All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


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From Blood, Inspiration

The dwarves killed me.

But they could not make me stay dead.

Fjalar and Galar carried only a candle each as they led me

into the darkest room in the depths of their house. The knowledge

that I shared to all was an affront to the dwarves, who keep

their secrets for themselves; perhaps they feared

that I had somehow found out what they knew, as well,

and would share it far and wide with the rest of the world.

And perhaps I did,

And perhaps I would have done.

They thought I did not know what they planned in that darkness,

the clubs they had waiting to crush my skull.

Maybe that was why they hurried so.

I went into the darkness of that deepest room

unafraid and calm.

I know that death is not the end.

Not for man, not for dwarf, not for alf or svartalf,

not for troll or Van,

not for the Aesir or the Jotun–

and not for those born of magic and circumstance, like me

–who rose up whole from chewed berries fermented with the spit

of the Vanir and the Aesir after they were born–

me, who was born in a way no creature before

was ever birthed.

Men themselves know this; they know

things live beyond their allotted times;

they know

of the gravewights, the draugr buried in their barrow-tombs,

moving uneasily under the weight of soil and stones,

and some nights coming out to walk.

It takes no special wisdom to know that life springs again

after death, for each creature in its own way.

And I knew that when they killed me

–(yes, I knew they planned to kill me)–

that I would go on to visit with my knowledge

to many, many others than I could ever reach on foot.

When my limp body had stopped twitching,

they hoisted me up onto a high shelf, positioned vessels

under my head,

and cut my throat to drain my blood, my life,

into vats and a single pot, catching every drop.

Every drop, every mote of me lived in that flood of red,

Though the empty vessel I left behind was of no import.

Then they stole bee’s gold from the waxen hives,

(Bygul they would have called it, as beauteous Freyja

might have called one of her cats),

and mixed that golden sweetness into the vessels.

It was there that the power of my life woke again,

making something richer and better than an ugly mixture

of thin red and thicker gold,

mixing, mingling, melding together,

and yes, making magic.

The dwarves did not fare well after my murder;

they felled the giant Gilling and his wife, but

Gilling’s son Suttungr learned of their treachery

and went to visit; through threats and violence and fear of death,

they at last convinced him

to take the wergild of the mead I had become for

the deaths of his parents.

Suttungr took the vessels to Hnitbjörg, where

his daughter Gunnlöð guarded over it;

and this is where Odin came

—most crafty, most wise—to take me away.

There have been questions about how he found me:

perhaps Mimir’s head told him of me,

or perhaps he learned of me in a view from Hliðskjálf,

or of me was by Heimdall told.

Or perhaps he just knew;

like calls to like, after all,

and he was the Highest of Aesir,

and of the spittle in that cauldron

when they made peace with the Vanir,

his was the most;

if Heimdall is said to have had nine mothers,

it could be said that I had mothers and fathers alike

in the dozens, the hundreds;

but of them all, he was chiefest.

Odin came upon nine workmen in a meadow,

himself disguised, new-named, cleverly deceiving,

and did them a service, pleasing them so well by it

that he tricked them with the tool of that service

into killing themselves,

leaving their master Baugi—

Suttungr’s brother, Gunnlöð’s uncle—

without the toil of those thralls

for the rest of his need.

So Odin—most crafty, most wise—

bargained his own labor to toil

for the feat

that he as Bölverk had done for Baugi,

that he as Bölverk had orchestrated the need for;

and named his price:

three swallows of the draught from his brother’s vats,

And Baugi agreed.

When the season’s strivings were seen,

he asked for the price he had been promised by Baugi—

and Suttungr refused to pay.

So Odin—most crafty, most wise—came, instead,

the long way, through a hole drilled into

the mountain Hnitbjörg in the form of a serpent,

to visit Gunnlöð.

Fair she was, and sweet she was, and welcoming she was.

And naive she was,

best-positioned she, who guarded over those vats,

and he charmed her with his smile,

his words,

his seeming,

and took her for three nights to her bed.

