As we have often maintained, the ‘Vedic’ and ‘Eddic’ Indo-European mythologic canons fit together exceptionally well. This does not simply mean that they are closely concordant – but also that where there are ‘gaps’ in our understanding in the one, we often find some element in the other which corresponds to the area that is now obscure to our modern pair of eyes.
So it is with Valaskjalf and Hlidskjalf – two somewhat obscure heavenly concepts which have come down to us largely via the Gylfaginning (although both are also mentioned in the Grimnismal, inter alia).
Now, the major appearances of these therein are rather brief. To quote from the Brodeur translation:
“There is one abode called Hlidskjálf, and when Allfather sat in the high-seat there, he looked out over the whole world and saw every man’s acts, and knew all things which he saw.” […]
“Another great abode is there, which is named Valaskjálf; Odin possesses that dwelling; the gods made it and thatched it with sheer silver, and in this hall is the Hlidskjálf, the high-seat so called. Whenever Allfather sits in that seat, he surveys all lands. At the southern end of heaven is that hall which is fairest of all, and brighter than the sun; it is called Gimlé. It shall stand when both heaven and earth have departed; and good men and of righteous conversation shall dwell therein: so it is said in Völuspá.–
A hall I know standing | than the sun fairer,
Thatched with gold | in Gimlé bright;
There shall dwell | the doers of righteousness
And ever and ever | enjoy delight.”
I have chosen to include the element around Gimle for reasons that shall become obvious as we proceed further upwards through this piece; although it should be noted that the Voluspa presentation for it is subtly different.
However, before we get into the comparative cosmology and mythology … it is necessary to take but a brief look at the relevant linguistics.
Both Valaskjalf and Hlidskjalf are, obviously, built around the term ‘skjalf’ – often translated as ‘shelf’, however I feel that that lacks a certain lustre. ‘Shelf’ it most definitely enjoys some conceptual resonancy with … but given that ‘skjalf’ itself actually rather means a ‘high place’ such as a watch-tower’s vision-station or the upper surmounting cliffs and crags of a mountain, it seems rather diminishing to utilize the same sort of term one would apply to a portion of one’s kitchen pantry.
‘Vala’ (Valr) is immediately familiar to us – it occurs also in, say, ‘Valkyrie’ (or, for that matter, Valhalla), and refers to the Slain, the Dead. So, what we have here is a High Place, such as that of a mountain-top or the elevated portion of a fortress (tower), which is also where the ‘Slain’ are to be found. A ‘Heaven’, we might suggest, possessed of the shining radiancy of Silver for its exterior covering of roof.
‘Hlið’, meanwhile, refers to an ‘opening’ – it occurs in Old Norse to mean a ‘Gate’, and its Proto-Germanic form, ‘hlida’ makes it even more clear: referring to a facility for a covering, a ‘lid’. ‘Lid’ is itself from this same ‘Hlida’ particle, in case you were wondering. So, ‘Hliðskjálf’ would mean the High Opening-With-A-Lid. A High station ‘midst the Heavens and the shining sphere, phrased in terms of a watch-tower, that is also a Throne, and from where Odin can look out and see all.
Sound confusing? It shouldn’t be.
For you see, what is being described there is an Eye. An Eye in the Sky. An Eye in the Sky that is radiantly situated – and illuminates as we see it, just as it sees us down here below.
This is the frequent understanding for the Sun encountered in the Hymns of the Vedas – the All-Seeing, oft-Unblinking Eye of Lord Varuna or Agni (but, then, I repeat myself); and hailed in other texts as one of the Three Eyes of Lord Shiva. It also has noted attestation in other Indo-European linguistic and mythological corpuses – occasional references for the Sun as the Eye of Zeus, for instance; and linguistic artefacts such as the Old Irish ‘Suil’ being of the same root as ‘Sol(ar)’, and meaning ‘Eye’ in that language.
However, via way of more direct demonstrative explication:
AV IV 16:
“1 The mighty Ruler of these worlds beholds as though from close at hand, / The man who thinks he acts by stealth: all this the Gods perceive and know.
