Death, Faith, Heathen, Uncategorized

Noir

A little Halloween story, a Samhain sampling, or a little Noir to colour the shadows this winterfinding.  This story is not mine, for it was born from myself and Kat Kerns.  Neither one of us is sure how much the story told itself, so neither one of us takes much credit for it.

How it began:

Soundly asleep then instantly awake, but not knowing why. The clock reads 2:00 am; the house is silent except for the ever present dripping of the leaky faucet in the bathroom. ‘Why am I awake’ I thought to myself. My mind was alert to every sound and shift of shadow, my heart beating quickly out of time but not afraid. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t alone, not that I could see anyone in the darkened room, but I could feel a presence… instead of racing faster my heart beat calmed.

I felt strangely safe even though I knew I shouldn’t. Who could be in my house, in my room, and why wasn’t I afraid? I sat up in bed and turned on the lamp on the night stand. Looking across my room I saw…

Bogart smoking                                                            *

I don’t know how long it had been this time.  When your dead, time doesn’t matter that much.  I got plugged back in ’32, that was OK.  You cross some lines you have to figure there’s going to be a cost.  A dame gets involved and suddenly you start breaking your own rules, people get hurt.  Dead hurt.  I fixed it back then; but not before the kid got caught up in it.  One innocent, and a whole bunch of mooks who probably had it coming.  Like I did.  Somebody was keeping score though, ’cause it didn’t end when I died.

It was 43 when I got brought back first I think……..that little wop kid getting a bum rap because he had the wrong accent when they needed to hang an ugly wrap that came from one of the country club set.  Last time was what 93, the old broad who thought she was losing it because she could see me.  She couldn’t see her kid putting the squeeze on her loot, or selling her meds on the street.

He took a long drag on his smoke, pulling it deep into his lungs.  The cherry on the end burned in the night like a red eye.  Ghost smoke into ghost lungs.  The broad on the bed turned and looked right at him, and turned on the light.  He put out the smoke on the wall, noting it didn’t leave a mark.  Ghost smokes don’t leave marks.  Neither did he.  Or at least, not enough to erase the mark he made when he was alive.

He waited for the screams to start, or looking at the bottle from last night to figure out where the ghost crawled out of.  He hated this part.  Funny how nobody wants to listen to the dead they called back.  It’s not like he chose to be here.  That’s a lie.  He smiled, cold and hard.  I made my choice a long time ago.  Every drinker knows, no matter what’s your poison, the bill comes due at the end of the night.  It’s a long night when you’re dead.

Time to find out what this dame’s story was.  He didn’t always get it right, sometimes they still died.  He didn’t know how many times he had to get it right before he would get to rest.  Not a lot else to do when your dead.  She didn’t seem to be screaming.  Maybe this one would listen long enough to stay alive.

*

The spectral man seemed to be waiting for me to do something… perhaps scream or faint, not sure. He seemed surprised when I just watched him calmly. He looked vaguely familiar, like I should know him from somewhere. Perhaps he simply reminded me of someone I knew once or something. I took a moment to asses him, he had all the marks of a hard life when he’d been alive; at least I assumed he did. Not knowing how death worked, I really couldn’t say. Part of me knew I should be freaking out or questioning my sanity, but for some reason the only thing the spirit inspired in me was a sense of safety and calm, I knew somehow that he wasn’t here to hurt me.

Perhaps it was his eyes that inspired that, they had the look of a man resigned to his fate tinged with a touch of sadness. He put on a strong front as he drew on a spectral cigarette before putting it out against my wall; I was more than a little bit relieved to see that it didn’t leave a burn mark. They were always so hard to remove, I’d learned that well enough from an ex boyfriend who had been nothing but trouble when we were together and for a time even more trouble when we broke up. I still don’t know what it was I saw in him to begin with; maybe it was the challenge of the bad boy that many women make the mistake of assuming they can change, or perhaps pure masochism on my part. Whatever it had been, it was bad from beginning to end and I was well quit of him. I decided to say something maybe find out what he was here for, I was sure the spirit had a reason for being here; he didn’t seem the type to just be wandering through randomly. It was like I knew that he had a message of some sort, or perhaps he simply needed my help.

“Um… hello?” I said hoping that we could actually communicate.

*

The broad wasn’t freaking out like most of them did.  Wasn’t just sitting their giggling like that twin in 73; she never got straight long enough from the junk she was on to realize what was up.  It wasn’t hard watching that one go.   I watched a lot of people go in the Great War, and a few when I came back and worked as a cop.  Only a few more when I started work as a private dick, but one of those was her.  Angie.  The one I screwed up. The reason I’m here.

This girl looked smart, he could work with that.  She didn’t look scared though.  That was bad.  He may not have figured out much about why he kept coming back, but he knew that he only came back for kids on the edge of getting whacked.  Innocents like Angie.  No bottle this time, and no blonde; no chance to screw it up.

Sometimes they got in deep with the wrong people.  Sometimes it was family, and that got real ugly.  Sometimes it was love; god knows love is what screwed him up bad enough to let Angie get killed.  Even dead, that one won’t let him go.

This girl didn’t have the look; didn’t look hunted or scared.  That was bad.  She had no idea what was coming for her, and couldn’t tell me.  I pulled my .45 and checked the clip; five rounds, always five.  It begins again the same.

The girl pulled the blanket up when I pulled my gat, but still didn’t look scared.  She should be.  I only had one chance to get it right, last chance was all I ever got.

Memory gets bad towards the end, the things you try not to bring with you.  I remember the endings.  The blonde comes again, when I lose, she spits on me.  When I win she kisses me.  Funny, when she kissed me for real, I lost it all.  I lost Angie.  The dark one comes, her I know.  Half her face rotted and rat chewed, like the guys the shells dug out and tossed back in the trenches, all swollen up and bursting.  Half her face pale, cold, and hard.  A smile like the cocked hammer of my .45.  Then the dark.  Always the dark.

I walked forward into the light, no shadows for me I guess, since I’m not much more than one myself.  It was time to talk.  Probably too late, I was usually too late.  Two rounds wasted one bottle and one girl gone.

“What’s your story kid?  Who wants you dead?”

I lit another cigarette and took a drag, the smoke pulled deep and held, as I looked for her response.  Surprise.  Huh.  Always hard when you didn’t see it coming.

“Nothing personal toots, but if you see me, you got maybe an hour before somebody gets dead.  And right now, the smart money is still on you.”

I blew a long trail of smoke into the lamp light, and I laughed gently.

“But I always bet the wrong way, and sometimes win”

My smile used to do the trick.  Calmed the guys in the trenches calmed the cops on the scene who were turning green over their first corpse.  It never worked on dames though.  Of course, I never got that part right.  Even dead.

***

Dead? Someone wanted me dead, and this spirit was here to warn me. The gun he’d pulled out had startled me a bit, but I still didn’t think he was here to hurt me, but asking me who wanted me dead, that was totally unexpected. To the best of my knowledge no one wanted me dead. I mean the only person I could even think of who might even be angry with me was Joey, I mean he did take the break up hard and I had to get a restraining order, but I couldn’t imagine him actually wanting me dead because of it… could I?

Well, there was no way to be sure, if this spirit was here to warn me of my impending potential death then I had best figure out what to do about it. From the sound of things, he felt there might be a chance for me to survive so I’d better work quickly. Did he know the nature of the threat; was it personal, could it be accidental? All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t about to just sit in bed and let it happen. My mother didn’t raise a fool; she made sure that if her baby girl got herself into trouble she was strong enough to get herself out of it. I nodded my understanding to the shade, and got out of bed. Moving to my dresser I started pulling clothes out, I wasn’t going to face whatever was coming in my freaking nightgown. I paused only momentarily to glance at the spirit, but than continued to get dressed. He’d mentioned an hour at most, now was no time for modesty. Fully dressed in a tee shirt and jeans, I pulled my hair back into a pony tail to keep it out of my face and moved to my closet. I found myself very glad that my parents had seen fit to teach me how to shoot as I opened the gun safe and took out my 9mm glock. For a moment I considered grabbing my fathers .357 magnum but I wanted something light just in case. Who knew what I was going to be up against. Speed and maneuverability might be my saving grace. I made sure it was loaded with a round chambered and put a couple of extra clips in my pocket just to be sure.

