We know that Valhalla is the sight of the eternal battle, where the warriors leave the hall in the morning to fight eachother all day before coming back inside the hall in the evening to feast and drink. What does that mean? How do those who were willing to kill eachother outside sit reconciled inside, having a grand party? How are those whose only interests seem to be war and partying supposed to combat the wolf?
I would like to offer an interpretation of Valhalla. It is definietly UPG territory, and so I’m going to emphasize the offer part. My theory is this: that the eternal battle is a metaphor for life, while Valhalla is the corner of the afterlife provided for those sworn to the eternal battle between lifetimes.
Every day, when the Einharjar (those sworn to fight in the last battle and loyal to Odin), wake, they leave the hall. In this, I see a metaphor for being born. The souls of the warriors leave the hall and are born into physical form. In physical form, they don’t know what they are and they dont recognize their fellow warriors. Following their nature as lovers of frenzy, drunkeness, and inspiration, they become involved in the world. Being of a passionate nature, they have a tendency to fight for what they believe in, and for those they love. They are killed, likely by others who passionately believe in something.
Upon death, the Einharjar are picked over by the ravens. On their return to Valhalla, they are once more aware of their nature, and are able to feast and drink with others who share the same nature. It is not in the nature of the Eiharjar to give peace to their enemies or to refrain from conflict in the world, but within Valhalla there is a place of rest and companionship for those for whom life is a battle.
To me, this explains the sagas that have the same people being reborn over and over. Sometimes they even fall in love with someone else who they were involved with in a past life. If a person is reborn over and over with a similar personality, as these myths seem to imply, doesn’t it makes sense that those given to conflict and strife in pursuit of what they percieve as the greater good end up loving and/or killing eachother over and over again?
I think that this also makes sense of Odin’s role as a god whose motives for taking sides are not necessarily what most people would call moral. Odin’s favor is more likely to be won by cunning, competence, and battle-frenzy than by the moral rightness or the cause. And I think this has profound implications for the political sphere.
One thing that has always concerned me about Valhalla is that the “price of admission”is bravery, not the rightness of your cause. The valkyries pick over the dead on both sides of a battlefield, choosing the slain. Now, as modern people with a bit of distance, it seems easy to see how the retainers of Ugfart the Third and Ethelbum the Fat might put aside their differences over who was the rightful king of whatever tiny province they fought over. But let’s look at this is in a modern context.
If the valkyries pick over the battlefields, choosing the bravest, then it stands to reason that Valhalla probably has American soldiers, Nazis, Shaka Zulu’s warriors, John Brown, anarchists from the Spanish Civil War, Confederates, Haitian revolutionaries, and many more. No wonder they are fighting eternally!
I think that what brings people to Valhalla is a deep commitment to fighting for what they believe in, regardless of the odds. That trait belongs to a layer of the soul that is reborn over and over again, because it is a fundamental part of that soul’s nature. Within Valhalla, such people are stripped of their life experiences and all of the cultural brainwashing that made they believe what they believed. The dead Nazi loses his racism and sees only common ground with the Jewish resistance fighter who killed him in defense of his people.
I think that this is why, of all the gods, Odin is the patron god of female warriors. Odin is not concerned with the externals- race, gender, blah, blah. Odin is concerned with whether or not a person has the heart to face the wolf. Many will fight for something, for a cause they think they can win. The Einharjar fight for the thrill of the struggle, and for the love of something greater than themselves, rightly or wrongly.
Odin seeks those who will in essence help him cheat in fighting the wolf. The Einharjars’ role is to fight the wolf alongside Odin, in hopes of preserving what can be preserved of the world they love. Therefore, the traits that define the Einharjar are a refuseal to surrender in the presence of doom, stubborness, cunning, and a willingness to use any ends, including cheating, to preserve their world.
In every cultural and in every time, there are such people. And they often end up killing each other. My belief in Odin is that, in the end, all of these fighters are feeding energy into something, whether you consider it a god or an archetype, that represents the will to life and the ecstasy of enjoying it in and enjoying the defense of it from within the battle-frenzy.