Is Valhalla the Nordic version of heaven
Is Valhalla Heaven or Hell? Interesting facts about Vikings
It is widely believed that the courage and cruelty of the Viking invaders are rooted in their deep belief that it is honorable to die in battle and that great rewards await them in the afterlife.
"W a l h a l l a" is closer to the concept of heaven than to hell, but it is not an exact parallel. Valhalla is located in Asgard and is the place where Odin, the god of thunder, rules. Valkyries, Odin's virginal warriors, choose which elite Viking warriors are allowed to enter. The description of Walhalla is what the Vikings would have considered a paradise.
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Life in Midgard
The Vikings believed that the universe was made up of nine different realms, each inhabited by different beings. Of particular importance for the typical Viking was Midgard ("middle earth"), the realm of humans, and Asgard, the realm of the gods and home of Walhalla and Folkvangr. Much is said of their brutality in combat and at sea, but a look at their domestic life is equally revealing.
Valhalla is their heaven, but not for all Vikings
Valhalla is broadly perceived as the final resting place of the Viking warriors killed on the battlefield. As described in Old Norse sagas and texts, Valhalla is a realm of the Norse afterlife that the Vikings aspired to in life in order to enter after their death.
In this sense, Valhalla is similar to the Christian concept of heaven. However, the two ideas are quite different from each other. Starting with who was allowed to enter the resting place or in what way.
As described in Old Norse scripts, Valhalla ("Hall of the Slain") is a large hall located in Asgard, one of the nine kingdoms in the Nordic universe. It is the place where fallen Viking warriors and leaders walk among the Norse gods, including the greatest of them all, O d i n. With golden shimmering towers, a roof of shields and rafters of spears, Valhalla was almost magical to the Viking people.
Odin is accompanied in Walhalla by his beautiful warriors, the Valkyrieswho have the task of selecting the bravest of the fallen Viking warriors to join their ranks. What is sometimes overlooked is the fact that the Valkyries not only choose who will appear in Valhalla from those killed in battle, they also choose who lives or dies as the battle unfolds.
There are two heavens beyond the Vikings
Interestingly, the bravest and strongest Viking warriors and Norse leaders do not arrive in Valhalla after their deaths. In fact, only half of them at most do that.
The other half, who were equally noble and honorable in death, goes on to ✨F o l k v a n g r✨, the lesser known but equally prestigious realm of the Nordic afterlife. This realm of the hereafter is also looking for the most courageous and heroic souls. According to reports, the Vikings have a choice of whether to go there after their death. Known as Folkvangr ("Field of the Army"), this beyond is ruled by the goddess Fr e y a, whose rule encompasses affairs of love, beauty and fertility.
In Walhalla, too, all good things have to come to an end
Whether fallen Viking heroes reached the holy halls of Walhalla or the idyllic fields of Folkvangr, the stay in the warrior's paradise had a catch. The Viking Sagas describe Walhalla as a paradise for warriors. Combat skills are honed during the day, and any injuries sustained in the heat of the moment are miraculously healed at the end of the day.
The nights are spent with feasts in the company of the great god Odin, other warriors and the venerated Valkyries. These scenes are relived every morning, but not forever.
Even in Walhalla, the tough and practical warrior mentality rules everything. This explains why only elite warriors (known as the Einherjar) were chosen to accompany Odin in Asgard.
According to Norse mythology, ancient prophecies foretold a royal battle that would be the war that ends all wars, in which virtually all life forms are completely wiped out and the cosmos is reborn. This happens after Odin and his legions of Einherjar would face the great wolf F e n r i r 🐺 in an epic battle in which the good and noble would face the forces of almighty evil. This cosmic conflict is known as R a g n a r ö k. Unfortunately, the outcome is predetermined and Odin and his entire army find their end in defeat.
Despite the tragic and terrible fate that awaited them in the afterlife, the Vikings were all too willing to sacrifice their lives on the battlefields for the inheritance of their families in the mortal realm and for camaraderie.
Five travel destinations beyond the Vikings
The concept of life after death plays an important role in Nordic culture, religion and society. The Vikings believed in no less than five different realms in the afterlife.
Walhalla is the most famous, followed by Folkvangr. Both are the afterlife goals for brave warriors who have fallen in battle.
What happened to the hard-working Nordic farmer or the kind-hearted farm worker when they died? According to Norse mythology, they too had a realm in the afterlife where their souls would linger after leaving Midgard, the inhabited realm of the Viking universe.
These are the five realms of the Viking afterlife, each serving a specific segment of Nordic society:
- Valhalla - The "Hall of the Slain" houses the god Odin, his warrior majesties and fallen Viking heroes who train and celebrate there up to Ragnarök, the Nordic version of the Apocalypse.
- Folkvangr - Those who were not chosen by Odin's Valkyries to get to Valhalla (or vice versa, as some stories say) find themselves in the company of Freya in Folkvangr. Just as idyllic, but with the same fate as Walhalla, the warriors in Folkvangr know that Ragnarök is waiting for them.
- Hel / Helheim - This is the goal for the vast majority of Vikings who lived normal lives in agriculture, ranching, or trading. Hel is supervised by a goddess of the same name. While most Vikings would likely spend their afterlife there, not much has been written about it. All you know is that it is reserved for those who are not worthy enough to be selected for Walhalla or Folkvangr.
