Saturday, December 3, 2011
Hel, Norse Queen of the Underworld
Hel was the Goddess of death and the Underworld in Norse mythology. She is often a misunderstood Goddess as many Goddesses of the Underworld are. She is said to be the daughter of Loki, a trickster God of the Norse, and a Giantess. Her body was seen as half dead and half alive. Some say that part of of her body was beautiful while the other was horrid like death. To me this symbolizes the light and dark aspects within all of us.
Her namesake comes from the realm she ruled which was Helheim, one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology. It was thought that those who died of disease or old age, went to Helheim and those who died victoriously in battle went to Valhalla. Hel is also the judge of souls to determine where in Helheim they will go. Those who were evil in life go to a realm of icy cold death, this part of Helheim is where the Christian "Hell" comes from. Where souls would be damned for an eternity. The others entering her realm who died of natural causes, disease, etc., were watched over by Hel and given a chance for rebirth. The world of Hel, it is sometimes called, is similar to that of the Greek Underworld, where there were also different realms within it. Like Tartarus was the place were the evil dead would go, and The Elysian fields were a beautiful place where to good would go, and these souls also had a chance for rebirth.
One of the myths involving Hel is the story of the death of Baldr. Tricked by Loki, Baldr died in a contest that took place in Asgard, which is known as the capitol of the Gods. Upon his death he was sent to the realm of Hel where he was welcomed with a feast. Though back in his world, Baldr was deeply mourned, and his brother decided to ride the eight legged horse Sleipnir into Helheim to try and retrieve his brother. When he arrives, he begs Hel to return his beloved brother, saying that all in his realm have wept for him. Hel says, "If all things in the world, alive or dead, weep for him, then he will be allowed to return to the Aesir. If anyone speaks against him or refuses to cry, then he will remain with Hel." - quoted from the Prose Edda.
Hel represents endings and beginnings, and also the darker aspects of life and of ourselves. She teaches us that after death is the opportunity for rebirth, in anything in our lives. The ending of one thing becomes the beginning of another. In magic, in Norse religion, through the practice of Seidr, a Norse form of prophetic and shamanistic witchcraft, practitioners would call on Hel for astral travel, to travel to the world of the spirits and communicate with them. You can call of her today for such magical acts as well as divination. She is usually honored at Samhain and Yule, and on the dark/waning moon.
On your altar for Hel, have colors of black and white, crystals of moonstone, black onyx and hematite, white flowers, representation of a raven and a picture of her in her half dead, half live form to represent the duality in nature and in ourselves.
For more on this Great Goddess, check out Order of the White Moon
Enjoy working with this ancient Goddess of death and rebirth!
Picture courtesy of: Norsemen
Posted by Tara at 9:09 AM