I call bullshit or Odin is not your babysitter

There’s a meme making its way around Facebook lately that presents us with the story of an abused child who dies and is taken to Valhalla. Everyone, especially Odin, comforts the child and in the end, that child brings comfort to another abused child who also ends up in the hall of warriors. It’s lovely. It’s emotional. It’s sentimental. It’s also utter bullshit.

Now before this piece gets spun by the tumblr crowd as “Galina hates abused children” let me encourage reading comprehension. Let me also point out that an abused child is a survivor. They are resilient and worthy of immense respect. They are not however, warriors. We are so removed from the realities of our ancestors, from the idea that a necessary and expected passage into adulthood was serving as a warrior or soldier, that we use terms like ‘warrior’ and ‘battle’ metaphorically. There is a role for this in language, yes, but not when it’s being used to elide religious ideas. Let’s also be quite clear: the child in this passage doesn’t exist. So those of you reading this and getting your panties in a twist because of what I’m saying are crying and whining about a fictional construct. The idea expressed in this meme, however is an incredible distortion of Norse ideas of the afterlife and that is what I want to address.

Valhalla is home to an elite military force. It is a place where Odin has selected the best of the best of warriors and where He is training them up daily to be a vicious fighting force in the end battle. This is the elite force being trained to prevent the dissolution of our world and the cosmic order of the Gods. They do two things: they fight and feast.  They constantly train, brutally over and over and over again. There is one, maybe two ways to gain entry into Valhalla: being killed in combat (and maybe belonging to Odin, if one thinks that one goes to the hall of the God to which one is sworn). Either way, it’s no place for a child. It is a place by its very nature that would re-traumatize a wounded soul again and again. Valhalla is not a place of healing. It is a place of brutal, ongoing training.

This is not, of course to say that Odin doesn’t care about abused children. I think the Gods do care immensely but Valhalla is not the appropriate space for such a child to end up. It’s tremendously disrespectful to other Gods, Gods Who do have a specific interest in and care of abused children to foist this off on Odin. We’re polytheists. We have many, many Gods. We don’t have to copy the Christian idea of forcing one God to accommodate everything. An abused child might be better off in Mani’s hall, or Sigyn’s, both Gods that modern, shared experience have revealed to have a fierce interest in caring for and protecting abused children. Maybe such a child would find happiness in Njord’s hall or even Freya’s. Perhaps Hela’s hall would be best, where a child can meet his or her other ancestors and be given love and acceptance that has no taint of violence or pain; and there are dozens more Gods, all of Whom have places in the afterlife far more appropriate than Valhalla. I understand that the author of that meme is likely attempting to address the helplessness inherent in being abused, and making the statement that surviving abuse is like surviving war, but the reality is that they’re not the same thing. It’s not just surviving a violent situation that makes you a warrior; it’s surviving it and going back in willingly over and over again. Intimating that an abused child will go to Valhalla is one of the most horrifying things I’ve read recently. Why? So that kid can spend an afterlife in terror? Or so an elite war band can be transformed into some progressive’s idea of a babysitter? And what exactly is that child going to do when the final battle comes? This elite war band has one purpose: to fight in that battle and most likely to face their soul’s obliteration doing so. Is that child going to fight with them? Is that really the afterlife that we find appropriate for a child who suffered terrible abuse whilst alive? Think about that long and hard and exactly what that would be like for such a soul (including what it would be like to bond with these men and women and then see them all go out and die).

Moreover, why is it so difficult to allow our warriors to have their own space? Since the ancient world, cultures have realized that warriors and soldiers needed space that was their own because they endure things that only another of their kind can comprehend. It’s one thing to kill once in a fight for one’s life but quite another to go again and again into the clanging, chaotic, terrifying din of battle – willingly—knowing that even if you survive, the experiences that you endure defending and protecting the peace of your people will likely render you unable to ever truly be one of them again. You will forever be separate from that which you fought to sustain.

Our communities have real problems with elite space, with space that is not in fact inclusive of everyone. Fortunately, our Gods don’t seem to have this issue and instead realize that such spaces are necessary for any work to be done, for any tradition to grow, and that our dead deserve to each find their homes.  I said to someone recently: we will not have traditions worth defending until we have people willing to take up arms and shed blood to sustain them. Why? Because tradition and civilization are both built on the backs and the blood of its warriors. You don’t get to enjoy these things without this class of people willing to give everything to sustain them.

sad child

(“Why do you want to scar me for all eternity? Haven’t I suffered enough?”)

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on November 13, 2017, in Heathenry, theology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I have to agree on this one. Not every murder victim goes to the halls of the military dead. Not to mention it implies Hela doesn’t care about children or certain types of dead to me. One of the things that makes Hela less terrifying is I have imagined her comforting dead children something Holda I also see doing. Not that male gods can’t because obviously Mani cares a great deal. And not to imply Odin doesn’t admire the strength some dead have had in life. Things work they way the do. Those in Odin and Freya’s halls eventually defend Asgard. Do you want six year old kids fighting in battle?

