On heaven, hell and the afterlife
In the Netflix TV Show, Vikings, the old warrior Tostig pleads with Earl Lothbrok. “Please let me fight”, he says [in not so few words].
Why battle? Because he is alive. Fought many battles. Lost many comrades. Flirted with death many a time. But Tostig is still alive. And he wants to die. In battle.
But, why die in battle? Because of Valhalla.
When Viking Warriors die, Odin, God of War and Death, invites them to feast with him. In the “Hall of the Slain”, or “Valhalla”.
Warriors eat with their comrades in arms. And drink. And then afterwards fight. Each other. To the death.
After death, the dead warriors reappear. In Valhalla — the Hall of the Slain. To eat, drink, flight, die and reappear again. For the cycle to continue.
This is the “ideal afterlife” or “heaven” for the Viking warrior. Very different from the heaven found in other Western theology. Like the ones with gentle angels with white wings, playing harps, and supping on milk and honey (an excellent laxative, according to Mohamed Ali).
On the one hand, I, myself, am not a fan of the harps and honey heaven. The idea of playing dominos with Mother Theresa or Saint Benedict of Nursia for the rest of eternity, is not quite my scene.
On the other hand, being a card-carrying coward and pacifist, I’ll pick milk and dominos. Over drunk murderous warriors. Anytime.
On a third hand, there is something I like about the idea of Valhalla.
Bravery in battle, and angels with wings are a contradiction.
If you told a soldier that if he dies in battle, he’ll end-up playing a harp, A) he might not believe you. Or worse B) he might refuse to fight — given the utterly boring consequences (i.e. dominos etc).
The Valhalla-pitch is both more convincing and less contradictory.
Related, aficionados of the Buddhist Sutra will notice a striking parallel in the Yodhajiva Sutra. Between the “Hell of the Slain” and Valhalla.