And so when Odin had seduced Gunnlöð,

she let him have three drinks;

a drink for each night;

But Odin drank deeper than any,

and with each drink he drained

one of those three vessels,

leaving them dry as old bone.

So father came to son,

and when an uproar rose,

he took another form

—not Bölverk, not serpent, but eagle—

and flew away.

So now I rest rightly in Asgard,

where Odin gives of me to Aes and man,

sparking the inspiration for poetry to those he gifts,

and if you have ever tasted of me

—even a sip,

a sip so small that only one tiny drop of me

one smallest of motes—

then that one tiny glittering gold and ruby drop—

swims still through your flesh and blood,

even if you tasted it years ago,

for I am with you always,

as I have shown you here today.


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Worldbreaker

Even writing this is a risk, I know.

It could be seen as an invitation,

expressly to him.

But aren’t all gods worldbreakers,

if they want to be?

When they need to be?

Some of them are just better known

for wearing that face.

I hear his whisper, soft and sibilant,

down near the bottom of my consciousness:

‘Think what you will, what you must.

No, I am not nice.

No, I am not safe.

I am not a cutesy child’s cartoon character,

no matter how some may paint me.

But what I do is necessary.

It is important.”

If not for him, we would stagnate

in our own inertia forever.

We do so love the status quo, don’t we,

even when it is killing us?

We fear that if we move, if we act to change things,

what we end up with may be worse,

even when what we already have

is so bad that we might as well

be dead already.

When he steps in, eyes narrowed,

scarred mouth grim,

his resolve steeled to change what we will not,

we know there will be tears.

We shake in dread at the mere thought

of what havoc he might wreak,

what things he will bring tumbling down

around our heads.

But when the wreckage settles,

when the smoke clears,

We have change,

whether we wanted it or not.

Because even when we don’t want it,

we need it.

When we don’t want it is when

we need it most of all.

Then he leaves us to rebuild,

not always without help,

but sometimes–

when we have to learn to stand

on our own two feet for a change,

when we have coasted along for too long.

I don’t welcome that side of him any more

than anyone would;

I’ve seen my world shattered

too many times to count already:

loved ones dying,

marriages ending,

lost jobs,

homes disappearing before I could blink.

I survived them all.

And it’s not right to blame him for what he does;

if we had the resolve, the courage to change things ourselves,

he wouldn’t have to do it for us.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to take.

All I ask, then,

if the time comes again to make my world collapse,

so that a new and better one might be born,

forgive me if I tremble in terror and anticipation of what you do,

and I ask you lend me the tiniest bit of your strength

so I might survive it once again.

I trust you to know what’s best for me,

because you know I never do.


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Dedicated

Hail,

lady of the lifelong secret;

You who whispered words to

the God of Poetry that said:

“I am Yours.”

Golden were the apples you placed

upon His shrine;

none who knew you, not family, not friends,

knew of your hidden devotion;

they thought your faith

and your worship only for

the desert god,

not He whose name and face had been

all but forgotten for centuries;

but to Bragi, wordsmith,

songmaster, skald,

you poured out your poems, songs, and prayers,

leaving the fruit His wife Idunn bore

to the Aesir and Vanir

as further offering to Him.

All your life, you paid homage to Him

in His own coin,

that which He liked best,

and only now, when you have passed beyond

to the hall of the poetry-maker,

Odin’s son,

do those who were closest to you

–and those who did not know you at all–

learn of the depth of your reverence and devotion to Him.

Therefore, sing, o skalds!

Praise her whose name we may never know,

but whose deeds shine bright as Sunna’s rays,

no longer hidden by stormclouds.

Sing, o skalds, for a life spent

in silent and secret adoration,

pour out mead in her memory,

she who sits among the bards and sages of the oldest times,

in the presence of He whom she honored.

