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The goddess of death


When it comes to Hel and her domain, one thing must absolutely be made clear – that she is certainly not synonymous with all the qualities of her Christian counterpart. Hel is not evil, and her realm is not a place of punishment. She is goddess of the dead, lady of the departed. Daughter of Loki and Angrboða, sister to Fenrir and Jörmungandr, she is sadly too often misunderstood by modern heathens.

The Eddas often emphasise her appearance as being something monstrous and unlike the other gods who are so often described as bright, glowing, and beautiful. Half dead and decaying, half alive, she seems to defy everything the Aesir and Vanir deities embody. That sort of vibrant vitality, wealth, abundance, fertility, and physical power. Nonetheless, she was cast out by Odin into the depths of Niflheim, a world of mist and shadow. From there she was tasked with a role she did not choose for herself – to care for all those who enter her realm and give them board and lodging. It stands as a powerful testament that she performed and still performs these duties seemingly without quarrel, and without pause.

Her name means to conceal, to hide, to cover. Death after all, is often pushed aside as something to be ignored. Our mortality looms over us, and we don’t like to be reminded of the fact that we will all die, at some point. Those that work with, worship and celebrate Hel often find her to be a caring figure, duty bound to protect those under her care. After all, from the lore we do follow as heathens, most do walk her halls after death.

How do you work with or celebrate Hel? Who is she to you? What role does she play in your praxis and beliefs?

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