• Imagining History

What is Valhalla? A Beginners Guide

Updated: Apr 22


Valhalla (1905) by Emil Doepler

Just what is Valhalla then?

Valhalla is an afterlife, a place where Vikings believed you went after you died.


So, is Valhalla good or bad then? Did Vikings want to go there?

Oh, they definitely wanted to go there. Valhalla is like the Super Bowl of the Viking afterlives – Yeah, there was a lot of different places a Viking could visit after they popped their furry boots. It’s a bit like the Viking heaven.



That's a lot of doors!

What’s it like?

Valhalla is a massive shining gold longhouse, a hall, situated in the realm of the Viking gods; Asgard. It’s a fabulous place, ruled over by the all-father of the Viking gods, Odin himself. This majestic hall has spear shafts for rafters and has a roof thatched with golden shields. Which likely looks amazing but is probably completely rubbish at keeping the rain out. The floor of Valhalla is probably littered with buckets in order to catch all of the rain drops leaking through the ceiling.


Apart from all the buckets, Valhalla must have been draftier than a half-built shed in the arctic. This is because Valhalla has five hundred and forty doors in order for eight hundred Vikings to pass through at the same time. It also has five hundred and forty rooms, so Odin’s heating bill must be absolutely insane. Finally, if all the rooms and doors aren’t impressive enough, there are many many tables for the Vikings to sit at, though the stools are made from breastplates so are likely pretty uncomfortable for the average bum.


In front of Valhalla is a golden tree, called Glasir. This is the most beautiful tree of all time, with leaves that are red gold in colour. A Viking might also hope to meet some magical creatures during their stay, perhaps the stag Eikþyrnir and the goat Heiðrún.





By George Wright (1872-1951)

What do Vikings do in Valhalla?

Most train in warfare to prepare themselves for Ragnarök. Ragnarök, in case you’re wondering, is the Viking end of the world, in which the gods all do battle and a whole lot of people die. But it’s not all training in Valhalla, there’s plenty of leisure activities to pursue too. Vikings play games, fight, eat food, drink mead and juggle up to seven short swords at a time (weird but true!)


Remember the stag Eikþyrnir and the goat Heiðrún I mentioned earlier? Well, between them they provide the Vikings in Valhalla with water and mead. Water drips from Eikþyrnir’s antlers whilst mead pours straight out of Heiðrún’s antlers. Which means that beer and goat’s milk are the exact same thing, probably.


How do Vikings get to Valhalla?

By dying in a glorious, exciting and action packed way! That means dying heroically in battle, probably singlehandedly taking on a massive army. Thing is, the Viking looking to get to Valhalla has to make sure they die with a weapon gripped in their hand, otherwise they won’t be allowed in.


Walkyrien (c. 1905) by Emil Doepler

Who decides who gets to go to Valhalla?

Whoever Odin and the Valkyries deem worthy to take. Valkyries are female spirits that bring the dead to Valhalla, indeed their name means ‘choosers of the slain’. They were likely pretty terrifying to look at. Each Valkyrie was helmed, carried spears and wore armour drenched in blood. Their armour was so tight it grew into their bodies, which would make an ingrowing toenail positively desirable in comparison.


Finally, the Valkyries would work a loom (like an ancient sewing machine) in order to choose who would die in battle. The loom had severed human heads for weights and thread made of intestines. So, it’s safe to say you wouldn’t want to meet a Valkyrie down a dark alley. Or a light alley. Or any kind of alley for that matter.