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Why call it that?


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#1 thirteen

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Posted 04 October 2002 - 08:56 PM

I read somewhere that the Christian Hell is actually named after some European Goddess who guards the land of the dead...or something to that effect.   :o  Her name is Hel. When the Church officials picked her name to use as the name of the place the non-Christian souls went after death, does that just mean that all non-Christians went to the afterlife of the pagans?  Doesn't sound like a very bad thing to me...   ;)

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#2 Lilith

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Posted 05 October 2002 - 03:44 PM

An aspect of Hel
"Her land is a place of darkness, filled with animated corpses and serpents, notable for a constant stench and a mistiness that prevents anyone from seeing too far. Hel is only useful for inflicting death, pain and misery, bringing things to ruin and, occasionally, creating a catharsis that has some therapeutic effect...Hel appears as a totally naked woman. From head to hips she is very beautiful but also very pale. Her skin is almost albino and she has no blemishes of any sort. But from the hips down she is a rotting corpse. Her skin is greenish and grey-black and covered with the sores of the rotting. In some places the skin has broken to show a pusy-pink flesh beneath, and sometimes the break goes as deep as the bone. Insects and maggots crawl all over the lower half of the skin. Since the skin repairs as well as decays, it is always in this sort of state, although the sores migrate across the flesh over time." - Using the Rune - D. Jason Cooper

The above quote is a brilliant example of how chicken BAD_WORD the male psyche becomes in the presence of Female Power. The constant stench, the rotting flesh beneath the hips, the "pus(s)y-pink flesh"-Mr. Cooper is obviously not a man inclined to eat out!!! The dank mists of sexism prevented him from realizing that "insects and maggots" represent the souls of the dead, the constant cycle of decay and healing reflects the larger cycle of death and life, and the regeneration of the lower half of Hel's body is symbolic of the regeneration that usually goes on in that area, namely conception, birth and (gentlemen, please don't faint) menstruation. Those skin-shedding serpents were another menstrual metaphor that Mr. Cooper missed (too busy holding his nose to ward off the stench of womanhood, no doubt). This next installment in Delirium's Dark Goddess Extravaganza is dedicated to Hel, the Teutonic Great Mother, Mistress of the Dead and shamanic Lizard Queen.

There are certain folks (volks?) out there who strongly feel that worship of Teutonic and/or Scandinavian deities should only be practiced by people of that descent. Although the Northern European approach to spirituality seems rather straightforward, many Northern Europeans refuse to be straightforward about it. Racial purity has absolutely no bearing on spiritual purity, and the color of your skin will not automatically link you to a corresponding spiritual perspective. A deity has many names in as many cultures, and whichever name one chooses to invoke depends upon the individual's strength of purpose and where (s)he is on the Path. Hel is surely as dark as Kali, Oya, Eris, Bellona or the Morrigan, and the wisdom she holds within herself is equally illuminating.

Hel is not only a deity but also a place, and therefore a state of mind. This misty foggy realm is often confused with the Xtian concept of Hell, a place of torture and intense heat (which actually corresponds more to the Hebrew Gehenna). While extreme heat is considered life-threatening in the Middle East, in Northern Europe extreme cold is more dangerous. Hel is damp but not cold, and there is no mention of torture in the sources I have read. (So when some jerk tells me to "Go to Hell!", I smile sweetly and say, "Hel? Thank you.")

It may have been considered an actual physical place in ancient times; Holland seems the most likely candidate, as much of it is below sea level and therefore fits the description of a wet and foggy isle. For modern purposes, however, Hel functions best as allegory. In many cultures the land of the dead is equated with the shamanic otherworld. Hel is considered very accessible by shamanic techniques, linked to both the personal and collective unconscious.

It is said that all those who do not die of battle go to Hel after death. Many have taken this in a negative way, such as only the old and infirm go there, or only the weak and cowardly. But frankly, most people who die do not die in battle. They die of exposure, starvation, infanticide, illness, foul play, accidents, and even old age! Since only people who die in battle go to Valhalla, then lots more people would go to Hel than Valhalla. (And did all the massacred folks that got killed in battle go to Valhalla? Even if they were old, infirm, weak or cowardly?)

