What is Valhalla in ancient Norse mythology and what does the word mean?

The Norse heaven for slain warriors was called Valhalla, meaning, literally, “hall of the slain.”

In Old Norse mythology, brave warriors killed in battle were brought to Valhalla by Valkyries, special death maidens.

During an average day in the afterlife, dead warriors fought battles, and their wounds from a hard day of fighting were miraculously healed before nightfall when they dined with Odin, the king of the gods.

Here the warriors would wait until Ragnarok, the day of the last battle of the world. At this point, it was promised that all of the old gods would fall away and a new era of love and peace would rise from the ashes.

In contrast, regular Norse people—those dishonored by dying of old age or disease—were taken to a goddess named Hel. She resided in a place called “Underearth,” which was devoid of joy and happiness, torture or pain.

Underearth was sort of a neutral, ho-hum afterlife.

It was this Scandinavian Hel, the goddess of the netherworld, that gave Christians the name for their infinitely more miserable afterlife locale, Hell.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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