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The Second Lay of Vanaheim

by Ember Cooke

Freyja Speaks:
This is the way the first war was fought:
1.
We never willed to war with the Aesir.
Frith was far preferred.
With Alfar and Duergar with Aesir and Jotnar
we traded wealth and tools.
2.
The sky-gods fought fearsome force-wights,
derided crafty dwarves,
mistrusted strangers, misled neighbors,
and often broke agreements.
3.
The Etins would send women to the Aesir
as wives for weregild or tribute.
So we had sent wives to the Aesir
a solemn promise for peace.
4.
The Asa-gods roamed Asgard around
the eternal orchards of Idun,
from pasture to field from meadow to plain
surrounding the summit of Irminsul.
5.
As wains we grew in wealth and strength,
Vanaheim expanded eastward
until no utgard divided our lands.
The Aesir became alarmed.
6.
"With Vana-gods near our feast may falter
the blood of blóts may slacken
if our people's fainings in faith are given
to the Vanir instead of us!"
7.
The Vanic brides of vigilant Aesir
soothed their false suspicions.
Their faithful efforts were proven fruitless
when the High One heard of our Heide.
8.
"Seidh," they heard, "the Vanir have seidh,
to ween the ways of wyrd.
What hope have we to hold our own
if wains should go to war?"
9.
They welcomed Gullveig to the hall of Har.
They fed her well with feasting.
Plying her with mead, they sought to sway her
to reveal the secrets of seidh.
10.
As the spell-maid sat her beauty beguiled them,
her fire-gold hair like hearth-light.
Her skin sparkled, her eyes enchanted,
and her smile tempted many.
11.
Wanderer's warriors were driven to desire,
gold-maddened by her glamour
They wrestled and wrangled
competing as cocksures do
for the favors of a foreign maid.
12.
Asagrim smiled and allowed the sparring
'till heart-wine stained the hall.
"Stop!" he ordered, "The seeress seduced you!
Avenge this maddening avarice!"
13.
Seizing Gullveig on a pyre they placed her,
and with their spears they stabbed her.
When bone-flame abated and bleeding ceased,
they deemed her dead and gone.
14.
Yet the Vana-witch stirred unbound in embers
healed and freed by the flame.
Her eyes were burning baleful they called her
Göllnir yelled, "Seize her again!"
15.
Two more times they burned and bled her
twice again she triumphed.
When she raised her hand for revenge
the Aesir first knew fear.
16.
Heide she had become strong in seidh,
and wise in will and wyrd.
Laughing she left their land as they trembled,
knowing they could not conquer her.
17.
Ashamed, the Aesir were moved to anger.
Knowing they could not conquer her,
they formed a plan to harm her people.
With spears and swords they came.
18.
Our vales and vessels the raiders invaded,
seeking to steal our secrets.
Our warriors and witches protected our people
guarding farms and families.
19.
When the Aesir would not cease,
we sought our seers for spae .
Six we sat out seidh together
to view the wyrd of our enemy.
20.
Norns we summoned for need was upon us
the will of the Aesir to know.
Ygg we saw, Odr , king of his people,
hungry for knowledge and power .
21.
The Aesir we knew were an ancient race,
the height of World-Tree they won.
Har was their highest, a warrior and sage,
who would bring the runes to Midgard.
22.
Though rash and brave they were not baneful
but never could be contained.
He rends the realms and worlds with will
who reaches beyond understanding.
23.
Odr, the High One, drove them onward,
breaking the boundary to utgard.
Odr, the High One, must be conquered
with persuasion if not with force.
24.
So we surrendered to speak with the Aesir
to offer the Ofnir exchange:
"You seek our secrets send us yours
our lessons for your lore."
25.
Leaving Erce to rule the land
breaker-lord brought us both
the sacred twins, sovereign Vanir,
as hostages held to Asgard.
26
We vowed alliance with the Aesir,
our feast to fare with theirs,
and bound to Var on a brewing vat
each giving of our essence.
27.
Our merging of fates made mindful Kvasir,
with wit and wisdom gifted.
The Asa-gods courage with Vanic creation
a counselor of gods constructed.
28.
Though I had wed my brother Freyr,
and Odr had etin-wife Frigg,
we two were betrothed to end the fray,
the dowry and bride-fee exchanged.
29.
The ways of wyrd I would exchange
for the ancient force of form
with which three brothers shaped worlds,
and my choice of the chosen slain.
30.
No sooner spoken, our captors commanded
sister and brother separate.
The coupling of siblings sacred or common
the folk of Asgard forbid.
31.
Now Odr alone claimed to own me.
Sea-lord and seed-lord were single.
"Your counsel keep" Goodfather cautioned
"Your arts may inspire his approval."
32.
To Hertha was sent quiet Hoenir
with Mimir of wit well-spoken.
What mud-king remembered with Mimir missing
the greenfolk deemed deficient.
33.
Memory's Rig-metal to Asgard returned,
absent his bloodless body.
Mim's friend used herbs and arts to preserve
the substance his skull retained.
35.
No longer a leader, the silent strider
with queens remained in council,
and messages hauled from hoff and hall
to serve his new-found folk.
36.
Henceforth in frith the feast was shared
of offerings and oaths,
and proud we three as priestess and priests
of faining and sacrifice.
Photo by Thorskegga Thorn.