‘Hel is the Norse queen of the underworld, a mother goddess in her underworld guise. She rules over the fiery womb of regeneration and is especially responsible for those who die of disease or old age. Her underworld, unlike the Christian hell, which received its name from her, is simply an otherworld, a place of renewal rather than a place of punishment and misery. When northern shamans visit her realm, they put on a helkappe, a magic mask (sometimes a helmet) that renders them invisible. It is possible that the masked harlequin, a standard character in commedia dell ‘arte, was originally one of the kindred of the goddess Hel. Hel is an embodiment of the divine mystery, a challenge to look behind the mask of appearances to see things as they really are.’
Underneath the thrice ploughed, fertile, fallow field
Impregnated within a wintered, woven, womb
Of richly composted humus
I lay seeking sustenance, nourishment from
The oxygen filled wintered mist that
Drizzles, seeping, replenishing the amniotic fluids
That trickles through the membranous umbilical cord
Ensuring a bountiful spring harvest.
by Heather Blakey
Hel was the Norse goddess of the dead, daughter of the trickster god Loki and the giantess Angrboda. Shortly after her birth, Hel was cast out of Asgard, home of the gods, by Odin*. He sent her to Niflheim, the underworld, and made her queen of all who died from old age or sickness.