamr and the vala, who says of herself :

var ek snifin sniofi (by snow), ok slegin regni,
ok drifin dggo (by dew), dauđ (dead) var ek leingi,

is among the sublimest things the Edda has to shew. This vala
must stand in close relationship to Hel herself.

Saxo Gram. p. 43 very aptly uses for Hel the Latin Proserpina,
he makes her give notice of Balder's death. In the Danish popular
belief Hel is a three-legged horse, that goes round the country,
a harbinger of plague and pestilence ; of this I shall treat further
on. Originally it was no other than the steed on which the goddess
posted over land, picking up the dead that were her due ; there is
also a waggon ascribed to her, in which she made her journeys.


In Germany too the Mid. Ages still cherished the conception of
a voracious, hungry, insatiable Hell, an Orcus esuriens, i.e., the man-
devouring ogre : ' diu Helle ferslindet al daz ter lebet, si ne wirdet
niomer sat,' N. Cap. 72. ' diu Helle und der arge wan werdent
niemer sat,' Welsch. gast. It sounds still more personal, when she
has gaping yawning jaws ascribed to her, like the wolf ; pictures in
the MS. of Caedmon represent her simply by a wide open mouth.

Der tobende wuoterich The raging tyrant

der was der Hellen gelich, he was like the Hell

diu daz abgrunde who the chasm (steep descent)

begenit mit ir munde be-yawneth with her mouth

unde den himel zuo der erden. from heaven down to earth,

unde ir doch niht ne mac werden, And yet to her it cannot hap

daz si immer werde vol ; that she ever become full ;

si ist daz ungesatliche hol, she is the insatiable cavern,

daz weder nu noeh uie ne sprah : that neither now nor ever said

' diz ist des ih niht ne mac' ' this is what I cannot (manage).'


The essential thing is, the image of a greedy, unrestoring, female
deity.

But the higher we are allowed to penetrate into our antiquities,
the less hellish and the more godlike may Halja appear. Of this
we have a particularly strong guarantee in her affinity to the Indian
Bhavani, who travels about and bathes like Nerthus and Holda
(p. 268), but is likewise called Kali or Mahakali, the great black
goddess. In the underworld she is supposed to sit in judgment on
souls. This office, the similar name and the black hue (kala niger,
conf. caligo) make her exceedingly like Halja. And
Halja is one of the oldest and commonest conceptions of our
heathenism.

Carl
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 11:36 AM
Hel is a location where the Alfather sent her for being rather unpleasant! Presumably it takes its name from her --- one of naughty Loki's offspring . A goddess? -- hmm..... who is counting. Dont forget, the Alfather 'twas who kicked her downstairs into the frozen zone.

Is Hel, her place for the dead, even one of the nine worlds ? Now there's a question!

Ulf! As fellow moderator Moody would have it, once you start quoting (indirectly) from Snorri and Saxo (:thumbdown), you are quoting later Christians who might well be distorting things according to the newly imported alien faith. One needs always to think about this when trying to see things straight in the later times. Christians in those days were hot on Hell.... and they really twisted the old customs to suit themselves and their new masters. Even Grimm, I note, lists all the things the devil ( " who is not Teutonic") is known for -- darkness, wolves, ravens etc etc - that sort of thing!! get the picture? - it isn't very pretty!

Ulf
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 12:22 PM
I just took a brief look through The Road to Hel (http://www.runewebvitki.com/Road_To_Hel.pdf).


Most frequently we find the word hel used simply to signify death or the grave. Fara til heljar, drepa mann til heljar are common phrases for ‘to die’, ‘to slay’. In phrases like bija heljar, ‘to await death’, ykkir eigi betra lif en hel, ‘life seemed no better than death’, the word is equivalent to the English ‘death’, and like the English word would naturally lend itself to personification by the poets. It is as such a personification, for instance, that Hel appears in the poems of Egill, and is said in the Hfulausn1’ to trample upon corpses in battle, and in the Sonatorrek2 to stand on the headland where the poet’s son has been buried. Whether this personification has originally been based on a belief in a goddess of death called Hel is another question, but I do not think that the literature we possess gives us any reason to assume so. On the other hand, we have seen that certain supernatural women seem to have been closely connected with the world of death, and were pictured as welcoming dead warriors, so that Snorri’s picture of Hel as a goddess might well owe something to these.