Sing, o skalds, in honored awe

of one who gave us an example to emulate:

may we ever be as pious, as dedicated,

and as virtuous as Bragi’s most faithful.


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By the Sea

In the end, she chose me

because my feet were the prettiest

(to be honest, it had been awhile since fair Baldr,

who she really wanted, had trimmed his toenails);

it’s not a man’s feet that a woman looks at in bed,

nor what another man looks for, either.

So the mighty huntress was stuck with me,

and don’t think she was happy with that, you bet.

Even before she saw Nóatún, my sea-home, she found

little enough to like about me.

She wanted Baldr, but she might

have been satisfied with my son;

Freyr is not considered to look upon,

or share a bed with, either.

(My son and daughter weren’t thrilled with

the idea of a stepmother,

but they respected her well enough,

although she and Freyja were never going to

share any girls’ nights, no.)

But I am an old man, with grown children and a wife already;

I would not have agreed to take a second if

I found that thought a burden,

but all we did was fight.

She could not bear my home for

the shrieks of the gulls,

nor could I stand hers with the howls of the wolves.

Don’t get me wrong;

I don’t hate her, nor she, me;

we simply weren’t suited for each other.

Bu twe gave it a fair try,

then parted amicably enough.

She went on to bed Odin–

funny, they almost all do

(him and Jotun-maids, don’tcha know!)

–and had herself plenty of children,

big and strong,

and she seemed content with that.

As for me, I wager I learned something.

Having the prettiest feet is not necessarily an advantage.

Maybe I should let my toenails grow out a bit.


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The Golden

Thrice-burnt.

Thrice-pierced.

They thought to keep me down,

cast me under:

          end me,

          erase me,

           eradicate all that I was–

my magic, my power, my voice

No.

Transfixed by metal, there is blood:

the shafts of the spears dig into my breast,

dimpling the flesh, puncture the skin,

bore in, probe deep, drill, thrust, split:

           run through my chest,

           my heart,

           my breath,

           my liver and lights–

Penetrated by a forest of shafts, still I would not die.

Borne on spear-point to the pyre,

thrust into the flames,

feeling the heat melt flesh and calcine bone

rendered into ash,

still. I. rise.

Three times, they tried to kill me.

Three times, they sought to destroy me.

Thirty times three would not have succeeded.

Three hundred times three would not have sufficed.

Three million times three and still I would have risen.

You cannot kill wisdom.

You cannot kill power.

You cannot kill freedom.

There is more to me than mere meat:

I am Gold-Bright, I am Gold’s Strength, I am Gold-Drink,

and like my namesake, fire only distills me,

           concentrates me,

           improves me,

so that all impurity might be seared away,

leaving me only strength and surety.

I am wisdom and I am will,

and they could not winnow me from the world so easily.

Woe to those that thought thus.

They say I ‘corrupted’ the women–

HAH!

What you call corruption, I call education.

I shared my knowledge with them, taught them,

gave them such gifts as the Aesir knew not–

well, the men.

And when they thought me dead–

dust and dirt, dross on the embers,

I rose again,

taking a new name, a new face, a new life.

I am the brightness of the sky,

the Sun bright as gold,

my power flowing out like that light to all women,

           seeing the future,

           speaking with spirits,

           weaving our way between worlds,

and that is no gift nor power to take lightly.

Drink of the mead I offer,

the Gold-Drink that corrupts and liberates,

that frees the mind.

Drink and listen to the words I speak,

the wisdom that strikes off chains.

Drink and know the power within you,

the power that flows with the brightness of the sun,

and the heady heat of blood spilling to the ground.

Drink and know why they fear me,

why they will fear you.

Drink and know, as I teach you,

as we speak with the spirits,

that you too are part spirit,

and spirit cannot die.

Yes, you may say, no wonder they feared me.

If you knew one tiniest mote of what I knew,

those around you would fear you, too.

For Gullveig.


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Spoiled for Choice

Of course I love the broken ones.

