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An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 86

Hel, as has been said, was the child of Loki and the giantess Angurboda; and a shadowy Teutonic All-Father (a 'god behind the gods,' who recalls Mr Lang's Australian and Andaman original monotheistic figures), fearful of the innate and abounding evil in her, cast her into Niflheim and gave her power over the nine worlds of Helheim, where she housed the dead. Hel was a place of gloom and dreariness, but within it was a grove inhabited by sinless beings destined to re-people the world. It is possible to discern in the myth of Hel as we know it a later sophistication of the original, most probably due, as we have said, to Christian influence. Early Teutonic ideas concerning the dead were by no means well defined. We read of the souls of the departed accompanying the Wild Huntsman (no other than Odin) on his weird nightly chase. Other tales describe them as dwelling with Odin in the hills, or, indeed, beneath them. This last is a very much more widespread Teutonic tradition than is generally credited. Charlemagne sleeps in the Odenberg, Frederick Barbarossa in the Kyffhäuser, and, all unknown to the writer until the day before penning these words, King Arthur was once thought to slumber beneath the lion-like mass of Arthur's Seat on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

VALHALLA, THE WARRIORS' HEAVEN

Valhalla, the hall of Odin, where Teutonic warriors fallen in battle dwelt ever with the god in feast and fray, was the warriors' Paradise, and was built round the trunk of a tree Laeradhr. On its leaves browsed the stag Eikthyrmir and the goat Heidbrun, from whose udders flowed inexhaustible streams of mead to quench the thirst of the heroes. Its portals were five hundred and forty in number, and were capable of admitting eight hundred warriors at a time. Its roof was made of the shields of the mighty dead, its leaves of their spear-shafts, and round the walls glittered their swords and mail, while on[Pg 198] the western wall hung a stuffed wolf surmounted by an eagle. At some distance from the hall was the forest Glasir, the trees of which bore golden foliage, encircled by a sacred wall. The champions or 'Einherjar' went forth to combat each other every day, returning to feast on boar and mead.

Now it is obvious that this myth is a comparatively late conception created by a military aristocracy. A similar phenomenon is to be observed, as has been said, in ancient Mexico, where the military caste supplied the altars of the war-god with sacrificial victims, and maintained the food-compact between the people and their deities. As you will remember, if the gods perished for lack of sustenance (human blood) they could not bless the harvests, and the people would also die. The future reward of a valiant Mexican warrior was the continuous company of the sun-god. Now we find that at one time human sacrifice was rendered to Odin. Prisoners of war were sacrificed to him, precisely as they were to the Mexican war-god Uitzilopochtli by stabbing (see Chadwick,


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