Hela Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, Hela or Hel is a creature that presides over the kingdom of the same name, where it receives a portion of the dead. Hel appears in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In addition, it is mentioned in poems recorded in the Heimskringla and Egils saga dating from the 9th and 10th centuries, respectively. An episode from the Latin work Gesta Danorum, written in the 12th century by Saxo Grammaticus, is often considered to refer to Hela, and Hela may appear in various bracteatos from the migratory period.

Hela Norse Mythology

In the Poetic Edda, the prosaic Edda and Heimskringla, Hela is the daughter of Loki, and “to go to Hela” is to die. In the book of the prosaic Edda, Gylfaginning, it is described that the god Odin has assigned her to the kingdom of the same name, located in Niflheim. In the same fountain, his appearance is described as a blue half and a flesh-colored half, looking gloomy and dejected. The prosaic Edda details that Hela rules over a vast mansion with many servants in her kingdom and plays a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.

Academic theories have proposed potential relationships of Hela to figures appearing in the 11th century Gospel of Nicodemus in Old English and Bartholomew’s postor saga in Old Norse, potentially being a goddess with potential Indo-European parallels to Bhavani, Kali, and Mahakali. o That Hela could become only a late personification of the place of the same name

Poetic edda

The Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, highlights several poems that mention Hela. In the Poetic Edda poem, Völuspá, the kingdom of Hela is referred to as the “Hela salons”. In Grimnismál stanza 31, Hela is numbered, and is considered to live under one of the three roots of the world tree Yggdrasil. In Fáfnismál, the hero Sigurd stands before the mortally wounded body of the dragon Fáfnir, and claims that Fáfnir lies in pieces, where “Hela can take it.” In Atlamál, the phrase “Hela has half of us” and “sent to Hela” is used to refer to death, although it can refer to place and not to being, if not both. In stanza 4 of Baldr’s draumar, Odin rides towards “Hela’s great hall.”

Hela can also be alluded to in Hamðismál. Death is paraphrased as “the pleasure of the trolling-woman” (or “ogress”) and ostensibly, it is Hela who is referred to as the trolling-woman or the ogre (flagð), although it may be some unspecified dis. The Poetic Edda also mentions that travelers to Hela must go through their watchdog Garmr.

Prosaic Edda (Hela Norse Mythology)

Hela is mentioned in the Poetic Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In chapter 34 of the book Gylfaginning, Hela is listed by Hár as one of the three sons of Loki and Angrboða;; the Fenrir wolf, the Jörmungandr snake, and Hela. Hár continues that, when the gods discovered that these three sons had been brought to the land of Jötunheimr, and when the gods “traced prophecies that these brothers would bring them great malice and disaster,” the gods expected many problems from them, partly due to the nature of the children’s mother, and worse by the nature of their father.

Har says that Odin sent the gods to collect the children and bring them to him. Upon his arrival, Odin launched Jörmungandr into “the deep sea that lies around all the lands”, Odin launched Hela to Niflheim and gave him authority over the nine worlds, so that he must “administer food and accommodation to those sent to them, and those who die of disease or old age. ” Hár details that in her kingdom, Hela has “great mansions” with extremely high walls and immense doors, a hall called Éljúðnir, a plate called “Hunger”, a knife called “famine”, a servant named Ganglati (Old Norse: lazy walker ), the maid Ganglöt (also “lazy walker”), the threshold of the “reef” entrance, the “sick-bed” bed, and the “gleaming bales” curtains. Hár describes Hel as “half black and half flesh-colored”, adding that this makes her easily recognizable and that Hela is “quite downcast and fierce-looking”.

In chapter 49, Hár describes the events surrounding the death of the god Baldr. The goddess Frigg asks who among the Æsir will earn “all their love and favor” by riding towards Hela, the place, to try to find Baldr, and offer Hela herself a reward. The god Hermóðr offers himself and sets off on the eight-legged horse Sleipnir towards Hela. Hermóðr arrives at Hela’s room to find her brother Baldr and spends the night. The next morning, Hermóðr pleads with Hela to allow her to return home to Baldr and tells her about the great cries of the Æsir with Baldr’s death. Hela says that the love that, according to Hermóðr, people have for Baldr must be proven:

‘’if all things in heaven, alive and dead, mourn him, then he will return to the Aesir, but he will stay with Hel if anyone refuses or does not want to cry’’

Then, in that same chapter, when the Jotun Þökk refuses to cry for the deceased Baldr, she responds in verse, ending “Hel keep his own.” In chapter 51, Hár describes the events of the Ragnarök, detailing that when Loki reaches the Vígríðr field, “all the people of Hela” arrive with him.