I decided to grab my hiking boots and put them on, who knew if I was going to need to make a run for it. I was still unnaturally calm through all of this; well maybe I would fall apart later if I made it through the rest of the night. Once again I turned to look at the spirit, harbinger of doom or saving angel, didn’t matter, I was going to take full advantage of this warning. I for one was not ready to die this night.

“Okay, now what?” I asked him.

*

She said she didn’t have a clue who would want her dead, but her eyes said she was lying. She picked up a cannon, and put it back in favor of some boxy piece that looked like someone took my .45 and squashed it down to half size. She stripped the clip and checked it, chambering and safing what looked like about a 9mm like she knew what she was doing.  This dame had her head straight.  I might save her, like I should have saved Angie.

“Hey toots, how about you roll up that sleeping bag in the closet, and put it under your covers like you was still asleep”

The closet was beside the door, anyone sitting in it would see the bed, but the door was out of sight. To get a shot at the bed, you would have to step around the walk in closet, with your back to it.

“Sit yourself here in the closet. I will let you know when somebody comes through the door.  If they start shooting at the bed, don’t blow smoke asking stupid questions, you plug them hard and fast until they drop. If they look like they are turning to face you, plug ’em again”

The kid looked green, like it was sinking in, but she checked the safety, and worked it to make sure it broke clean. Her face went flat, like newbie’s usually did, faking cool until they bought it themselves. I saw that a lot in the trenches, and on the force. Sometimes I saw it in the mirror, or the bottom of a bottle.

It must of been about twenty minutes, but the sweat off the girl showed she felt it like hours. I forget how much the waiting gets to you, when your dead, some things just get easier.

I heard the back door open. I slipped into the hall to see a young guy pull a key from the lock.  Huh.  He had a key. With dames it was usually the things they didn’t want to talk about that got them killed. It was usually the one they would swear could never hurt them, but they were trying real hard to get away from because their brain read things clearer than their heart.

He pulled a gat of his own. Some shiny chrome job bigger than my Colt 1911. Maybe he thought he was hunting bear, because that was a lot of gun for a sleeping broad.  Of course, it wasn’t going to be enough. Not this time. He ghosted back to the closet.

“Show time doll. One guy, one gun. Coming quiet. You don’t make a sound until he makes his play. Then you shoot.  Don’t talk, don’t think, and don’t die!”

I gave her the hard stare, if she was going to freeze, I had to know. You can’t tell sometimes, until the time comes, whose got the steel to finish, and whose going to fold… Her lips went white; her breathing got deep, but slowed down.  Her thumb slowly pushed the gun off safe. Well now.  I’ve seen worse. I winked at her, and faded back by the bed.

Her left hand gripped her necklace, some kind of half cross or upside down hammer. Her right was at shoulder height, ready to bring her piece down on target.

The jackass came through the door screaming. I cleared my piece, even thought I can’t touch the living. Reflex I guess. Any surprise he would have had was gone. He lowered that cannon and started to blast.

Five shots rang like trip hammers. Three sounded like shotgun blasts, the cannon jumping in jackasses hand like a scared rabbit. He put a hole about chest level in the woman shape under the covers, then another in the pillow beside where her head would lay, then at the top of her headboard.  Whatever that cannon was, he couldn’t control it, anymore than he could control his screaming. The last two shots were sharp cracks, as the muzzle flash from the doll’s little gun snapped out a sharp double tap, and jackass hit the floor.

“Nobody leaves me, you bitch!” Joey screamed as he came in the door. Unloading his Desert Eagle and his hate towards the girl who dared to leave him.  He blasted out three times before he felt something hit him, and he fell to the floor.

He struggled to roll over, and saw her. That little bitch!  The one who left him, the one who had the balls to send the Sheriffs to serve him at work with a restraining order, as if it was up to her when it was over.  His chest was cold, and his legs were weak, but he snarled as he raised his Eagle towards his woman, HIS woman, whatever anyone said.

Joey heard a cold voice say “Finish it sister, this kid isn’t stopping”.

Joey looked into those eyes that used to look at him with love, and the ones he taught to look at him with fear, but this time they were flat, cold, and looking back in the moonlight on either side of the glowing sights of her Glock. Two more shots rang out, and he heard his pistol hit the floor.  He couldn’t feel it.  He couldn’t feel anything.

“Joey” the dame said, and then started to cry.  Let the kid cry. She had earned it.  He felt the end coming, they were coming again.  They always did.

Joey came out of his body, and reached for his gun. You could do that if you hated enough. I did.

“This isn’t over” Joey sobbed as he picked up his gun, and raised it towards his loved/hated ex.  “This will never be over!”  he screamed.

“Hey bub” rang a cold voice, edged with cruelty
“You want to bet on that”

Noir gun

He spun to face the trench coated figure shining moonlight silver in the darkness, but thunder spoke, and a hammer took him in the knee.

“My gun can’t touch the living any more, but you should see what it does to the dead”

“You could have let it go buddy, you could have let her go and lived”

The gun spoke again, and Joey screamed.

“Both legs-you will never rise, never walk”

Twice more the gun spoke, and Joeys shoulders were slammed to the floor.

“Both arms-you will not raise them to another woman”

Joey started to beg now; he was almost out of time.  They both were.

The grim ghost looked down, his eyes shaded by his fedora. The muzzle of the .45 looked like a train tunnel, as the smoke from the first four rounds puffed like a dragon’s breath around its muzzle.

“And your head, because I’m tired of listening to you”

Joey faded into silence.  A roughly man shaped pool of silver in the darkness, without form, without movement, without hope.

“Your choice to be stupid, my choice who lives”

He looked at the locked slide on his pistol, and released it. Slapping its empty form back into its holster, he turned to face what was coming.  He lit a cigarette and sucked deep on it.  He knew what was coming, If he could have run, he would.  It hurt too much to remember, except at the end.

From the moonlight came her. Shining the blonde came. Angie’s mother. I wished I died this time first. Sometimes when I failed, I ate my gun before they came, and missed this part. Sometimes I wished I had failed at this point.  Five rounds, that’s all I had at the end.

Noir blond

She was smiling, the way she was when she fed me the spiked booze, and left me passed out while she handed her kid back over to the monster that paid for her, the one whose guys I took her from in the first place.

The kid’s grandmother paid me to track Angie down, and I did. Two knuckle draggers for hire had grabbed her and were holding her at a hotel.  Neither one was willing to face a drawn pistol for the money they were getting.  Bottom feeders, not the kind that came back from war, or came up through the gangs.

I brought her back to the mother. The blonde.  Her face was hard and cold when I brought her back, and she told Angie to go to her room while she made a phone call. I cooled my heels in the living room while she made the call. When she came back she was all smiles, and brought a drink. Her blouse was unbuttoned enough to really distract me, and I never turned down good booze.

I never had much luck with broads and none with ones as hot as this one.  I tried to play it cool, but my brain shut off as she ran her hands on my chest, and told me to finish my drink.

When I came to, I was passed out in the chair with a headache.  Angie was gone, her mother too.  I staggered to the girl’s room; it looked like a fight happened.  Angie was a fighter, she didn’t go easy.  I saw a button on the ground.  Her mothers.  Her mothers.

Played like a fool.  Her mother sold her, just like the last time.  Two mooks too scared to face me didn’t snatch the kid themselves, they got her drugged unconscious by her mother, only this time she used it on me.

Booze and broads, I never could turn them down, and this time a kid was paying. Angie.

I called the operator, gave them my old badge number, and got the last number called. Lassiter. Old man Lassiter.

Lassiter was old money, bought judges and congressmen out of petty cash, and was untouchable. We all knew about him, and the rumors about his tastes. Nobody ever linked him directly to the bodies; nobody ever looked that hard, or were warned off. Nobody ever went after him.

