Go to Hel, Part 1: How My Polytheistic “Dark” Goddess Proclivities and Seriously Weird Wyrd Opened Wide the Gates to Hel

Theologically speaking, as a hard polytheist, I believe that the Deities I love and serve objectively exist and have distinct, independent personalities with likes and dislikes, preferred/time-honored ritual offerings, and unique bodies of lore surrounding Them. They are not mental constructs/Jungian archetypes drawn from some collective Unconscious well. Nor are They reducible to the generic “All goddesses are One Goddess; all gods are One God” duotheistic formula popularized by writers like Marion Zimmer Bradley—a formula that comprises the theological platform of contemporary Eclectic Wicca. Rather, They are Living Entities with Whom I can communicate, from Whom I receive a multitude of blessings, and to Whom I can pledge devotion in my daily ritual practice. I cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with Them.

Call it my weird Wyrd, or my “morbid” proclivities that have been pronounced in my personality since early childhood, but it so happens that ever since I first “came out of the broom closet” at age 18, I’ve tended to lay out a welcome mat to “dark” or chthonic Goddesses and Gods first and foremost in my devotional practices. When I was legally ordained as a Priestess in the worldwide Fellowship of Isis (FOI) two years ago, I was asked to pledge myself to lifelong devotion and service to three Goddesses, of Whom, at least, two would ideally be Kemetic (Egyptian). Kneeling with humility before a revered FOI Archpriestess, the late Lady Loreon Vigné of the Temple of Isis in Geyserville, California, I announced to her and to the Temple congregation present that I would pledge myself to the Goddesses Nebet-Het (Nephthys to the Greeks), Bast, and Hekate Khthonia. A 2/3 Dark Goddess ratio—not bad!

While the Goddesses mentioned above reflect that the bulwark of my spiritual practices are rooted in a Late Period Egyptian sensibility (it’s no coincidence that my local FOI Lyceum in which I serve is the Lyceum of Alexandria), with its inherently pan-Mediterranean magico-religious ethos, the Deities of other, completely remote, cultures and historical periods seem to have laid claim to me as well. (I personally believe that you don’t go about choosing your Gods—They choose you because They see in you an alignment with Their energies and regard you a fitting vessel for Their desired Work in the world.) Specifically, the Deities of the Old Norse—the Gods and Goddesses common to the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples of Europe.

Weirdly (or Wyrdly) enough, occult author Murry Hope, in her 1991 book The Psychology of Ritual, espouses a view that made zero sense to me when I first encountered it as a teenager but which I can now say my personal experience has born out: When it comes to vibrational harmony between the four “great” Pagan pantheons of Europe and North Africa—the Greek, the Celtic, the Teutonic, and the Egyptian—Greek and Celtic pair well together and Teutonic and Egyptian pair well together.

Huh? Shouldn’t Greek Deities pair well with Egyptian ones and Celtic Goddesses and Gods with Teutonic ones? After all, Greek and Roman writers like Strabo and Julius Caesar lumped the Keltoi and Teutones together; they couldn’t even physically tell the Celts apart from the Teutonic (Germanic) tribes! They’re all tall and mostly fair-haired, blue- and green-eyed; they sport freckles. The womenfolk fight right alongside their menfolk in battle. Equally imposing (and uncivilized—hence “barbaric”) to the Mediterranean sensibility!

But no, Hope maintains, Celtic harmonizes with Greek and Teutonic with Egyptian. Sadly, she never offers any rationale for pairing these pantheons in this way—she’s relaying “channeled” information (groans)—so for years I discredited this view as absolute shyte. However, as time wore on, my own personal experiences with taking up the Runes as a teenager and consequentially wanting to learn more deeply about (largely through the amazing books of religious scholar H.R. Ellis Davidson), and feel a real resonance with the Old Norse Gods and the Northern European cultures that venerated Them, I felt that Hope, oddly enough, was on to something! (I can’t tell you how many Pagan-Heathen combo Handfastings I’ve attended in recent years where the wife is coming from a Kemetic background and the husband an Asatru/Heathen one! The wedding ceremonies all invariably involved an exchange of a Mjöllnir/Thor’s Hammer ritual or jewelry item with an Ankh one to show the marriage not just of the two individuals in question, but of these very culturally diverse pantheons!)

So, given my tendencies to venerate “Dark” Goddesses to the point that I’ve sworn lifelong service to two (Nebet-Het and Hekate) of Them known chiefly as being Goddesses of the Underworld/Death (among other things), should I be at all surprised that, in the past year, I’ve come to know and love the Norse Goddess, Hel? That if someone tells me, “Go to Hel,” my response is an enthusiastic, “Oh, I already have! And I can’t wait to see Her again—thanks!”