Taking this further, even though many Northern Europeans make a great deal out of their Viking warrior heritage, not everyone was a warrior or upheld the warrior ethic. There were laborers, craftspeople, farmers and thralls as well as berserkers and seafaring raiders, not to mention sagas, seers and volvas. All this human diversity required (and still does) a variety in the religious structure of the community, leading to some very complicated forms of deity within a basic framework. Hel is a very good example of this, as she was perceived negatively by the upper classes and positively by the peasantry.

The ninth rune in the Futhark, Hagall or Hagalaz, represents both the goddess and realm of Hel. The number nine is especially significant in Northern European symbolism; the cosmogony of nine worlds is a good example of this. Hagall/Hagalaz represents events or situations that lie outside one's sphere of influence, the interference of impersonal and unexpected forces in life.

The name Hel may derive either from the ancient Germanic halja, "covering", or the High German word hachel. Hachel means witch, and corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon haegtessa from which the modern day hag is derived. The Dutch equivalent of haegtessa was haegdisse, which stood for both "witch" and "lizard". (Note that the lizard has shamanic associations in many cultures around the globe.) Other permutations of this name are Hela, Hella, Holle, Holt, Holda, Hilda, Hilde, Hulda, and Helga.

In his book Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbat, Carlo Ginzburg discusses a mysterious European female divinity who leads the Wild Hunt. Food and drinks were set out for the participants of the Hunt during certain holidays; this custom lasted hundreds of years despite the condemnation of the Church. The cavalcade of nocturnal spirits was often joined by groups of women who called their leader Holda or Unholde, "die Selige Frawn (the Beatific Woman)". The inquisitors, however, translated this name into the classical Diana or the biblical Herodias for consistency and mutual understanding amongst their peers. Much of Ginzburg's historical data came from the Cisalpine areas of Northern Italy and Germany, giving Hel more of a Teutonic slant than Scandinavian. Her worship among the German peasantry continued well into the seventeenth century:

#3 Lilith

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Posted 05 October 2002 - 03:44 PM

"...In 1630, an enchanter from Hesse, Diel Breull, confessed that for several years he had gone in spirit, during the Ember weeks, to the Venusberg, where Fraw Holt had shown him the dead and their sufferings, reflected in a basin of water..." (Ginzburg, pg. 109)

The Goddess in charge of the Wild Hunt was associated with prosperity and abundance. It is interesting to note that even though the rune Hagall/Hagalaz is considered to have dire connotations by most interpreters, it also has strong connotations of fertility. This is due to the impersonal forces of nature that Hagall represents, which include procreation and growth. The German word for blessing or greeting, Heil, is related to Hagall/Hagalaz.

Another aspect of the Wild Hunt, as with many other representations of a witches' sabbat, was the wearing of animal disguises. Ginzburg quotes Cesarius of Arles (pg. 185):

"No reasonable person would believe this...but there are mentally healthy individuals who disguise themselves as stags; others don the skin of sheep or goats; yet others disguise themselves in animal-like masks, exultant because, having assumed a bestial appearance, they no longer seem to be men."

Shamans worldwide dress as animals in order to gain entrance to other worlds and psychic states, and the Teutonic seers were no different. To them a magic helmet was known as a Helkappe, which rendered the wearer invisible and enabled them to visit Hel and return alive. A similar term is Hildegrim, the mask of Hilde/Hel, which she bestowed on her chosen ones. According to Barbara Walker, Grim is one of the names of Hel's male consort (of which I could find very little about!!!). This deity's particular totem is a raven, which may link him to Odin/Wotan (who is sometimes called Grimmir, the Masked one). There could also be a tenuous link to Loki in that deities with raven totems tend to be tricksters, and are associated with fire. Loki fits both these criteria, and has far stronger associations with Hel than Odin/Wotan.


Loki


Loki is an incredibly complex deity, representing the fickleness and duplicity of the human mind. He exemplifies a necessary agent of change, a force of disruption and conflict that instigates growth and progress. Like Hel, he has shamanic/underworld connotations, but he appears chiefly in Scandinavian sources. I wonder if the identification of Loki as Hel's "father" is/was symbolic of the Viking influence on Teutonic spirituality (similar to Athena becoming Zeus' "daughter", symbolizing the Greek takeover of a North African spiritual concept). Also, if Loki is the mind, Hel as the subconscious is an aspect of that mind which connects the personal with the collective.

