Do ideas like Hel as a female figure who resides over the realm of the dead deserve to be recognized? In that death is a universal concept and that several ancient cultures worldwide have honored the dead and death goddesses, it seems only fair to reconsider Hel’s role at the high table. And if Hel is considered a goddess, then could burial mounds – which were well-known places of worship and sitting-out – be viewed as ‘maps of the underworld’? (1) There is no doubt that:
–Bryn Celli Ddu (‘Mound of the Dark Grove’), and Barclodiad y Gawres (‘Giantesses Apron) in Wales,
–Newgrange (Bru na Boinne, ‘Temple of Bainne’) in Ireland,
–West Kennet Long Barrow in England,
–Hünengrab (‘Stone, Hidden Grave’), in Germany,
–Carnac (La Trinité-sur-Mer, ‘Kingdom of the Undersea), in Brittany; and many, many others, were both burial mounds and centers of worship, where many tribes congregated. And in virtually every instance, there is well documented proof that these sites were built to accomadate ritual processions – meaning huge crowds (social coordination), ritual ceremonies, and possible cosmological outlines (since most of these sites are linked with celestrial movements). To further support this idea, in 2009, Annwn, the Celtic Land of the Dead, was located in North Wales – according to ancient surveyor maps; specifically, beneath the Ruabon and Halkyn Mountain ranges (2).
So if burial mounds were more than simply places to put the dead, but places to ‘cover’ and ‘hide’ them, to better afford them passage to Hel or the ‘other world’, then this meant that they were sites of long-standing occupation, participation and celebration. As such, this idea lends itself to reconsidering the role of Hel within the Old European Old Ways.
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Excerpt: Honoring Hel and the Hidden Earth Mothers:
Revealing Christian Bias
By: Yngona Desmond, 2003
1-Hel as a goddess. Can a deity be a primal human concept, such as death, life, and life in death?
2-Land of the Dead. Ruabon and Halkyn Mountain range. Ruabon Mountain was originally known as Mabon Mountain. Mabon is the “Divine Youth” and hunter of the sacred boar Twrch Trwyth. His mother is Matrona, the “Divine Mother”. Significantly, newby, is a small village called ‘Holywell Common’, where, there exists a holy well and a “bottomless lake” (the latter is according to locals). This is also the site of Saint Winifred’s Well, which has been called the “Lourdes of Wales”, signifying a healing well or place of renewal.