Hell of a thing

I recently finished reading Brian McLaren's "The Last Word and the Word After That" and a curious thing occurred to me. With all his exposition on the biblical metaphors, Ghenna and Hades, and all that, I don't recall him pointing out that the word "Hell" is not exactly biblical in origin anyway.

The English word 'hell' comes from the Teutonic 'Hel', which originally meant "to cover" and later referred to the goddess of the Norse underworld, Helgardh. Compare Anglo-Saxon helan and Latin celare = "to hide".

Helgardh, also known as Hel ("house of mists"), shares a name with the goddess who rules it. In Norse mythology, Hel is one of the nine worlds, the abode of the dead, ruled over by Hel. It is thronged with the shivering and shadowy spectres of those who have died ingloriously of disease or in old age. Niflheim is cold and low on the overall order of the universe. It lies beneath Yggdrasil's third root, near Hvergelmir and Nastrond.

A fairly significant omission I would have thought!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s