Downstairs, the house is full of people, talking, eating, drinking, dancing, small children scurrying with apparently endless energy. Soon it will be midnight and no longer 2009. I’ve made a brief escape to see what’s going on in Asgard (and to be truthful, to sit down for awhile).
Breathe in… and out… in…and out again. Let awareness of all the other sounds fade away. Moving within, I seek the mountain, wreathed in mist, all silvered by the moon. Easy, on such a night, to move between the worlds I take my compass and follow the path through the Wood between the Worlds, down through the forest to the Worldtree.
Raven is waiting. “Happy New Year,” I wish her.
“Almost,” she replies. “In your world, the planet turns, night wheels on to morning, but the midnight hour is a point of balance, both here and there. You give it meaning tonight.”
“And what do the gods do?”
“Let us see….”
We take wing and soar above the glimmering, vibrating radiance of Bifrost Bridge, and come to the gates of Asgard. Asgard is ablaze with light. Torches by the gate and along the wall, torches set to mark the paths and the halls.
“Yule is drawing to an end,” says Heimdall. “On this night, Allfather opens his hall. He will welcome you there.”
I take my own form and pass through the gate, following the lighted way upward. The sounds of revelry are coming from the great hall in Gladsheim. The doors are open, and the space between it and Vingolfr lit as well. Here and there are tables laden with every kind of meat and drink, ans cauldrons of ale, and casks of mead. The folk of Asgard move from one place to another. There is music, and some are dancing.
I enter Gladsheim, and see the twelve high seats of the gods. Most of them are not sitting in them, of course. They are mingling with the other guests, for each Power has brought his household with him.
But Odin is there. He leans on one elbow, surveying the scene. Huginn and Muninn perch on the high back of his seat. They lift their heads and ruffle a little as they see the raven on my shoulder. She calls once, and they subside. But this has attracted their master’s attention. He catches my eye, and though I had intended to find a seat in a corner and observe, I come forward.
“Hail, Allfather, Hail Vegtamr, Hail Oski—“ I say.
“All true,” he replies, “but the last is the one I like to hear, at least just now. “The Hunt does not ride tonight. This is a holy time, between the years. We gather our folk as you gather yours, to celebrate our survival. Ragnarok will come, but that day is not this day. Rejoice with us—“ he holds out his horn.
I take it. It’s a lovely thing, with a silver rim and point-cap, carved all over with gripping beasts. The mead it holds is just at that liminal point between sweet and dry, fulfilling the promise of sweetness, but with a kick to it.
Liminal… Like this night.
“Last night you said you valued wisdom,” I say then. “What wisdom do you have for me?”
“I would say, believe in all possibilities, but depend only on certainties. That way you will never be disappointed. Be open to new things, but base your practice on what is tried and true. Balance. This is a good time of year to consider that. Old year, new year—a construct, but a useful one. More telling is the turn of the seasons. A season of reflection that prepares for action…. For a time the weather will remain cold. Use it to look inward.
“Your New Year’s resolutions—-or are they a ‘firm plan’?– are good enough, as far as they go, but they are surface things that you would do in any case. To list them is not to swear a holy oath, or to seek a point of contemplation that can pierce the soul.
“Look at your life. What do you value most? What tests you? Choose a thing, possibly enjoyable, but challenging, and arrange (with my support) to do something that tests your boundaries. Age is no excuse. I am far older, and still I wander in search of new things. Is that enough wisdom for you?” he laughs.
“Thank you, I think,” I reply, and he laughs again. Time has passed, and the noise from outside has diminished. Now it is only a few small groups sitting and talking. Many have gone home. “It is time for me to go—“
“Go then. You know that I will be with you—“
“Yes. You always are.” As I make my way out of his hall, I can still hear his laughter. Many of the torches have burned away, but I can see my way back to the gate. I take raven form again and we wing back down to the base of the Tree.
From there through the forest and back to the mountainside. The moon is low now, sinking towrd the sea. Definitely time for my own home and bed. I straighten my aching back and open my eyes.