So, what happens when we die?
According to our lore, the elements that were given to us by Odin, Hoenir, and Lodur (see ch. 2) are dispersed and thus begin to manifest independently.
The divine elements [önd (or Spirit/air), litr goda, our energy form (fire), and óðr, our mental capacity (water)] are separated from the earthly elements [lá, blood, and lík, body] so that the former may return to the lands of their creators and the latter remain here in Midgard.
Basically, the energies that make up Spirit, soul, and mind (önd, litr, and óðr) travel forth to the Gods to face judgment over their purity.
If the individual is judged worthy of either Gimle in Hel or Valhall in Asgard, they will be given the mead of the Underworld fountains to fully purify these elements.
If they are truly tainted with vile and evil actions and thus receive the lot of the damned in Niflhel there will be a second death. In this case the elements are separated again, leaving only an empty shell as the önd, litr, and óðr return to their source, the Gods. Afterwards the damned receive a new, ugly form befitting their foul natures so that they can face the punishments required for those who have committed terrible crimes.
This may sound all 'fire and brimstone' to some, but I can assure it is anything but. Our views on Niflhel simply reflect the values of justice we upheld in this life.
Urlag will always be balanced; if not in this life, then in the next. In the Greek religion there are the Furies who bring about retribution to those who have escaped justice, who have never paid for their crimes. Their Teutonic equivalents are the Heiptir, who perform the same service and drive the damned to Niflhel with iron thorn-rods to the ankles. Then there is the notion of Tartarus, which is the realm of the damned for the Greeks. You can look at other polytheistic systems as well, such as the Egyptian in which citizens would recite the 42 negative confessions of Maat as their heart was weighed against the feather of truth. If the citizen's heart was heavier than a feather they would be devoured by Ammit.
In the polytheistic worldview it is always justice that determines whether or not one will be either blessed or damned at the Thing of the Dead, which we call the Helthing. It is never 'grace.' To us, this term implied whim, the arbitrary desires of an ambiguous and dictatorial deity who demands total subservience from his followers, and yet could still find them unworthy. The only way to get into his 'paradise' is by his 'mercy,' his 'grace,' or his whim. We demand something more concrete than that, and thus understand that the true way to be blessed in the next life is to keep your urlag or karma balanced in this one. In other words: just be a good person.
As we have seen, our lore consists of stories concerning the continuous struggle between Gods and Giants (Order and Chaos) over the Spirit of man. As spiritual beings we affect the Spiritual Collective, or Web of Wyrd, and thus it is in the Gods' best interests to turn us towards Order, and in the Giants' best interest to turn us toward Chaos. Who wins in that particular struggle is up to you. If you want to benefit the Gods and the Powers of Convergence, the positive spiritual aspect, then you must live by a higher moral standard, pay attention to the divine through worship, meditation, and prayer, and do what you can to help others do the same. This, in its most basic form, is the foundation of the Odinic lifestyle.
The separation of the elements in death coincides perfectly with our beliefs of convergence and entropy. This is the cycle of our lives, when one era ends in order for a new one to begin. Our elements converged when the seed of our fathers impregnated the wombs of our mothers, but now they disperse and enter a stage of disorder, only to converge once again in another world or another realm of existence.
The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, and therefore something must happen to the energies inside of us that make us who we are—namely our identity, our memories, and our ancestry. If these elements are energetic, then they must survive the decay of the earthly body and our awareness of this fact upon death will instantly convey to us our own immortality, and the beginning of our own ascension to godhood.
If we are worthy.