Various depictions of what an afterlife environment may look like offered various explanations - but they often shared the same hope, the hope of everlasting life in another, divine dimension.
Vikings were no exception, and given their fierce fights and traveling into the unknown, it is not a surprise that they held amazing belief as to what awaits them if their plans fail in tragic, deadly consequences.
In comes Valhalla, the Viking's notion of what comes after the temporary life on earth.
The legendary hall of Odin
As explained by Encyclopedia Britannica, Valhalla in Norse mythology isn't as much of a new world with vast open fields as much as it is a hall - a hall that welcomes slain Viking warriors, a beautiful, breath-taking palace, with a roof made of shields and 540 doors.
Those who die courageously are welcome to Valhalla, where they enjoy their time with none other than the chief Norse god Odin, a great honor reserved for those who valiantly lose their lives in battle.
Those who live and die as proud Viking warriors were to enjoy feasting on delicious boar meat, with an animal being slaughtered each day, evening after evening. Infinite liquor would flow from goat's udders, Vikings would fight their fellow warriors as a fun sport to pass the time.
But, while there was a notable component of fun and games, the warriors in Valhalla were not there just to keep Odin company. It is said that on Ragnarök (Doomsday in Norse mythology), the Viking warriors in Valhalla would march out of all 540 doors and assist Odin in fighting giants.
While there was no greater honor for a Viking warrior than dying on the battlefield and joining Odin, one can imagine Viking warriors being enchanted by the mere tale of Valhalla.
As History.com points out, the best source for understanding Valhalla comes from 13th century Iceland, the birthplace of myths and heroic stories gathered in a collection known as "The Poetic Edda."
In the edda, there are more details about the splendid palace: a wolf is hung on its western doors, and an eagle is hovering over it (both being Germanic beasts of battle).
In addition, slain warriors did not just spawn in Valhalla after their death. First, they were greeted, as legends say, by valkyries, supernatural female figures.
As History.com explains, valkyries would choose the worthy warriors and bring them to Odin's hall.
Valhalla is one of the 12 realms of Asgard, the abode of the gods. Each of the important gods has its realm in Asgard, and so does Odin, one of the principal gods in Norse mythology. Photo: Barnabas Davoti / Pexels
Going with the flow
As previously mentioned, Valhalla wasn't just a lavish party experience after a hard life that ended in combat.
On Ragnarok, Odin would count on his loyal deceased Vikings to battle alongside him against the giants. But, why would gods, especially the god-in-charge, often perceived as undestroyable and eternal, be afraid of giants?
"Ragnarok is the gods' equivalent of the 'scheduled' death-day that each mortal has. If you can only get to the good afterlife by dying in battle, and you're going to die on a particular day no matter what you do on that day, you're going to take any good opportunity to fight", Jackson Crawford, an Old Norse specialist at the University of Colorado, explained for History.com.
He also added, based on the tales of Viking heroes such as Ragnar Lothbrok, that Vikings weren't concerned about living or dying but rather of dying bad or good on the day that is pre-destined for their death - irrelevant of what they do.
He painted the image with Lothbrok's example based on the 12th-century poem "The Death Song of Ragnar Lothbrok." In it, it's depicted how King Ælla captured Lothbrok, who was conquering England, in a snake pit.
Instead of being terrified, Ragnar began composing a poem about how he would go to Valhalla and would die laughing, therefore showing the courageous Viking mindset.
Fight, worship, be honorable
Overall, to boldly laugh in the face of death is quite a reasonable reaction for those who accept the narrative of Old Norse religion and Valhalla.
On the one hand, Viking warriors couldn't decide whether they would live or die, and if they didn't face death with warrior-spirit-dignity, they could await an even worse faith: not ending in Valhalla.
While Viking stories and myths are reserved for the celebration of those who earned their place in the "hall of the slain "with Odin, clearly, not everyone was able to make it to Valhalla - as it is reserved only for those who died a valiant death in battle.
Apart from Valhalla, Norse mythology also includes lots of other places and worlds controlled by different gods. Thus, as explained by the V.K.G website on Norse mythology, those who didn't die in battle would most likely head toward Niflheim, ruled by goddess Hel.
As explained by Britannica, Hel is the goddess of death, and Niflheim is the misty world where the dead warriors would go either to be punished or to rest in peace - depending on their actions in life.
For instance, Vikings believed those who were murderers, adulterers, and perjurers suffered torture in a castle filled with serpent venom, while a dragon called Nidhogg sucked their blood.
In the end, at least for those inclined to violence, dying in battle and getting to Valhalla was surely the main objective and a sort of "jackpot." The formula was simple: die in battle, worship Odin, be honorable, and joining the All-Father in his legendary hall was just a valkyrie away.
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