Hel is the Norse Goddess of the Underworld (her name means ‘hidden’), psychopomp and ruler, with celebrations at Samhain and Yule. Her zodiac ruler is Scorpio and thus ruled by Pluto (also by Mars, it is said that Pluto is the higher octave of Mars). It is in the darkness, such as the final closing of one’s eyes in bodily form, is where we find her ready to guide us.
Plants/Trees: Cedar, Elder, Elm, Juniper (berries too), Myrrh
Animals: Raven, Dog, Serpent, Wolf
Stones: Jet, Obsidian, Black Agate, Onyx
Lineage: Father – Loki, Mother – Angrboða
Siblings: Jörmungandr and Fenrir
There are many in the Norse community who do not believe Hel to be a goddess, but a place for the dead who had not met their fates in battle. Others, due to her parental lineage, believe that she cannot be a true goddess. Semantics aside, we can turn to 9th and early 10th century texts, sagas, and poems from the likes of Þjóðólfr and Bragi Boddason to find references to Hel as a Goddess of death and the underworld prior to the Christian conversion era (Abram, 2003). While most of what we have comes from The Eddas, Abram (2003) outlines how some of these stories were impacted by the incoming Christian doctrine and led to the likes of Snorri making changes to the myths if only to make them more palatable.
Hel was brought to Odin, along with her siblings once the Gods found out of their existence. It had been foretold that the offspring of Loki would bring about destruction. Odin shackled Jörmungandr and Fenrir, while casting Hel away to Niflheim as the ruler of the place of her name (Hel). Or so the stories have claimed.
Passed down through the lens and voices of men, of those who won wars and could write history as they saw fit, they neglected to mention she took her throne in The Great Hall at her time of choosing.
She then gave Odin his Ravens, Huginn and Munnin, giving Odin the ability to see deeply between the worlds of thought and memory (Billinghurst, 2021). She became the Queen of the Castle, of the Great Hall, and a warm hostess for those who died of illness and old age. She is a Goddess in and of herself, she is ruler and psychopomp, hostess and judge, warmth in the coldest place, both living and dying at the same time. As we all are.
Her magic is in transformation, of letting go to allow space for what inevitably is required of us to evolve. Something must die for something to live, it is the great pattern of nature. She is the guide who can walk us through the darkness of release and bring the warmth that allows something else to thrive in its place.
A Candle & A Key,
Feature Image Credit: Julia Kadel via Unsplash
Abram, C. (2003). Representations of the pagan afterlife in medieval Scandinavian literature. Doctoral thesis. University of Cambridge.
Billinghurst, F. (2021). Encountering the Dark Goddess: A Journey into the Shadow Realms. Moon Books – John Hunt Publishing.
Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences