This will be one of the several posts discussing whether the current demise of the West is due to Christianity. Apparently, according to some people, it was the Christian religion with its concepts of reward or punishment in the afterlife which guilt-tripped Europeans into pathological altruism we are all witnessing today. Those macho Vikings, on the other hand, didn't believe in Heaven or Hell and hence, wouldn't allow themselves to be manipulated in this manner.
Of course, a more or less educated person must have at least heard the word "Valhalla
", the warrior paradise, where the best and the bravest half of the slain on the battlefield were welcomed by Odin himself and spent their time in feasting and military exercise, with Valkyries serving them the food and mead.
The other half of fallen heroes went to Folkvangr
, the home of goddess Freya. According to Noorsche Mythen
(by H.A. Guerber) Freya also gathered there all the undefiled virgins and chaste wives so that they would be united in death with their husbands and sweethearts. Thus, our North European ancestors had very clear ideas of virtue (courage for men, chastity for women) and believed it was rewarded in the afterlife. But did they believe in Hell?
The word "Hell" is, in fact, of the Germanic origin, since the Bible speaks about Gehenna, Tartarus, Hades or Sheol. Hell was the Kingdom of Hel, goddess of death, Loki's daughter, and it was situated in Niflheim
, the underground world, the land of mists.
Who went to Hell? First, all those who died a peaceful death, from sickness or old age. They were treated rather friendly by the goddess, though her palace was still considered a joyless place and to avoid it, both men and women sometimes would fall upon their swords or jump from the cliff (women were given swords upon their marriage), to avoid going there.
However, those who had committed various crimes during their life, such as murder, adultery and oath-breaking, were banned to Nastroend
, where they underwent various tortures.
As we see, though there certainly is the difference between Christian ideas about life and death (suicide being a major sin) and the Nordic ones, Northern Europeans generally had such concepts as afterlife, sin, virtue and consequently reward and punishment.