Happy Hel’s Feast!
By Gudellri Alexandra Ravenscroft
Hello there, my good folx! Today I’m here to talk about the Autumnal holiday of Hel’s Feast; a day of revelry and remembrance. Although Hel’s Feast is a modern invention, many cultures celebrate a feast for the dead this time of year. For Celtic practitioners, it’s called Samhain (pronounced Sow-un). For other Heathens around the world it may be known as Winternights, Alfablot, or other regional names. In American Forn Sidr, it’s called Hel’s Feast for our Goddess of our Beloved Dead.
Hel is the queen and sole ruler of the underworld who provides shelter for deceased spirits. Although the Christian-written Eddas depict her as being aligned with torture and fear, it is not Hel’s purpose to punish or terrify us. As a goddess of death, change, and entropy, Hel teaches us to understand and accept impermanence and to live life to the fullest. Hel’s realm is also named after her and is the resting place for the dead who do not die in battle.
Hel’s Feast is the time of year when we focus on Hel, the ancestors she watches over, and accepting change and death. We can see this in the natural world. As cycles end and begin again, Hel helps us find comfort in the face of impermanence and how to celebrate life. It is through the symmetry of these seemingly contradictory concepts that we actualize Hel’s purpose in our lives; demonstrated on this night by bringing the remembrance of our ancestors and the frivolity of Halloween together into one celebration.
So how do we celebrate Hel’s Feast? Honestly, you’re probably already doing so as part of the common North American celebrations of Halloween. We bring into our lives subjects of death, darkness, and change to remove their taboo and make them less frightening. We celebrate life and the gift of living, even if we need to do that through frightful fun. As Heathens, we may also blot to Hel and our ancestors as a community. A ‘blot’ is like a prayer ritual in Heathenry where we honor deities/spirits and give offerings. Some may also choose to privately honor their Ancestors or Beloved Dea.
Ancestors and Beloved Dead includes biological ancestors, but also remembered chosen family, friends, and those who have “gone before.” Some people may choose to honor their adoptive families, significant figures who made great contributions to the world, and even beloved pets. Remember, that you do not have to work with any abusive, manipulative ancestors. This is also a good time to engage in spiritual work like Shadow Work, “Letting Go” blots, and other heavy emotional work.
As we move into longer nights here in North America, singing uncanny songs, performing skaldic writing (spiritually inspired writing), writing poetry, and sharing mysterious tales are all part of Hel’s Feast. Moreover, remembering that we are not alone and have a community is the most essential thing for bringing joy to the moment as a reminder for what we do have; each other. However you celebrate these final days of Fall, remember to keep others safe during COVID-19 by remembering to wear a face mask if you go out.