Turning from Hel as a mythological figure in Snorri to Hel as a kingdom of the dead, we find that the word is certainly used frequently to denote the place where the dead are, but it may be noticed that the use of it is vague, and it seems to signify the place of the dead in general rather than any one place of the dead in particular. A comparison might be made with the use of Sheol in the Hebrew poets, which is usually rendered vaguely by English translators as ‘the grave’. In most of the passages where Hel is introduced as the realm of the dead, it may be noticed that the emphasis is on the journey there made by the dead. or the living. Whether from the world of men or from that of the gods, and this is, I think, of some importance the understanding of the tradition.

1 V. 10 (Egils Saga, LX).
2 V. 25 (ibid. LXXVIII), p.256.


Which was partly my reasoning behind asking:
I know she's mentioned in the Eddas, but is there any archaeological evidence of her existence?

Edit: Regarding evidence, I was wondering if maybe there was a rune stone or something depicting the image of the supposed goddess Hel.

odinsson
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 01:53 PM
well from my understanding, which may be incorrect because I only began to study her, she was in cooperation with the gods although greedy preventing Baldrs immediate return (which may be a very Christianize myth) her main duty is to hold the dead and i believe hel to be a place where a part is dedicated to the dishonorable where it is more torturous but that the other half is more or less like a second life-ish in a way they say she decorated her halls when Baldr was to enter (writing this from memory)


i don't know thats what i have

Athalwulf
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 02:33 PM
well from my understanding, which may be incorrect because I only began to study her, she was in cooperation with the gods although greedy preventing Baldrs immediate return (which may be a very Christianize myth) her main duty is to hold the dead and i believe hel to be a place where a part is dedicated to the dishonorable where it is more torturous but that the other half is more or less like a second life-ish in a way they say she decorated her halls when Baldr was to enter (writing this from memory)


i don't know thats what i have

The whole torture part is most likely Christianized. I see Hel as nothing more than the watch person for the dead that do not die in battle. I don't see Hel as similar in any way to the Christian "Hell", either.

That being said, I don't see any harm is worshiping Hel, as long as you aren't mistaken in her purposes.

odinsson
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 03:09 PM
the thing is that I was thinking Hel could possibly worshiped during ancestral worship or other things of that nature

Morning Angel
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 03:25 PM
What does everyone here think of the goddess Hel and worship of her? Is this acceptable? I've been pondering this for a month or so.

She's important in an understanding of an afterlife, by which I might mean nothing more than a presence of spirit beyond matter. Therefore, theologically, she's essential to understand.

As for worship...if you mean, as I do, to honor her, then I see no reason not to do so. A Heathen does not submit/subvert him/herself to the gods in worship, nor ever forfeit one's free will. Do you fear the taint of darkness associated with Hel? If so, it is only the fear of yourself and not Hel, for Heathens always remain master of their actions. Christians, not Heathens, foist the responsibility for their "sins" upon the devil.

Like you, I would like to know more about Hel, and I thank our "resident experts" for the information they've already provided. I hope to read more.

invargR
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 05:37 PM
Edit: Regarding evidence, I was wondering if maybe there was a rune stone or something depicting the image of the supposed goddess Hel.
http://catview.historiska.se/catview/CatViewServlet/?action=getImage&noforward=true&qualityLevel=3&upptagningsId=23947&fitMethod=FIT_WIDTH&width=450&height=450&forceVisability=0

According to one amateur website, in the bottom of this picture stone there is Hel, and Nidhggr sucking blood from the dead through the roof. I don't really see her. Like so many picture and rune stones, this has been damaged by early christians, in this case used on the floor in a church, and there's a hole in it to drain unholy water.

I like the ideas posted here to see her as a god of change and to see her honoured due to her connection to passed relatives. Surely there wasn't a distinction between "good" and "bad" in Germanic heathen culture. And like VinlandViking I'm certain the idea of torture is of christian origin. I think the afterlife reflected the memories the living had of the dead (Deyr f, deyja frndr, deyr sjlfr it sama. Ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dmr um dauan hvern.) A painful afterlife is the counterpart of a disliked memory. An ok afterlife (Hel in general) is the counterpart of an ok or perhaps non-existant memory. An honourable afterlife (Valhalla) is the counterpart of an honourable memory.

odinsson
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 06:13 PM
Yes, when I say worship I mean honor. I quit thinking of worship in the judeo-christian sense and instead I think of it as to honor. maybe it would be easier for clarity's sake to say honor instead of worship.

Carl
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 08:24 PM
It seems a bit like Hades...a dim sort of place for the dead to go . The alternative was to die in battle in a way that the 2 divine Psychopomp's found noble and acceptable - then they would conduct the fallen ones to their halls above. Two? Odinn and Freyja, the Vanadis.

Athalwulf
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 09:20 PM
Yes, when I say worship I mean honor. I quit thinking of worship in the judeo-christian sense and instead I think of it as to honor. maybe it would be easier for clarity's sake to say honor instead of worship.

I usually say honor, admire, feel close to, or something similar to that, although I do sometimes use the term worship. To quote King Hrothgar of the Danes: "My gods do not ask me to bow."

Sigurd
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 09:40 AM
By the hairy arse of Loki - pardon my French - I cannot believe what I am reading! Gods, people, how can you! Ulf, Quoting Saxo for Thunor's sake! :-O

And Carl - how of all people can you state so mundane views on this ... I am almost disappointed. :P



Is Hel, her place for the dead, even one of the nine worlds ? Now there's a question!

Only the chosen go to Valhalla - the Hall of the Slain or in different interpretation the Hall of the Chosen. Others go to Folkvang. They are even less common to go there - because it should be assumed that when Freyja in her role as Valfreyja would take her first pick amongst the best. The worst of the dead go to Niflhel / Nastrnd.

And all the other dead? All the average dead that were neither amongst the top or bottom 1% - should they be assumed to go to a naughty, naughty place outside the nine worlds and stay there for all eternity, in damnation?

To be honest, seeing it that way reeks of Christian influence, that which converted Helheim into Hell, the place where all those non-celestials go when they have failed to rid themselves of the burden of original sin...

Instead, it has been suggested that Valhalla should be interpreted as "Hel of the Chosen" rather than "Hall of the Slain".

It surely is a "darker" place than Midgard, the world we live in, or even Asgard, that unscathable, gloomy, perfect world of the Gods. Hence its placement on the lower of the three plains, alongside Niflheim and arguable Muspelheim.

But take that as no judgment - that makes it no evil place, instead just a more "sombre" place of sorts, more uncompromising - which does not have to be a bad thing: The night is not more evil than the day, just more sombre, more uncompromising.

And even the "fact" that she does not give the souls she takes back - that is open to debate. But the question of going to halls and/or ancestral reincarnation is a different one that I will not touch upon in this topic, instead will open a thread of its own for. Considering our ancestors appeared to believe that most people went to Hel, and believed strongly in ancestral reincarnation - chances are that the inevitability, the eternity of Hel is also a later Christian infusion ... along the "eternal damnation in Hell" lines.

Just a thought there, and my apologies if I came on a little strongly!

Ulf
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 12:39 PM
I was just quoting Grimm who quoted Saxo. What little information I found in Grimm was presented.

But I do appreciate your displeasure as I've never read any Saxo or given his writings much attention. It will help me filter that much more while reading through TM. :)

Carl
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 01:22 PM
:|.
Well we do all know that the dead go to various places according to their lives and mode of death. And the dead were always remembered and appropriately honoured, that is not in question. The issue of how they are sent on their way remains a matter of consideration within the fraternity.