2 If a man stands or walks or moves in secret, goes to his lying-down or his uprising, / What two men whisper as they sit together, King Varuna knows: He as the third is present. […]
4 He that should flee beyond the heaven far away would not be free from king Varuna. His spies come hither (to the earth) from heaven, with a thousand eyes do they watch over the earth.
5 King Varuna sees through all that is between heaven and earth, and all that is beyond. He has counted the winkings of men’s eyes. As a (winning) gamester puts down his dice, thus does He [Rule].”
AV XIII 2:
“With that same eye of Thine wherewith Thou seest, brilliant Varuna. / The active one among mankind,
22 Traversing sky and wide mid-air, Thou metest with Thy beams our days, / Sun, seeing all things that have life.”
You get the idea.
Now it should be noted that the ancient Indo-Europeans did NOT have a singular Sun God nor concept of ‘Sun’. And therefore, there is no eminent contradiction to be beheld in a Vedic attestation for the Sun as the Eye of the Sky Father – and yet also, upon occasion, a separate Deity that is also the Son of the Sky Father, or for that matter an inanimate object that glows with radiancy upon the Gods’ Command; or, as we have repeatedly and frequently seen, at least one Solar Goddess as well. So, likewise, there is no contradiction to be observed in the Norse having both the Sun as a burnished shield reflecting radiancy down from the Sky – and yet also having these mentions for the One Blazing Eye of Odin (as found upon Odin’s divine person directly), as well as Odin seated upon a Throne that affords All-Seeing potency out across the universe from On High.
Indeed, it is fairly actively exactly what we should expect. The only point which is remarkable about this is that despite the conspicuous de-emphasis of Odin’s Solar associations (which He as Dyaus Pitar – the Sky Father of the Bright Sky – of the Indo-Europeans must once have had more bright-and-clearly) … the underlying pattern, the underlying typology, has nevertheless persisted regardless. We do not need an explicit designation that these features are Solar, or correlate with The Sun, within the Old Norse canon.
For the comparative Indo-European mythology, theology, cosmology, as best anchored via the ancient Vedas of the Aryans, provides us with the pattern and the typology to be followed.
So, now that we have identified the Solar, Golden Throne of Odin – That which is meant by Hlidskjaf – what of the other Skjaf? What of Valaskjalf? Where does this fit in?
A full discursion upon the Solar Underworld of the Indo-Europeans, and the Divine, Radiant Queen of the Heavens Who Presides ultimately over Same, is rather beyond the scope of this piece. Suffice to say, there is this exact recurrent pattern across many of the Indo-European descendant cultures – Aditi, the Great Solar Goddess Uber Alles of the Vedas being hailed as the Lord of the Pitrs [‘Ancestor Spirits’], the Hittites having their well-renowned Underworld Solar Goddess(es), Hekate having half-glimpsed saliencies in both of these directions – the Solar and the Post-Mortem (and also the re-entry into this world therefrom, entirely uncoincidentally .. the Solar Womb, Hiranyagarbha, being the Ultimate Origin of All, after all … as well as before all .. as well), and Freyja’s presiding over Folkvangr presumably deriving likewise from this same, sacred, shared archaic ancestral Indo-European template to the Heavens in our understanding.
Yet there is also quite prominently a male deific presiding up There as well. We have already seen that it is Odin Who Rules in the Hall of Valaskjalf (with some interesting ambiguity as to whether Hlidskjalf, the Solar Vantage-Point, is located in Valaskjalf, or is its own abode, housing a throne – I suspect that the answer, as we shall soon see via the aid of the Vedic comparative, is actually that the one location, broadly speaking, is and houses both); so Who is it Who reigns in the RigVedic cognate instance?
Well, according to RV X 14, there are Two that reign there in. Yama, and Varuna. Other theonyms are also occurrent, including in particular, Brihaspati and Vivasvan [‘the Wide-Shining One’]; although it is my belief that, as per usual, the usage of a greater number of theonyms should not be read necessarily as indicating the presence of a correspondingly greater number of Gods. Rather, Vivasvan is Yama’s Father – and we know from our comparative modelling (see, for instance, the Sons of the Sun series upon just precisely this fact) that the former is Dyaus Pitar and the latter is a figure akin to the Roman Remus (Iemus; Who rules over Remuria / Lemuria, in a much-likewise manner). There is also occurrant mention for ‘Brihaspati’ as a way to refer to Yama in RV X 13 5 – wherein Yama is sacrificing Himself in order to Go Beyond and to seek out thence to rule the Realm that shall thence house the spirits of the deceased mortal men Who shall come after Him, fathered of His Brother’s (Manu’s) Race.
