The Viking version of hell is a place that is situated in the hottest regions of the earth and it is ruled by a goddess whose name is ‘Hel’ daughter of the god Loki and giantess Angrboda and sister of Fenrir the wolf and Jormungandr the world serpent.
The legendary Norse warriors the Viking people believe in six destinations in the afterlife and one of them is “Hel”. ‘Hel’ is used in old Norse mythology whereas ‘Hell’ is used in English.
The word “Hel” is derived from an Anglo-Saxon root that means hidden or concealed. Therefore the words ‘Hel’ and ‘Hell’ are often used to depict similar meanings but they have different roots.
Viking Hell Or The Underworld
According to Norse mythology, the Viking people who were warriors believed in afterlife and realms like hell and heaven where the soul goes after dying.
Since they were warriors they firmly believed that dying like a warrior would take them to “Valhalla”, a place that they believe to be their heaven and after dying like warriors their soul resides there blissfully.
But what is the Viking version of hell? Is it a place that we all imagine, a place with endless misery and torment that one has to endure till he/she pays for the sinful deeds they committed in their waking life?, or is it different according to the Viking people?
There are various sources in Norse mythology that describe the destinations of afterlife. Most of the sources in Norse mythology describe Hel as a place where the Viking men and women spend their life fighting, eating, sleeping and so on. But there are always exceptions and so is a source in Norse mythology that describes otherwise.
Snorri Sturluson who was a scholar and Icelandic historian described Hel as an uneasy and irksome place located downward and northward, a place with no trace of life where the dead resides.
There is a road to hell, one has to travel through darkness and mist till they come across a copious river that originates from a well. Furthermore they have to cross a bridge over that river till they finally after a while arrive at the wall surrounding the Hel.
The dead enter Hel through the main gate while for people who take up the journey to hell to explore despite being alive are considered unwise if they enter.
Not much has been written about the Viking’s version of hell. Perhaps according to the faith of the Viking people, Hel is a place for people who did not die an honorable death, like a warrior and naturally did not deserve to go to Valhana or Folkvangr.
Valhalla or the hall of slain as mentioned earlier is paradise for Viking people who peacefully spend their afterlife there along with Odin (the principle God in Norse mythology), his maidens who are warriors and the fallen Viking heroes.
Folkvangr on the other hand is the field of the army ruled by the goddess Freya. People who are not eligible enough to enter Valhalla spend their afterlife here.
Is Viking Version Of Hell Similar To The Christian’s Idea Of Hell?
Unlike Snorri’s description of hell in “Prosa Edda” there are not many similarities between the Christian slant of hell and the Vikings version of hell.
Since the Vikings were not Christians they had different ideologies. According to them Hel was not a place of utter damnation and endless torment. It was simply a place where most of the Viking people carry on their afterlife normally after dying. According to them there were no certain deeds or this or that to be done in order to go to hell.
Neverthless, there are instances in the historical drama “Vikings” written by Michael Hirst for the History channel, where the characters do mention hell. For instance the character of Floki played by Gustaf Skarsgard once entered a cave and reckoned that it guarded the gates of hell.
Hell In Norse Mythology
In Norse mythology, Hel is a place for the dead. The concept of Hel is often referred to as “Niflhem” that basically means a world of darkness that is fragmented into several divisions one of which is a shore of dead bodies.
There is a palace northward where people who killed, committed adultery and perjury come after dying and are subjected to torment while a dragon named “Nidhogg” sucked and drained blood out of them.
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Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is there a Norse version of Hell?
Yes, there certainly is a place that is considered as Hel in Norse mythology. It is ruled by the goddess whose name is also Hel.
2. What is the Hell of Valhalla?
Valhalla is not considered as hell. It is rather known to be a heaven for the Viking people who die fighting like a conscientious and honorable warrior and reside there in tranquility along with Odin who is their principle and his warrior maidens.
3. Who is the Viking god of Hell?
Vikings were warriors who basically sailed, raided and colonialized. Specifically they were Norseman, member of Scandinavian seafaring warriors between the 9th and 11th century and followed the polytheistic old Norse religion.