Breathe in… and out… etc.

Down the path to the Tree, call Raven. She settles to my shoulder, a smooth, warm weight, and gives a little raven kiss to my ear. We make our way to the Bridge. The plain is dark, but the colors of the Bridge glow. We make our way upward. This time I am walking, and come to the Gate. Heimdall waits, sitting in his straight-backed chair. I offer him a bottle of Lorrie’s homebrewed beer, and he smiles.

“Go on in,” he says. “Tonight the party is at Freyja’s hall.”

My steps slow as we pass the borders of Folkvangr and come to Sessrumnir. In the yard there is a great bonfire. The doors of the hall are open and light streams out from many torches. Everywhere there are people, men and women. Laughing, talking, drinking from the big barrel by the back door. But something is missing. There are no weapons here. Mingling with Freyja’s warriors and maidens I recognize various goddesses and gods.

Over the fire a pig is turning on a spit. On long tables are pies and bread and cheese and some precious fruit and only a little wrinkled root vegetables.

“Eat, and be refreshed,” says a voice at my ear. I turn and go still, recognizing the strong, graceful form of Freyja herself. Her wheat-colored hair is drawn back into a pony tail. She is wearing a green long-sleeved tunic with a gold wool apron dress over it, edged with tablet woven braid threaded with gold. Her eyes are a kind of blue green. Two orange cats rub against her skirts, glaring balefully at those who come too close.

“Be welcome to my hall,” she tells me. Here is music and dancing, conversation. As I watch, she pulls up a shawl of undyed brown wool and wraps it around her. Around her neck gleams amber.

I take a deep breath. “Why is it you who hold the feast this evening?”

“Surely you know the answer—“ she replies. “My runes are Fehu and Gebo. You need the first to buy all those presents. Gebo is the power of exchange. Giving and receiving is the essence of this holiday even among your folk. You give each other presents underneath the Worldtree. You give each other the gift of food and drink and good company. Families draw together, playing, eating, talking as you have been doing this night.

“Hár has good things to say about equality of exchange. But as Gefion, I say that love is better than a strict accounting. Give because you hope the gift will please, not because you have calculated the value of what you received. Moderation is good, but not when it becomes so rigid an accounting that the gift loses meaning. Seek for gifts that bring joy.

“And then make time to relax. Plan time in your festivities when there is no planned activity. Offer possibilities—games, entertainment, but do not require that folk play.”

She turns, smiling as she sees two of her men wrestling in the snow. Presently one goes down, then both rise again, laughing, brushing snow off their garments, and head for the vat of mulling cider. Beyond them dancers are circling the fire to the sound of flute and drum. From the other side of the yard I hear laughter-—jokes are being told there.

“This is Sessrumnir, the many-seated hall. Here I am Gefion, and I offer hospitality to those I love. Whatever your desire, you will find it here, whether it is to make merry or to sit in peace, to drink till the world whirls around you, or to do no more than taste. The offering I wish is the gift of energy and thoughtfulness. Remind your family of this. To be kind to one another can be a greater gift (and harder to give, sometimes), than an expensive thing. But that is sufficient sermon. Remember that the greatest gift is love. I must leave you, but here’s one of my men to escort you.”

“Give what is truly desired”, I think, and meet his smile as he draws me into the dance. There is eating and drinking, but presently I have the sense that the night is passing. Perhaps it is because there are not nearly so many people around the fire, and most of those who are, huddled into cloaks and furs, are talking very quietly. I see Raven, waiting patiently on a branch.

“Time to go home, I guess.” I make my farewells and follow her through the wood and along the path to the gate of Asgard, pass Freyja’s blessing on to Heimdall, cross the Rainbow bridge and through the wood and home….