I rubbed my head and my eyes fell upon the bottle. Well, I guess I just proved I was a nobody, a real chump.

I cleared my pistol and blasted the bottle and glass. Two rounds out of seven spent.  Five left.

“Angie baby, I swear I’m going to get you back, Hell take anybody who gets in the way”

My Ford weaved all over the road as I shook off the Mickey Finn. I clipped a mirror on the gate post on the way in, and went through the shrubs on his pretty lawn.

I came up the stairs at a run, Colt in my fist.

Two guards were at the door and reached for me. Amateurs. I didn’t waste a bullet on either of them. I knocked mustache boy’s coconut off the door post, and pistol whipped the second mook.  I didn’t slow down. You crossed the wire at the run, and didn’t stop until you hit the opposite trench. Slow was dead. Dead was OK, but only after I finished. Only I after I saved Angie.

I hit the stairs at the run; there was a butler in a stupid costume. He clawed at a piece behind his back. The stupid suit made him slow, my .45 made him stop forever.  Four left.

Another stood at the top of the stairs, and got off two shots of his own. One hit my chest, I felt cold, but it wasn’t enough.  It threw off my aim, and my return splashed his throat into a red mess. Three left.

I came through the door, and there she was. Angie’s mom, her purse was grasped in her hand, and she shot a look at the bedroom door.  I heard a little girl screaming, and the wet slap of a man’s hand stopped it.  I put a bullet just above those sweet red lips. Couldn’t let her speak, they made a fool of me before, and I may already be too late.  Two left.

I hit the door, kicking beside the lock, not with my shoulders because the movies got it wrong.  My vision was starting to grey out, not a good sign. Did I have enough time?  I would have to.

Lassiter was kneeling over Angie. His pants were down, and he had his hands at her throat. I put a bullet in his spine, but the old bastard got up again.

I was on the ground, I didn’t notice falling.  It was cold, and my vision was graying out. Not good. The old bastard raised himself up, and reached for the girl again, I put my last round through is temple, and blew his brains all over the antique bed drapes.

I couldn’t move now.  I heard the screams of the mansion staff, heard soft sobbing from somewhere.

“I didn’t make it Angie, I let you down.  I swear I’ll make it right”

From the shadows of the bed came two figures, one was a horror, half her face bloated and rotten, half cold and beautiful.  Both her eyes were hungry as they looked at me. You see strange things at the end.  I looked away from her, and there she was, the blonde; Angie’s mom, the vision of beauty seemed to have gotten over the slug through the skull, and was smiling at me too.  I shut my eyes.  Some things I just couldn’t face.

“Mine” said the blonde.

“Not yet” said the two faced horror.

Hella

It was a mercy when the dark came. It never lasted, but I welcomed it at the end.

It was the new dame that shattered the memory. She turned to my specters as if she saw them too, and shouted two names

“Hella!”  She said raising her arm in salute to the dark one, her eyes unafraid as she took in the two faces of the cold dark.  The dark one nodded in return.

“Freya” she said saluting the blonde.  That wasn’t Angie’s mother’s name, but the blonde laughed and nodded in return.

This had never happened.  Not even I knew who they were; just that they came for me, at the end.  Nobody saw them but me.

Who was this girl, and how did she know his specters?

*

It was hard to think, standing over the body of her dead ex, but the shock of the killing was nothing compared to the coming of the goddesses. Hel was cold, her presence deep in ways that spoke of the mound, of eternity. Her coming swept away shock and fear, for hers was a presence that anchored deep in the roots of the earth, and beyond.

At her glance, the silver pool that was the sundered essence of her attempted killer sunk into the floor, and the slight smile on her face was like moonlight on a bared blade. The look she turned upon her defender, the trench-coat clad ghost was softer; if not kind, then at least understanding. When she looked at how her specter faced the keeper of the dead, she was shocked to see him flinch, not from the half-corpse grave-queen, but from the Goddess of Love.

Freya was hard to look upon, her light was bright, not as sunlight, but as fire; amber and gold. Her beauty was vibrant, wild and fierce; even still she had the quality of dance, as if she was but a frozen moment between frenzied steps.  Her gaze upon the ghost was warm. In those eyes shone understanding, love, and a fierce possessive desire. Not the desire of a lover, so much as the desire to possess, the need to have something discovered.

Her specter turned on trembling legs of ghost-silver away from the shining light of Freya, and towards the corpse-queen’s dark. At last Freya’s gaze fell upon her, and the goddess spoke.

“Kitten, would you know why he flees me? Would you know what he sees?”

I nodded; I could not speak under that gaze.

“Then see his memories, look at the things he won’t see. He has earned more than he allows himself. He has won more than the task he sets himself. There is a place for him in other halls than the mound”

Freya looked at the specter with sad eyes.

“For him I wear the face of she he first saved, but he sees only the mother. His generation had forgotten us, many won great worth, but even some of those were lost, and need a guide to find their way home”

Those last words fell upon me like a great weight. As her eyes met mine, I saw the visions that haunted, that trapped my specter. As he lay dying upon the ground, I saw a young girl, shining golden with the promise of beauty to come, rush to his side, and weeping, close his eyes. When the police came, she told them weeping, of his heroism. She heard the echo of a name….Angie.

He didn’t know! He had been condemning himself for generations for failing her, but he didn’t fail. He was not running from the woman he killed (she shuddered at the thought of a mother selling her child to that fate), but from the child he saved!

A gift for a gift she thought, looking at the bullet holes in her bed; she had been given the gift of life. She looked at her ghost, the haunted look in her haunts own eyes. She owed a life, and but how was she to pay it back. She looked at Hel, and for the living to meet that dread gaze was harder than looking down the barrel of her pistol at her former lover. Turning from the light, to face the silver shadow in the heart of the dark, Kat turned to face Hella.

As she met the gaze of the two faced queen, Hel turned the corpse face she showed the living. Staring at the corpse bloat, and milky eye of the keeper of the dead, Kat steeled herself and met Hel’s gaze.

“Great Hel, I beg a question”

Hel turned her maiden face to the hard faced ghost, fumbling to light a cigarette for whatever comfort it offered the dead. A soft smile touched the Keeper of Silence, and she asked a question in a voice that was soft as a lullaby.

“For the champion?”

Freed to speak when the Dread Queen turned to look at the smoking specter, Kat mumbled her assent.

“He is not mine to keep. He will not rest.  Those that are mine know rest, an end to strife, He flees to me, and I wrap him in my darkness, but always the call will come, and his guns and wrath, not my arms, will hold him.”

The Keeper of the Dead turned her corpse face to the living once more and spoke her last.

“He is not mine to keep.”

It was times like this the sagas had great words from inspired poets. Too bad she was standing in her closet in her pajamas, standing over a body, looking at two goddesses, and trying to save a ghost. Sadly, this did not make for poetry.

“Shit” said Kat.  She stripped the mag from her pistol, clearing and safing it. Checking the chamber was clear; she worked the slide lock and put down the empty gun.  It was time to finish things; she thought she heard sirens already.

Quick and dirty heathen 101 or ghost intervention.  It was now or never.

“A gift for a gift” she said. “I don’t have a lot of time, the police are coming, but there is something you need to know.”

*

The darkness was lapping around me now, the cold black promise of oblivion, the chance to forget. I could feel the blonde behind me, feel her calling to me. One day I might be weak enough to give in, I gave in once, and Angie died. I died too; but I couldn’t even get that right. I turned to the dark lady again, her smile was cold and hard as a drawn knife, she knew me, and she knew what came next. The cold, the silence………the call again.

“Shit”, the dame I saved had a mouth on her like a platoon sergeant, but she shot straight, and didn’t flinch, so I guess she was alright. She said she had something I needed to know, but she was wrong. Stuff only mattered to the living; it only mattered until you got the big one wrong, then you were screwed for life. Or death in my case. You screwed up the big one, you paid and paid, and even a bullet couldn’t get you out.

I smiled, the darkness was drawing back. The dark lady wanted me to listen, and I guess the kid earned a minute. Being dead, my time got cheaper than a plug nickel.

“You never remember the end” she said.

