I am currently doing a foundation course on the Elder Futhark for aspiring Rune Magicians by Imelda Almqvist to further my knowledge of the runes. It is a fantastic course – in depth, very interesting and I’m working with the runes in a totally different way.
Last night I had a very vivid dream and the rune Hagalaz came up very loud and clear. The rune Hagalaz has a connection with the Norse Goddess Hel who has also been popping up in my mind quite frequently as of late, so I thought I would delve a little and see what she is all about...
Hel – her name meaning ‘hidden’ is the Norse Goddess of the dead. I say ‘Goddess’, but the word ‘Goddess’ isn't mentioned in any of the ancient stories about her. She was looked upon more as the Queen who oversaw the underworld palace of Helheim.
Hel is the daughter of the trickster Loki and the Giantess Angrboda. She became the Queen of Helheim after Odin threw her from the sky into the depths of the Underworld. Unperturbed, she made the realm her own and crowned herself Queen. There are other texts which say she was appointed by Odin to rule over the realm of Niflheimr, in particular, the realm of the dishonoured dead.
There are different versions of what Hel looks like – one describes her as half blue skinned, half flesh coloured, another speaks of her being half in darkness, half in light – one side as black as soot, the other as white as snow. The one I found that resonated with me was that one half was a living person, beautiful with long flowing hair and porcelain skin, the other half was of a skull face and her skeletal bones exposed for all to see.
The realm which Hel ruled was, in parts, not a pleasant place. The dead souls of those that died in battle went to Odin’s palatial home of Valhalla. But if you were a particularly nasty piece of work and you arrived at her realm, you could expect to be greeted by her guardian at the gates, a blood-stained wolf called Garmr before having your blood sucked out in its entirety by a dragon called Nidhogg. Once inside, you would be in a place where you would hear constant wailing from within walls that were made of worms and the bones of the dead.
As with all things, there are two sides to every story. Like the two sides to Hel, she also had a softer side. She watched over the souls of those that died peacefully in their sleep of old age or of illness. She tended to the souls of women that passed in childbirth and those that passed as infants or children.
It is said that her appearance was as it was for a reason – she was not interested in hiding or euphemizing the true nature of death. It is a part of the cycle of life and is just as sacred as living. Hel was said to be compassionate and no lies were ever uttered from her lips. Her realm was also one of peace, reflection and truth.
Names: Hel, Hela
Symbols: The rune Hagalaz, Crows
Plants: Elm, Elder, Yew, Ivy, Juniper, Blackthorn, all Evergreens
Crystals: Onyx, Obsidian, Jet, Moonstone, Hematite
Month: October to February
Image from collection of Goddess's I made while working on the Arc of the Goddess course by Kitchen Witch