What is the meaning of Til Valhalla? Marines use of Norse myth explored

Eve Edwards August 28, 2021
Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

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If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you will have definitely come across Valhalla. Originating in Norse mythology, Valhalla plays a central role in Thor’s story, as a legendary hall in Asgard.

Valhalla has also taken on significance within the US Marines.

Following the death of eleven Marines in Afghanistan, killed in the line of duty at Hamid Karzai International Airport on 26 August 2021, tributes have been paid to those who gave their lives in service.

Some of these tributes have included the phrase “til’ Valhalla.” Let’s revisit the significance of this phrase and its meaning in the Marines.

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Photo by Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

What is Valhalla?

Valhalla comes from the old Norse Valhöll, meaning “hall of slain warriors.” In Norse mythology, the fate of those who die in combat is decided by the god Odin. Half of those who die are sent to Valhalla, the other half are sent to goddess Freyja’s field Fólkvangr.

Those who are sent to Valhalla are lead by the Valkyries – Thor: Ragnarok fans will know just who we are talking about.

Valhalla is thus generally known as the resting place for great combat heroes and legendary figures alike. They fight every day and feast every night, preparing for Ragnarok, when they will be summoned to assist Odin.

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Til Valhalla’s meaning in the Marines

Til Valhalla is abbreviated from ‘until Valhalla’. It is said among soldiers to mean “until we meet again in Valhalla.”

As the Til Valhalla Project – a veteran-run organisation – explains: “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.”

To the Marines who have recently lost their lives in Afghanistan, tributes have read: “Semper Fi… till Valhalla.”

And what about the history?

Given that Valhalla originates in Norse mythology, it is hard to pinpoint the start of its usage in military jargon.

One theory is that the phrase “Til Valhalla” was popularised in the US Marines in Afghanistan. They suggest that it was the Norwegian Telemark Battalion, professional military forces assisting NATO allies, who popularised the phrase. “Til Valhall!” was purportedly their unofficial slogan.

Wherever the phrase may come from, its meaning is generally regarded as the same the world over. It is used to honour those who have given their lives in combat.

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Eve spends her days writing about everything culture-related. From celebrity news to music, film and television, Eve covers all bases. When she’s not writing you can find her making music or mastering the art of homemade pasta.