In a nutshell, Asgard is the home of the Æsir Norse gods like Odin, Tyr, Thor, Freyja, and Loki. Vahalla is a hall inside Asgard for brave fallen Viking warriors awaiting Ragnarök. Asgard is a place, and Vahalla is a hall.
Where is Asgard?
Asgard is located on Yggdrasil, the Norse World Tree.
In Norse mythology, there are nine realms. Alfheim, Jotunheim, Hel, Midgard, Muspelheim, Nidavellir or Svartalfheim, and Niflheim. Asgard or Ásgarðr is the home of the old Norse gods, but don’t get it confused with heaven.
When understanding Norse myths, it’s super important that you never understand them under the framework of Christianity.
Norse mythology predates Christianity and doesn’t sample from it. When understanding Asgard and Icelandic myths, it’s more appropriate to compare it to Mount Olympus than to heaven.
The Purpose Of Asgard
Asgard is a place where the Æsir Norse gods live and conduct business.
They meet under the Tree of Life (or Yggdrasil), which connects Asgard to the other eight realms. There is only one entrance to Asgard, via a rainbow bridge called Bifrost.
Asgard is a realm of perfect peace and harmony. It’s a utopia among the chaos.
Where is Valhalla?
Within the boundaries of Asgard is a bright and magnificent hall. This hall within Asgard is called Valhalla.
In the Poetic Edda, this hall is described as being constructed with spear-shaped rafters on the ceiling and a roof made from shields. It has doors so wide that 800 warriors can walk through it side-to-side.
Valhalla, or Valhöll, is the home of slain Viking warriors inside of Asgard and is also referred to as the Hall of the Allfather Odin. Valhalla translates to the hall of the fallen.
When an honorable slain Viking warrior dies in battle, Odin’s Valkyries escort them to the halls of Valhalla. It’s unclear whether Odin selects warriors to join his army in Valhalla or if the Norns predetermine their fates. In the Prose Edda, Valhalla was a place for warriors to continue their training well into the afterlife as they prepared for their biggest battle: Ragnarök.
In the Marvel movies, Valhalla is depicted as a cosmic dimension, and that’s not the case in old Norse texts like the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. Valhalla isn’t a place or a dimension but a majestic palace within Asgard’s boundaries.
So, say you are a Scandinavian Viking warrior destined for the halls of Valhalla. What happens next?
What Happens Inside The Halls Of Valhalla?
It’s not all training and battle preparation inside the halls of Valhalla. While warriors train daily, they also dine and celebrate in the dining halls alongside Odin.
According to the Prose Edda, all injuries during their training heal by the end of the day. They are immortal soldiers of Odin that work every day to prepare for the end of the world, also known as Ragnarök.
At the end of each they, these warriors dine in the great hall from the meat of Sæhrímnir. Sæhrímnir is a cosmic boar that they hunt, kill, and eat every night. The following day, Sæhrímnir resurrects, only to start the process again.
In addition to lavish feasts, they indulge in bottomless mead brought to them by Odin’s Valkyries. And, every night, Odin joins them for their dinner.
The Main Differences between Asgard and Valhalla
The biggest takeaway from the differences between Asgard and Valhalla is that Valhalla is attainable for non-Æsir gods, like Viking soldiers. While no one outside of Asgard is permitted entrance inside, honorable slain soldiers are allowed entry to the halls of Valhalla, located inside the walls of Asgard.
Promises of Valhalla gave Viking soldiers a slight edge in battle. The more heroically they fight, they could potentially earn a spot in Valhalla and the opportunity to dine with Odin.
Asgard is a place reserved only for the gods, except Valhalla. If you are a Viking warrior and want to dine with Odin, fighting until the death in battle is your best way to get there.