Too busy cleaning for New Year’s to post until now.
A blue moon, veiled by thin cloud and haloed in rainbows, an evening with only the least of breezes, calm and and still. Moonlight shines in the world within as well. No need for a lantern tonight. I take my dwarven compass from beneath the rocks and find that its dials have their own glow. I hold in my mind the image of the Worldtree, and the familiar path takes me there. Raven is waiting. Together we wing upward and come to the gate.
Heimdall sits beside it, his white garments shining in the pale moonlight. “I watch,” says the god, “But Mani can see even farther than I. When he reaches the other side of Midgard the wolves will catch his chariot and begin to devour it. But here, Mani is safe. He brings peace.”
“Peace is a good thing,” I agree. “I’ve had little of it lately. Is there a peaceful party I can attend?”
Heimdall laughs. “You might say so. This night, the gods feast in Fensalir.”
The road I take is the same as I followed to reach Noatun. My little compass wavers and gleams, and stiffens as I come to a turn off before the town. The way leads across a windswept hillside, where brush nods in the wind off the sea. Beyond, the landscape falls away in long purple-brown slopes to the marshlands, where herons nest among the reeds. Moonlight glitters silver on the patches of open water. Once or twice I hear the cry of a marsh bird, then all is still once more.
My compass swings in that direction, and I follow the path across the hill, pale in the moonlight, and see below me the great house of Fensalir, all grey and silver, weathered shingles and boards. But the front door is a little ajar, and a long shaft of golden light spills across the stairs and the walkway. I pick my way down to the broad, sandy path before the porch. To one side is a pen where Frigga’s prize rams wait to be summoned to draw her cart. In another there is a cow, and in another still, goats.
While Raven flaps off to the kitchen door, I sail down to alight on the front step, in woman’s form I knock upon the door. Syn appears in the opening, light haloing the grey hair that escapes her kerchief and the wool in the natural colored shawl she wears.
“I have been told that your Lady is entertaining this evening. May one more traveler come in?”
“Very prettily said,” says Syn.”But you know that more than entertainment is potential when one visits the gods. Are you willing to listen to what she has to say to you?”
“I will listen to all of you,” I reply.
As Syn opens the door she gives a dry laugh. “I do not think that any mortal has the attention to listen to all of us. But perhaps you will remember the essential information. Pass.”
I cross the mud-room, and see another doorway, covered by a hanging curtain with a woven tapestry of a woman driving a wagon. Here another figure is waiting, young and sweetly rounded, with waving golden hair.
“Lady Lofn,” may I have your permission to come in?”
“That is an easy request to grant.” her voice is as sweet as her face. “It is those who seek permission to marry in your land who I cannot always help as I would wish to.”
“The situation is improving…” I offer weakly.
“Two steps forward and one and a half back—” she replies. “It is a frustrating teaching schedule.” Then she too steps aside.
Before me is the central hall, with the long firepit, and Frigga’s high seat beyond it Tonight the spinning wheel has been pushed to a corner. A long table has been set up at right angles to the fire. here Odin sits with Frigga in the seat of honor. On her other side is Tyr. Idunn is here, and Skadhi and Sif and Gerd, sitting together on the women’s side. The musical flow of their conversation interplays with the men’s deep tones. Women of varying ages move about the hall, each with a kind of family resemblance to Frigga. But their faces shift, so that at one moment they look like her, and then they are quite different.
“There are times when you look like Frigga yourself, you know,” says Lofn as she follows me. There is a little room at the end of the table, and I sit down.
The menu is food of the marshes—fish and waterfowl, and smoked mutton from her own herds, green herbs. The drink is her own home-brewed beer. There are pies and sweetmeats to follow. The dishes are finely made, the tablecloth of fine white linen. In one corner Sjofn is palying a harp. Its music lightens and brightens the air.
As I eat, I watch the maidens, who move along the table, making sure everyone has what they need. Presently all have finished. Though apples and cheese are still passed up and down, the dishes have been taken away. Gradually the murmur of conversation stills. Frigga gets to her feet. She is wearing a shift of snowy pleated linen, her hanging skirt is of pale blue wool, with an embroidered apron. Her shoulders are covered by a shawl woven of heavy wool both warm and soft, heathered in blues and whites and greys.
She speaks. “As we gather here to keep the holy festival, I ask you all a question. Humans make us offerings and ask us to help them. What is it that humankind needs most?”
“Wisdom,” is Odin’s answer. “Love,” says Freyja. Tyr clears his throat, “Law.” “Strength,” offers Thor. “Productivity,” says Freyr.
“And what is your answer, my dear?” Odin asks.
“I think, today, it is patience—“ she replies, “though another day I might answer differently. “But Patience could help them in so many ways. With time, so many difficulties pass away. Patience, not to hurry through their lives, which are short enough already, but to stop from time to time to taste the breeeze and appreciate a flower. All will be accomplished in its proper time. Enjoy what you have.”
Is that a veiled reproof to Odin, constantly seeking new knowledge on his wanderings? He is still smiling. The others are debating the question. The talk continues for awhile longer, but eventually the hour grows late, and the gods say farewell. When they have gone I rise to go as well. Near the door is a table with a tray of cookies on it. “You must take one,” says Lofn.
“What will it do?” I ask apprehensively. I reach out and pick one shaped like the world tree, with a colored candy to represent the position of each world.
“Sweeten your waking and ease your sleep,” says Lofn.”You will see.”
Nibbling on the cookie, I set my compass for home. This time it leads me through the marshes and across the plain of Midgard to the Tree. From here, it is a quick hike through the forest, and I am back on the mountainside. The moon has descended toward the West, but is still large and bright enough that I can easily see my way. I hide the compass, turn and turn again, and opening my eyes I am home.