When the Vikings went to battle, many lives were lost to the enemy’s blade, or were they indeed? Even though most people tend to mourn their dead, especially when they lost their lives during the conquest or a war, but not the Vikings. The Norse civilization had another point of view back in the day.
To make the mourning process easier, Vikings believed that whoever dies in battle will have a chance to the most prestigious place in the whole Norse universe. It’s the place where ale and food are continuously served.
Moreover, this is the place where all the fallen Viking warriors gather. There they celebrate their past life and all the battles they’ve won. It’s the most magnificent hall in Asgard where Odin resides, and entering the chamber is undoubtedly the highest honor that a mortal can get.
What is this mystical place that sounds so entertaining and cozy? It’s the place where only selected few slain warriors can enter. Even when Vikings died in battle, not every one of them would go to this magnificent place.
The Allfather Odin would send his Valkyries to the battlefront and let them choose the best fallen Vikings to bring back to the halls of Valhalla.
Yes, that’s right. You’ve most certainly heard of this incredible place known as Valhalla (Old Norse Valhöll). The name itself means „the halls of the slain,” explaining who and when can enter these halls in Asgard.
The story about Valhalla is among the purest and most exciting stories in entire Norse mythology. The existence of this place is what gave the Vikings their incredible strength and ferocity. When they went into the battle, they had two options at hand. They’ll finish the battle victorious, or they’ll die.
Although the dying part sounds scary, the Vikings knew that if they die on the battlefield, they’ll go to a much better place where the Gods reside along with all the other fallen Viking brothers.
The story has it that the halls of Valhalla were meant only for Einherjar (those that were gloriously slain in combat) if they were worthy of residing there. The Allfather Odin decided that he wants to assemble a great Viking army in Valhalla made from the best Viking warriors to be at his side and help him when Ragnarök comes.
The Allfather Odin sends his trusted Valkyries to Midgard to oversee the battle and to choose which of the slain Viking warriors will they then lead to Valhalla. Only the ones that Valkyries choose will have that honor.
By knowing that they will probably go to the halls of Valhalla, the Vikings weren’t afraid to die in the battle, and that’s what made them ferocious and scary to every one of their enemies.
It’s worth mentioning that all the other Vikings that weren’t chosen to join Odin would go to a field of Fólkvangr ruled by the goddess Freyja.
The Great Hall
Thor’s hall inside Valhalla is called Bilskirnir, and it has 540 rooms with incredibly massive doors. The doors are so enormous that all 800 warriors can pass through them at once and fill the central hall of Valhalla. The ancient and sacred gate by the name of Valgrind (the death gate) is set on the outer rim of the chamber.
This magnificent hall is described to have many golden shields attached to its ceiling, while the numerous spears serve as walls of the great hall. It is said that swords were placed all around the hall to deflect the sunlight around the room. All seats and benches in the hall were created from breastplates reminding the Vikings in Valhalla of battles they've fought during their lifetime.
Numerous creatures surround the great hall like the goat Heidrun (Old Norse Heiðrún), and stag Eikthyrnir (Old Norse Eikþyrnir) and they are some of the creatures dwelling around the great hall. The legends claim that these two creatures are consuming the foliage of the tree Læraðr (often described as Yggdrasil) that stands atop of the hall.
In front of the great hall is the golden tree Glasir, and the gates of the great hall are guarded by eagles that fly high above it and the wolves that keep it safe from intruders on the ground. The hall is surrounded by the roaring river Thund, which cannot be passed by mortals and giants. To be able to cross the river and enter the great hall, one must be brought by Valkyries.
The Glorious Feast
Vikings in Valhalla spend their days battling against one another. That way, they will never forget the lives they led in Midgard, while they’ll stay in perfect shape to fight off the giants when Ragnarök comes. When the night falls, all their wounds would be healed, and everything would be back to its previous, healthy state, and they’ll enjoy the endless feast with Allfather Odin and their Viking brothers.
The great feasts always include the continuous supply of tender meat from the gigantic wild boar Saehrimnir (Old Norse Sæhrímnir). The boar is so big that it can easily feed 800 warriors. The Gods and the fallen warriors at the feast are served the rivers of ale and mead, which flows from the Heidrun’s magical udder and goes perfectly well for such grandiose feast of the mightiest Gods and Vikings.
Everything resets as the new day begins. The boar is resurrected, and the mead starts flowing again. Moreover, all the Vikings in Valhalla can begin their fighting training once again. When the night falls, everything goes back to as it was, and every day and night are the same.
Some say that the Allfather Odin was selfish to take the Vikings in Valhalla so that they could help him fight off the threat that will come in the form of Fenrir and end the Norse cosmos with Ragnarök.
However, the Viking warriors were aware of their role in Odin’s plan, and they didn’t mind, as long as there’s a battle to be won and meat and mead for the feast. Although, when Fenrir comes and when the doomsday begins, none of them will survive, which makes it their last battle.
