Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Novel Gnosis part 14: Hel

Continuing this series on my religious insights I gained while writing a novel, that is, novel gnosis. In Some Say Fire, Hel the goddess is called Hela. Hel the place is called Helheim.

Hela, the goddess

When Hela was born, she immediately sloughed off half her flesh, leaving bone on the other side. Her mother thought she was dying, but Loki could sense her light and knew she was a goddess. (It puzzled Loki that Angrbodha could not sense Hela’s light. Every other mother of a god or goddess who was not already a goddess before the pregnancy became a goddess by giving birth to a god or goddess. All the mothers of Odin’s children, whether jotun or human, became goddesses. Being able to sense the light inside a god is a sign of the character’s potential to become a god.) Angrbodha’s relatives gave the family a hard time right after the births of each child. Angrbodha intended Hela to inherit her priestess position as the caretaker of the spring in the Iron Wood that gave rise to the river that flowed through Jotunheim, which was the only source of non-wintry conditions in that world. But the other wolf-people in the Iron Wood did not like any of Loki’s children, and while Hela was still a child, right after the birth of the third child, Jormungandr, it became unsafe for the children to stay in Jotunheim and Loki fled with them to Asgard. Then Odin took them and gave Fenris to Tyr and Zisa, and set Jormungandr in the sea, but Odin journeyed with Hela to Helheim, gave her advice, and helped her take the throne of Hel.

Helheim, the realm

I have seen a narrow bridge in a large dark cave like space with a deep chasm beneath it. Souls rain down onto it and then must pass through the blue archway to reach the peace of the realm of Hel. Living people journeying in Hel to talk to the dead must never cross under the blue archway.

In Some Say Fire, the main human character lands on the bridge to Hel after dying in battle expecting to go to Folkvangr or Valhalla, which is one of the indicators of how messed up that universe is during the last few days before Ragnarok. That’s how the story opens and the rest of the journey is her afterlife journey to restart the world, including her listening to the entire story of heathen mythology as told by Loki. It’s both about Ragnarok and also about her journey as a dead soul to her personal destination, which can be read as reincarnating the way the universe reincarnates when it is destroyed. Right after meeting Loki he takes her to see Hela, and they cross Helheim, which has been trampled by many feet into an unpleasant broken landscape—the same type of broken landscape she will cross in Asgard near the end of the story, indicating that Hel was supposed to be a nice place and would have been if she had reached it before Ragnarok started and the armies went on the march. Even in that broken land, the hill which represents a grave mound is still green, with tiny white headstones like teeth, and there are daisies—Baldur’s sacred flower. Hela has a bottle of Patron. At the time I wrote that I thought it was a pun on the word patron, indicating that the human character has the blessing of Hel at the start of her afterlife journey. Later, years after I finished writing Some Say Fire, I found out (through trying to find something to give to her) that Hela actually likes things that are made from things called by the world blue, including the Blue Agave. She accepted Blue Agave syrup made into a non alcoholic drink, and would undoubtedly like alcohol also made from agave, which would be tequila.

Image: Hel by Manweri, creative commons via Deviantart



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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


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