A Brief History Of Hel: The Goddess Of The Underworld

Hel is a Norse goddess, the daughter of Loki. Her hall, Helheim or Hel, is located in Niflheim. The hall is surrounded by a river called Gjoll, which has no water and a wall named Sindri. The more sinful a person was while alive, the higher level they reside in Hel while the more virtuous live lower. Her living quarters are guarded by Garmr, who never sleeps, and her bed is made of ice with Loki’s daughter’s name engraved on it.  Hel can take any form she pleases but usually appears as an older woman dressed in black robes. She has been described as being half blue from head to foot and having long hair that hangs down almost to the

Who is Hel?

Hel is the goddess of the Underworld, the realm of the dead, the kingdom of endless strife and terror. She is the daughter of Loki and Surt, the ruler of Asgard, the home of gods and other beings that have been exiled to Niflheim for one reason or another.  A common belief is that Hel is a beautiful woman with long auburn hair and piercing blue eyes. As a goddess, she was given great power by her father and could perform any task given to her. The power of that can be seen in one of the three main paths to power in the Norse pantheon: the path of judgment, Hel’s daughter Freya is the path of love, and Wotan’s daughter Frigg is the path of righteousness and peace.

Where is Helheim?

The abode of Hel is Gjallerbutra which is the gate of the Underworld. A young woman has to pass a test to enter the Underworld; of course, only the righteous pass it, which tests moral character and inborn personality traits.  According to the above information from The White Goddess, there are three levels of Hel:  The lower Hels, middle Hels, and upper Hels  However, many argue that The White Goddess and Goddess of Gaea, Inanna (the Sumerian goddess of sex, marriage, and children) was the only 3-dimensional woman, so that at least five levels may not be too far fetched.  A little more history on The White Goddess, she was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea and was the youngest member of the Titans.

How does a person go to Helheim?

While most of the population goes to Valhalla or to Hel, a few go to Helheim; these usually have murdered another human being, especially their children. According to the Norse belief, the person’s guilt is inherited and is passed down to their child.  A single stone in Helheim tells anyone who visits it that they are there because of a terrible crime they have committed. It can be quite a disturbing sight, with the inhabitants hanging from hooks on the wall, being tortured by demons.  Is this how the story of the Trojan War is set out?  Yes. The Greek hero Achilles’ wound never heals. Before he dies, he sees the famous statue of Helen of Troy at her temple in Sparta.

What goes on in Helheim?

Well in short, punishment. Helheim punishments. We only know what is in Hel and what it briefly looks like comes from early writing about Odin’s ride to hell. There is nothing for the punished soul to do with marrow-clenching cold and no heating facilities except shiver out their miserable stint.

Linda Green

Linda Green

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