I firmly believe that no one but the presently-dead know about life after death. I do believe that consciousness transcends time and space, and because we experience consciousness, much of that which we consider to be “me” is not subject to temporal limitations.
“In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll “hall of the slain”) is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. Chosen by Odin, half of those who die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess Freyja’s field Fólkvangr. In Valhalla, the dead join the masses of those who have died in combat known as Einherjar and various legendary Germanic heroes and kings, as they prepare to aid Odin during the events of Ragnarök. Before the hall stands the golden tree Glasir, and the hall’s ceiling is thatched with golden shields. Various creatures live around Valhalla, such as the stag Eikþyrnir and the goat Heiðrún, both described as standing atop Valhalla and consuming the foliage of the tree Læraðr.”[note]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valhalla[/note]
I have an attachment to Óðinn for which I have no reasonable explanation. I will say, though, that my name – when translated to the tongue of the Anglo-Saxons – has within it the word for “king,” and the Anglo-Saxon kings almost always traced their line to Óðinn. Would it be presumptuous for me to claim this as an explanation? Probably! There is a part of me, however, that cannot write this off as mere coincidence.
Of the many theories about life-after-death, one suggests that we end up with what we believed. Again, no one knows. Having been Christian for the years of my upbringing however, I have learned a bit about faith. I was asked to have faith in a Middle-Eastern man who claimed to be the Messiah of the Jewish people and called Gentiles (non-Jews) “dogs.” I was asked to have faith in man who used to kill Christians, who was most likely a homosexual in denial, who claimed that Jesus was only kidding about that whole Gentiles-as-dogs speil. Oh, and I was asked to have faith in a “god” who was all-powerful, who “loved” me, but who still held his “hell” over my head as a very non-veiled threat.
And then there was Óðinn.
Óðinn, who, along with his brothers, is said to have breathed life into humanity. Óðinn who seeks to stave off the inevitable – Ragnarök – for as long as is possible. Óðinn, the All-father. Óðinn who walks the battlefields, seeking the valiant to fight at his side. Óðinn, leader of the Wild Hunt, wanderer, womanizer, giver of the runes.
I have a replica Viking-era ship into which I have requested that my ashes be poured. Should I die old and sick in bed, I have made the request that I be pricked with a spear, in keeping with an ancient tradition that marked one for Óðinn.
I do not know what happens when we die, but I know what happens when we live. We make choices, daily, and those choices affect our future. Daily, I make my choice each morning as I replace the hammer about my neck that I took off before I showered. With each day, I maintain my oath to my gods and my people – that “line of my ancestors, back to the beginning” – and I go forth into the world to bring home that which sustains my family while simultaneously doing my best to well-represent that which is heathen.
Is there a Valhalla? And if there is, do I have a shot?! I have no answer to these questions, but I live as if I knew. I have faith, not in some Middle-Eastern, Roman-coopted manipulation but in the ways of those people who, before they were forced into Christianity, lived a very satisfying life as heathens. No matter what death brings, I know what my life will have been: I will live in such a manner as to honor my folk and our gods.
Óðinn is – and has long been – a symbolic ancestor of the folk of Northern European culture. Many kings traced their lineage to him, and while I do not know if this was meant to be taken literally, I do know that it makes sense (for lack of a better term) spiritually.
I, too, envision myself a spiritual descendent of Óðinn, because life has led me into leadership positions and keeping this thought in mind reminds me to lead, to the best of my knowledge and ability, to the standards of those who came before.