Do ideas like Halja 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 Halja’s role at the high table. And if Halya 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’? There is no doubt that:
-Byrn 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 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 accommodate ritual processions – meaning huge crowds (social coordination), ritual ceremonies, and possible cosmological outlines (since most of these sites are linked with celestial 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.
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. An idea that lends itself to reconsidering the role of Hel within Heathenry.
~Honoring Halja and the Hidden Earth Mothers: Revealing Heathen Bias,
Part Six: The Coverers
By: Yngona Desmond, 2003, revised 2008, and 2016