Describe the image of the Otherworld and/or afterlife in three different IE cultures. How may these images impact your understanding of your own afterlife beliefs and those of Neo-Pagans in general? (400 words min.)
The Norse image of the afterlife is one of the most interesting concepts to me. They have a very strong theme of ancestral family and our relationship with them. The method of travel to the afterlife is generally through a boat, and continuing on into the afterlife either into the burial mound or into the halls of the Gods. The burial mounds are generally associated with the Alfar, who are considered those ancestral spirits who protect the lands. Also in Norse culture, as far as the Realms of the Gods go, Helheim is considered the realm of the dead and ruled by Hel. The most popular afterlife notion to many of the “Brohalla” heathens, or so I dub them, is the Hall of the Slain known as Valhalla. Those who die in battle are said to go here to continually fight and die in battle as part of Odin’s army. Folkvangr, or Freyja’s Hall, or even “Fields of the People”, is where the other half of the slain in battle will end up (Gundarsson, 143). So there are a lot of varying options depending on how you live your life and where the Gods happen to want you to go.
In Greek culture, which is probably one of the more well-known cultures in regards to mythological stories of the afterlife, there is the Elysian Fields and Tartarus. In comparison to a Christian faith, this is the equivalent of Heaven and Hell. The Elysian Fields were the more desirable location to go in the afterlife due to no extremities of any sort, which lends to “easy livin'”. Tartarus, on the other hand, is the darker part of Hades domain (God of the Underworld), for those who have done evil deeds to suffer in the afterlife (Puhvel, 139).
In Celtic lore, there are several “halls of the Gods” much like Norse literature. Ellis Davidson (Ellis Davidson, 176) speaks about the House of Donn (Tech Duinn) where many of the dead went in the afterlife with a focus on sportsmen and athletes. There is also the Halls of Manannan mac Lir, where the dead rest under the waves in the west in the land of the ever young (Kondratiev, 59). There is also simply an “otherworld” that the dead reside in the afterlife, which seems to be a relation in all three of these particular cultures.
Follow a more Norse and Anglo-Saxon slant in my personal spirituality attributes to the notion of a semi-peaceful afterlife into the burial mound. I have no intentions of dying in battle or committing any serious crimes that might persuade my afterlife direction. Dying and feasting every day is not an attractive afterlife for me. I am happy to simply be with my ancestral spirits protecting the land where I can.
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