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Monday, April 30, 2018

The Road to Hel - Hilda Roderick Ellis

In this scholarly work, Ellis examines the evidence left behind by the Norse people to reveal their view of death and the afterlife. Chapters one and two set the stage by examining the the funeral customs found in both archaeology and the literature. Chapter three examines the ideas of the afterlife, including the realms of the afterlife, the deities who rule there, and about the other figures associated with death. Chapter four explores practices involving the dead and how elves and land spirits factored in with those practices. Chapter five presents the elusive ideas of soul and spirit found within Nordic tradition. Chapter six includes the curious study of necromancy and the undead. The final chapter speaks on the journey to the land of the dead found throughout Norse literature.

Although I was familiar with much of the evidence and material Ellis spoke of, I found that the parts I was unfamiliar with were well-explained. In some places
she was able to come to what she felt were solid conclusions concerning certain aspects, while in others she talked about the conflicting information and only her speculations. It was especially refreshing to read the author willing to speak about conflicting information and information that doesn't go with her own ideas. Since it is a scholarly read it may be difficult for some readers to get through, but with the amount of information it is worthwhile.

More by the Author:
Roles of the Northern Goddess
The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions

Recommended Reading:
Viking Age Iceland - Jesse Byock
Nordic Religions in the Viking Age - Thomas DuBois
The Seed of Yggdrasill: Deciphering the Hidden Messages in Old Norse Myths - Maria Christine Kvilhaug

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