'Until Valhalla' is a phrase derived from Norse mythology, and it means reuniting in Valhalla after death. In the Viking age, dead warriors were expected to end up in various afterlife destinations, and Valhalla was one of them. Today, 'Until Valhalla' has been adopted by various militaries as a popular and unofficial rallying cry.
Viking culture has profoundly impacted today’s life; think of movies and television shows like Vikings.
However, the modern military’s use of ‘Until Valhalla’ sheds some light on the greatest adoption from Old Norse into modern culture.
For instance, you might have heard U.S Marines saying ’til Valhalla’, paying homage to their fallen heroes. This expression signifies saying goodbye, and it’s another way of telling the dead, ‘see you in heaven.’
So, what’s the relationship between ‘Until Valhalla’ and modern military forces?
Read on to learn more.
The Meaning Behind ‘Till Valhalla’
What does Valhalla mean? The phrase is derived from the Old Norse Valholl, alluding to the Hall of the Slain. It was a revered place in Asgard, where Odin and other Norse gods resided.
According to Norse mythology, the final destination of fallen heroes who fell in combat was decided by the god Odin. As the god of war, Odin built Valhalla for Vikings, and the only way to get there was through a brave end in battle, thus earning honor and glory.
While half of the slain went to Valhalla, the others went to Folkvangr, where the goddess Freyja reigned. Folkvangr is a comfortable afterlife destination, similar to Valhalla, where the warriors entertained themselves endlessly on a permanent battlefield.
*Make sure to check my article titles Valhalla Vs. Folkvangr
In the Viking culture, when a Viking said ‘Till Valhalla’ to another, it was another way of saying that a heroic death on the battlefield was imminent.
In a nutshell, it was saying goodbye from a worthy and brave Viking warrior to another equally worthy Viking. For Vikings, ‘Until Valhalla’ was the ultimate glory; to face death bravely in battle and enter Valhalla.
Is It Till Valhalla Or Until Valhalla?
Both phrases are correct.
In Old Norse, ‘Till Valhal’ translates to ‘Until Valhalla.’ Nevertheless, since both ’till’ and ‘until’ are almost synonymous, either can be used.
Enthusiasts of Old Norse culture don’t seem to mind about the particulars of the phrasing. To them, it can be ‘Till Valhalla’ or ‘Until Valhalla.’
Do All Soldiers Go to Valhalla?
According to the Norse myth about Valhalla, a warrior must have met a heroic and brave end on the battlefield. Also, it should be noted that one could enter Valhalla after dying away from the battlefield from wounds sustained in combat.
So essentially, other kinds of death didn’t count, which may be why Vikings sought the most challenging battles in search of glory.
For example, King Hakon succumbed well after combat from wounds attained during battle. Subsequently, he was sent off respectfully, and a poem detailing the respectful welcome he would receive in Valhalla was written. You can read that in Heimskringla: The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway by Snorri Sturlason.
However, dying bravely in combat wasn’t a direct pass into Valhalla. Of those who died in glorious battle, Odin chose half of them, particularly those considered worthy by the goddess Freyja and the Valkyries.
How the Valkyries Decided Who Entered Valhalla
The Valkyries first chose worthy and brave warriors who’d died in combat. After that, they divided the selected into two groups. Then, one half entered Valhalla while the goddess Freyja took the other half to Folkvangr.
What Is the Meaning of “Until Valhalla” In the Military?
Today, ‘Until Valhalla’ has been adopted by various militaries as a popular and unofficial rallying cry, either as a parting comment or before dangerous situations like a battle.
The History of ‘Until Valhalla’ in the Military
Considering that ‘Until Valhalla’ comes from Norse mythology, pinpointing the exact time modern militaries started to use it can be a bit tricky.
However, it is believed that ‘Til Valhalla’ was made famous by U.S Marines in Afghanistan. The marines suggested that the Telemark Battalion, an elite Norwegian military force fighting with their NATO allies, had ‘Til Valhall’ as their unofficial motto.
Nevertheless, regardless of which modern military first adopted ‘Until Valhalla,’ the significance remains the same worldwide. Most importantly, it honors and remembers fallen heroes slain on the battlefield.
‘Til Valhalla’ and the U.S Marines
The phrase ‘Until Valhalla’ was popularized by people with a soft spot for the armed forces to honor and revere soldiers who had fallen in combat.
For instance, tributes to soldiers who have fallen in combat in Afghanistan read, ‘Semper Fi… Till Valhalla.’
To show how much the marines have embraced the Valhalla code, the United States Marine Corp Drum Corps performed a composition called ‘Until Valhalla.’ Also, the Corp’s website has an article called ‘Til Valhalla.’
The Til Valhalla Project
The Til Valhalla Project was created to remember and create awareness of veteran suicide.
Veterans run the Til Valhalla Project, which states, ‘No matter who or what you believe in – Until Valhalla is a sign of utmost respect and tells our fallen that we will see them again…and we will.’
This worthy organization sells various apparel and other stuff and donates part of the proceeds to the vets. Their cause can be symbolically seen as a way to support veterans and soldiers until they ‘get to Valhalla.’
Can a Civilian Say Until Valhalla?
Well, ‘Until Valhalla’ has a unique combat significance, originating from a Viking warrior code. So, it is not apt to quote it when saying farewell to a civilian or someone without combat experience.
Remember that ‘Until Valhalla’ is also a rallying call before soldiers head into combat to inspire courage, meaning it wouldn’t be appropriate for civilians. The phrase best suits trained soldiers with a warrior/military code mentality.
However, you can still say ‘Until Valhalla’ when paying your last respects to a veteran you served together in the military.
Are There Acceptable Ways to Say ‘Til Valhalla’?
While it is more acceptable for people in the military or veterans to use the phrase, there have been exceptions.
For instance, friends use ’til Valhalla’ when parting or as a rallying cry before a risky undertaking.
Valhalla was an undeniable part of the Viking warrior code, and that it has been taken up as a rallying cry by military forces centuries later is interesting.
Whether it is the U.S Marines shouting ‘Til Valhalla’ (or ‘Till Valhalla according to your preference) or blood-thirsty Vikings screaming ‘Until Valhalla, the symbolism and meaning haven’t changed much.
While some aspects, like Freyja and Valkyries, may not be embraced by the military, it comforts families and friends of fallen heroes. And for those who believe, maybe, just maybe, their loved ones may just reach Valhalla, like the Vikings many years ago.