In chapter 5 of the prosaic book Skáldskaparmál, Hela is mentioned in a kenning for Baldr (“Hela’s Companion”). In chapter 16, “relative or father […] of Hela” is given in a kenning for Loki. In chapter 50, Hela is mentioned (“to join the company of the quite monstrous wolf sister”) in the scalding poem Ragnarsrapa.

Heimskringla (Hela Norse Mythology)

In the Ynglings saga of the book Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Hela is mentioned, though never by name. In Chapter 17, King Dyggvi dies of the disease. Then a 9th-century Ynglingatal poem is quoted which forms the basis of the Ynglings saga describing Hegg’s take of Dyggvi:

‘’ I do not doubt it

but Dyggvi’s corpse

Hela holds it

to corrupt it;

by the Ulf brothers

a descendant of kings

by right they should

care in death:

to love attracted

Loki’s sister

Yngvi’s heir

over all of Sweden.’’

In chapter 45, a section of the Ynglingatan is given which refers to Hela as “howes’-warder” (meaning “guardian of the graves”) and how he takes King Halfdan Hvitbeinn from life. In Chapter 46, King Eystein Halfdansson dies being hit by a shaft from a mast. A section of the Ynglingatal continues describing that Eystein going to Hela (Referred to as “daughter of Býleistr’s brother”). In chapter 47, King Halfdan, son of the late Eystein, dies of illness, and the fragment provided in the chapter describes his later fate, with a portion mentioning Hela:

‘’  Loki’s daughter

of life invoked

to his

to the third feudal lord,

when Halfdan

from Holtar’s farm

left life

assigned to him.’’

In a Ynglingatal stanza shown in chapter 72 of the Harald Sigurdsson saga of the book Heimskringla, “given to Hela” is again used to refer to death.

Egil Skallagrimsson Saga (Hela Norse Mythology)

Egil Skallagrimson’s Icelandic saga contains the poem Sonatorrek. The saga attributes the poem to the 10th-century scald, Egil Skallagrimson, writing that it was composed by him after the death of his son Gunnar. The original final stanza of the poem contains a mention of Hela, though not by name:

‘’ I am distressed

well it’s close

Hel the goddess

of dead men;

but with joy,

and even with desire,

and without fear,

I will await death.’’

Gesta Danorum

In the account of Baldr’s death in the early 13th-century work of Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, the dying Baldr is visited in a dream by Proserpina (here translated “goddess of death”):

‘’ The next night the goddess of death appeared to him standing in a dream beside him, and declared that in three days she would hold him in her arms. It was not a pleasant sight, since after three days of sharp pain from his wound it ended. ‘’

Scholars assume that Saxo used Proserpine as a goddess equivalent to the Norse Hela.

Archaeological record

It has been suggested that several imitation medallions from the immigration period and bracteatos show Hela’s image. In particular, the IK 14 and IK 124 arms show a rider going down a slope toward a woman holding a scepter or staff. The downward slope may indicate that the rider travels to the realm of the dead and the woman with the scepter may be the ruler of the kingdom, corresponding to Hela.

Some class B arms show three divine figures that are considered to show the death of Baldr, the best known being the Fakse arm. Two of the figures are interpreted as Baldr and Odin while Loki and Hela have been proposed as candidates for the third. If it’s Hela, you are possibly thanking the late Baldr for entering his kingdom.


Seo Hell

The Old English Gospel of Nicodemus, preserved in two 11th century manuscripts, contains a female figure referred to as Seo Hell who engages in an insulting exchange with Satan and tells him to leave his abode (Old English: ut of mynre onwununge) . Regarding Seo Hell in the Old English Gospel of Nicodemus, Michael Bell states that “her vivid impersonation in a dramatically excellent scene suggests that her genre is more than grammatical, and invites comparison with the ancient Norse goddess of the underworld Hela and the Frau Holle of German folklore, not to mention the underworld goddesses of other cultures “adding that” the possibility that these genres are merely grammatical is reinforced by the fact that the Old Norse version of Nicodemus, possibly translated under English influence, personifies Hell in a neutral way (Old Norse: bat helviti)

