10/29/08

Goddess of the Week: Hela

Ever wonder where the word hell came from?  Hela, or Hel, the Norse goddess of the underworld.  She ruled over the Kingdom of the dead, and even the Norse gods recognized her pre-eminence. 

In Norse mythology, the gods were mortal.  They could die just like the rest of us, and when they did, they would join the un-vanquishable Hel.  The king of the Norse god's, known as the "All-father," was Odin, who was married to Frigga.  She was the mother of Balder, a favorite among gods and men.  Frigga loved him so dearly that she went to every being on earth -- every spider, every tree, every rock, every man -- and wheedled out a promise that they would never cause harm to Balder.  The gods thoughts this was a pretty neat trick and liked to throw boulders and such at Balder just so they could see them deflect off him without causing a scratch.  Alas, the tiny mistletoe plant did not promise to do Balder no harm.  But it was just mistletoe, figured Frigga, what harm could it do?  Plenty.  Loki, a giant who thrived on chaos and misery found out about the mistletoe and convinced one of Balder's brothers to throw it at him.  The mistletoe pierced Balder's heart, and Balder died.

Frigga begged Hela to let Balder live.  Hela may have looked over the underworld, but she was cold hearted.  She said that Balder could live if the gods could proved that every living creature mourned him.  Frigga needled and begged, but there was one -- just one -- being that refused to mourn Balder: A giantess who lived high in the mountains.  She said to the grieving mother, "Only cold tears will you get from me.  Balder did me no good, so no good shall he get from me."  

So Balder stayed dead, and most of the earth mourned.  But not Hela.  She liked her kingdom and felt that it was no punishment to be sent there, to the one place where it is Dia de los Muertos all the time.  

2 comments:

altadenahiker said...

This is fun. And being of the Norse persuasion myself, this would be one of my favorite stories.

Miss Havisham said...

So, hopes for Balder dashed?

YAY! Finnegan!

It was nice tea ing with you, my new friend.