This was originally written for a story contest in July of 2013 and won for stories about Hel. Since it’s October, and I use Halloween’s death-y themes as a Blot for Hel, I figured I’d post this.


She blinked her one good eye pointedly at the man who knelt before her.

“Let Baldr come home? This is his home, now.”

“Frigga weeps for him,” Hermod pleaded. “Odin weeps for him. We all weep for him.”

“You all do?”

“All but your wretched father.”

She cleared her half-throat and rattled the bony finger of her raised hand in warning.

“I will not have you disrespecting him in my hall.”

The living god, there only on business, nodded far too energetically, which Hel knew perfectly well was an insincere gesture.

She ignored his silent response and thought for several moments, considering the weight of letting the fair-haired Ás go and setting a terrible precedent for the impermanence of death. The confidence offered by Frigga’s success in convincing all but the bloodied edge of Mistletoe to keep her son safe made it seem like a bad idea to acquiesce. There was little stopping her from extracting that one last promise.

But it also held potential for a powerful lesson.

With the gentle rattle of her necklace of bones and glass beads, she stood.

“If you all weep for him, you may bring Baldr back to Asgard.” Hermod had come up from his knees and removed his helmet to express his gratitude, but she stopped him. “Remember. This offer is not made lightly, and if anything,” she leaned forward for emphasis and he utterly failed to hold back his disgust at the cracking of her spine. “One single thing, fails to do this, Baldr will remain here, under my care, never to return to his former home as you know it.” She straightened herself again, leaning on her seat. “And I know you know how that story will end.”

He hesitantly met her gaze, then nodded. This time it was sincere.

“Frigga will be thrilled to hear of this. Thank you, my lady.”

He returned to his feet, nodded to his brother on his way out, and made his way along the lines of assembled dead to the door.

 

Frigga, upon hearing the conditions, had nearly thrown her frantic spinning work to the floor and rushed out to return to her previous work of dealmaking. All of the weapons held out to her by her Husband’s dead had been more than happy to agree. The bees and bee-wolves had been, as well. The mistletoe, still youthful but just old and corrupted enough to feel guilty for spilling Baldr’s blood, wept tears that matched her berries.

In her travels, pleading and sometimes begging those she met to shed even a single tear for her dead son, she finally came upon Thokk.

She had once been of auburn hair, judging by the last few strands with any hint of color that stuck out from under her hood. Upon hearing of Frigga’s goal, she was clearly offended.

“I know the agony of a lost child,” she finally said, “and I especially know the agony of a child taken from you by force. No one wept for our loss but us. But you, you travel everywhere you can, insisting that we weep for a boy some of us do not even know, hoping to cheat death?” She paused, collecting herself. “Why ask Hel to tolerate the same? Let her keep what truly belongs to her.”

 

Hel had been mindful of the pressure caused by the grief throughout the tree above her, but had kept her focus on one empty pocket. Baldr had finally approached her, suspecting that something was amiss in her constant staring at one place.

“There is one person who will not grieve for you,” she explained, not taking her gaze off of the area above her.

Needless to say, Baldr seemed a little offended.

“Who?”

“Someone who knows you, but saw value in your death.”

He silently hinted that he wanted her to continue.

“Making sure promises are kept and that balance is maintained. Deals are kept and oaths are honored.”

“My own father won’t grieve for me?”

“Oh, no, your father grieves.” She finally met Baldr’s gaze. “And that would be putting it gently.”

“Then who?”

“His brother.”

 

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On Fascism and Faith

Something must be made abundantly clear:

The gods are not interested in the color of your skin. They are not interested in your heritage. They don’t play favorites over your wealth, your ability, your sexual orientation, your gender identity, or any other divisions.

But humans do. Humans care enough to kill over it.

Humans are petty. Not just in their self-centeredness, but in their literal smallness.

Gods are bigger than us. Gods know better than us. They’re not interested in the arbitrary lines that folkists and fascists draw, and that they enforce through violence.

They’re interested in your devotion and service. Faith in Heathenry is a gifting cycle. When you have something to offer, they have much to offer you.

Thor is the defender of humanity and civilization from the wild forces of nature. Of course, this means the division between creeping weeds and cultivated vegetable gardens, wild wolves and tame goats. But this also means the division, within ourselves, between base instinct and self-control. Thor is a man of justice.

Odin is a collector of wisdom. And of course this means study and knowledge for knowledge’s sake. But it also means critical thinking, skillful debate,  good judgement and getting through the world on your own merits. If all you have going for you is some bullshit notion of purity (which Odin himself doesn’t even possess–none of the gods do!), you have nothing to offer him.

Loki is attributed with chaos, but we forget that his real forte is balance, and that the changes he brings consistently lead to improvement. When oaths are broken, he will be the one who takes you to task. When people try to weasel their way out of the consequences of their actions, he will bring them. Loki stands by the marginalized.

Sigyn epitomizes not only loyalty but the strong sense of justice we all must have. Her suffering has been vast. She is magnificent in her grace. She stands by those of us labeled as degenerate, unworthy of life, and disposable, as her children and husband were. So too, should we stand by her, and the rest of those who are at risk.

I do not worship every god in the Norse pantheon, and the ones I do I may not worship consistently. But they all have something to offer. Hopefully I do, too.

And I have, from day one, been furious at how my faith, which has brought so many good things to my life, has been bastardized, exploited and damaged so badly that I cannot exercise it openly. I am furious that I have to choose between having spaces where I can practice my faith with others and isolating myself and the people I care about from Literal Fucking Nazis. The only kindred that will take me in my area is run by a tribalist who, at the time, had a swastika as his cover photo. This is personal. It is as much our responsibility to take them to task as anyone else. Similarly, it is just as much our responsibility to protect other vulnerable people as it is for anyone else.

Protest is prayer.