Origins and development

Jacob Grimm postulated that Hela (referred to here as Halja, the hypothetical Proto-Germanic form of the term) is essentially an “image of a greedy and discouraging female deity” and that “the more we are allowed to penetrate our antiquities, the less Hellish and more divine may appear Halja. From this, we have a particularly strong guarantee of her affinity with the Indian Bhavani, who travels and bathes like Nerthus and Holda but is also called Kali or Mahakali, the great black goddess. In the underworld, it is supposed who sits in the judgment of souls. This office, the similar name, the black hue […] make it exceedingly similar to Halja. And Halja is one of the oldest and most common conceptions of our paganism. “

Grimm postulates that the Helhest, a three-legged horse that prowls across the field “like a herald of plague and pestilence” in Danish folklore, was originally the steed of the goddess Hela and that he was prowling the land “gathering to the dead who owed him. ” In addition, Grimm says Hela was assigned a wagon, with which he was traveling. Grimm says Hela is an example of “half-goddess”; “one who cannot show herself as the wife or daughter of a god, and who has a dependent relationship with the greater divinities” and that the “half-goddesses” are more important than the “half-gods” in Germanic mythology.

Hilda Ellis Davidson (1948) states that Hela “as a goddess” in the surviving sources appears to belong to a genre of literary personification, that the word Hela was generally “used simply to refer to death or the grave” and that the word it usually appears as the equivalent of “death”, to which Davidson affirms “naturally leads to personification by poets”. Davidson explains “that whether this personification was originally based on a belief in a death goddess named Hela is another matter,” but that she does not believe that the surviving sources give any reason to believe it. On the other hand, Davidson adds that other examples of “certain supernatural women” related to a death can be found in sources from Norse mythology, which “seem to be intimately linked with the world of death, and were portrayed as welcoming dead warriors.” “and that the representation of Hela as a goddess “in Gylfaginning” may well have been something of that. “

In later works (1998), Davidson states that Hela‘s description found in chapter 33 of the Gylfaginning “hardly suggests a goddess.” Davidson adds that “even though the impression given by the account of Hermod’s trip to Hela later in Gylfaginning (49) is not, and points out that here Hela” [speaks] with authority as ruler of the underworld “and that from his kingdom” the gifts are Frigg and Fulla are returned by Balder’s wife Nanna as from a friendly kingdom. “Davidson proposes that Snorri may” have initially made the goddess of death an allegorical figure, just as she did Hela, the underworld of shadows, a place ‘where wicked men go’, just like Christian hell (Gylfaginning 3). “Davidson continues

‘’ On the other hand, a goddess of death who represents the horrors of slaughter and decomposition is well known everywhere; The figure of Kali in India is an exceptional example. Like Snorri’s Hela, she is terrifying in appearance, black or dark in color, usually nude, adorned with various heads or arms or corpses of children, her lips drenched in blood. He spells the battlefield or cremation ground and sits on the corpses. Even for all of them, she is “the recipient of ardent devotion for countless devotees who approach her as their goddess’’

Davidson continues to compare with primitive testimonies of the Irish goddesses Badb (Davidson points to Badb’s description as The Destruction of Da Choca’s Shelter where Badb wears a dark cloak, has a large mouth, is dark in color, and gray hair falling over his shoulders, or alternatively “like a red figure at the edge of the ford, washing the car of a king condemned to die”) and Morrigan. Davidson concludes that, in these examples, “here we have the fierce destructive side of death, with a strong emphasis on its physical terrors, so perhaps we should not assume that the hideous figure of Hela is entirely Snorri’s literary invention.”

Jonh Lindow claims that most of the details about Hela, as a figure, are not found outside of Snorri’s Glfaginning script, and says that when the old scald poetry “says that people are ‘in’ rather than with ” Hela We are clearly dealing with a place rather than a person, and this can be assumed to be an ancient conception “, that the name and place Hela probably originated simply to mean” grave “, and that” the personification came later “. Rudolf Simek theorizes that the figure of Hela is “probably a very late personification of the underworld Hela“, and says that “the first kennings using the goddess Hela are found in the late 10th and 11th century”. Simek asserts that the allegorical description of Hela’s house at Gylfaginning “is clearly situated in the Christian tradition”, and that “there is absolutely nothing in favor of Hela’s existence in pre-Christian times”. However, Simek also cites Hela as the possible unknown figure in the B-arms at the migration period.