This does create something of an ambiguity for us, as Brihaspati is also pointedly the term for the Sky Father encountered elsewhere in the RigVeda – and with a suite of direct correspondences to Odin found within the Nordic texts; a matter that is rendered no clearer when we consider the frequent iconography of Yama as equipped with a long staff and accompanied by two dogs, nor Odin Himself engaging in a certain act of self-sacrifice for purposes of transcendent unlocking. The most plausible explication that I can advance is that it is a case of ‘Like Father, Like Son’ – with the Indo-European Sky Father indeed often being encountered (well, perhaps not quite so literally) as the Lord of the Glorious/Ancestral Dead, accompanied by Two Hounds (one of Whom, for some reason, is frequently named ‘Spot’ in the relevant Indo-European liturgical language – see, for instance, ‘Cerberus’ for the ‘Zeus of the Underworld’, Hades; or ‘Sharvara’, for one of Yama’s Watchful Hounds), wielding a long-staff that may be a weapon (such as a Spear) and bearing the name that shows also the competency with the Empowered Speech … and the Son of the Sky Father that is the Death Son, being likewise arrayed and conceived of. Certainly, the fact that Lord Shiva has Ganesha as one of His Sons, whilst Himself also being Gana-Esha [the ‘Lord of the Army’, to somewhat thinly translate it], with the latter directly inheriting one of His most prominent Hymnals from one of the former’s RigVedic Verses, would appear to suggest that this does indeed not infrequently occur.
But to return to the World in question – this is that place immediately proximate to Paramevyoman : Parame [‘Highest’ / ‘Outer’] Vyoman [‘Astral’, ‘Sky’, ‘Heavens’, ‘(Holy) House for the Sun’] that is hailed as the residing-place of the Pitrs [‘Forefathers’ – indeed, ‘Father’ is from the direct same Proto-Indo-European Root]. To which the Departed are sent upon Their way loftily skywards by being set upon a Ship [RV X 135 – although there is no specific verse on the ship being on fire as in the Viking custom most prominent in our popular culture today; however it would seem logical given Agni’s role in this conveyancing and kravya-corpse-carrying department].
And from whence, not at all coincidentally, the Pitrs do occasionally make Their return down here to us in the realm of the living .. in the form of Corvids – Crows, Ravens; a situation with, again, quite some Indo-European precedency and specific Odinic resonancies even beyond the well-known Hugin and Munin emissaries of the Lord of Ghosts (said Hugin and Munin potentially finding additional expression ‘midst’ the thousand Spies of Lord Varuna aforementioned in the Vedas – albeit with the other explanation for these, that they are the Stars in the Sky, also having quite some power to it. I am not sure these are even fundamentally distinct, after a sort – after all, the Stars as being our Ancestors, bearing them in mythic form, is exactly what many constellations are to be understood as; including Canis Majoris and Minoris – that are held in various Hindu understandings to be symbolic of the two Watchful Dogs of the Underworld under Lord Yama’s Command .. or perhaps, as Orion is Rudra, and the High Outer Heaven is supposedly located at the Head of Orion at the end of the Irmin’s Milky Road, the Path of Aryaman – they may represent His Wolves likewise; as a point of interest, the same ‘Kravya’ [‘Carrion/Carnivorous] terminology can designate both Crows and Wolves for us, the implications of which are rather intriguing).
It should be noted at this point that while yes, we DO find the Realm of Yama to be ‘underground’ in later Hindu cosmology – in the most archaic Vedic sources, it is literally the other way around. There is not really an ‘underworld’ – as the Worlds are Three, in escalating ascendency up from Earth to the Mid-Atmosphere, to the High Sky; the Realm of Yama, Pitrloka here (and later this, too, is somewhat distinguished out therefrom) to be found near the apex of the last of these; with the transmission between these planes accomplishable via various means including rising upon a pyre, or ‘sailing’ – as to the ancient Indo-European the Sky was just another kind of Sea.