But the thread asks about HEL - and thats both a location & an entity. I personally accept it as one of the Nine Worlds of the Tree; my reason is that Odin himself sent Hel down there (so to speak ) to be the Ruler ( goddess?) of the dead in that realm (world). But like her father, Loki , she is not divine by origin. Some groups may in passing honour Loki as an important agent in the world of the Gods, indeed as Odin's blood brother, but it is generally considered somewhat dangerous and unrewarding to do so. People need to think about that one rather carefully. Acedemics have not located any evidence of a cult of Loki in the past - perhaps that is understandable in view of his final actions....


In a similar way , Hel is not established as a cult as such ( at least not by any Asa group I know about!) ; perhaps others know differently. We do live in a diverse world after all!

Odinsson, thanks for your PM. The real issue behind your original thread question here is, in my view, an ethical one, yes - that too! In the Church, one wouldn't get very far by proclaiming Satan (- not of course , as Grimm observes, a Teutonic entity at all , any more than Jehovah or whatever). In a similar way, within the ethik pertaining to the wider Asatru, to raise up Loki or his offspring ( Hel, the Wolf Fenris(!) or the Midgard Serpent ) would surely soon appear to be a matter of dishonour towards the Asatru Gods one is seeking to affirm. There is a conflict there - which inevitably begins to look rather odd and unacceptable....

Anyway, Odin wasn't always right. At first, even he had to learn that there were limits to his powers. Factors beyond him were also at work. :oanieyes

odinsson
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 01:39 PM
could hel be a deity that has been misrepresented by christian authors?

ladybright
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 02:02 PM
could hel be a deity that has been misrepresented by christian authors?
Just as Baal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baal) was misrepresented.

I have been thinking about what happens after we die of late. Helheim seems dreary but not horrible. After a hard day I am happy to rest in a cool dark room. There seems to be a similarity.

odinsson
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 02:08 PM
it is upsetting to me that we don't have this information any more in it's original context :thumbdown

Sigurd
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 02:14 PM
it is upsetting to me that we don't have this information any more in it's original context :thumbdown

And that is what differentiates the Heathen from the Christian eventually. As you grow older (may sound a little strong coming from a 20-year-old - but I have grown into the faith quite a considerable bit the last three years ;)) and more deeply rooted in the faith and the philosophies and myths surrounding it, you take all the collection of facts, or lack thereof, and ponder upon it - and it will allow you to find an own view of what seems plausible to you.

A great deal of Heathen/Odinist/Asatru philosophy is based upon personal experience and personal philosophical interpretations, rather than scripture as it were. One of the things I like, too, I am a spiritual, inquisitive type full of thoughts and so many of my interpretations just come to me as I go along. ;)

odinsson
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 02:24 PM
this i do understand i have been practicing for about 4 years and have going over as many articles papers and books as i could for the last 2 1/2 years

yes i am still young in the faith

i can accept and ponder (as i often do on all these matters) the lack of information and the information presented to me

I have many beliefs that are very personal on these religious matters but i joined this forum to gain insight from others i ran out of information and was looking for more instead of reading the same thing over and over again

the issue with hel is i was wondering the general consensus from other heathens


and no you didn't come along strong i thought it was just fine :)

Psychonaut
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 06:34 PM
In a similar way , Hel is not established as a cult as such ( at least not by any Asa group I know about!) ; perhaps others know differently. We do live in a diverse world after all!

It is very interesting that there doesn't seem to have been any cult surrounding her in Heathen times. I suppose that inn's role as a death god more naturally lends itself to a cult because his role in death was in battle deaths, whereas Hel was much more of an all encompassing entropic figure. I think that she, along with many of the jtnar are better to be revered that worshiped. It certainly makes sense to treat the destructive and entropic forces of nature with a healthy amount of fear and reverence, but that doesn't necessarily have to translate into the type of afterlife insanity that the Semites brought us. To fear Hel is a natural thing, but to come to terms with her and, in old age, even look forward to her embrace is a big part of our mortal condition. To be fearless of death makes about as much sense as to live in mortal fear of it; a balance must must be struck between the two.

odinsson
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 07:10 PM
i Have heard of people bloting to here and asking for the safe passing of their grandparents or parents after they die

which is one of the reasons i began this thread does te majority think this is okay?

ladybright
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 07:32 PM
Hel is kind of like wild mushrooms. They break down organic matter to smaller parts and allow new life. They are delicious and dangerous. Necessary and useful but kind of unsettling. Not exactly a goddess like the Asir but more a 'force of nature' in my opinion.

