I recently saw a Twitter post that said something like “No niggers in Valhalla”. While it is easy to feel sorry for people who are ignorant enough to write something like that, I also got upset. I know, there are idiots and haters everywhere, but Norse mythology is close to my heart. So saying that Valhalla is somehow reserved for people with a specific skin color is for me equally insulting as it would be for a Christian if someone got into the local church and urinated up the figure of Jesus on the cross.
Now, I won’t try to make Norse mythology fit into our modern morals and ethics. It would be wrong to say that my ancestors were all about peace and understanding – their idea of diplomacy frequently involved a battle axe. And while there are many tales of their dealings with people of other nations and even “the blue men” from Africa, you can’t really find any evidence that they were racist, or that they believed in any kind of racial supremacy. This should come as no surprise. Their idols, Odin and his sons, the heroes and even the villains in their pantheon, had many dealings with characters of other races. There were many children born as the result of inter-racial relationships – some would even say that Odin himself was actually a Jotun – and race was not much of an issue. The main Norse gods were not all of one race either. Frey, Freya and their father Njord are Vanirs, while the sons of Odin and most of their wives are Aesirs. And don’t even start to bring gender and gender roles into this, because then it gets really complicated. Freya was mainly a warrior, the Valkyries as well, and it is reason to believe that while female warriors were uncommon in the Viking age, they did actually exist. Thor once appeared in drag (to get his hammer back from the thieving Jotun Trym), and Loki the shape-changer once took the shape of a mare and got pregnant with the foal that was to become Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir.
In the headline to this blogpost, I state that there are no place for racists in Valhalla. If you believe in white, black (or yellow, red, pink or whatever) supremacy, you are seen as a “niding” a no-good dumbass, and you’re not fit to serve in Odin’s army. Anyone can get himself killed on the battlefield, but that is not the same as courage. You need to be able to understand the world around you and what you are fighting for, be it on that blood stained battlefield or in your daily life. To aid us mere mortals and help us understand, Odin is said to have dictated the “Hávamål”, a collection of verses that teaches us about life and the virtues Odin wants us to live after. And it really is a list of wise quotes about how to be a good man who looks after his family and friends, which also means that he will defend himself, his family and his friends until death. Hávamål talks a lot about how we should strive towards being thoughtful and reflected human beings. The Vikings were intelligent people – some recent research suggests they actually had a higher IQ back then – and stupidity were frowned upon.
So there you have it. If you want to get that seat reservation in Valhalla, you’d better be a reflected person. If you think that race is an issue, you’re not and you’ll probably end up in Helheim.
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen