• Odelsarven

Hélhestr

Hélhestr is marked in the month Søkkvabekkr («descending / deep river»), with the zodiac sign Vatnkarl (Aquarius) - home to the goddess Sága (Saga). She is Odin's wife and carries Frigg and Frøya's attributes. Saga is, among other things, the feminine power of the physical birth, the life-giving physical forces. Therefore, this mythological goddess is also married to Odin.


The month is also called Þorri (Fertilizer Month), and Hélhestr falls 40 [1] days after the Winter Solstice, and 40 days before Austr (the original Easter). This brings us to the time around February 1st of today's calendar, at the New Moon.


The pagan celebration is for the light, but also for chance, fate and happiness. It also indicates the beginning of the carnival tradition. Like all of our original traditions, this is also related to the cycle of the bear, and the correlating re-production and seasonal cycles. At this time, the bear peeks out from the winter layer to see spring's arrival. It sees the light for the first time, after the winter hibernation. It should be said that if the bear sees the new moon, it will come out. Otherwise, it will wait for it. Our ancient customs also marked this, as we wore masks symbolically (carnival, by Latin carne vale - "meat farewell" which also indicates the time of lent before Austr). The tradition marks both that the bear cub sees the light for the first time, after being born on the winter solstice, and that it is a symbol of the third and final symbolic pregnancy of our rebirth ritual. It is a symbol of reincarnation, and it "hides" during the dark new moon. It hides in the womb of Mother Nature.


After this period, a new cycle of the new three begins, where the important pagan high festival ahead of us is Austr, which the Christians later called “Påske”. In our tradition, Easter is not about death, suffering and sin. It is about Sól, the coming of spring, fertilization and fortification. It is about Balder's return from Hel and winter darkness.

The New Moon is the symbol of what exists but is not to be seen. Like the little nut under the snow that holds a mighty oak tree. The she-Bear (the bearing mother), who is also personified in legends and fairytales as the witch or wolf, hides her cubs. First she hides them in her mother's life from summer solstice to winter solstice, and then in the cave / winter layer. Just like Hel in the realm of death, or like the witches and wolves hiding their princesses in the fairytales. They are guardians of the ancestral spirits. What exists but cannot be seen. In nature, the She-Bear never goes out until it is a dark new moon. In other words, the symbolism also tells of the earliest phase of an upcoming pregnancy, about the seed - which is there, which exists - but has not sprung out from the hibernation yet - like the egg in the mother's life (womb), like the dawning spring, existing, but not to be seen.


Hélhestr means “the horse of Hel”. This is the horse Odin and the gods use, Odin and his wife's many different masks (kennings). It's called Sleipnir. As previously mentioned, this horse has eight legs; it is a mythological horse that represents the state of mind change in relation to the physical body - between "life and death".


Hermod visiting Hel, by H.A. Guerber 1909.



In the mythology we can read about Hermod's travel to Hel. Hermod is the son of Odin (carries the attributes of Odin, he is symbolically Odin), and the son of Frigg. This is Balder's brother. Hermod (of Norse Hermóðr, meaning “army / courage”) is the messenger of the gods. Hermod rode on the Hel Horse to the obscure Hel that had Balder captured. Balder represents the light and the sun, the returning one, and he died on the Autumn Equinox [2]. When winter comes, it means the sun is getting weaker. Balder (the sun, light and life) is with Hel (the realm of death, emptiness). Hermod, as messenger of the gods, in this case the attributes of the Sky god, rides to Hel to ask for Balder to return. He could, but only if the whole world would cry [3] over him. Here's how Hermod's travel to Hel can be recounted:



Hermods travel to Hel


About Hermod is to say that he rode for nine nights through steep and deep valleys so he saw nothing before he came to the river Gjall and rode over Gjallarbrua; she is dressed with shining gold. Modgunn is the name, the girl who watches the bridge. He asked him about his name and kin, and said that the previous day five brigades of dead men rode over the bridge.


“But the bridge does not roar less under you alone. And you do not look like a dead man. Why do you ride on Helveg? ”


He replies: "I will go to Hel and look for Balder. Have you seen him on Helveg, maybe? "


She replies that Balder had ridden there over Gjallarbrua, "and down and north is Helveg."


So Hermod rode until he came to Helgrinda (the gate of Hel). Then he got off the horse, tightened his abdomen, stepped up and set the grooves in the horse. And the horse made such a leap over the gate that he did not come near her.


Then Hermod rode to the hall, got off his horse and entered. There he saw Balder, his brother, sitting in the high seat. Hermod stayed the night.

