Hel, Goddess of Death
paper cutting, 1998 - The origin of the myth of Hel might have been developed much earlier but the first written reference of her is in the Edda, a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic medieval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with older Edda from the 12th century this is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends. Hel, the goddess of the death, was the daughter of Loki and the giantess Angurboda, and dwelt beneath the roots of the sacred ash, Yggdrasil. She was given dominion over the nine worlds of Helheim. In early myth all the dead went to her: in later legend only those who died of old age or sickness, and she then became synonymous with suffering and horror. Location names like Helsinki, Helsingør, and Helgoland derive from Hel. Hel is a figure similar to Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, in Greek mythology. She represents the third aspect of the goddess trinity, the dark aspect of life that is the end of the life cycle. She kills her children to take them back. In relation to her powers she is related to all goddesses of creation and destruction worldwide, like Pele in the Hawaiian Islands (represented by the Volcano), Kali Ma in India (represented by the skull & bone necklace), Iemanja (Yemaja) in Brazil, Cuba & other Afro influenced cultures (represented by her posture and mermaid figure). Mermaids in North European mythology are just personifications of Hel. As the dark aspect of the mother goddess she takes care of her children keeping their souls in upside-down caldrons deep under water in lakes or the ocean. When a soul is ready to be reincarnated Hel turns the caldron up, allowing the soul (represented by the seven faces) to surface and return into the life circle.