No kidding. I got played for a sucker, and Angie died. I got the broad that sold her and the fat cat who bought her. The torpedoes didn’t count; they were nothing, so was I.  I didn’t save Angie, and even if I got it right a few times, I failed when it counted, I failed when I died, because so did she.

The sirens were getting closer, the kid seemed desperate. She stepped away from her gun, and looked like she wanted to slap me. I get that a lot, or did when I had a body to slap.

“No, you idiot!”  Kid had a silver tongue alright. He chuckled, but the kid had her motor running and shifted gears like she had places to go.

“You died, but she didn’t.  The crying you heard was Angie, she lived. She was crying and closing your eyes when the police got there. That’s not her mother’s face you see behind you, that’s Angie when she grew up.”

The dark lady looked sad; her eyes were almost soft as she nodded. Eyes like that couldn’t lie; they never tried.  Death didn’t cheat; she was the one unbroken promise. He didn’t know much, but he knew that.

The sirens grew loud, as they did that night when he was fading out. He heard then from a child, what he heard now from the blonde, so beautiful it hurt, so bright she burned.

“You came back for me. I knew you would. You are a hero. There is a place for heroes.  My lady keeps it. You don’t have to go into the dark. You can come  again when you are called”

The kid seemed to understand.  I didn’t. I turned to her, because she played it straight so far, and I wasn’t trusting myself to think, not with her in front of me.

“Go with her.”  The dame was smiling and crying the way only dames could.
“Freya’s hall is for heroes and lovers”

I looked at the empty clip in my 45 and the spot the ghost died again and laughed.

“I ain’t a hero, doll face.  And if there is a bigger fool at love than me, I never met him”

My voice turned hard and cold, I knew how it played out. How it always played out.

“Out of bullets, out of time. Now the dark comes”

A golden laugh lit the darkness, and I felt the shiver run up my spine like the caresses you dream about, but never know. My gun grew heavy in my hand; I stripped the clip and counted. One, two, three…….seven? NO!  I wasted two, and since I died, I only had five left, like when I tried to save her. Seven slugs looked back at me, and I looked up to three smiles.

The kid was crying, the dark one nodded and turned away, and ……Angie took my arm. I felt a rush, like blood and fire pour through me, like a living man, like whiskey and a first kiss, and dawn after a night of war. I looked down at the ghost of my arm, and saw it fade.

***

Kat watched Hel turn away, and the amber tones of life fill the bone white hollows of the dead man’s face with life. Love hid behind walls of fear in his eyes, but wonder made him look at Angie, and see love shining back in return.

A gift for a gift, a life for a life.

Standing alone in a room with no ghosts and a single dead body, she heard the police come in and she began to laugh. This was actually going to be the easy part of her evening. Tears streaking her face, she sat back in the closet to wait. There had been enough truth for the evening. Her ghost prepped her for the coppers, and a little damsel in distress beat the hell out of telling the local flat-feet about goddesses and ghosts. Gods, now he had her talking like that. Next thing you knew, she would be smoking……

 

By Kat Kerns and John T Mainer

Previously published in

They Walk With Us

All proceeds donated to The Troth.

 

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Aesir, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

The Bet: Does love or gold rule the hearts of women?

 

One morning Freya had been listening to a translation of the newly recovered Hamaval.  In particular she was listening without amusement to Odin’s words on the fickleness of women.  Her ire aroused, the passionate Vanir confronted the one-eyed wanderer and took him to task.

“Your one eye has blinded you, old fool”  Freya shouted with her famous passion “It is the passion of love, not of gold that moves women.  Perhaps in your dotage you meet only those women whose affections YOU must buy.”

As all of Asgard prepared for the second round of their most famous war, the Wise Counsellor laughed deeply and long, his great white beard shaking in mirth.  Odin offered the golden goddess a challenge:

“I will wager a hundred heroes from my hall, that any woman we agree on will chose for gold over passion in the end.”

“Agreed!” Shouted Freya, “No magic from you or I shall sway this, let it only be mortal choice that holds the day.  You may speak only to the couple, nor may you set any other against them, and I will agree to the same”

The couple they agreed upon was an uptight young English woman of good family.  Her name was ancient, and her fortunes vast.  Possessed of a rare beauty and poise, she was much sought after by suitors, as there was no family lord from whom her hand could be bartered, she was free to choose.

Edwardian lady holding white cat, ca. 1920s:

Odin the victory father was watching the young lass (Cassiopeia) carefully.  She doted upon the cats that she kept, and once tossed out a young man for scaring one.  She rode often to the hunt with flare, and kept only the finest blood stock, and mocked other riders who had lesser mounts or lesser skill.  The suitors that surrounded her were the height of fashion, wearing only the best, eating only the rarest and most fashionable of dishes.  Odin saw all of this, and cast his plan.

Freya goddess of passion and magic saw with other eyes a woman surrounded by men obsessed with petty pursuits, elaborately bored with life, and obsessed with the games of social status.  She smiled casting her own plans.

Jonathan was the third son of an ancient family.  Sent to the new world to pursue his fortune, it was expected that the eager but not overly bright lad would take his remittance and stay gone, but to everyone’s shock he succeeded in mining in the Yukon, winning for himself much gold and renown, and returning to a somewhat shocked and bemused family.

Frontiersman II

 

Lacking guile utterly, and with the friendly eagerness of a puppy rather than the elaborate courtesy of the court, he had been corrupted by the loose frontier ways and lost most of his early graces.  His family despaired at finding a match for him, and so set for him the impossible task of Cassiopeia, whose wealth and grace were such that she would swiftly and gently send the half wild boy home to consider more modest prospects.

He began the courting journey sitting upon a well bred horse that he rode poorly; having spent the last years with mules and donkeys rather than high bred horses.  Wrapped in the latest fashions, he held a roll of large nuggets from his claim tucked in belt, and a thick wad of paper money in his tunic.

As he rode, he came upon an old man at the side of the road leading two of the most beautiful donkeys he had ever seen.  He stopped and asked the old man where he came by such beautiful beasts, and the old one eyed gent advised him:

“Only a fool would risk a great lady on a stupid and flighty horse, when a good solid donkey is available.  These fine donkeys are the finest breeding pair in all of Britain, and I bring them to London to trade for a stallion.”

Jonathan saw his opportunity and offered to trade his flighty and overbred stallion for the two donkeys, and began his ride to London.   Everywhere he rode, men and women pointed at him, and he just knew they wished they could be rid of the overbred horses and ride big eared sturdy donkey like he and his wife to be would.

As he rode further into town he saw an old man with selling meat pies.  The smell made his mouth water, and he stopped to buy one.  The taste was like nothing of this world!  He begged of the old man what was this meat, and the old man swore it was cat.  The old man said the Lady Cassiopeia was famed for her cat, but few enough men would eat it, let alone ask for it.  Jonathan swore right then he would be the first!  Riding away, he began to wonder what plague it was that left so many old men with but one eye!

Coming upon an old man standing bare chested in the street, giving his clothes to the poor, Jonathan asked what the old man did.  The old man replied that Lady Cassiopeia had said no thing spoke better of a wealthy man than giving the shirt of his back to the poor, after all they were rich enough to replace it a hundred times!  Jonathan thought Cassiopeia was the best among women, and right then gave his fine coat and shirt, and damnable riding breaches to the poor, determined to out do the other suitors.  Besides, after years of working the gold fields, he was unused to tight clothes and heat, and his massive muscles did poorly in the tight clothes of modern England.

Sure that victory was his, Odin looked in to see how Freya fared.

Freya sat beside Cassiopeia, wearing the guise of a widowed aunt.  Cassiopeia looked at the delicate men picking at the feast, sipping wine delicately while picking daintily at the food, each piece carved to be an artwork itself.  The men talked of the hunt, politics, gossip, and ignored her completely when not competing with each other to out compliment her.  With each she dueled with words and gestures, each weighed for effect in a play more elaborate than any stage, each calculated and bloodless as any card or board-game, with points won and lost in high societies game of status.