With time, these understandings changed – and so we find a fairly consistent ‘mytholinguistic’ pattern of shift for the Lord of the Sky (conceived also as Sea) being turned into a Sea God (viz. Dyaus Pitar, Zeus, becoming also Poseidon; and Varuna moving to being a more exclusively oceanic God in the later Hindu mythology, as the emblematic ur-example. For more detail, see my earlier “Swear By The Sea, Swear By The Stars, Swear By The Sky – On The Mytholinguistics Of Varuna Neptune Ouranos”], just as the more literal, littoral Sea became much greater in its prominency as the various Indo-European peoples reached oceans for the first time, and all of a sudden, the notion of the Dark Sky of Night being ‘under’ the Earth during the Day Time (and vice versa for the Bright Sky of Day during the Night, presumably), gave way to at least some of the Afterlife Realms in fact being located ‘Under the World’ of the living at all times rather than just during the day. Other of these Afterlife Realms were still preserved in the bright-lit planes of day, however – whether the ones that one could semi-literally (or at least literarily) ‘sail’ to such as the Isles of the Blessed of the Greeks, or the Undying Acre (Ódáinsakr) that is ventured to out beyond India in Eireks Saga Víðförla.
And others still, as we have seen both above and Above, remained very much of the High Heavens. Although perhaps with some Lunar connotation alongside of or even instead of the Solar conceptry (as potentially suggested by the ‘Silver’ thatchings for Valaskjalf – although I am not sure that ‘Silver’ and ‘Lunar’ is necessarily a definitive linkage as there may be other reasons or interpretations for the material-choice in question in the Gylfaginning). In our modern Ancestor-veneration and nourishment rites as Hindus, we carry these out upon the time of the month when the Moon is Dark (‘Amavasya’ – when the Sun and the Moon ‘Dwell Together’), asking Lord Surya [the Sun] to help transport the tarpana libations of sustenance to our forebears, by pouring these over the branch of a tree at Dawn as the Sun Rises up into the widening Sky.
Still, with the third Old Norse loka-le that we had mentioned towards the outset in our excerpting from the Gylfaginning, Gimle, the Solar conceptry for this after-life heavenly realm is quite explicit:
“At the southern end of heaven is that hall which is fairest of all, and brighter than the sun; it is called Gimlé. It shall stand when both heaven and earth have departed; and good men and of righteous conversation shall dwell therein: so it is said in Völuspá.–
A hall I know standing | than the sun fairer,
Thatched with gold | in Gimlé bright;
There shall dwell | the doers of righteousness
And ever and ever | enjoy delight.”
This would, again, correspond to the notion being espoused in RV X 14, RV X 15, RV X 135, etc. – wherein housed in this Solar Realm are the Pitrs, eulogized in terms rather close to “doers of righteousness” as a characteristic, and most certainly ‘entertained’ (or, if you like, “enjoying delight”). And it also bears some intriguing resonancy with the conceptry to be found in later Hindu cosmological understanding wherein Pitrloka is ‘preserved’, ‘held above’ the Final Fire of the Pralaya [‘Apocalypse’, ‘Great Unravelling’] – so that the Ancestral Spirits, the ‘Seed’ Ancestors, are able to come out therefrom and thence begin the World all over again in the next cycle of Creation therefrom (something that has a certain degree of functional resonancy with the Hoddmímis Holt that Líf and Lífþrasir emerge from following the devastation of Ragnarok; the ‘morning dew’ sustenance for Whom may perhaps be linked to the aforementioned Tarpana offerings we carry out for the Pitrs at Dawn. ].
