Gates of Valhalla

The Judge of the Dead motif, a story of the cosmological force that weighs the merit of an entire life against some mysterious requisite threshold value to determine entry into or rejection from some even more mysterious Transcendent Realm of Eternal Virtue, is one of the most common in mythology. This Judge is usually imagined across a range of intimidating figures, from someone rather judge-like at one extreme to terrifying demons at the other. But in Norse mythology the implacable force that determines the worth of the dead is the implacable force who so often determines the worth of the living: the woman. She is called a Valkyrie, and although she certainly serves the Almighty Omniscience of Odin, she nevertheless has complete authority to decide on her own whether the achievements of a particular life are sufficient to pay the toll into the afterlife of Valhalla – a strange celestial playground of endless battles where no one ever dies, and endless drunken banquets carousing with buxom amorous women (it seems the Norse seek to judge only the men; all women get in free).

In Norse cosmology, the early, primeval epoch of the universe was dominated by the Giants. Among the greatest was Mimir, the all-seeing colossus of the primeval ocean, who lived in a magic well by the root of Yggdrasil, the infinite Tree of the Cosmos. In his youth, Odin happened to wander past the well one day and struck a portentous bargain. Mimir, it seems, could see far but not wander far, while Odin could wander far but not see far. And so Odin traded an eye to Mimir for a drink from his magic well. Mimir no doubt enjoyed the traveling gaze he won from Odin’s far-wandering eye, but it was Odin who made the better bargain: the All-View he gained from the unfathomable depths of Mimir’s primordial ocean of the cosmos made him King of the Universe. Thus did he inaugurate the enlightened epoch of Asgard: the celestial Home of the Gods.

In this image, in the transit of a gas-giant world across the disc of a distant galaxy, we see a representation of Odin looking out into the universe through Mimir’s all-seeing eye, and down upon the lofty vaults of Valhalla – a realm hidden from the viewer by an imposing barrier of mountains…and an implacable force of judgment. In her hands she holds two fates. On the one hand is a winged spear gleaming in the spectral colors of Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge between Asgard and Midgard - between Heaven and Earth. This is the Way of Liberation. On the other hand is a winged carrion-eater, dark as night. This is the Way of Extinction.  There is no way forward but to stand before the relentless gaze of her scrutiny and accept one winged fate or another…

But what about that little moon there by the gas giant, seeming like a small blemish on the pupil of the Infinite Eye? And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

The Entrance Foyer to
The Goddess Art of Jonathon Earl Bowser