Often depicted as being half beautiful woman and half rotting corpse, Hella represents the inevitability of life and death. She is the daughter of Loki, the god of mischief and chaos, and the giantess Angrboda. She and her two brothers Fenris, the devouring wolf, and Jormungand, the world serpent, were banished by Odin and she was given dominion over the nine worlds of the dead. Here she decides the fate of all the people who have died from sickness and old age. This is not like the Christian hell but instead represents the transition the soul goes through after death. Odin and Hella mirror each other’s temperament, but oppose each other and maintain balance in the universe. Odin chooses the best dead warriors and Hella takes everyone else. Odin is associated with the sky; Hella with the earth.
Her hall, Elvidnir is located in Helgardh; one region within the realm of Hel. Her gates are said to be guarded by Garnr the watch dogs, thus making dogs sacred to her. Many folktales survive of her trips to Midgard (Earth) in order to gather more souls for Helgardh. During the years of the plague, she was said to arrive in town with a broom and a rake, tools she used for bringing spirits to her realms. If some survived, she had used her rake; if an entire town was destroyed she had used her broom. Once receiving the dead, she was not apt to release them. She is often depicted with gaping jaws and an insatiable appetite for death, though whether this depiction is true or not, is debatable.
Goddess of Death, Queen of the Underworld, Hella is a constant force in our lives. Ugly and beautiful, half black and half white, giantess and goddess she is the leaves that fall from the trees, life-changing and never ending. As she is the force behind the life alterations that shift our worldview and helps us move forward in our lives, call upon her at Samhain. Hella helps us as we change ourselves and our lives, and is there to applaud us when we finish.