The concept has also found a rather more terrestrial saliency in the folk-beliefs around the City of Varanasi (or Kashi , also known as Benares) – a holy city of Lord Shiva, that is uncoincidentally also the place where one goes to die. It is said that it, too, shall be preserved from the Pralaya and carried forth into the next world – in some traditions, at any rate. The meaning of the major names in use – Varanasi , and Kashi – are similarly salient: Varanasi deriving ultimately from ‘Varuna’ (in part due to the name of one major river running therethrough), and ‘Kasi’ meaning ‘Shining’ : hence its oft-storied sobriquet, the City of Light(s) (something that also refers to the endless Ghats,or cremation pyres, as well as Aarti flame-offerings which take place upon the banks of the River Ganges running therethrough. Rivers with Underworld / Afterlife conveyance associations are, of course, prominent right across the Indo-European sphere – although we should note here that the terrestrial Ganges finds mirrored, supernal expression in the celestial Ganges, the earlier extolled Path of Aryaman, Irmin’s Road, Milky Way, that leads to the Realm of the Great God in question; the Eridanus constellation, the ‘River’ running to the head of Rudra-Orion, likewise. So it would seem fair to state that Varanasi is a place where two planes – that of the mortal, mundane, and temporal; and that of the immortal, mythic, eternal – appear to cross, commingle, and otherwise co-exist in exactly the same space and with shared essences of each dependent upon who one is and how one so happens to be looking (at the time).
Also of relevancy, although not to be discussed in any great depth here in, are the two higher heavens still for the Norse – Öndlangr and Víðbláinn. Next to nothing is actually known of these two locales, and even the etymology of these is a matter of some artistic interpretation. The former, presumably, means the ‘Ond’ that is either ‘long’ in its breadth and extent, or that it is a ‘long’, ‘high’ way away from us from our perspective; with ‘Ond’ referring to either ‘Spirit’ or ‘Wind’. The great wide expanse of the high atmosphere, with its fiercely rushing winds, would certainly fit that description [with some intriguing potential resonancy with the Vindheim briefly mentioned in the Voluspa as a post-Ragnarok home for particular kinsmen of Odin (‘nephews’ in fact – although I have my suspicions that another PIE ‘Nep’ is perhaps more relevant)]; as would Víðbláinn if we took this to mean the ‘Wide’ (Víð) Blue(/Black/Dark) (Bláinn – Blue-Black being a Colour of Death, also, in the Old Norse conceptual lexicon), with this perhaps referring to the place above the Sky, where even the wind is not so present, instead only the empty breathless ocean of the blue-black of the endless night stretches out all around and thence above and beyond to infinity.
In either case, the ‘Aditi’ we had met earlier would be relevant – ‘Aditi’, ‘A-‘ (‘opposite of’) ‘-Diti’ (‘limits’) , the Wide Expanse of Infinity , being the Goddess hailed as Lord of the Pitrs, and the ultimate investor of Life into All, from high above in the Vedas.
Although another derivation is potential for the latter – with ‘Vid’ [derived ultimately from PIE ‘weyt’] instead being that which refers to a rope, a twist, a knot, a coil. Something that I mention, due to the reference in RV X 15 3 – wherein the High Heaven is also where one attains “Son and Progeny” from, perhaps reflecting the notion of cyclical reincarnation carried out at the world’s summiting point, which would represent the loka-tion upon the Axis Mundi (World Tree / Pillar / Mountain / Sthambha) where the thread of the passage of souls is ‘tethered’, their pathway winding up around around and thence back down again to this more mortally earthy plane of ours. [This would, more properly speaking, be Paramevyoman within the Vedic cosmology]
There is some support for this most intriguing concept in another ‘Vyoman’ concept – the Vyomakesha [‘Heaven-Hair’] of Lord Shiva, and which finds parallel expression in the Kyanokhaitis hair of Dionysus, Poseidon, and Hades (but, then, I repeat myself thrice – a Rebirth expression of the Sky Father, a Sky-As-Sea expression of the Sky Father, and the Underworld/Realm of the Dead expression of the Sky Father, respectively). In all of these four cases, the Hair is understood to be ‘Dark’ (and often pointedly ‘Blue’), ‘Tangled’ or ‘Flowing / Wild’; with the Greek accounts evidently preserving the archaic Indo-European understanding of the Hair of the Sky Father being coloured and connoted as the Sky, likely recalling also their role as the powerful Winds of the high vaulting reaches of the atmosphere. The Hindu perspective, however, goes rather further, and declares that in addition to these representing the tendrils of the Wind … these pointedly also represent the Wind as the ‘Breath of Life’ bestowed by Vayu-Vata to bring humanity into active-being, and with direct parallel expression in the investiture of Önd by Odin into our ancestors, Askr and Embla, in the Voluspa telling of the Creation of Man. There is also the mention in RV X 125 7-8 for Devi Vak (‘Divine Speech’, the Wife of the Sky Father) bringing forth the Pitr at the World’s Summit, a place proximate to where the Yoni of all is loka-ted; and with Her creative potency expressed via the Wind, a power that is beyond the bounds of Earth and Sky.