How did the fearsome Goddess/Giant (variously known as “Etin,” “Jotun,” or “Rokknar” in Heathen/Norse Pagan circles) come to stretch Her skeletal hand my way so that I had no choice but to sit up and take notice? “What a long, strange trip it’s been,” to quote the late Jerry Garcia. Once I knew it was Her presence reaching out to me, I had no choice but to follow my Wyrd and go to Hel.

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8 thoughts on “Go to Hel, Part 1: How My Polytheistic “Dark” Goddess Proclivities and Seriously Weird Wyrd Opened Wide the Gates to Hel

  1. I guess it’s no secret that I tend to be a little biased toward the darker Lords and Ladies as well. 🙂 And Hope’s claim about the Egyptian and Teutonic pantheons going well together actually makes a great deal of sense to me. I can’t tell you the number of Sethians I’ve met who’ve also had a thing for Odin and the Elder Futhark. (Hell, the Temple of Set has an entire wing known as the Order of the Trapezoid which is dedicated to this exact sort of cultural intersection.) There also just seems to be many people who identify as Kemetic and Asatruar at the same time. It’s odd, because the two pantheons are incredibly different from each other. But something tells me Seth is a good drinking buddy for both Thor *and* Loki. 😉

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    • Given that one of Set’s epithets is “Sutekh,” which translates as “the Drunken One” (an epithet He shares with my OTHER favorite red-hued roamer of the desert wastes with a propensity for violence, Sekhmet), I’ve no doubt that He and Thor, Odin, and Loki would be boon companions, telling lewd jokes over many a horn filled with potently brewed mead. 🙂 To quote a slogan I remember as a child from a certain beer’s ad campaign: “Here’s to good friends…tonight is kinda special!” ((Clinks horns)) “SKÅL!” as the Swedes say.

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  2. In my own interactions with Hekate, when I met her Mother….her mother was very tall…a Titan I believe…and you described Hel as a Goddess/Giant….so makes one wonder……

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    • Hi, Alice! That’s cool you got to meet Hekate’s Mama! That’s primordial power indeed. Yes, I have found that there are a lot of energetic resonances between the Titans of Greek Polytheism and the Giants/Rokknar/Jotuns/Etins of the Pagan Norse cosmology. These are very primal Powers. Author Raven Kaldera, whose books on the Rokknar I highly recommend (and he is a devotee of Hel too! Yaay!), asserts that these Older Powers, which get “overthrown” by a Sky God-in-charge type of henotheism (so Odin in the Norse, Zeus in the Greek, etc.) represent Chthonic deities if not deified Ancestors themselves. However you choose to look at Them, the Giants/Titans should command respect, whether or not you choose to actively work with Them in your devotional practice. I am close to Hel, obviously, but Her Daddy, Loki, is dear to me as well–as are Her Brothers. I am just starting to reach out to Hel’s Mama, Angrboda, and I find it very serendipitous that a good friend of mine just revealed to me this past weekend that she’s a devotee of Angrboda. Great minds think alike. 😉

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  3. I’ve just read through all three parts of your “Go to Hel” series of posts. I was completely transfixed all the way through. Brilliant! Your writing is so lucid and emotionally evocative. So much of the writing I’ve encountered about polytheism and dark Paganism is uninspiring at best (and often very poorly edited to boot). There’s a lot of bloviating about Dark Magick and such, but precious little in-depth writing about devotional and ritual practices with chthonic/dark deities in a personal narrative style. The world needs more of your voice. Please tell me you’re planning to write a book of this kind of material. If so, count me in for a pre-order!

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words! Your feedback personally carries a lot of weight; I am humbled and flattered by your praise! As the Norns would have it, I *have* been toying with the idea, for the past couple of years now, of writing a nonfiction book that details my cultic practices in light of (a) the inclusion of hard polytheist voices in Pagan discussions formerly dominated by either Wiccan duotheism or bland pantheism; and (b) what I’m observing as an increasing phenomenon of Pagans of European descent who also participate in one or more faith traditions of the African Diaspora. Lots of ideas percolate in my Virgo Sun/Aquarius Moon & Ascendant head, and your appreciated, encouraging words just might embolden me to refine my ideas further and start pitching them to metaphysical publishers! Thank you again…and Happy New Year! 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Novena to La Santa Muerte: Day 1 | amor et mortem

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