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Professor G. L. Kictredge lectured in the chapel of the Divinity School last evening upon the "Ancient Scandinavian Belief in a Future Life." The speaker said that the common Viking belief was that the dead were to remain forever in their graves, or at best would inhabit a gloomy hall of death beneath the earth. Many of the higher families, on the other hand, believed that in the fifth of the heavenly regions was a grand palace called Walhalla, so lofty that one could scarcely see the top, with five hundred and forty doors, and with walls hung about with shields and skins, with rafters covered with spears and swords. About the palace was a great wall for a defense, and around the whole ran the roaring stream of death. This river was more terrible than could ever be described by mortal power, and the monsters that filled the waters were all the more dreadful from being so vaguely described in the Eddic poems. Within Walhalla reigned Odin, the god of wind and war, and his subjects were the soulds of warriors who had perished in battle. No men who died peaceably in bed could expect to have their souls mount to Walhalla, the palace of happiness, where the warrior's life was so idealized as to be a continual round of feasting and revelry.
But the common belief sent all souls to Hel. This was a gloomy land, vast and pathless, in one part of which was the hall of the reigning goddess. A wall and river which surrounded this seem to be almost identically the same as those which the higher families believed were about Walhalla. Much dispute has arisen as to the unity and consistency of the beliefs in Walhalla and Hel. Some of the Eddic songs speak of Hel and Walhalla separately. while others do not mention the latter at all. The beliefs are inconsistent, because by one all souls are sent to the gloomy land, and by the other warriors have everlasting happiness.
One of the most interesting of the Scandinavian stories to us is the one in which a great flood covers the earth and eagles hunt for fish on the tops of tall mountains. Finally the waters ran off the green lands in torrents and left a regenerated world. In fact, the influence of Christianity is plain in many other of the latter beliefs and legends of the ninth and tenth centuries when the end of the world was momentarily expected.
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