Freya whispered to Cassiopeia,

“Do you ever dream of the days when half naked barbarians would sweep in and sweep up a woman not because of her land, or horses, or wealth.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a man who wanted to spend the time with you, not riding to hunt, or playing at cards?   The suitors here all seem soft of hands, without a drop of passion in them, hardly the sort to rip a bodice, nor strong enough to carry a woman off without at least two servants for lifting.”  Cassiopeia just sighed deeply.

Jonathan approached the fine mannor and laughed to see the poor fools had all come in carriages, with not a single donkey among them!  Lace and waist coats seemed the order of the day, and they seemed to be eating pastries. Clearly they knew nothing of women!  Determined to make a good impression he rode his donkeys up the stairs and into the courtyard, hearing the amazed gasps at his entrance.  Seeing Cassiopeia in all her loveliness standing proud and imperious at the head of the table, he slid off his donkey and spread his wide well muscled arms and smiled.

Cassiopeia stared transfixed as her suitors and guests gasped at the heavily muscled tanned gold bearded savage standing in a breach-cloth between the two snow white donkeys.  Her eyes travelled his smiling face, down his tanned and sweaty rock hard chest and to his, frankly, hugely bulging breach clout and gasped.

Seeing she was taken by the obviously fine donkeys, he proclaimed their strength and endurance that she know they were not just pretty, for he was a fine judge of donkeys.
“I swear if you take me as husband, I will ride that ass all day, and still have strength to ride all night”

The men gasped, and some of the maidens swooned; Cassiopeia felt her heart beat faster

Gesturing to the pâté, goose, quail, and beef on the heavy tables, Jonathan remembered the old man’s words about her pride in the cat she served, and the generosity she sought in her men.  Boasting proudly he proclaimed:

“Marry me, and I swear I will eat nothing buy your sweet pussy for the whole honey-moon. I have given my clothes to the beggars in the streets, for with you I will not need them!”

Knowing that women have practical needs, and well pleased with his success in the gold fields, he slapped his breach clout where his rolled up deer-hide held his heavy gold nuggets, and gave it a tug, as frankly the sight of Cassiopeia was making it a bit tight!

Pointing to his bulging underwear, he proudly boasted:

“With what I have in here, you will never want for anything again!”

The assembled suitors were shouting now, the maidens fanning their faces and swooning.  More than a few of the servant girls were eyeing him openly and whispering, but the room grew still as stone when Cassiopeia leapt from her vantage point with a growl that could shame a leopard, tackling Jonathan to the ground in a confused kissing tangle.

One hundred heroes walked from Valhalla that evening, for all the tricks of the Evil-Worker are no match for the passion of youth. The couple lived long, passionately untidy lives littered with adventures and children.   The gods blessed their union and line, for steadfast hearts are the gods true wealth.

Donkey Kiss

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Freya: Modern need, ancient goddess

Goddess Freya true

I am Heathen, which honestly is not the same as pagan.  I am a hard polytheist who understands the gods and goddesses, however imperfectly we understand them, are discrete knowable entities with a nature that springs not from our need, but from their essence.  The gods that I have built a relationship with are the gods of my northern European ancestors; those familiar to the Scandinavian or German, rather than the Celt, Frank, Latin, or Pict that is also in my lineage.
We build relationships with them through the gifting cycle because of our need, but I do not honestly think they are born from it, anymore than I think Oxygen is released by plants because we need to breathe it.  We need much from them, and I would suggest from the length of the reciprocal gifting relationships we have built between our folk and our gods and goddesses, that they either need or want something from us.  I am going to look at one particular goddess, and how she is needed in our age and lands right now.  The goddess is Freya; wielder of the Brisengamen, the Van-dis, lady of the slain, and Gullveig the thrice burnt.  Due to the terrible scholarship and overly romantic fixations of the Victorians, most remember her as goddess of love and fertility, and forget her role as the only magical peer to Odin, first among witches, and she who receives the first half of all the dead heroes.

Freya is the goddess that many in the modern Heathen community have a hard time embracing for the simple reason that she is such a powerful and unapologetically female goddess.  Freya is goddess of love, but it is not the safe love of the marriage bed, but the wild passionate love that falls where it will, and cares not for the cost or conventions.  Brisengamen, the necklace that is her token, she had from four magical dwarven smiths who would only give it to her in exchange for her spending a night with each of them.
Ah yes, here we go.  The conservatives are already getting edgy.  How can our goddess be a slut?  She owns her sexuality and uses it like she does any other weapon, like her magic, to accomplish her own ends.  Like Odin seducing Gunlod, Freya uses her sexual power to get what could not be bought.  She has no shame for this act, any more than Odin does for his.  They sought something, and they gained it.  They needed the power and knowledge they sought, so where their magic could not gain it for them, seduction and desire could.  Sexual power without shame or apology.
Freya cannot be dismissed as a slut, for her sexuality is her own.  She owns no master or husband, but loves where and how she chooses.  In the Voluspa, Freya is sought by the builders of Asgard’s walls, but she will not trade herself even for the security of Asgard, so Loki is forced to use shapeshifting trickery (that ended with him pregnant with Sleipnir) to keep the wall builder from finishing on time and seeking to collect.  Later in the Lay of Thyrm, Mjolnir (the hammer of Thor) is stolen and the giant who has it requires Freya as his bride to return it.  With Odin and Thor demanding, she refuses because even in the face of the two most potent Aesir, she has the power to refuse them.  Far from being a cheap slut, she is the epitome of a woman who owns her own sexuality, and loves as SHE choses, not as others would tell her she must.

Voluspa remembers her thus; Gullveig the thrice burned.  The match to Hor (Odin) in might and magic in the first war (Aesir/Vanir war).

  1. The war I remember, | the first in the world,

When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig,

And in the hall | of Hor had burned her,

Three times burned, | and three times born,

Oft and again, | yet ever she lives.

  1. Heith they named her | who sought their home,

The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise;

Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic,

To evil women | a joy she was.

The modern Wiccan and their famous creed “an harm none, do as you will” is not the kind of witch Freya was, nor that her followers were.  The famous catskin gloves of Freya were the mark of a volva, a seeress, a witch who dared to wield the most primal of magics.  Sought for knowledge of the future, or for advantage in battle, there were no restrictions on the magic of Freya about harming none; this is the only peer Odin ever faced in magic, who traded knowledge of Seidr to him for his knowledge of Galdor.  Her magic was a war winning tool, and for it Odin was forced to give an equal measure of knowledge and power.  Receiving half the einherjar, the honoured dead, it is Freya who choses first.  She is goddess of the dead, as much as she is the goddess of the renewing earth.
Freya means Lady, as in the title given to women in leadership positions.  Her name became the honorific for women in positions of power or authority.  Freya was synonymous with power to her people.  This is not a goddess who relies on some big strong god to defend her, but one who weilds power in her own right to her own ends, and whose power is often begged by other gods to assist them towards their own ends.

Two figures are portrayed as leading the Wild Hunt, the fall ride of Odin, and the spring ride of Freya.  In each the Wild Hunt is the epitomy of primal magic, of passion, blood and power.  The Wild Hunt is possibly the best and most enduring symbol of the magic of madness, of the divine power than admits no constraint, no law, not even reason.  Freya (or Holda for our Urglaawe kin) is the goddess of unrestrained passion, of primal power that is unbound by reason or law, simply and inevitably existing as what she is, not fitting neatly into any (or even all) the boxes we want to put her into.

Freya Hunt

Who is Freya to us today?

Freya is a goddess whose nature reaches deep within us, stretching back to the before times, before the technological civilization, the rule of reason.  Freya touches the primal essence of us, that part of us that has never fully been separated from the land, that part of us that has not forgotten how to see and speak with our dead, or the spirits that arise from the life around us.  Freya is tough for modern Heathens to deal with because she does not stoop to fit in our little boxes, and some parts of her will pass without hesitation or remorse right through our comfort zones and out the other side.  She is what she is, not what we want her to be.  Oddly or appropriately enough, that is exactly what we need from her.