    Liked by 5 people

  2. This is the problem with people who (a) don’t understand the nuances of language and the translation of ancient concepts into modern language and (b) haven’t actually absorbed the meaning of the traditions themselves. It reminds me quite a bit of an argument I had many years ago with someone who was calling the people who died in 9/11 “heroes” in the context of Greek religion. Aside from the fact that I don’t consider a victim to be automatically a hero even in the modern sense of the word, even those who might have acted heroically are not “heroes” in the way that Herakles or Theseus are heroes, or even in the way that Euripides or Sokrates may have received hero cultus. That requires certain functions to be performed both by the person after their death, and by those setting up the cultus. Similar to how a person might act “saintly” but that doesn’t make them an official Catholic saint! (People also often conflate the modern and ancient uses of the idea of “sacrifice” and end up misunderstanding a lot about ancient religion because of it.)

    Liked by 5 people

  3. thetinfoilhatsociety

    This. I have gotten into more arguments with Heathens who should really know better about this very thing. You are not a warrior because you survived breast cancer, or any cancer. You are a warrior because you go out and LITERALLY put on a uniform and risk you life for the protection of those at home.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The problem is Valhalla has been overly romanticized, and add to that so many within our community are completely ignorant of any other places the dead go.

    I love to see the looks for the wannabe warriors who are misogynistically patriarchal when they proclaim they are going to Valhalla, when I remind them half of the chosen slain go to Freya, and the key phrase is chosen slain, not everyone who is slain is chosen. Oh the look of denial/shock makes me chuckle every time.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Very interesting post. Thank you for explaining about Valhalla.


  6. It is interesting that the Germanic Valhalla is comparable to the Homeric conception of the good afterlife, i.e. for the select few Heroes and brave warriors.


  7. As someone who works with children in their profession this would make no sense in this world or the otherworld. No parent/guardian in their right mind would want their child around this type of environment whether they had been abused or not. It would cause further damage to a child that had been through the horrific experience of abuse and it would damage your average child considerably to say the least. People in my experience within the various polytheist communities are ignorant of children and their needs they view them as a nuisance who can contribute noting to our traditions other than tears and tantrums. They take no time to understand how they operate differently to adults, how they see the world or how they think about things they have experienced. Children are not as resilient as some people like to think, a child is only as resilient as much as the person raising them is. They need to be encouraged and protected and taught what to do when something happens to them. They soak up every single positive and negative experience they are exposed to, and it impacts them in some way shape or form every day of their lives whether they realise it or not. A child’s natural predisposition is to be kind, friendly, loving (almost unconditionally), caring, and very open. It is not to be angry, bitter, resentful, fearful or filled with a hate their intellect cannot yet process. Do these people not realise how idiotic it would be then to have an abused child in Valhalla. They would only find blood, and death and the impending fear that impending war brings.
    It would shatter my very heart to know that a child who needed the comfort and protection they where denied in life, was also denied to them in the afterlife. They would get no peace there, they would get no rest to recover, they would find no answers or justice there.
    We have many Gods and Goddesses in our respective traditions who would bring these children what they need, pray to them I say.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Reblogged this on Son of Hel and commented:
    So apparently Galina hates children, especially abused children. Hates them with the hatred of of a thousand burning suns. Which I’m told is a lot of hate.

    Seriously though, the kid is going to Hel. You don’t throw them into Valhalla. I honestly don’t get why people who are heathens don’t get this. I know Helheim is an uncomfortable topic for them, but seriously. Get over it. It’s nice, it’s peaceful, and it’s honestly what 95% of people need. There’s no shame in the straw death and resting in Hela’s Hall.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This really does echo a lot of what I see in heathenry, which is treating Odin like the Christian god dressed up with heavy-metal album trimmings. Why does Odin have to be the be-all, end-all? Odin is Odin, and is more than we will ever be able to fully experience or comprehend. We don’t need to make him Jesus welcoming the little children to his kingdom, as well. Or Yaweh. Or Elohim. Or the Holy Spirit.

    As for dead, abused or neglected or forsaken children, there’s a whole wealth of lore about the wild hunt, and the goddesses who specifically collect the souls of those children. Many of these stories also detail how they take on this role specifically because Odin does not. It seems odd that followers of Norse Heathenry, which prides itself as being “the religion with homework” missed those oft-repeated detail. Although it is probably asking an awful lot of the Facebook crowd that they do their homework before re-posting random bullshit.

    This is a bit off topic, but it has been my UPG that Tyr takes a special interest in individuals who have been abused, unfairly imprisoned, and tortured, as well as just about anyone suffering from severe PTSD. He was the one who placed a hand in the mouth of the chaos-wolf, after all. He teaches how to endure certain types of senseless suffering. This can apply to veterans or abused children.

    But once people start to heal, to move out from under that dark shadow in their life, when every day is no longer a fresh battle, then Tyr moves on to help others, and leaves their care to other gods. He stands with you and teaches courage while you face and attempt to bind the wolf…but if you are looking for the happy, comfortable, safe place, you need to look elsewhere. Tyr’s courage is not needed there. Luckily, there are a lot of gods and goddesses willing to help teach us how to build those places.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Your explanation on Valhalla and the mortals that go there is simply the truth of the matter. Hopefully this will settle this to everyone’s satisfaction. The Goddess Hel’s domain is a place for this child.


    Liked by 2 people

  11. One of the (many) problems that feed into this misconception is the equation of the Walhalla, the Hall of the Chosen, with the Christian idea of Heaven. One of many ways in which Christianity continues to pollute and dilute people’s understanding of the Germanic religions.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. I really do love your blog! You take on things is so refreshing in this progressive modern age of infantile generations.

    Liked by 1 person

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