Outline for Modern Heathen Beliefs about the Afterlife

Modern Heathen Beliefs about the Afterlife

“The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant.”
–attributed to a follower of King Edwin of Northumbria in Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum

Existence in a different world (or something very like it)

  1. The Realms of the Gods
    1. Valholl/Glaðsheimr
      1. Literature: Poetic Edda (Grimnismal, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, Hyndluljoð, Voluspa), Prose Edda (Gylfaginning, Skaldskaparmal), Skaldic Poetry (esp. Eiriksmal and Hakonarmal), Sagas (esp. Heimskringla, Njals, Gautreks, Gisla)
      2. Physical Evidence: Rune and Image stones (esp. Stenbro, Tangelgarda, and Tjangvide stones from Gotland)
      3. Vingolf? (Gylfaginning)
    2. Sessrumnir/Folkvangr
      1. Poetic Edda (Grimnismal), Prose Edda (Gylfaginning), Egils saga (?- Thorgerð’s words to Egil before he composes Sonatorrek), Hjaðningavig/the legend of Heðinn and Hogni/Saga of Hild(?)
      2. Gefjon? (Gyflaginning)
    3. Other Gods’ Halls: Modern UPG often based off readings of Harbarðsljoð and
      Grimnismal
  2. Other Otherworldly Destinations
    1. Hel/Helheim
      1. Gesta Danorum (? Book I- Hadingus’s journey to the underworld), Poetic Edda (Baldrs draumar, Grimnismal, Guðrunarkviða I, Helreið Brynhildar, Svipdagsmal, Vafthruðnismal, Voluspa), Prose Edda (Gylfaginning)
      2. Gimli and Nastrond: Voluspa, Gylfaginning
      3. Niflhel: Baldrs draumar, Vafthruðnismal, Gylfaginning
    2. The halls of Ran and Ægir: Poetic Edda (Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, Helgakviða Hjorvarðssonar), Sagas (Eyrbyggja, Friðthjofs)

Existence in this world (or something very like it)

  1. The Burial Mound
    1. Literature: Poetic Edda (Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, ) Sagas (esp. Friðthjofs, Gisla, Heimskringla, Njals)
    2. Physical: Numerous mounds, often containing grave goods (esp. Anundshog, Gokstad ship, Oseberg ship)
    3. Mound worship
  2. Mountains/Hills: Eyrbyggja saga (Helgafell), Landnamabok, Njals saga (Kaldbak)
  3. Draugr: Multiple sagas (including Egils saga einhenda ok Asmundar berserkjabana,
    Eyrbggyja, Grettis, Laxdæla)
  4. Reincarnation: Helgakviða Hjorvarðssonar, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, Olafs saga
    Helga (Flateyjarbok), Sigurðarkviða hin skamma, Starkaðr

    1. Inheriting fylgja, hamingja, similar, particularly when sharing a name (esp. Hallfreðar saga, Vatnsdæla saga, Viga-Glums saga)

Miscellaneous: The account of Ahmad ibn Fadlan, ship burials, Viga-Glums saga, alfar and disir, atheist and agnostic ideas

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