Journey to the Norse Land of the Dead (Helheim) For Ancestral Healing

Helheim is the land of the dead in Norse mythology.  It is where the ancestors who did not die in battle reside (i.e., those who passed due to old age, illness, etc.).  Helheim is overseen by the goddess Hel or Hela, whose face has one side that is beautiful and the other skeletal or ghostly. This image represents that life and death are two sides of the same coin – always connected. 

During the journey below, you will meet your ancestral guardian mother (“Dis”) or mothers (“Disir” or “nornir”) and journey to Helheim to commune with your ancestors.  The Disir are your “fate mothers,”or “fairy godmothers,” to use a familiar term from folklore. Your Dis/Disir, if approached with respect and honor, will become great allies in your life.  They oversee the luck, abundance and fates of those in your family line.  Entering into a strong reciprocal relationship with the Dis/Disir, will positively affect all within your family, including yourself, your children and your children’s children.

Meeting your “fate mothers” helps to bring you closer to your ancestors and family wisdom. Your fate mothers often appear as one “Dis” or three “Disir” – like the three fates.  During my apprenticeship in Northern European magical practice, my Dis appeared as a giant cloaked woman.  She opened one side of her cloak and showed me that it held the memories of all my ancestors and their lives.  She was the keeper of my lineage – and its lessons and wisdom.  She showed me a vision of my ancestors leaving a beautiful wild coastline of rocky cliffs and evergreen trees. I could feel the intense sadness they felt at leaving their ancestral lands. Connecting with this past helped me to weave these family members more deeply into my ancestral practice and heal a longing that follows many in my family – a search for something that we can’t quite define. 

Your Disir are among your greatest allies in working through lineage issues and healing your ancestral lines.  Your Disir can guide you, or lead you to ancestors who can guide you, on what can be done to shift or heal your family line of unsupportive patterns or heal from ancestral traumas that may be affecting your family tree.  Connecting with your Disir will also bring you closer to your ancestors who individually and collectively are powerful spirit allies.  Your Disir can be called on for protection and guidance related to your fate and life, or that of other family members.

My efforts to connect with my Dis and my ancestors helped to heal the lingering ancestral sadness as I became a living keeper of the memory of my ancestors and their cultural heritage.  I wove elements of that heritage back into my family and life, and was guided to do ancestral healing work on my paternal side after journeying to Helheim.

The ancient Norse peoples believed in a malleable fate called “wyrd.” The wyrd was the web of fate that was woven for each person but could be unwoven and rewoven in a new form, thereby changing one’s fate and luck. Part of an individual’s “luck” (and therefore fate) was determined by the actions and lives of ancestors. This was called “orlog.” A person could have a beneficial orlog or one in need of correction.  One’s orlog can lead to positive or negative ancestral patterns being passed down over many generations. A journey to the Land of the Ancestors is an opportunity to explore your orlog and ask the advice of ancestors on how to maintain a positive orlog or right the ship for an unsupportive orlog.  The thin fall veil presents the perfect opportunity to take a journey to Helheim and commune with the ancestors for healing, guidance, or to explore your fate and luck!

The Journey to Helheim: 

  1. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and rhythmically. Spend a few minutes setting strong intentions that you will meet your Dis/Disir at the World Tree and journey to the land of the ancestors.
  2. Envision a mist rolling in and encompassing your entire vision. In your mind or out loud, chant the runes Raidho (journey rune) and Othala (ancestral inheritance rune) or any other runes that you feel called to use.
  3. When the mist clears, you will see a large ancient tree. This tree is Yggdrasil, the World Tree. But this tree is also you and your family line. After all, each of us is the World Tree at our core.
  4. Circle Yggdrasil three times counter-clockwise while strongly focusing on your intentions that when you are done circling, your Dis/Disir will be there to greet you.
  5. Take a moment and say “hello.” Thank her for her service to your family line and offer her something in exchange for taking you to the land of the dead to meet your ancestors. Tell her the purpose of your journey and ask her to guide you to the ancestors who can help answer your questions.   
  6. Let your Dis/Disir guide you to the land of the ancestors.  You may travel through a door in the tree or down its roots to the underworld, Helheim.
  7. You will eventually reach the river Gjoll and cross a crystal bridge to the gates of Helheim.  If any beings appear on the bridge or at the gates, greet them kindly and pay any toll. Do not over-offer or over-promise, as any offerings or tolls should be fulfilled by you after your journey to maintain positive relationships with the beings who you encountered. Lighting a candle or leaving an offering is often enough. 
  8. Once through the gates, ask your Disir to take you to the ancestors who you need to see and hear from most to answer your questions. Use your intuitive senses to obtain information, wisdom, healing or guidance from your ancestors. 
  9. You may be greeted by the Norse/Germanic Goddess of Death, Hel during your journey.  If she appears and extends her bone hand, shake it.  Thank her for allowing you into the realm of the ancestors and tell her that you will leave an offering or light a candle in her honor.
  10. After spending time with your ancestors, thank them for their guidance and their lives that helped make yours possible. 
  11. Travel back up or through the World Tree. Thank your Dis/Disir for giving you passage to the land of the ancestors and say goodbye.
  12. Circle the World Tree three times clockwise.  Watch as the mist rolls in again and when it clears, you are fully back in your body and the physical world. 
  13. Fulfill any promises made to any spirit beings during your journey.


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