When you struggle to deal with PTSD, two of the most popular coping mechanisms are alcohol/drugs, and love.  The former stops your mind from remembering, but that latter allows you to lose yourself and connect on a level below thought to life again.  One ultimately chips away at your self and becomes one of those coping mechanisms that goes on to kill you, and the other allows you to learn to tie yourself to life when the wounds you have taken are trying to force you to flee from it.  Freya is not simply about rejuvenating the earth as part of the growing cycle, she is about the power of passion to fire us; we poor half broken humans.  She rekindles the flame in those whose life fires have been brought low because life has taught us that we are either incapable or unworthy of the fires of life and love.

Freya teaches passion, and the passionate use of your power.  Freya does not separate the parts of her nature; her sexuality, spirituality, leadership, independence, mystery, knowledge, are all expressed fully not as foolish excess, but as the awe inspiring expression of purity of purpose.  The lore does not describe Freya as being a slave to passion, but one whose knowledge and passion are matched, whose primal potency and mysterious knowledge combine.  There are those who will say that Freya is sacred female sexuality, but I would say that Freya’s call to own and embrace your sexual self, and your own personal power are not restricted to any gender or orientation.

We live in a world that has grown so complicated and conflicted that we are taught to be guilty for wanting, for enjoying, for striving, for needing, and in some religions even for being born.  Freya teaches us to live.  To embrace life.  Restoring, healing, empowering or just waking us the hell up.  Freya may well be the goddess that best allows us to remember to be human, when we have tied ourselves so tightly in social constraints that make that almost impossible.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Decoding Slut

man-woman-at-barRecently I heard a joke which seemed to both capture our societal attitude towards female sexuality, and struck me in a very heathen sense as being deeply wrong. The joke compared men to keys and women to locks and concluded that a man whose key opens many locks is awesome, while I woman whose lock opened to many keys was worthless.

Everyone seemed to find it funny, but what strikes me as strange funny, rather than amusing funny, is this joke would make total sense to ISIS, whose belief that women are property can thus view a woman’s sexuality as being her husband’s property, and infringing on those property rights would make that property less valuable.  As deeply offensive as that attitude is, it is at least consistent with their misogynist ethic.

Whether you stone sluts or merely make jokes about them, the acceptance that women who have the same sexual freedom as men are sluts seems to be accepted quite broadly
I thought rather than arguing about whether we should use the word Slut, be proud of the word, or ban the word, it was time we should decode the word. It is time we took a look at what it means THAT we use the word slut. Heathens understand worth, so we actually understand the mechanism that is at work when we build or tear down our own, or another’s worth, so perhaps we above all should be the ones to decode “Slut” and examine what it says about the society that uses the word.

For a westerner to laugh at that same joke is disturbing.  Examine what this paradigm requires to be true.  For if a man’s worth is increased by sexual knowledge of many women, and a woman’s worth is decreased by sexual knowledge of many men, then a man is literally taking a woman’s worth away by having sex with her.  This is the language of conquest, for in making love we are not exchanging anything, I am taking from you.  The job implied by the joke is for men to prove their power or worth by conquering many women, and cautioning women that their worth could be easily lost by such conquest.

So basically western thought still accept the premise that all heterosexual sex is rape.  That my wife and I do not make love, I rape her.  Those women that I have known over my life I have taken from, not an honest exchange of love and or pleasure, but the outright theft of their worth, as I built mine by taking hers away.

Oddly enough, I have a problem with this.  In our own lore I think of the origin of Brisengamen, the necklace by which the goddess Freya renews the earth, the focus of the ever renewing bounty of this earth.  To win this necklace, Freya had to sleep with all four of the dwarven smiths who had taken the fallen amber of her tears and the gold from deep in the earth to forge this token of power.

Freya and Dwarves

If you wish to apply the label of slut to a woman of many lovers, you must certainly apply it to Freya, but do so with caution my friends, for the sexuality of women, and that of men, was more truly understood by our pre-Christian ancestors that those of us who live in the hate filled age that follows the people of the book placed men and women not as partners or symbiots,but predator and prey.

Freya took no husband, but loved how and where it suited her needs or her whims.  Rather than being a slattern of no worth, she was desired by all those of high estate or low, and beyond the power of any to compel.  The myth of the building of the wall of Asgard and the Lay of Thyrm both have as their driving force that the Jottuns risk all, and generally lose it, for the chance to lie with Freya.  Were she a slut as we envision things today, a woman of no character or worth made base by her lack of husband and her having multiple lovers, it should have been easy for any to persuade her, but indeed Odin himself could not compel her.  We see Freya helping Thor dress in a wedding gown in her place to retrieve his hammer rather than Freya.  Why?

Thor in wedding dress

The answer is simple, because a woman’s worth is not lessened by her lovers, and the power of Freya was treated with respect.  Equal to Odin in might and magic, she received half the slain, and first choice at that.  Is this a woman cheapened and lessened by the laying with four dwarves to win her necklace?  Hardly.  Trifle with Freya at your peril, what she gives is by choice and is a blessing indeed, but no god or giant can compel her.

Freya Goddess Falcon cloak

To be a man in this western age. is to have to question the definition of manhood that we inherit.  I am no rapist, and to slut shame a woman is to say some important things we need to think about.
First: For a woman to be shamed by loving a man, men must by definition be unworthy of that love, for if we were worthy of the love she had shared with us, neither one of us would be lessened by it.

 

You see the truth of this statement?  Do you see the ugliness implied in it?

 

If a woman can be shamed by consensual sex with a man, if her worth really is found in NOT sleeping with men then the choice of men is to be rapist or failure.  To be a successful predator, or a failure. No where is there worth to be found for men in love.

Alright, lets ignore feminism altogether, this deal sucks for men.  You are either a monster or a weakling.  Piss on that.  That is Christianity and Islam speaking.

When two people come together, reguardless of gender, in love it is a sacred thing, a beautiful thing, and a binding of not only the two people, but of two lines that stretch in both directions to the most ancient ancestors, and forward to the last of the descendants yet unborn.  We speak of witnessing and solemnizing the vows, to witness before the community the covenant of union between two people that we marry.  We do not wave a magic wand, or use some special licence to join these people, their love and their troth, their desire, their hard work, their commitment, their love and understanding of each other have made the magic, and we as a community, and as officiating priests are here to bear witness and recognize what two people have made together.  This is a new thing forged from the love of two people, something greater than either of them alone, and more than the sum of their selves.  This is not passing ownership of the bride from father to husband (or wife) like some chattel or farm animal.  This is not the groom taking the worth of the bride, this is both bride and groom (two brides, or two grooms, whatever) coming together in love to plight their troth and join themselves in union forged of love and mutual dedication into something stronger.  This is a sacred thing, a powerful thing, and a worthy thing.  To make it ugly with violence, hatred, scorn or manipulation is to make what should have been holy profane instead, but that is true of any duty.  If a duty can build worth done well, it can destroy worth done poorly.

When two people come together in passion, whether seeking to see of such a deeper relationship may one day be possible, or just because they wish to brighten each other’s lives with shared moments of joy, this too is a blessing.  Not as great an offering, not as great a reward, but a powerful affirmation of life, a true exchange of joy.  This too is a thing that builds rather than destroys worth, if done with mutual respect and affection. Again, you can make a bright thing foul by duplicity, violence, or manipulation, but done with honest love and joy it is a bright and blessed thing indeed.

To accept that love lessens a woman is to state that men are unworthy of love, and to know it is to be either thief or rapist.  I reject this.  To say a woman must either be virgin or without virtue is to take her power away, make her prize rather than person.  A woman who chooses to love, or not love following her heart may earn worth based on being true to her feelings and treating her partner with the respect she expects to be treated with in return.  A man who chooses to love, or not love in the same fashion likewise builds his worth by honouring those relationships.

Take back your sexuality, I don’t care if you are gay or straight, but know that if you love truly and honestly, you are building your worth.  Know that the joy you bring your partner does not lessen you, rather it, like any reciprocal gifting relationship, builds your worth even as it both strengthens and sustains you.

