A couple of weeks ago I got a request from a fellow Deviant-member to portray the Norse goddess Hel, and to try to give her some well earned recognition. In the Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, and Heimskringla, Hel is referred to as a daughter of Loki, and to "go to Hel" is to die. In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of a realm of the same name, located in Niflheim. In the same source, her appearance is described as half-black and half-flesh colored, and as further having a gloomy, down-cast appearance. The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions, her servants in her underworld realm, and as playing a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.
This is taken from wikipedia, but in my research I got the feeling that Hel was more than this. Most depictions of her show a ghastly, scary woman, but as I understood it, she (as all dieties) served her role and was needed to fulfill an important mission in the creation and developement of the universe and our world. In norse mythology, the brave warriors go to Valhall, but the "not-so-brave", the old, the women, the children, they go to Hel. So the Goddess Hel is really a protector, a guardian of all the souls who do not enter Valhall. Yes, there are tales of how she brought disease and plauges to the world too, but however cruel it might seem, that is the nature of this world. We go through ups and downs, victories and suffering. Without suffering we would not know compassion, without death we would not know life.
The location Hel became in later writings synonomus with "Hell", but in the texts of the poetic Edda we find that the place Hel was the blessedness restingplace of the underworld.
Her ghastly colouring and appearance is due to the fractures she got from the fall when Tor threw her down to Nifelheim.
Death has always been denigrated. People are afraid of dying, afraid of the unknown destiny that awaits... But death is the only thing that is certain, we cannot outrun it. What we can do is to live a meaningful life, work on our consciousness, and prepare for the next step with a calm mind and a fearless loving heart!