Valkyries’ job is to serve the Vikings in Valhalla as well as Allfather Odin. They are the spirits of incredible beauty that help Odin in various dealings. Their most important task is to choose the appropriate fallen Vikings so that they could join Odin and others in the great hall.
Additionally, it is said that Odin didn’t eat anything since his celestial body didn’t require any sustenance. However, he did drink the wine served by Valkyries, and he always gave his portion of food to the wolves Geri and Freki so they would accompany him where ever he goes.
The Way Vikings Were Chosen to Enter Valhalla
We mentioned that Valkyries are Odin’s trusted spirit maidens that fly to Midgard to oversee the battle and choose the mightiest Viking warriors to bring back to Asgard and the great hall of Valhalla.
Valkyrie on the Way to the Battlefield
However, there’s an important detail we haven’t mentioned so far. It is said that Valkyries had the power to choose the outcome of the battle they wanted even before the battle begins. That way, Valkyries were able to manufacture the outcome at their own will.
When they went to oversee the battle, Valkyries decided the fate of all warriors upfront, as well as the battle’s outcome. One might say that because they knew which warriors they wanted to take to Valhalla even before the battle, that they were somewhat selfish along with Allfather Odin. There’s not much fate involved, but only Odin’s personal need and gain.
Nevertheless, Valhalla for Vikings is the ultimate achievement, and all of them were happy to die in battle so they could join their fallen brothers in the great hall along with Odin, Thor, and all other Norse mythology Gods.
When Vikings wanted to secure their passage to Valhalla and to sway Allfather Odin and Valkyries into taking them to the great hall, they used to sacrifice their enemies in the middle of the battle. Human sacrifices to Odin were a common thing among Vikings, and sacrificing entire armies or noblemen and royalty was the right way to do it.
The sacrifices were usually made with nooses or spears since these methods are known as the ultimate Odinnic sacrifice. Odin hung and sacrificed himself to himself when he wanted to discover the secrets and gain knowledge about the runes. The sacrifice he made is the ultimate one since there’s no greater honor than sacrificing a God to a God (himself).
The most common sacrificial method during the raging battle was throwing a spear towards the enemy and yelling, „Odin owns all of you,“ and by doing so, the Vikings hoped to gain favor from Odin and Valkyries so they would secure their passage to the halls of Valhalla.
The Walhalla Temple
The Bavarian King, Ludwig the First, decided to build a temple inspired by the Valhalla concept and has ordered Leo von Klenze to build a magnificent structure. The Walhalla temple is the place for honoring numerous Germanic historical figures.
Stairs to the Monument Walhalla in Germany
The construction of the temple began in the early 19th century, and it’s located in the outer rim of Regensburg, Germany. The temple is an incredibly attractive structure that lures thousands of tourists each year.
Valhalla As A Rock Song Inspiration
In the 1970s, rock music was at its peak, and among many successful rock bands, Led Zeppelin was becoming a cult. The band’s 1970s tour began in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the local working class didn’t accept them as much as the and hoped for. The concert was almost canceled, but Reykjavik's University made it possible for them to play.
The band was blown away by the audience’s response to their music, and to honor their fans, Robert Plant wrote, now incredibly famous, „Immigrant Song.“ The song doesn’t depict any particular moment from Viking’s history. Still, it tells a tale of the Norse explorer Leif Erikson who discovered the new land on one of his explorations.
The song describes how the Vikings used to explore the far reaches of Midgard and that they were always ready to go to Valhalla if they, by any chance, lose the battles they were undoubtedly facing.
Valhalla’s Modern Influence
Norse mythology was popular many years ago, but it still has its place among the people even today. The influence that Norse mythology has on people can be seen through various Norse elements that people tend to incorporate in their daily lives.
One of the examples is a Valhalla tattoo that has a significant meaning to many people. That’s their way of presenting their interest towards the Norse mythology and Viking era in general. The Valhalla symbol is depicted as two intertwined triangles with Elder Futhark markings.
Additionally, besides tattoos, people prefer to wear Viking markings like jewelry, clothes, and various accessories. The variety of Viking jewelry and accessories is vast, and people tend to incorporate them along with their Viking-style outfits.
It remains unknown if the people believe in Valhalla’s existence or if they are motivated by the latest popularity of Norse mythology in general. Whatever the case may be, the Norse universe undoubtedly had a profound impact on today’s society. It’s no wonder since the mythology itself is incredibly colorful, inspiring, and exciting.
Wrapping the Valhalla Story Up
Considering that the Vikings had to die to reach the ultimate bliss, it’s no wonder that they fought bravely and ferociously. However, the story about the great halls of Valhalla was possibly invented to help people cope with the adverse outcomes of the battles.
People that lost their sons or husbands needed something to help them with their grief. It's was much easier for them to think that the loved ones they've lost now dine and drink with the Allfather Odin in the great hall.
How do you like the entire Valhalla concept? If you were a Viking and if you could choose, would you be ok with going to the great hall or you’d prefer to live in Midgard?
We’d give a penny for your thoughts on this subject, and let us know if we’ve missed something in the comment section below.