You've probably heard the name "Valhalla" before, probably in a movie about Viking mythology, in TV series or in books. It's even the name of the famous adventure game Assassin's Creed from Ubisoft that you can play on Xbox or PlayStation.
For those who don't know, Valhalla is part of Norse mythology from the time of the Vikings. The Vikings are barbaric people who believed in three afterlife. Valhalla is part of one of the prestigious places that could welcome them after death, in other words: the paradise of the Vikings .
The Belief of the Vikings
The Vikings were warriors who conquered a vast territory and a huge expanse of land, in the northern part of Europe. Their cruelty was feared by all the peoples of Europe, who called them pagans, barbarians, but also "very lively peoples". The real strength of the Viking warriors lies in their faith in Norse mythology, that is, the faith in a right life after death.
Indeed, the Vikings are not just limited to fighting and warfare. They have a very rich and at the same time complex culture compared to the Christian culture. The Viking culture was based above all on a universe made up of nine worlds inhabited by several gods and goddesses. He believed in Asgard (the domain of the gods), in dwarves, giants, men, elves and many other creatures. They managed to transmit their beliefs from poems and several rune stones.
Through their faith in gods and a glorious afterlife, warriors received courage in battle.
Indeed, the warriors sincerely believed that if they died, their spirits would be carried away by the valkyries for the kingdom of Valhalla, in order to begin "the rest of the warrior". Valhalla is ruled by the legendary god of death and war who is none other than the chief of the gods, Odin. The warriors believed they could meet other legendary fighters from the history of Norse mythology and join forces with them to prepare for the war of the gods' fate, Ragnarök.
Valhalla: Norse Mythology
The world of Valhalla was mentioned in two poems that paid homage to two great kings: Erik Blood Ax and Hakon The Good. According to the poetic scriptures, Valhalla gave an aristocratic image of life, not everyone could enter Valhalla.
According to Norse mythology, where a Viking ended up depended mostly on how they died, in addition to the actions they carried on in their life. Indeed, the aggressiveness of the Vikings was based above all on their cosmic visions as well as on their beliefs. Indeed, the story goes that heroes who died in battle could join Valhalla while "hay dead" humans joined the domain of Hel.
Who is Hel? Hel is a goddess whose house was called Helheim. The most likely abode for a Viking after death is in the domain of Helheim. Indeed, the Vikings who died of old age or illness most likely landed in this place which was considered to be a painful place. Helheim had a dark, hazy and obscure image. For the Nordic peoples, landing in Helheim was a real dishonor. Vikings could also join Folkvangr or "the People's Field". This place was reserved for the brave fighters, those who died bravely. This place is under the hands of the goddess Freya. Representations show that Folkvangr is a peaceful place of rest and reward.
However, the most prestigious place a Viking could reach was still Odin's mead hall, which is none other than Valhalla. A place reserved for elite soldiers.
Valhalla: Aspect of Viking Heaven
Valhalla is just the Garden of Eden from Norse mythology. Valhalla is located in the realm of the gods (Asgard), guarded by the chief of the gods, Odin. Odin used warrior maidens to select the spirits of the bravest and most courageous fighters during battles. The valkyries took care of taking them to paradise.
Information regarding the appearance of the interior of Valhalla still remains quite vague, as only a few texts in the Poetics Edda describe Valhalla. The first description is that of Odin who reigns over the place, seated on his throne with a large golden cloak.
The Valhalla is a hall that had a ceiling made of shields, spear-shaped columns, and several fighters' coats of mail spread on the benches. The main entrance to this seat was guarded by fierce wolves. Above the front door was a large eagle with outstretched wings. The god of thunder and son of Odin, Thor, dwelt in the Bilskirnir, a palace located in the domain of Valhalla. The goat Heidrun and the deer Eikthyrnir also dwelt in Valhalla.
The udders of Heidrun brought out the mead until it filled a large vat, where the gods and the fighters could quench their thirst. Mead is the drink of the gods offered to the fighters that the valkyries took to the domain. Mead is an alcoholic beverage.
Valhalla: what role did this place have?
Odin gave an essential role to the domain of Valhalla: that of being the home of the warriors of Ragnarök. In an Edda song, Odin recounted the departure of 800 warrior souls through the 540 gates of Valhalla to face the wolf Fenrir. What is Ragnarok? Ragnarok is the ultimate fight of the gods, the apocalypse of the Vikings where the wolf Fenrir and the great serpent Jormungandr appeared.
Indeed, the gods were all doomed to die, including the god Odin. To tip the balance in their favor and to be able to win the fight, they gather the best warriors in Valhalla in order to defeat the wolf and the serpent.
Valhalla: Brave Vikings*
From birth, a Viking should expect a short and violent life. Indeed, the life expectancy of a Viking did not really exceed forty due to perilous adventures, merciless battles and a hard life of plunder and subsistence agriculture. Valhalla represented paradise and hope for every Viking. A place where their wounds could be healed, where riches were unimportant and where the mead would never run out. This hope of being able to reach this paradise gave them the strength to face danger and to fight at every moment.