It is a very human trait to fear death and the darkness, but many ancient and indigenous cultures understand that there is a greater cycle to life. In doing so they respect these forces and understand their place in the world, and in the universe(s) we live in.
Many Deities and Spirits have an element of darkness within them, like the Tao symbol, with Yin and Yang each having a seed of the other within. Some are darker than others, some are more of the light, but each have elements of both that can teach us.
For what is life if not day and night, light and shade? Even those destructive moments strip away the old to leave the potential for a new way of life. As the moon shines in the night it lights our way through the darkness of the nocturnal hours, just as those who are darker in nature can teach us to find and follow our own pathway – ‘to thine own self be true’. Many of these so-called darker Deities have protective aspects, and can teach triumph through adversity. often they embody our own worst fears, ones we must ultimately face, or else how can we truly enjoy life in all its aspects?
Give the dark the respect it is due, and you may just find the seed of light – the moon – to guide you through it.
Hella is a good example of this – contrary to what many believe, I do not see her as some dark, cold, foreboding creature. To me she is the other side of the coin to Jord; her complemetary. Jord is the earth that fertilises the seed, nourishing it so it may grow strong and push its way to the surface. As its shoots become stronger Sif’s influence ripens it, and for crops brings the bounty of grain. When these are reaped the shoots die off and return to the earth, though not in the form of Jord. Hella now welcomes these remnants, bringing them into her embrace, mindful of the life they once had and the life they gave in their nourishment.
Imagine now that you are the seed, going through all its processes and stages of life, and eventually returning to the earth. How do you feel about Hella now? Like Jord and Sif she is a mother, only her children come to her after they have lived out their lives. She provides a home for those who don’t die doing heroic deeds – the vast majority of us. Later writers equated her realms with the Christian Purgatory, and unfortunately this seems to have overshadowed her since. Her embrace does not have to be painful, dark and cold. She provides a refuge for the soul after life.
I associate plums with Hella. Their dark skin is like her ‘dark’ half; it bruises and marrs easily, and the flesh decays quickly. Yet inside there is the stone, and when buried in the dark of the earth it has the capacity for new life and growth.
The blossom is virginal, white and fragrant; it sways gently on the breeze among the lush green leaves, like Hella’s ‘beautiful’ half. Later it is replaced by the fruit; lush, dark and ripe. It swells and eventually drops to the ground, where it begins to rot and re-fertilise the soil. As it does so the stone is revealed, and when covered in the dark earth it begins life anew.
Life, death and rebirth; a continuous cycle. This is why I believe the plum is a symbol for working with Hella.