from Goddesses and Heroines
|Exerpt from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia
[Used by permission. This text is NOT included in the Goddess Oracle]
The goddess who gave her name to the Christian place of eternal punishment was the Scandinavian ruler of the misty world under the earth. Her name means the "one who covers up" or the "one who hides," and the ones Hel hid in her nine-circled realm were those who died of disease or old age. Those who died heroically, in battle or by other violence, were carried off by the Valkyries to the heavenly halls of Freya or Odin.
Hel was the daughter of the giant woman Angerboda and was thought to be an ugly pinto woman, half black and half white, who rode up to earth to enfold the dying in her horrible arms and to rest her drooping head against theirs. Down in her nine-ringed realm, where the inhabitants kept up a constant wail, Hel lived in a miserable palace called Sleet-Cold, where the walls were built of worms and human bones. She ate with a knife and fork called Famine from a plate named Hunger. Her slave, Senility, served her, as did her maidservant, Dotage. When she slept, it was on her cot, Bedridden, covered by curtains named Woefully Pale.
The entry to her queendom was guarded by the hell-hound, Garm; before you reached the threshold you had to travel to Helvig ("Troublesome Road") to Hel, past the strange guardian maiden, Modgud. Some scholars say the conception of Hel is more ancient than the heroic myth of Valhalla, the hall of dead heroes.
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Published by Llewellyn, copyright 1997. Used by permission of the author.