Wholly, A Devotional to Hela: Book Review

Wholly, A Devotional to Hela: Book Review March 1, 2018

Wholly: A Devotional for Hela (2012, Asphodel Press, 137 pages) is a very different kind of pagan book.  It was written and edited by Dagain Madir with contributions from others, including Raven Kaldera.

hela hel goddess norse viking underworld death face half rot
Detail from the book Wholly, A Devotional for Hela, by Abby Helasdottir, Asphodel Press

Hela, also known as Hel, is the Norse Goddess of one of the underworlds, and one of my personal deities.  Her face is half-rotted off, and she is Loki’s daughter.  Besides her refusal to release anyone from the realm of the dead, there aren’t many stories about her.  This makes sense, as Vikings kept no written records.  Also, the lack of stories may have something to do with the fact that she’s not exactly a goddess for everyone.  She’s a dark goddess, that’s for sure, but she’s more than that — she’s the embodiment of death and the void.  She is the greeter at the gate, the keeper of souls, Lady Death incarnate.

While most books about deities detail myths, prayers, offerings, and what not, this book delves beyond those surface topics into the black heart of the matter.

In the first half of the book, the authors reveal firsthand experiences with her.  It feels very personal, which is suitable for Hela, as she is an all-or-nothing Goddess.  Most powerful was Madir’s passage about her first encounter with her.

“She began to show me things. Just watching Her face was a lesson of fantastic magnitude. I watched Her shift from dead to alive, to split, to black and white, to beautiful to hideous, and everything in between.”

The second half of the book is poetry, artwork, prayers, and rituals.  It’s a very inspiring look at those honoring her in so many forms.

Perhaps the best thing for me about Wholly, a Devotional to Hela was that it confirmed my experience with her.  Madir and others offer deep insight into her nature.  Yes, she is patient.  After all, she has time.  She is deeply maternal and caring.  And yes, she is a scary, awe-inspiring presence, but only if you have not made peace with your death and darkness.

Contrary to the Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok, Hela is a loving Goddess.  She sees all of you and loves it all — the darkness and the light.  She doesn’t desire power.  She has everything she wants.  She’s simply there, graceful and peaceful.

“[Hela is] about pushing souls to evolution.”

The book suggests offerings to her, including dried flowers, fruit set out to rot, and other food for the dead.  While I could not relate to one of the author’s narratives, I appreciated it for what it was, as a different experience.

I like the feel of the paperback, which was relatively inexpensive at $16, but you could buy the e-book for $5.

Click here to read about my experience with Hel and the offerings she likes.

~ Starlight Witch ~

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