I’m not going to Valhalla, and that’s OK!

On social media, and in many pagan circles you hear many people talking about going to Valhalla as if it were some sort of heaven. They try to justify themselves getting into Valhalla by actions like battling depression, battling cancer, or some other justification. I don’t fault the individuals for this thought process. Christianity, having such an influential role in modern culture, has taught us to seek heaven, or be subject to hell. This is not the way of traditional paganism.

We aren’t all going to Valhalla, and that’s Okay!

What is Valhalla?

Before we dive into this, let’s first talk about what Valhalla is. Valhalla, simply put, is the great hall of Odin located in Asgard, the gods’ strong fortress. The golden hall of Odin is described to be roofed by shields with spears for rafters. It is full of feasting tables and the many seats are made of breastplate. Wolves guard the door, and eagles fly above. Valhalla is the meeting place of the einherjar (“those who fight alone”), the brave warriors who died.

Note: I will not be going into Folkvangr, the hall of the goddess Freya.

Who goes to Valhalla?

According to the sources available, Valhalla is “by invitation only”. While the validity of the sources available are tainted by Christian influence, we can ascertain what was likely a held belief. When an elite warrior falls in battle, the Valkyries are sent by Odin to choose the bravest and fiercest warriors to join Odin and others in the great hall of Valhalla. When they arrive, they become the einherjar.

What goes on in Vallhalla?

Valhalla was the envy of any viking warrior. A place where every fights to the death, honing their battle skills, and training amongst the best of the best alongside the gods. After a day of fighting, the slain rise, all wounds are healed and the feasting begins. The boar, Saehrimnir who was resurrected is slain again to provide the meat and the goat Heidrun, provides the mead from her udders. These great beasts, being as massive and divine as they are, provide more than enough food and drink to satisfy the appetites of the most boisterous viking warriors.

What is the purpose of Valhalla?

The purpose of bringing the elite of warriors to Valhalla can be perceived as selfish on Odin’s part. Odin brings the fallen into Valhalla to train, practice and build an army to aid in his coming fight with Fenrir, the giant wolf son of Loki and the giantess Angraboda. An important thing to note is that the einherjar are not fated to live in Valhalla forever. They are fated to die, along with Odin, in Ragnarok.

Who Qualifies as a Warrior?

This may upset many of you, but not many of us will end up in Valhalla in these modern times. When you consider the type of people needed to fight in the battle of Ragnarok, the individual that died battling cancer does not have the skills necessary for fighting the massive beast Fenrir, his siblings, or any of the other entities fated to fight the gods.

So, no.

Most of us will never see the golden halls of Odin. And that’s ok.

If not Valhalla, then Where?

Most people of the day revered ancestors and believed in reincarnation. And likely reincarnation into the same family. This belief drove and guided many of their practices. Some texts also mentioned Hel (the place, not the goddess child of Loki by the same name). Other than the account by Snorri Sturluson, hel is often portrayed in neutral and even positive terms. Being a cold place where we live on (possibly temporarily) to eat, drink, and visit with others. It’s portrayed as a place of life, not a place of eternal bliss or suffering. Just a place of rest and being. Some consider it something of a waiting room before being reincarnated into a new body.

I’m okay with this.

The idea of living on to spend more time on this beautiful blue ball hurtling through the cosmos, learning and growing, is by far a better prospect than living on to train and fight to ultimately die in the jaws of a giant wolf. Just Sayin’….