Hail Freyr, ever rampant Hail Freya ever loving.  I embrace love as a path to worth and reject utterly the language of Slut and the definition of men and women as predator and prey.  This was never our way, and it is time we remembered that.

Ken and Mary Joy Wedding

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized, Yule

The Story of Mistletoe

Inside the greatest stories are a hundred little stories that get forgotten.
In the story of the first winter, the death of Baldur the bright, there is a story too of little Mistletoe.
At Yuletide now we hang mistletoe, and whenever a boy and girl pass beneath it they must kiss, but so many have forgotten why. The tale of mistletoe is one of love and pride, foolishness and forgiveness.

First and best of the sons of Frigga and Odin was Baldur the bright. The shining one, his laughter and courage were beacons to the Aesir, and his gentleness the offer of peace when the battle din had faded. Where the world carved by Jottun and Odin from Ymir’s bones was cruel and cold, would Baldur add a touch of gentleness and wonder. Where spear sharp mountain was cut by icy stream, would Baldur carve a hidden flowered glen, and softly whispering pool. Where Muspelheim’s fire clawed at the ice and rock of earth would Baldur twist and twine them to forge a bubbling spring of warmth to bring the promise of life to the most forsaken fell.
When the first war raged between Aesir and Vanir sweet Frigga feared for her son, for ever was he first in battle, and all too swift to offer mercy where death strokes were safer. In time the Aesir and Vanir swore to peace,
and the Vanir too grew to love Baldur. For a time the nine worlds were near peace, the Aesir and Vanir united, the raiding with the Jottun more friendly sport than earnest war.
At this time did Frigga vow to make her Baldur safe from harm from all.

To the dwarvish deeps she went, and begged favour of the dwarves:
“Let not stone or steel, nor metal forged dare harm sweet Baldur’s hide!”
The dwarves looked deep into the secret earth, at the ropes and rivers of gold, the sparkling diamonds promising the wonders of the night sky, and the thousand secret riches that Baldur had woven into the iron deeps when the world was new forged and so they swore. To the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the whales and fishes of the deep did she go and beg safety for bright Baldur, and as each would look to the beauty Baldur had woven into their world, they would promise his protection.
From Yggdrasil and all lesser trees did Frigga then beg favour, and one by one they all swore Baldur’s weal for the beauty he had given them.
At last came Frigga to the youngest of plants, the newborn Mistletoe. She begged protection for her son, and Mistletoe said no.

Mistletoe in tree

Mistletoe lives on the oak, and never sees the sun. Far from the ground, it sees not beyond the mighty oak´s dark leaves. The oak itself did lend its voice to beg and plead with Mistletoe, but Mistletoe had never seen the gifts of Baldur’s making. All Frigga’s tears and oak´s stern words did not move Mistletoe to mercy, in ignorance and pride it swore no oath to the lady mother.

Alone of giant, man and god was Loki is his jealousy. Baldur’s love meant nothing to him, and he ever sought to mock him. For all his jests did him no good, as Baldur never angered, but laughed instead with right good will
when Loki’s wit did best him. With envy and rage did Loki plot to do fair Baldur evil, at last he thought to ask of Frigg the protection she had won him. In the high feast hall with a gentle smile did Loki come to Frigga.

“How you must fear with such a bold son, that evil must befall him.
Of all the gods your Baldur’s courage in the vanguard ever finds him”

At Loki’s words did Frigga smile, never suspecting evil. She shared with her kinsmen her sons defence, the secrets of his protection.

“The stones of earth, all metals forged, all beasts of water, wind and land have all sworn him protection”, did Frigga smile.

Loki pressed for answers, “What of tree and leaf and nut? What of dandelion or rose?”

Frigga laughed at his silly words, and revealed the last of her secret:

“Trees and grasses, bush and vine have all sworn his protection. Only lowly mistletoe of all that lives still dares withhold protection.”

Loki laughed and slid away, his mission now completed. Sweet Frigga did not suspect yet that Loki plotted treason. Down to midgard with a silver knife did Loki make his harvest. A slender wand of mistletoe
that in the fire with spells he hardened. His arrow forged of mistletoe, and murder in his heart, Loki crossed the rainbow bridge and came to Odin’s court.

“A game!” cried Loki shouting loud, “A sport to test our mettle!”
Loki’s challenge drew every eye and he worked his trick so vile.
“Let Baldur stand before the host, let every warrior try him.”
Loath were the gods to raise hand against him, but Baldur did beseech them.

“What harm in this? Lets have a game, let all my friends and brothers try their mightiest of strokes and let me judge the winner!”

Baldur’s words stirred every heart with honest love for battle, and laughing
did they all array to try their strokes against him. Odin’s spear and Thor’s dread hammer, swords of Frey and Heimdall, the bow of Uller all did fail amidst the warriors laughter. Blind Hod alone did not take part, until dread Loki urged him on and promised his assistance.

“Come now brother, what’s the harm” smiled Loki in his treason.
“I’ll guide your hand upon the bow, let your warrior´s heart remember”

Hod then smiled and drew his bow, and Loki fit the arrow,
dread mistletoe struck Baldur dead and the light of the world fell with him.

All remember what happened next, how sweet Sunna (the Sun) fled from a world without Baldur,
how winter came to the world. All remember the punishment of Loki, a binding and torment
that would last until the end of days. Each Yule we remember Baldur’s arrival at Hel’s own hall,
how she bade him to sit beside her and join her in her hall until the end of days, when he
will return to lead the survivors. Who now remembers the fate of Mistletoe, the agent of Baldur’s bane?

When Baldur fell, sweet Sunna turned her face away and fled. Without the light of the sun, the world grew cold and dark, the trees lost their leaves, and for the first time Mistletoe saw beyond the embracing arms of oak. Everywhere the dying light showed emptiness and loss, but here and there would beauty shine and mistletoe did weep.
“Who has made this?”, would Mistletoe ask at each thing of majesty and wonder, “Baldur” was the answer every time until the heart of mistletoe was shattered.

Mother Frigga in her rage demanded the death of her sons dread slayer.
Of Odin and of Yggdrasil, of Frey and gentle Nerthus she begged the price
of mother’s vengeance, until every god condemned it. Alone of all the gods did Freya hear the weeping.

Goddess Freya true
Alone of all the Vanir did she stoop to hear the reason. To mistletoe she swiftly flew within her falcon cloak, upon the oak tree did she land beside the weeping plant. Love´s golden goddess softly asked, why mistletoe did weep?

“For Baldur slain, for beauty lost, for love gone out the world!”

Freya asked of Mistletoe, what wergild would it pay? How could it give back the beauty lost, the love that Baldur offered? When Mother Frigga in her rage came down the Bifrost bridge, Freya stood with mistletoe to greet the grieving mother.

“Blessed Frigga, will you accept the wergild of the weeping flower?
Or will you slaughter and stain the memory of the loving son you’ve lost?”

Frigga stared hard eyed and cold to hear the wergilds terms, Mistletoe in humble grief did make this solemn vow:

“Where Yuletide brings the pain of loss will Mistletoe bring love, beneath my humble leaves let love be now kindled.

What fairer grave goods for the sun bright lord than the promise of love new kindled? When two now meet beneath my leaves, let loves kiss light between them.
Let the light of love remember him that the world weeps for this season.”

Now down the ages we remember beneath the mistletoe, a kiss the promise of new love, within this coldest season.

Mistletoe hanging
© John T Mainer

Story of Mistletoe

 

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MayDay Magic

Mayday!

This is the story of young Andrew McLain, of oaths taken at twilight, faery dating, sacrifice, and the healing power of love.

Andrew loved Jenny with all of his heart, and most of his lower regions.
Jenny liked Andrew, but had been known to be fond of Kurt, and his lower regions as well.
On this fine Mayday, Andrew had called upon Jenny with a diamond ring,
only to discover Jenny taking Kurt for a vigorous canter across the sofa.

