Share on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon1Share on Tumblr0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0

Seems like it might have been better to have stocked Valhalla with protein powder and personal trainers rather than mutton and mead, but hey what do I know? Odin’s the one with the missing eye he traded for wisdom. There’s probably something I missed here.

The Norse afterlife is something we’ve discussed at length over the years, particularly the division between Valhalla and Folkvangr, and the general concept of Ragnarok but we haven’t dug deeply into Valhalla itself. In the Norse afterlife, Odin’s share of the honored dead are taken to Valhalla, the great feasting hall of the one-eyed god, led there by the Valkyrie. Much like those taken to Folkvangr, this hall was the destination for warriors that died in battle, but unlike Freyja’s fields, Valhalla took on a much different aspect. Often depicted as an enormous feasting hall where the Einherjar (the warriors brought to the afterlife) would eat and drink and fight throughout the ages, preparing and enjoying themselves for the end of all things. The hall is described in various sources as having rafters made of spears and a roof of shields with many rooms and other halls inside. Valhalla is also said to have hundreds of doors within and without, allowing the warriors to pour forth in a great torrent for the final battle.

Naturally, it was only good manners for the gods to provide food and fun for their guests as would be customary in life, though the manner of these feasts was obviously much more extravagant than anything one would experience in Midgard, the world of men. Many of these attestations about Valhalla can be found within Gylfaginning, a chapter found in the Prose Edda, wherein a King by the name of Gylfi departs to Asgard to question the gods and meets three kings of a great hall (often understood to be aspects of Odin). He questions one of these kings, named High for some time and we are given descriptions of the halls of Valhalla as well as information about the activities about its inhabitants. This is where we are told of the daily feasting and fighting of Odin’s share of those slain on the battlefield. The Einherjar are depicted as feasting daily on an enormous boar that is cooked and devoured and then regenerates itself to be eaten again the following day. They are given mead fit for kings and enjoy other delicacies at the feasting tables. Odin himself is present at the feasts but drinks only wine and gives his portion of meat to his wolves while he awaits news from his ravens, Huginn and Muninn. In the afternoons, the warriors fight in the training fields to keep their skills sharp for the final confrontation.

King Gylfi inquires a couple of times throughout the chapter about the number of the Einjerhar at Valhalla and states that it must be crowded. High indicates that there are indeed a large number of warriors in the Hall but that it is large enough for all of them. He also says quite ominously that in spite of their numbers, they will seem far too few when they set off to face Fenrir and Ragnarok.

Despite our access to the Prose and Poetic Eddas and other sources for Norse Myth (which are still not quite enough) we still have questions about the Norse conception of the afterlife, though these descriptions are quite vivid and clear. For instance, why did they split the battle-slain warriors between Odin and Freyja? What purpose would that have?

And, of course, why would they eat fatty meat and drink gallons of mead for such a long time while preparing for the battle to end all battles?

Truly, one of the greatest mysteries.

Share on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon1Share on Tumblr0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0