Hail to you, Hela, Grandmother Death.
Silent your wisdom, yours my last breath.
Reading our wyrd in cobwebs and lace,
Ancestor´s hostess, grant us your grace.
Hail to you, Hela, ender of strife.
Half fair, half rotten, mirror of life.
Cool is your comfort, equal for all.
Highways and alleys end in your hall.
Hail to you, Hela, Lady of Dust.
All wyrd will ever go as it must.
Carving our way on the edge of a knife,
Éljúðnir´s Mistress, teach us of life.
© Michaela Macha
I have an interesting relationship with Hela. To be quite honest, I’m still uncomfortable with the whole practice, but I figure it’s better to do something uncomfortable than ignore the blatant requests of a goddess, especially one like Hela.
Last year, as I was first starting to work with the runes (and while I was still working with the Futhark, before I’d started working with the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc), I started having a run on Hagalaz. It didn’t make sense – I wasn’t going through a period of change or destruction, my life was actually pretty stable, my relationship was good, my job was fairly consistent, my health was stable. Nothing that would suggest my repeatedly drawing a rune of destruction, especially in the context of blessings received.
So I turned to someone whose runework and seidhr I trust – Laure Beth Lynch – and asked her to look into the matter at one of her open seidhr sessions. She got a clear response back from Hela Herself that She was looking for me, trying to get my attention, and that I needed to pay more attention to my dead. There was no ambiguity to the response Beth got, and even a hint of “Well, everything else I tried didn’t get your attention, so I figured this might work”. Not exactly a comfortable response, especially for someone to whom work with the dead does NOT come naturally or easily. (I’ve always loved learning about my ancestors, but I had, at the time, only a cursory practice of actually honoring them.)
I have since deepened my work with my Idesa (and the Prairie Godmothers), and joined ADF’s new Order of the Dead, which focuses on work with death, dying, and the ancestors. My work there is still pretty new (the order has only existed for about a month), but it wasn’t something I hesitated about at all – I saw the call go out on ADF’s email list, and immediately knew I needed to be there.
I am still building my practice though, and building what can loosely be called “shrines” for my ancestors. I make offerings and burn candles to my Idesa on my stovetop (my “hearth”), and I have a special bookshelf where I keep all my family histories and stories, which I am fortunate enough to have excellent documentation for, thanks to my mom, my paternal uncle, and my husband’s maternal aunt – all of whom have done extensive research into our families.
For someone who is deepening a practice with the dead, I am not overly fond of skulls or skeletons or other typical “death” imagery, so I’m still searching for things to keep on my altar as a representation of the mighty dead. I also don’t have an altar representation for Hela herself yet, though I am actively looking for one. That said, when I make offerings to the Kindreds, I call out Hela by name, alongside Ing Frea, as they are the two deities I work most closely with. (I am aware of the irony of the two of them together – Ing Frea as a god of fertility and peace, the god of the harvest – who is sacrificed and spends time in Hela’s realm every year. They are an odd pair, but who am I to argue?)
It all still feels very new and strange though – I’ve never had a fascination with the dead, death, or the otherworld, and I’ve never been into the typical “death” imagery or séances or anything like that. I have no ESP, I can’t feel or talk to the dead. (Yet?) I have very few “ancestors” in the sense of people I have known who have died (I would probably count four people on that list, and only two are family members).
I can’t deny that the calling is there, but it’s taking a pretty big step out of my comfort zone to approach it with the kind of dedication that a practice like this deserves. Still, I am not willing to ignore such a blatant message that it’s something I need to do, so I am doing it.
Hail to you, Hela, Grandmother Death.