Octothorpe
Sunday, December 7th, 2008, 02:48 AM
I consider the Lady Hel to be a major influence on my life, but that is based on UPG and not based on text. I 'saw' her as a child, more than once, about 20 years before I ever heard of heathenry. She seems quiet, cool, and mild.

Hrafnmann
Sunday, December 7th, 2008, 06:03 AM
Yes, when I say worship I mean honor. I quit thinking of worship in the judeo-christian sense and instead I think of it as to honor. maybe it would be easier for clarity's sake to say honor instead of worship.

Hmmm. . .nowt wrong with the word 'worship'. It is after all a Germanic word (O.E. worscip/weorscipe) as opposed to honour. Unfortunately, worship today is viewed in xian terms hence I see the misgivings of many heathens to use it and the fact that worship meaning "condition of being worthy" was not applied in the sense of reverence to a deity until post-heathen times as far as we know. The term A.S. heathens likely used was geldan from Pr.Gmc *geldanan "to pay", and so comes to us as 'yield'. This fits in well with the ancient ways of gifting, of willingly yielding up to the gods to strengthen the bonds between us and our indigenous gods, and so hopefully gain their blessings in return. Yield away fellow heathens. :thumbup

As for the question at hand of Hel, all heathens must come to deal with this at some point. Since xianity usurped the word and corrupted it to their own perverse ways, I fear it comes loaded with a heap of baggage, and Snorri and others have not helped in this either. I revisit this topic now and then hoping for new insight but each time I have to settle for something inconclusive. As I see it, as things stand with the info we have on Hel and her realm, all the dead (of various wights) of all the known worlds are given into her care save those whom the gods deem fit to dwell with them in their own blessed halls. I would say that is few and far between thus leaving the majority wending their way Hel-ward. Considering that heathens acknowledge the dead ancestrally, how can we not concede some form of recognition to that which rules over where the dead may dwell? If Snorri is to be believed, Hel the goddess was given charge over the dead and to provide for them, a task she was set to by Odin. Three gods in Baldr, Nanna, and Hr also reside there so one would assume they are treated well. Whether Hel attends to her task grudgingly or willingly, we are left with the question does this duty require us to be thankful? Does Hel have any power to affect the land of the living (which would be one of the reasons to yield to her), but also would yielding offer any boon to our deceased ancestors dwelling in that realm? Would it go against the task set by Odin if she could be influenced? Given the Balder story she can be influenced but her grip is tight indeed. Hard questions of which I have yet to come to any resolution with any sense of conviction. I will likely have to wait and find out for myself in person. ;)

So in a nutshell, to date I have not yielded to Hel . . . nor her father. And unless I get some sign or other insight to do otherwise, I shan't be doing so any time soon.

invargR
Thursday, February 5th, 2009, 09:03 PM
I just thought of a possible reason Hel would not have been yielded to, which corresponds to my rather atheistic take on heathenry which admittedly is to some degree inspired by some text of V.V. I read once upon a time. Gods were yielded to, to remind oneself of the ideals they each stand for, to find courage knowing one is descended from these legendary, deified men. E.g. Tӯr for courage, ōrr for loyalty &c.

Hel more or less lacks qualities that would make her the subject of such idolization; at least it is not surprising if she was not one considering all of the other gods perhaps more suitable for idolization whose possible gifts or sanctuaries have not been found either. Rather, people would probably yield directly to their dead, near ancestors and kin (parents, grand parents, grand grand parents &c) to remember and honour them and to remind themselves of their qualities and deeds.

This makes much sense to my view on heathenry. :)