- Nastrond - A place within Hel that is reserved for the wicked of the heart and bears a resemblance to the Christian idea of hell. Murderers, fraudsters and the like can expect to find their afterlife in dire straits.
- The realm of Ran - A realm in the hereafter reserved only for sailors and those lost at sea. The goddess R a n, a giantess, lives at the bottom of the ocean, where she rules over the accumulated treasures and the souls of those who earned their living on the high seas or who have come to an end.
- Burial mound - Not all souls of dead Vikings go to another realm. Some stay with their bodies and stay near the burial mound where their body is buried. Similar to ghosts, these figures can be benevolent or, in some cases, malevolent.
A huagbui ("hill dweller") is forever associated with his tomb and coexists peacefully with the living unless his tomb is disturbed or his buried property is illegally stolen. In this case, they can become a hazard.
In contrast, a draugr (also known as Aptrgangr - "one who goes after death") is to be feared by the living. Old Norse legends describe that draugr kill innocent people, slaughter cattle and destroy property.
- There may be a sixth realm in the northern hereafter, known as the Helgafjell is known. On this sacred mountain, the recently deceased will be reunited with their families and loved ones who have previously passed away to spend eternity and lead a peaceful life. Of all the afterlife of the Vikings, this is possibly the most innocuous and harmless most peaceful place.
The connection of the Vikings to the modern world
A Viking figure who would certainly have found himself in the majestic halls of Walhalla to feast on wild boars and drink mead with other Nordic leaders was King Harald Gormsson, who ruled from 958 to 987 AD. It is believed that King Harald was fatally wounded in a battle while holding off the troops of his son Svein, who led a rebellion against his father. King Harald is credited with bringing Denmark and Norway under common rule and thereby uniting the Viking Empire. That achievement alone places him in the elite society of Nordic history and would certainly have made him an excellent choice for Odin's Valkyries.
However, his nickname has created an eternal connection between his reign over a thousand years ago and today's modern world. King Harald was often referred to as Harald because of his dead and discolored tooth Bluetooth📲 referred to. In 1996, tech companies Ericsson, Nokia and Intel worked together on a short-range connectivity technology, internally codenamed Bluetooth (in homage to the way King Harald “linked” and unified the Viking Kingdom) until they were united official name agreed. Today, the name Bluetooth is synonymous with an important technology that enables people to wirelessly connect their devices to various devices.
How did the Vikings get married?
Life during the Viking Age, not just in Scandinavia but almost everywhere in the world, was difficult and much shorter by today's standards.
Like many cultures of the time, the Vikings were a male dominated society, but that is not to say that women were not important and contributing members of the Viking community.
While the men were out to fight battles or pillage distant lands, the Viking women had to do double the work, performing both their own duties and those of their absent husbands.
Weddings were arranged and performed by the families of the bride and groom before the parties were 20 years old (Viking women could be 12 years old). When you consider that the average life expectancy was well below 50, this accelerated schedule is understandable.
The families on both sides invested in the connection, both literally and figuratively. The groom's side essentially acquired the exclusive right to marry into the bride's family. The bride's family reciprocated the marriage with a dowry paid to the groom's family. Given the financial consequences for those involved, marriage was not an easy one for the Vikings.
The wives of the Vikings enjoyed more freedoms and rights than their European counterparts at the time. For example, they had the right to divorce their husbands, own property, accumulate wealth, and even trade in their goods and commodities. It is even believed that Viking women fought alongside male warriors on the battlefield. This shows that bravery was not just a quality of Viking men.
How many wives did the Vikings have?
Polygyny (marrying several women at the same time) and entertaining concubines were common among rich and powerful Viking men.
Recent studies suggest that these practices were so widespread that competition for wives was very fierce. Much of the motivation for the Vikings' raids and the pillaging of neighboring countries was not greed or bloodthirst, but rather the desire of the Viking warriors to amass wealth and social status in order to attract the dwindling number of marriageable Viking women.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Norse Mythology
Beloved author of "The Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, was incredibly fascinated by Norse mythology. From her he drew inspiration for his famous literary works.
Two sources in particular are known to have influenced the writing of these literary classics. One was Tolkien's nanny, who came from Iceland and told the English author stories and myths from her homeland. The other was the collection of Old Norse writings that laid the foundation for the universe Tolkien created for the staging of his stories.
The end of the Viking Age
Ironically, it wasn't conquests, epidemics, or battles that led to the end of the Viking era. It was the conversion from their "pagan" way of life and the worship of pagan gods like Odin and Thor to Christian values and beliefs. Raids and looting were no longer as profitable and attractive.
In other words, when they converted to Christianity, the Vikings slowly but surely ceased to be Norse warriors. They became Germans, Scots, English and so on as they adapted to their surroundings and, in most cases, to previously conquered lands.
While not all Vikings wielded a sword in their lifetime, those who stepped on a battlefield did so knowing that they might very well die there.
To die in battle was the most honorable and noble death for the Nordic people, even if it was only the first of two violent ends that would strike them. With this in mind, the Vikings lived and fought in Midgard as they did in Valhalla.
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