Valhalla

  • Type: Heaven (of a sort)
  • Origin: Norse Myth
  • Admission: The best and bravest warriors

Originating in the warlike myths of the Vikings, Valhalla literally translates as “Hall of the Slain.”

Like most afterlives, it places limits on who gets to go to it, in this case that the Slain must have died bravely in battle and then been chosen by the Valkyries – buxom warrior maidens who serve Odin, head of the Norse pantheon. (By implication, the chosen warriors are usually male, but the Vikings did have a strong tradition of women warriors, who were called Shieldmaidens – indeed, the Valkyries are often referred to as ‘the Shieldmaidens of Odin’.) But after the dying bravely part – which tends to be pretty painful – it’s a pretty sweet deal.

Once admitted to Valhalla, the chosen warriors – the Einherjar – can look forward to spending their days in endless live combat with each other, as they practice their battle skills. Each night, they can look forward to having any wounds they have received that day healed (up to and including fatal wounds), followed by long nights of feasting and drinking. A curious omission from all this is wenching – aside from the Valkyries, who also serve at the tables, there seem to be no other women in Valhalla. It’s possible that there are Shieldmaidens in Valhalla, but given that Shieldmaidens were supposed to be virgins, there’s not so much potential for wenching there. And myth is somewhat inconsistent on the subject of just how ‘wenchable’ the Valkyries are.

And so it goes, for ever and ever, until the day when they will called to fight on the side of Odin and the other Norse Gods in Ragnarok, the great battle at the end of time in which they would all inevitably be heroically slain once more, although this time with greater permanency.

In short, it’s basically medieval redneck heaven, where the men are real men, and the women are non-existent. But if your tastes run that way, it’s well worth checking out.

By the way: Valhalla is actually a mistranslation – technically, the name of the place in English should be Val-hall, but it was accidentally pluralized. The mistake has been reiterated here, simply because this is the name by which it is best known. It is also commonly mispronounced – technically, it should be roughly equivalent to Val-hol.