Family Deities: Hel

Thanks for joining us for another Families’ Deity!
We’re exploring deities that tie into families and family values, or who are important to the family unit or children in some way. This month, we are exploring the complex God, Hel.

Hel is often called the Norse Goddess of the Death but She’s so much more complex than this. She’s honoured as much as She is feared and misunderstood, and is a critical being within Norse mythology. She’s also one of the beings we’ve chosen to join our collection of Family Deities.

Who is Hel?

Hel is a powerful being who rules the realm of Hel or Helheim in the world of Niflheim. Helheim is the realm of the dead who did not die in battle, including those who die of old age, illness, and injury.

Hel is one of three arguably strange children born of the relationship between Loki and Angrboða—more on that below. Sometimes She’s referred to as being half human, half corpse, but texts state She is half flesh-coloured and half blue, and merely has a downcast appearance.

Hel and Her siblings and parents are sometimes reviled in Heathen and Norse Pagan circles. Their connection to Ragnarök is seen as a death knell of the gods and the end of times, and how can that be good? She is also seen as frightening due to her association with death.

However, Ragnarök is a reminder that all things run in cycles. Just as the Norse tales tell of Ragnarök as both a thing that has happened and will happen, every phase of our life has things that begin and end, sometimes over and over, sometimes just once. Toddlerhood phases into later childhood which comes with some sadness, perhaps, for parents, but so much joy. The same applies to childhood overall, the teenage years, and many different phases of life after that.

Hel is a comforting reminder that endings aren’t always final, and even in death, there may be someone there waiting. Those who died and went to Hel’s realm were possibly referred to as Companions of Hel, according to the Arthur Brodeur translation of Skáldskaparmál, a section of the Prose Edda that describes various notable people and beings from Norse mythology.

Why is Hel associated with families?

Hel is from a complex family! Her parents are definitely seen as outsiders and don’t fit neatly into the hierarchy of the Aesir or Vanir. Loki is accepted as Odin’s blood brother but still remains untrusted, and causes a bunch of problems—which he also fixes, generally with great gains for the Gods.

Angrboða, Hel’s mother, is referred to in the source texts as a giantess, a witch, and possibly a seeress. There’s a strong connection to chaos and destruction, but also to creation and transformation.

Hel’s siblings, like Her, have important roles: Fenrir, the giant wolf, was chained due to a prophecy that stated he would devour Óðinn (Odin) during Ragnarök. Jörmungandr is a great serpent also called the World Serpent for, after Óðinn cast Jörmungandr into the sea, the serpent grew large enough to grasp its own tail around the worlds. When Jörmungandr finally releases their tail, Ragnarök will begin.

Hel is a clear reminder that family dynamics can be unusual or even difficult! Families come in all shapes and sizes, and we can’t judge or be shocked when a family member doesn’t match expectations.

Her job is immensely practical and necessary on a daily basis compared to the roles of Her siblings. She welcomes the dead and runs Her realm, and occasionally deals with requests from the worlds above. She is a guardian of the right cycle of things and the rules surrounding life and death, but also shows great empathy at times, finding loopholes so that those rules might be bent.

Honouring Hel

Modern Heathen and Norse Pagan circles have mixed views on celebrating Hel and Her family, but the general consensus is that the fear and revulsion that used to surround this family largely comes from pseudo-Christian influences. The idea that all things must be “Good” or “Evil” doesn’t fit well with Norse mythology and spirituality. When you read the texts, you realise that pretty much all the Gods do questionable things at some point. Hel’s role in the land of the dead is respected and necessary, and many modern Pagans and Heathens take great comfort and strength from Her presence in their lives.

Some see Hel as a conduit to speak to the ancestors. There is also the view that Hel can help people deal with the loss of a loved one, embracing grief and understanding that it takes time and support to go through these very difficult times. A ritual to honour or speak to Hel may be referred to as a Helablót.

Offerings to Hel vary but some modern worshippers collect snow or ice in a clean vessel and let it melt. Altar decorations may include rugs or blankets, to represent keeping warm in a potentially cold world. Services like helping litter pick in a local graveyard would also be very appropriate for honouring Hel.

Hel Correspondences


  • Dogs—the dog Garmr or Garm helps guard Hel’s realm.
  • Wolves.
  • Serpents.


  • Blankets.
  • Ethically sourced bones or fake fur.
  • Veils.
  • Mirrors.
  • Things with two sides, for example, a half-open horse chestnut showing the smooth conker and spiky outer shell; a seashell that’s dark outside and pale inside; a gemstone that’s blue and white or two other contrasting colours.


  • Anything relating to loved ones, including pets, who have passed on.
  • Seasonal pictures that show change, for example, leaves falling in autumn.

Do you have a relationship with Hel or another deity? How do you include them in your family life? Come and tell us all about it over in our Facebook group!

Image copyright details: Hel by Johannes Gehrts, 1889, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hel by Zarubina, Mkasahara, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons. Shared with permission via the license shown, no changes made. No endorsements implied.