I leave the shiny and the pretty and the shallow

for others who can’t accept anything

other than surface perfection–

perfect tools, perfect people.

Me ,I would much rather have someone

with a broken heart,

a body that betrays them,

a mind others might find flawed;

they understand what it is to be considered

‘less than’ in a world where you are expected to

          fit in,

          fit a mold,

          be fit;

they understand the scorn heaped on your head

when you don’t look or sound or act or think

exactly like everyone else;

they have worked out ways around

what the rest of the world sees as problems

and they only know as life;

          learned patience,

          learned humor,

          learned cleverness,

          learned ingenuity.

How could I not prefer them?

They are my children all,

my brothers and sisters,

my lovers, my friends.

Give me the one whose mind runs along different channels,

the man the world insists is a woman,

the one forever untrusting and heart-scarred

from mockery and abuse,

the boy whose legs won’t hold him upright,

the one who thinks sideways,

the old, the halt, the sick, 

the girl who walks in an eternal cloud of sorrow.

I am nowhere so eager to turn them aside or

throw these away as the rest of my

brethren might be,

even my blood-brother.

Instead, I know these to be the best of the best,

all the more devoted and loving

for having been turned away so many times,

all the more clever for having been derided as stupid,

all the more stubborn for having so many give up on them.

These are the companions I choose,

family not of blood but of love,

who love me despite those who label me as evil,

who pledge their loyalty even when all others warn

I will take advantage of their trust and do them harm.

It’s worth a laugh.

They call me the god of lies,

but what I ask from them is that they never lie to me

or to themselves,

for ours is a relationship built on

the razor edge of honesty,

and if you are to trust me,

then so too must I be able to trust you.

That is all I want, after so long,

an understanding between us,

and once we have that,

we may dance our way back to the edge of the abyss,

but I will never let you fall.


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Loki’s Lost Children

Nobody ever asks me if I loved them.

When people talk about my children, they mention

the mount Odin gained from me,

the serpent that encircles the world,

the daughter who rules over the dead,

and the wolf that will devour my blood-brother

when all things end.

Very rarely do they think of those other children I sired,

laying with love in the arms of my wife,

begetting two sons within her body,

watching them grow up strong and swift and sound.

When they are mentioned, in learned debates,

it is only as an afterthought:

“He was bound with the entrails of one of his sons,

who was torn apart by the other,

after that one was transformed into a wolf.”

Never more than that.

No one talks about me watching the babes

slide from my beloved’s body,

wet with the fluids that they floated in,

watching them take their first breaths,

watching them open their eyes to see me for their first time.

They do not think of the first time I saw them

suckle at her breasts,

taking their strength from her,

cradled warm in her arms,

swaddled in soft blankets and crib-clothes,

taking their first steps,

saying their first words.

They do not think on their growing years,

playing alongside the sons and daughter of my friend Thor,

taking their occasional bruises and tumbles

as children sometimes do,

or coming to me for a hug when they finished their play,

and asking for a story of my travels with him

after dinner, before bed.

They call me ‘Trickster’.

They hardly ever think to call me ‘father’.

They do not think of how I screamed,

when my son Váli’s body began to twist, to sprout fur,

when he was transformed against his will

as I was held captive to prevent me from saving him;

no one thinks of how I shrieked when

they loosed him on his brother Nari,

flesh tearing, blood splattering the ground,

tearing his brother to shreds.

No one whispers about how I wailed

when one of those I had fought for,

worked with, laughed with,

loosed an arrow to destroy the remaining son,

my now wolf-son, covered in his brother’s blood.

No one speaks of how I wept when

they dragged me underground and bound me in place

with the entrails of the child I had created,

the boy who had looked up to me,

          trusted me,

          loved me.

Nor do they mention the screams of my

wife, my beloved Sigyn,

as she watched her babes so horrifically slaughtered.

In a world where there are those

who chose to punish a father

by destroying his children in such a manner,

and those who would honor such vile monsters,

how dare anyone call me evil?