Or, to phrase it another way, it would seem that there is indeed a ‘wellspring of life’ [to reference the Vedic conceptry] up in the high heavens, where the ‘blue’ winds (which may, perhaps, also contain within them the ‘last breath’ that is the soul leaving the body in some archaic Indo-European conceptry; this ‘breath’ being identified with the Rudras or the Maruts – which may mean that the Light Elves said to dwell in Víðbláinn may have an unexpected Vedic cognate) congregate up in a winding (some might say ‘tangled’) knot before heading back down out to this plane and their re-investiture in mortal housings of flesh, blood, and enacted life. The ‘Rivers of Air’ that are the Winds yet also the Waters, being that which the souls of one’s own forebears, and eventually also one’s own self, shall have to traverse on up to the High.
Although I must stress that that which I have outlined above , is but a brief endeavour of a prospective reconstruction. Each and every Indo-European eschatology tends to feature much greater depth and detail, often with various souls headed off in other directions either first or for the duration and especially upon the basis of the soul’s perceived quality; with, of course, many of these afterlives having come to be identified with the ‘great dark’ that is underground(s) rather than that which hangs (or rather, from which everything else hangs) up high in the wide-blue Sky. These ‘dark’ afterlives might be (but aren’t necessarily) the ‘negative’ ones – for ‘common’ souls rather than worthies, heroes, great ones (whether they be priest or warrior or grand-sire ancestor of other mighty accomplishment, of essence); the more archaic (and ashen) representation of the Fields of Asphodel in contrast to the more pleasant Elysian Fields, for instance; or Helheim (or, worse, Nastrond) in contrast to various post-mortem realms in the Old Norse. [Although interestingly, the ‘Nifl’ in ‘Niflheim’, ‘Niflhel;, etc. is itself derived from a Proto-Indo-European particle, ‘Neb’, that usually applies to the ‘moist’ upper atmospheric layer of Clouds and the Sky].
I also do not mean to impugn the accuracy of the Nordic (or, for that matter, any other) scriptural account , when I observe that here we appear to have three (and a half) Heavenly Realms that appear to correspond to a single area within the Vedic, and which appear perhaps rather artificially distinguished to a degree in their Gylfaginning appearances. Perhaps the Vedic account ‘compressed’ a broad array of elements into this single apex point, referred to as a unitary realm despite being more complicated in reality. Perhaps what we are supposed to take from the material that Sturluson had referenced to make his work, is something closer to a ‘functional interpretation’ for these various zones rather than an active planetology: various of these ‘worlds’ concording with a role that the Heavenly Sphere is to play within the cosmos, rather than actually being (meta-)physical locations in and of themselves. Or perhaps not, and there really are three mounting layers of Heaven (plus, potentially, a number of other such adjoinments – including the much-better-known specific Deity domain afterlife realms such as Valhalla or Folkvangr). Whatever the actual ‘practical’ interrelationship of all of these points of light and of d(h)ata, it is ne’er the less quite readily apparent that they do correspond. Even if just how they correspond, or what exactly and precisely it is that they correspond to is a matter that is semi-literally still rather up in the air. There are, after all, precious few living witnesses among us who could set to rest the matter within the span of our life-time for our convenience.
A penultimate point we should, perhaps, make concerns arguably the most famous Indo-European afterlife of all – that of Valhalla. Now, while it is true that it shares its fundamental linguistic component (‘Valr’) with the Valaskjalf that we have mentioned earlier, this is identified as being a different location, potentially even in a somewhat different region, per the account given in the Grimnismal. And yet, if we look closely, we can see the same familiar features beginning to make themselves emergent. Valhalla is situated in Gladsheimr – the ‘Bright’ haven. It is the “Golden” Hall. It is roofed with “Shields” (and I would note that the Sun, too, in Nordic conceptual syllabry is a burnished Shield); in fact I would even go so far as to suggest that the “Spears” which form its rafters may recall the notion of sunbeams as shafts of light.
