Thursday, December 23, 2010

THE ROAD TO HEL : A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature BY HILDA RODERICK ELLIS

In this book an attempt has been made to collect the evidence concerned with one important aspect of Norse heathenism: ideas about the fate of man after death. The conception which has made the strongest appeal to popular imagination is that of the warrior paradise, Valhalla and it is surprising at first to have to realise that this is only one of many conflicting pictures of the realm of the dead, and one moreover which occupies only a very small section of the prose and poetry which has come down to us. One of the many problems which still awaits an answer is whether from the vast accumulation of evidence relating to the dead it is possible to make out any definite and consistent presentation of the other world, and of the fate of man beyond the grave. In attempting to find a solution of this problem, we may gain help from the fact that archaeology as well as literature has evidence to offer us, in particular about funeral customs and no more dramatic introduction could be desired than that presented by the heathen graves which have been explored in Scandinavia, with their rich implications of ship-funeral and human sacrifice. Beside the study of funeral customs, such a survey as this must include all that can be discovered about the conception of a realm or realms of the dead, any traces of a cult of the dead which have been recorded, and any indication which the literature can give as to the nature of survival after death according to heathen thought. Finally, in the concluding chapters we shall pass on to certain conceptions which appear to be of seine importance, those connected with the relationship between the world of the living and that of the dead. Here there are two main aspects to be considered: the consultation of the dead by the living, and the entry of the living soul into the world of the dead to learn its secrets.

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