"Hel is the Norse queen of the underworld, supreme and inescapable...her early realm seems to be a sacred cave of rebirth, as denoted by the Norse hellir. Pliny writing at the turn of the Current Era said that Scandinavians were children of Mother-Hel, known as Helleviones. They considered their Goddess incarnate in elder trees, known as Hel trees. Danish peasants prayed at elder trees to the Hyldemoder, that is, the Hel Mother or Elder Mother. Supernatural women were often described as hellish--hellig--Danish for holy."
--synthesis from The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker
I've been working with Hel for several years now after a rune reading where her rune Hagalaz, hail, destructive and painful in its ability to necessarily reorder life, was prominent. She came to me in a dream in the dark of Niflheim, "mist home" her realm, the land of the dead. I've been trying to get better at death, not just coping with the physical death of loved ones but all the spirals of challenging finality that make up life's journey. Physical death too though, it comes more quickly the older I get and let's face it, Americans mostly suck at death. At grief. Our rituals small, if any, secular, disconnected. Our discomfort with pain, loss, rot, reality, spirituality is huge. Good work is happening right now to reclaim death from the marginal, to make its rites again central. I want to know death as my ancestors did, as an inextricable part of life. In my dream in Hel's realm I sat at her feet. She is half corpse, and reached out with her bone hand. I put my head against her skeletal leg. She gently stroked my hair.
Wholeness lies in simultaneousness, beyond the divisions we've been conditioned to accept as truth. Hel was revered as essential to fertility, abundance, magic, was seen as a mother, a caregiver, her hall a place of respite and sacred potential. In wholeness death becomes life and more--a song, the cauldron, home.
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