In the morning Hermod asked Hel if Balder could ride with him from there, and told her about the cry of the Æsir. Hel replies that she wanted a proof of the love of Balder and that this love was as great as everybody said. “If all things in the world - living and dead - cried over him, then he would go to the Æsir once again, but kept by Hel if anybody did not want to cry”. "


Then Hermod stood up. Balder he led out of the hall, and took the ring Draupne and sent Odin for rememberance. And Nanna sent Frigg other gifts, and to Fulla she sent a ring of gold.


Then Hermod rode off and came to Åsgard and told of everything he had seen and heard. Then the Æsir sent errand messengers across the world to ask that Balder was cried out of Hel.


And so did everyone: people and cattle and earth and stone and wood and all the ore - so you can see that these things cry when they come from cold into the warm.


When the messengers went home and had completed their task well, they saw that there was a “Gygre” (Sorceress) there; she called herself “Takk” (of Norwegian “thank you”). They asked her to cry Balder out of Hel.



She says:


«Dry tears

Takk may cry

for Balders funeral fire;

in life or death

he did little to me.

May Hel keep what she got»



Saga and Odin, illustration by Lorenz Frølich (1895).



This day therefore marks that spring is approaching and that the sun is getting stronger. It marks that "Balder is back soon". But, the Sorceress “Takk” (the masked Loke (the catalyst)) would not cry his tears for Balder. Spring is not here yet, and the spring sun steam and warmth will still be waiting. Loke processes the key. He processes the evergreen symbol of the return of all life – the mistletoe, but the mistletoe also lives on “others” (a parasite of the oak), kills – but again reincarnates, in eternal cycle. The forces of order must avenge first, and Loke must mythological be captured.


On the day of Hélhestr our ancestors took out their winter clothes and bed sheets and left them in the sun. After being inside all winter, it was to be cleansed and recharged by the rising sun. Candles should be brought in. This symbolized that the sun and light were on the way back - into the house, the mound, to give new and reincarnated life.

Since this celebration also represents fate, turns, happiness etc., it was common to play games. The tradition was, among other things, what we today call the “krone eller mynt” (flipping a coin) or something as trivial as flipping the pancake by throwing it up in the air, before hopefully, it falls into place in the pan again. A coin or pancake represents the moon and the egg. The outcome of luck would speak for itself.


It's no coincidence that pancakes are traditional foods in late winter and spring.



The church did, not unexpectedly, incorporate this day into its calendar after the forced Christianization of our ancestors. They dedicated it in memory of the Jesus child in the temple in Jerusalem, forty days after his birth. The day was called “Kyndelsmesse” [4]. Primstaven is marked with 7-arm candelabra [5].


The pagan Romans also marked this day around February 2, during a candlelight procession for the goddess Ceres, who in mythology is looking for her daughter Proserpina, who had been taken to the realm of death Hades by the god Pluto. This myth is essentially the same as our Norse, where Ceres carries Odin and Frigg's attributes through the messenger and son Hermod, and daughter Proserpina carries Balder's attributes. The realm of death Hades is Hel. We can recognize Pluto as the goddess Hel.


After the forced Christianization, our original Hélhestr was renamed "Kirkehest” (“Church Horse"). After this, great superstition was added to this celebration, and in the middle Ages the” Church Horse” was perceived as an “evil spirit” and a “ghost” who predicted plague and death. It went from being a symbol of the celebratory life, to being something scary, something of misery and unhappiness, if the new commandments of the Christians were not adhered to by the peasants.


Our original celebration of Hélhestr was a marking of Balder and his wife Nanna's return (light and summer). They are “cried out" from Hel's cold darkness and forgetfulness, as the snow melting streams flow in all hills and valleys. It marked the first of the three symbolic cycles of pregnancy and rebirth, in nature, in humans, in gods, yes - at all levels.


[1] 40 days is equivalent to 40 weeks, which is the length of a pregnancy. Nine nights is the equivalent of 9 months, which is a length of a pregnancy.


[2] He was shot by the blind Hod with an arrow of mistletoe.


[3] The fact that the world is crying over Balder also means that the snow will melt and that streams will flow in torrential currents - hence the name of the month - Søkkvabekkr, where Sága mythologically lives.


[4] Of Norse “kyndil”, meaning wax candles. We had light processions on this day in our Norse tradition, probably like the ones we had at Langnótt during the winter solstice.


[5] A stately candlestick. This was an essential decoration and ritual object in use since ancient times, and long before Christianity was contemplated.


Note: Sól is a goddess of her own in our mythology, where Sól and Mání (the sun and the moon) are the most important ones. They are siblings, the two eyes together. The other gods (natural forces) emerge from these, in a logical sense. Some schematic professionals may argue that the sun cannot be linked to Balder. But, from a holistic and logical point of view, Balder will certainly be linked to Sól, because without the sun there is no life, no light, nor his wife Nanna, the summer.

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