All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


In Hel’s Hall (The Pleasures of Eljuðnir)

In Hel’s hall,

the tables do not groan under

their burdens of whole roast elk and boar and geese,

and axes do not split open barrels

sticky with mead and foaming ale

to spill and splash on the ground,

but there is food enough to fill

every hungry belly to satiation and surfeit,

but not excess;

none overeat so grotesquely as to spew

their meals back up under this roof.

In Hel’s hall,

there is quiet conversation spiced with smiles,

not the clash of endless battle,

the roars of warriors seeking each new day’s death

with axe and sword and spear,

nor the clash of tankard on tankard

and tables toppling over amidst deafening shouts.

In Hel’s hall,

There are places to sit and read,

to spin and knit and weave;

to gather flowers and tend a garden,

to carve a toy for a child or a cabinet for a wife,

to set a room to rights, tidy and neat,

or sing a song with friends,

or fish on the banks of the rivers that flow through Niflheim,

and private spots where a father

may visit his beloved daughter in peace.

In Hel’s hall,

there is time to contemplate, to remember,

to debate points of wisdom,

places to rest after decades of pain and sickness,

physical and emotional alike,

places where the weight of the living world

drop away and leave one free.

In Hel’s hall,

the beds are as the bread there–

soft and rich and sweet,

enough in themselves to make a ‘Heaven’,

and the Home of Mist is not

that place whose name was stolen from its mistress;

in this place they understand

that being smart enough in a world of war

to survive every battle you face,

and die of old age or illness,

is not a sin or a crime.

In Hel’s hall,

the cold and snow that the cravens dread

are picturesque soft white drifts,

fit for a winter postcard,

and the scent of sweet wood smoke

layered over the intense perfume of dying autumn leaves

buried under the crispness of snow’s stark powder.

The great hearth crackles with flame,

sending out its warm glow against the chill,

and the fireplace in the huge old kitchen

provides ample places for people to sit and read,

for cats to sleep on warm stones, for stew to bubble and simmer,

for bread to bake, for cider to mull, for tea to brew.

Everywhere here there is rest and calm and quiet,

what we all crave after so many years of strife.

Those who love war

will find their way to Valhalla or Folkvangr,

brought hither by their hosts and their hosts’ folk,

but warriors are not the only dead.

Those who died of a heart quietly giving up the ghost,

or a mass grown too large to bear in a body withered away,

or year piled upon year until no man could endure more–

these too deserve their place of repose

when the bustle of life is done,

as much as any who died spilling out his life’s blood

at the tip of a blade.

Eljuðnir calls home those who have lived too long,

or too-short lives cut short by fever and fatigue,

all those who long for its quiet and sweet surcease,

and on her throne, Hel sits,

watching over her people,

her precious, beloved people,

all those who trust her to share her hall,

and she smiles.