That would certainly fit with the ‘Solar Afterlife’ elements already broadly attested for the Hittites, Hindus, and other Indo-European peoples (albeit with some of these other, later groups such as various Celtic and Slavic groups being arguably more akin to the notion of the Sun as it set into the place beyond the dusk, taking the souls of the dead with it; the Serbian ‘Dabog’, a clear reflexive of the earlier Slavic Dazhbog (a decidedly Solar figure, son of the similarly Solar Svarog – see my earlier “On Svarog As Sky Father”), being also their Lord of the Underworld, would fit likewise).
It would also dovetail exceptionally nicely with this fine Griffith rendering translation of RV I 35, describing the course of the Sun through the arcing parabolic roadway of the Sky’s-land realm:
“6 Three heavens there are; two Savitar’s, adjacent: in Yama’s world is one, the home of heroes,
As on a linch-pin, firm, rest things immortal: he who hath known it let him here declare it.”
There is so much that can and should be said about this particular hymnal, and perhaps in a future (brief) piece, I shall do so – yet a full-length exegesis of it is well beyond our ambit here; and it is enough, for now, to state that the surrounding context makes rather abundantly clear that the two ‘Savitar’ regions are those of the Ascending and Descending of the Solar Chariot: They are the phases known for the Dusk and the Dawn. Whilst in the middle of these two, we quite naturally have the Sun at its zenith and its apex – the noon-day Sun when it is at its highest and its widest of shining – where the Eye in the Sky is quite literally Above All, and has its broadest ken of visionary (per)view.
What do we find there, at that highest point? “Yama’s World” – the “Home of Heroes”. Paramevyoman, as we have earlier termed it, is immediately close thereto: the Highest Heaven. Inhabited by, as we saw, Varuna / Vivasvan , the One (Solar) Eyed ‘Wide-Shining One’ Who Is All-Seeing, upon His Golden Throne; and also His Son, the Lord of the Glorious/Ancestral Dead, Yama the Righteous, Lawful, DharmaRaja.
So – could Valhalla truly be this bright, golden, shining ‘Home of Heroes’ located at the apex of the Sun’s radiant roadway? I do not think it impossible – even though it is evident that the Nordic mythology that has come down to us is much less overt with its Solar identifications, almost as if these things have been semi-consciously pared back in comparison to the Vedic and more archaic Indo-European field of conceptry. Something that, to be sure, has certainly occurred in many other Indo-European mytho-cosmologies as well (the Greeks, for instance; as well as the later Hindu perspectives, for that matter); although with the unsurprisingly conservative Norsemen nevertheless managing to preserve perhaps rather more of these ancient, underlying understandings than some other peoples through their complex and densely interwoven conceptual syllabry. Marvellous.
Indeed, it seems a concept so resonantly resplendent that even the Zoroastrians were unable (or perhaps unwilling) to excise it from their canon – Hara Berezaiti quite directly means ‘High Watch-post’, and stands for the Mountain at the center of the worlds (i.e. the Axis Mundi, the World Tree – or, I suppose, a Watch-Tower), which likewise is what the Sun must shine from or shine through (dependent upon the text, context, and era), which likewise houses the situation of a ruler, and which likewise plays a prominent eschatological role as a destination for the well-received ‘great-souled’/’virtuous’ dead.
So – there you have it. Valaskjalf and Hlidskjalf (plus several Nordic Heavens more), Paramevyoman; A Golden Throne, a Golden Realm, and the All-Seeing Golden Eye of the Sky Father along with the Great and Glorious (Ancestral) Dead as well as the nexus-point of souls for impending reincarnation, whirling about the top of the hitching-post of our universe; all in the similar place, the similar space – High Above The Sky, at the summiting apex of the world, close to the wellspring of the Winds, and emblematically represented via the Sun.
Refracted out across various Indo-European descendant peoples, and various mixed or subtly resonant mythic understandings even within a given textual canon thereof.
Many diverse expressions – yet somehow all radiating back ultimately to the single source.
Our Ultimate Ancestors, ladies and gentlemen – found gazing back via the Heart of the Star.