Valhalla: The Coveted Land of the Fallen Warriors
The land of the fallen in Nordic mythology shares with us, paradoxically, exquisite life lessons.
In Norse Mythology there existed a fascinating place called Valhalla, also referred to as “the hall of the fallen”. This place only hosted the bravest of fallen warriors. For the peoples who were constantly at war with the weather, the neighbours and the merciless Northern Sea, life could only be understood on bellicose terms, with an iron attitude, forged only by rigour and struggles. This does not mean, however, that Valhalla was shaped to be a spa or a country house. Oh no, quite the opposite in fact. If only the most fearless warriors could reach Valhalla, this was because Odin, the ruling god of Asgard, had an even greater mission awaiting them.
Unlike other mythologies where the great beyond is a permanent state of joy or disgrace, the Nordic Valhalla was just a luxury training-ground for the best: even after death, war would continue when Ragnarök (the “destiny of the gods”) arrived, in which even Odin, the son of Thor and the trickster Loki, would die in the most epic of battles.
Ragnarök can be understood to be the end of the Viking world –– a moment in which the world would be filled with water after a great battle and when even the most admirable would fall definitely. This is why Odin needed only the best warriors, those who would be willing to die not once, but twice: in one life and the next, in the most epic battle in the universe.
Just like within the Japanese Bushido, where a warrior must fight as if he was trying to die, in Nordic mythology bravery and courage were measured in the indifferent treatment of death. The idea of Ragnarök also provides a new continuity to the world. Once the waters had fallen, the world would be fertile again; the surviving gods would rule as Odin had done before them and two human beings would populate the world again.
Everything would begin again.
We need not wait for the passing of eons to fight our own epic battles, though. The idea of Valhalla (less as a hedonistic place and more as the acceptance of our responsibility to the world) has been adopted by projects of a Utopian character. When we stop being part of the protest and begin being part of the solution, projects like the Valhalla Project are born. This is a sustainable community that seeks to produce a type of communitarian Utopia, learning from its own experience and aided by the collaboration of those who want to participate through it.
Believing in a future life or in life after death helps some people make sense of the present; however, we cannot forget that the true battle is here and now, with our daily reality, with the people who surround us and with the planet in its fragile state. The difference is that the paradigm will change if we understand that if we fight, we must not do so against them but with them. Besides his courage, a warrior needs humbleness to recognise we are merely part of a chapter in the most epic story of all: the human race.
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