“Damn all women anyway,” he snarled as he stumbled out into the twilight of the first of May.
He stopped at the forest edge and howled out his youthful pain to the listening woods:
“Screw women, screw springtime, and SCREW LOVE!”
He staggered into the woods, not heeding where he went. Opening the bottle of Champagne he´d brought along and still had in his hand, he poured the foaming liquid into a ring of mushrooms at the base of an old oak muttering,

Fairy RIng

“This was supposed to toast our love, but now there’s not a woman born I’d share it with!”
Then, with a cry he hurled the diamond ring into the woodland stream, screaming:
“Take that love, and screw you too! I say, screw every inhuman one of you!”.
Dangerous words already on a Mayday evening, made worse by how he ended it……
“Gods, I’d rather die than love again. Let love just take the heart she ruined anyway!”

There are strange things that lurk in the forest deeps.
There are things that walk the borders between the night and day, things ancient and inhuman; just listening and ever so hungry.
There are two powers that even gods must bow to: Love and fate.
This is a story of both.

Andrew stomped his way further into the campus forest, kicking mushrooms and ferns as he passed. Little noting the sun dipping below the horizon, he stalked into the Mayday night, into the dark primeval forest, and another age. On certain days, when the world hangs between dark and night, between the seen and unseen, the hills open, and the paths to Alfheim open again. In the dark of Yule, the knights of the Wild Hunt ride behind the coursing wolves of the Allfather, but in the wild night of Mayday, on Walpurgsnight, it is Freya who leads the ladies of the elven court in a wild hunt of passion, the stuff of dream and nightmare.
Andrew stopped and turned, aware at last that something was amiss. He heard a sound like sirens in the near distance. Not quite sirens, not like trumpets, more like the conch shells he had heard in Hawaii. The sound came again, this time with the baying of hounds and the faint strains of laughter.

It sounded like the fox hunts you saw in some old movies, but what would something like that be doing in the University forest? With a start, Andrew saw a dozen slim silver steeds with belled and richly tooled harnesses sweep into the clearing.
Gowned ladies of eerie beauty and cold perfection sat easily in split skirts in high saddles with lances sheathed by the right knee. Inhumanly cold beauty stared at him from all sides, cold white faces and bloodless lips in a smile that could teach a cat cruelty, and eyes that burned with smoldering passion. “Look,” rang a voice like a silver bell,“The night’s stag!”

elf maiden

While slim white hounds circled him, Andrew protested he was no stag but a man. Each denial made the perfect inhuman beauties smile wider. Finally, surrounded by hounds and mounted ladies with drawn lances,
a final figure rode astride the neck of a golden boar the size of a rhino. More beautiful than the pale elfin beauties, this woman burned like fire in the night. Shining white skin, with a golden necklace burning bright in the hollow of her half-bared breasts, her laughter rang like birdsong at dawn, and her smile brought a stammering blush to Andrew’s angry features.
“Now then, young man,” purred the golden woman with a sensuous smile,
“You poured out an offering at the Faery ring, and threw a golden offering in my sacred waters, and made strong oaths before us.

You summoned my ladies on my holy night, and you promised to ‘screw my women, to screw the springtime, and to screw love’.”
Laughter rang from the inhuman beauties around him, and set the hounds to snarling again.

“My women ride, the spring is newborn and hungry this evening, and I am love.If you would play stag in these woods, little man, you will need more than rage. You will need Hoof and Horn!”

Her voice echoed strangely and the women began circling and chanting, “Hoof and Horn, hunt till the morn!”

Over and over they chanted and circled until Andrew fell down, confused and burning. His hands and feet merged into stags split hooves, and proud antlers sprung from his brow.

With a shout Andrew sprang from the circle and burst down the trail, desperately fleeing the spears of the women, and fangs of the hounds. On through the forest Andrew bounded, his muscles bunching and stretching with effortless power.

Stag in Forest

All the rage of frustrated love burned within him, and he fed on the thunder of his blood, growing in power and rage with every bound. Soon his pride and power could not abide the chasing hounds, and he spun at bay. Flicking his antlers left and right, he smashed two hounds against the looming trees, and spun with his hoof to catch the hamstringing third. He charged among the hounds with the fury of his frustrationand humiliation, reclaiming his manhood in fury and blood. At last he stood at bay in the clearing, the living hounds slinking behind their mistresses.

“The stag is come!” shouted the golden goddess on her gleaming boar.
“Come to me!” she called, throwing off her cloak and shining in naked glory before him.

Maddened with rage and lust, Andrew lunged. In a cat-like move, the boar danced aside, and Andrew’s proud antlers
became stuck in the tree, with his legs raised in the air in his aborted lunge at the naked rider.

One by one the circling ladies cut at him shallowly with their lances as they passed. Roaring his rage, Andrew wept,
once again tricked and humiliated by women, he waited for the final thrust that would end his pain.

One by one the maidens slipped from their gowns and from their horses. Trailing fingers in the wounds they dealt him, they stroked his strong thighs and heaving chest. With burning kisses and lightning touches they transformed and enflamed him until he stood, a naked man, blooded but unwounded, crowned with a proud stag’s crown.

Cernunnos

Down they pulled him to the earth, and the golden goddess brought him low with a single kiss. She whispered to his fevered ears in tones of honeyed fire,

“Love is death and rebirth, love is pain and healing, love is forgetting and forgiving, love is my gift and my worship both.”

With a cry she mounted him, with a cry he answered. With laughing maidens kissing and caressing, he did as stag’s duty, and knew a man’s healing. As the night ended, and twilight again lit the trees, Andrew cried at last, and let go his rage. He whispered her name softly, and she smiled.

Freya stood with her elfin maids, and looked down at her lover, her prey, and smiled.
“You will know a long hunt, my stag, before you find your mate.
Run you as hard for her as you ran from me, and you may yet find her.
Fight half as hard to get her as to flee me, and you may win her. Love her just as fierce as me, and you will please her.”

Goddess Freya

Dawn found Andrew standing by the Faery ring. He looked down on the Champagne bottle he had thrown to the ground; thoughtfully he picked it up. Dropping to his knees, he also retrieved the cork and wire from the green ground, and other bits of garbage. Finally standing up and stepping away, he made one last heartfelt, if clumsy, bow to the now unseen powers he had known.

With a smile he turned and walked into the dawn and his future, whistling a love song.

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Einherjar blot: Remembrance day

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Do you hear the call, o my brothers?  Do you hear, o my brothers and sisters who fell that we for whom you marched away call you back?  Einherjarblot, Remembrance Day.  At the 11th hour of the 11th day, we call to you who answered once, and did not return.

Victory Father, Feeder of Ravens, great Odin whose hall rings with the stamp and clash of our honoured dead, release them to us.  Battle-glad, High One, we ask you let them return to us for but an hour, that they may answer the roll when their brothers call, that they may see strong sons and proud daughters speak their name, and give them praise, that they may take their place beside the brothers and sisters who marched with them, and lived to return.

 Van-Dis, golden goddess, mighty Freya whose hall rings with the laughter and boasts of our honoured dead, release them to us.  Lady of love, fire of passion, guide their steps to the torch that burns, that from their failing hands we took and still hold high.  Let them hear the praise sung of them, taste the offerings poured to them, see the strong and frithful land their dear blood bought.

 Black Ran, she of the deeps and endless hungry dark, eternal and hungry sea grown rich and dark with the blood of our fallen, release them to us.  Faithful Ran who loves best those she clutches to her breast, those who fell broken by their service into your waiting arms, we ask for but an hour.  Let those who fell in service now return when their comrades call.  Back to the light above the waves, and hearths forgotten, to hear their  name ring again, to receive the glory that is their right, and our only offering, before returning to the sea in which they fell.

 Noble Disir, guide the sons and daughters from halls shining gold, or silent dark.  Return them to us for but an hour.  The torch we took from failing hands is burning, and held yet high.  We yet keep faith with those who fell, and bid you aid them return to us.

 Hear our call, my brothers.  We call the roll of honour; the sons and daughters who answered their nation once, and are silent now.  Return to us. 

You did not grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age does not weary you, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember you.

 

Mingle now with your comrades again

See the hearth fire burn, and laughter sound

Know that we labour to preserve what you defend

When to honoured grave you do return

We will remember

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