Valhalla was the great hall, or palace, that stood in the Grove of Glesir in Asgard, the realm of the Norse gods. It was presided over by the head god of the Norse pantheon, Odin. The name Valhalla means hall of the slain.
Valhalla was said to be truly enormous, with 540 doors. Each door was large enough for 800 warriors to pass through at once. The walls were made of spears, the benches of breastplates, and the roof of shining shields. The hall held countless warriors, all of whom were former mortals. A wolf guarded Valhalla’s main door, and an eagle ﬂew watch over it.
Valhalla was home to the Norse heroes called the einherjar, who had died bravely and honorably in battle. Those who came to Valhalla were chosen for this honor by the Valkyries, the nine warrior daughters of Odin. Each day, these warriors rode out to take part in military games and mock battles.
Every night, they returned to the hall to feast. Any wounds sustained during the day healed instantly, and the fine roasted boar and intoxicating mead never ran out. The warriors waited in Valhalla for the final battle, called Ragnarok, at which time they would march forth into a doomed but glorious fight against the giants, the enemies of the gods.
Valhalla was the ideal afterlife for Norse Viking warriors. They could think of no worse fate for themselves than losing their fighting abilities through crippling injuries or old age and gradually becoming useless in a warrior society. It was far better for true warriors to die in glorious combat at the peak of their powers, assured of a true and honorable warrior’s afterlife in Valhalla.
There was also a place at Valhalla for women in the hall of Frigga, Odin’s wife. Women who died in childbirth were welcomed as warriors. Couples who died when they were fervently in love with each other also were permitted to enter.
|within the underworld|
Warriors who did not get to Valhalla, whether through cowardice, dying in bed, or some other shameful end, went to the dark home of the dead. This was ruled over by the grim goddess Hel in a realm deep within the underworld. The Vikings considered such an end to be literally a fate worse than mere death.