The realm of the goddess Freya, Folkvangr was where half of all souls slain in battle went to spend eternity (the other half went to Odin’s hall, Valhalla). In addition to those who fell in combat, Folkvangr hosted the departed souls of those who died from other causes.
Freya’s hall, Sessrumnir, was located in Folkvangr. Usually presented as a sprawling palace, Sessrumnir may have actually been a ship located within a meadow. Such imagery would have resonated powerfully with the Norse, who often constructed burial mounds in the form of ships.
The name “Folkvangr” comes from the Old Norse fólk, meaning “people” (or “army”); and vangr, meaning “field,” “meadow,” or “clearing.” One possible translation, “the field of the people,” suggests that Folkvangr was an afterlife open to everyone, while another, “the field of the army,” suggests it was solely a destination for those who died in battle.
Folkvangr was generally thought to be an afterlife open to those who had died in battle. In the Grímnismál, of the Poetic Edda, Odin himself attested to Folkvangr’s paradisiacal nature:
The ninth is Folkvangr, where Freyja decrees Who shall have seats in the hall; The half of the dead each day does she choose, And half does Othin have.
According to a thirteenth century CE poem known as Egil’s Saga Freya’s domain may have been a destination for those who died in nonviolent ways as well. The notion arose from a passage in which Thorgerd, the hero Egil’s daughter, claimed that she would not eat until her father ate as well:
‘No supper have I had, and none will I have till I sup with Freyja. I can do no better than does my father: I will not overlive my father and brother.’
A number of scholars have suggested that Folkvangr and Sessrumnir may have reflected actual Norse burial practices. The Norse often crafted burial mounds in the shape of ships and placed them in open fields. Whether practice or myth emerged first remains unknown, but it is clear that the two reinforced each other, perpetuating a rich cultural tradition.
Folkvangr lives on in contemporary German institutions named for the artistic Folkvangr-Koncept movement, including Folkvangr Kammerorchester Essen (an orchestra house) and the Folkvangr University of the Arts. Unlike Valhalla, Folkvangr’s male-dominated counterpart, Freya’s domain has not been featured in Marvel Comics or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.