The key to understanding Hel lies within the rune of Hagall/Hagalaz: She is magical, sexual and deadly because these are all natural states of being. As an impersonal force, she does not discriminate: death, sex and magic are things that everyone experiences in life. As the realm of the unconscious mind, she connects our personal dreams and visions to the universal desires of all that exists.

#4 Lilith

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Posted 05 October 2002 - 03:44 PM

this is Hel

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#5 thirteen

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Posted 05 October 2002 - 04:18 PM

So does all that mean that Hel is just another incarnation of the maid, mother, and crone?  Would you say Hel is similar to Hecate?

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Posted 05 October 2002 - 10:58 PM

Alot of good info Lilith ;D.....and a Hel ;) of a lot of typing!


Here is a bit more- Hel is the daughter of Loki(one of Odin's sons) and Angerbotha ( a Giantess) whose offspring also include Fenrir and the Midgard Serpent.

Hel, in Norse mythology, the underworld (sometimes called Niflheim) and the Goddess who ruled there. In early Germanic mythology, Hel was the Goddess who ruled the majestic abode for the dead. Later, particularly after the advent of  Christianity, Hel became a place of punishment, similar to the  Christian Hell.

#7 thirteen

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Posted 06 October 2002 - 01:25 PM

:;)  Thanks for the great info, guys....I appreciate it.... ::)

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Posted 06 October 2002 - 09:06 PM

The Maid, Mother and Crone have no significance to me bc I feel that women or anything that represents woman is so much more than just those 3 particular things.

Hel is similar to Hekate in as much as they have both been misrepresented as being dark and evil bc some  ppl need to be aligned with such things. Both of these Goddesses have good healing and protecting powers as well, for example Hekate is protectress of newborns, mothers and witches. They are also both associated with death which is neither dark or evil ;).

#9 secretsign

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Posted 07 October 2002 - 06:53 AM

I agree Valkyrie that death is not dark or evil. To me the maid,mother and crone just represent the cycles in a woman's life.like the seasons.
Slainte mhor agus a h-uile beannachd duibh Good health and every blessing to you

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Posted 07 October 2002 - 12:47 PM

Yes secret, the cycles and seasons are a good way to interpret and honor the Maid, Mother and Crone. For me though it presents a bit of a quandry bc some of my friends have asked me " what about women who for one reason or another cannot become mothers or otherwise experience motherhood." This is a literal thing for them, and they feel excluded from the  Maid,  Mother and Crone symbolism. If you have any ideas on how I can answer these good women please let me know ;).

#11 thirteen

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Posted 07 October 2002 - 12:48 PM

I totally agree with you two...we are more than our life cycles, but to me the maid-mother-crone aspect is important beacuse it is symbolic of the life cycles of all, even the earth.   ;)  I view such a summation as sacred, for it has many religious significances.
And, yes, of course death isn't evil or bad, it's just another step.  Only fear is what holds people back.  They're too afraid to think for themselves.  They've been programmed, and can't change the station... :)

#12 secretsign

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Posted 07 October 2002 - 07:58 PM

I understand Valkyrie. My best friend is feeling her biological clock tick right on by her and I hear her pain when she speaks of this. I know the word mother goes hand in hand with children but a mother nourish and cares for a lot of things, be it children, a garden, a friend . As for motherhood I don't have the words to comfort those who are passed by on this experience.I wish I had an answer  :'( Maybe just a metaphor ???
Slainte mhor agus a h-uile beannachd duibh Good health and every blessing to you

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Posted 07 October 2002 - 08:59 PM

Yes, Mother Terese comes to mind as an incredible nurturer.

#14 secretsign

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 07:07 AM

Yeap she is a good one ;D
Slainte mhor agus a h-uile beannachd duibh Good health and every blessing to you

#15 Lilith

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 07:48 AM

Thank you. Hel of a lot of typing eh? hahahahhahahaha.

Alot of good info Lilith ;D.....and a Hel ;) of a lot of typing!


Here is a bit more- Hel is the daughter of Loki(one of Odin's sons) and Angerbotha ( a Giantess) whose offspring also include Fenrir and the Midgard Serpent.

Hel, in Norse mythology, the underworld (sometimes called Niflheim) and the Goddess who ruled there. In early Germanic mythology, Hel was the Goddess who ruled the majestic abode for the dead. Later, particularly after the advent of  Christianity, Hel became a place of punishment, similar to the  Christian Hell.






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