The Ash Tree
Far away to the east a sensitive man sat underneath a wide and sprawling tree, thinking about the world. If he had known, Odin would have narrowed his remaining eye and made his thoughts keen. He would have disapproved of the man’s soft body and mind, but he would have been very curious.
Odin was a very curious man, although his cold hard face made him seem forbidding.
His own tree was not so different to the tree of the man from the east, although Odin walked around it apprehensively. He would never sit down underneath it until he was too old to stand. Resting was tantamount to death.
(Or so he liked to make himself believe, but the old god was glad to find a bed of leaves or lush grass to sleep on after a long day’s wanderings.)
One gnarly hand was clutched around his staff as he paced, the other was fingering the noose that Frigg had woven for him. She probably was not the only wife in the world who, when confronted with the fact that her man was going to hang himself this evening, stopped and said, “I will weave the noose,” but she was the only one who did it out of love.
Odin and Frigg – now that’s a story.
She was beautiful as the dawn, as light caught in frosted branches, and he was the broken branch that gathers lichen and frost and the blow of axes. They loved each other, each in their very distinct way, but neither knew exactly why.
Perhaps because she made him a noose when he needed to hang himself, Odin mused with a grim smile.
But it was rather that she never minded it when he left on his interminable wanderings and that she was a place where many threads ran together only to continue onward, each in its very own direction, the end of which only Odin himself knew…if he did.
He was so used to being on his own that it startled him when she made something for him, even if it was just a bowl of hot soup.
The branch up there looked promising. Odin looped the noose and threw it. It was a good throw and the loop slipped over a broken stub and held tight.
Why was she on his mind now, when it should be blood and bone? He was about to go into the realm of the dead – it was a new journey, even for Odin – so why did he think about home and hearth?
The wind picked up and blew snow in Odin’s face.
His sons had counseled him to protect himself with witchcraft. It was always them, Thor the simpleton, and Loki, the schemer, who gave such mindless advice while the women just stood aside and laughed.
There were a thousand rites and rituals for protection, but Odin cared not about a single one of them. The noose shimmered in the dark and he imagined Frigg closing her hand around his throat and throttling him.
She had strong hands, long fingers.
The darkness would be good.
Huginn dropped from the sky and sat on the branch, next to the loop. Muninn cawed somewhere in the night sky. His two ravens were true companions, but this journey would require different company.
They came from the hills as Odin put the noose around his neck. Two large wolves; one was grey and the other black with white patches all over. They moved with the sureness of many hunts and the world around them changed.
Odin felt a tinge of fear and it made him laugh. This was the moment. Would he be able to go through death and return? He was a god, so it was not unlikely.
He remembered the many humans he had seen on his wanderings, the many slain, the many desperate, the sick and those who would have done everything, everything for another breath of air.
The black wolf looked at him with a strange intelligence and Frigg’s noose began to work its magic. It tightened around Odin’s throat and began pulling him upward.
The staff fell to the floor, its tip touching the paw of the grey wolf, as Odin’s hands clutched at the rope, then fell, limply, to his sides.
The old god was dead.
The other world was not so different from this one. Frigg’s noose was a silver thread around his neck and the ash tree, Yggdrasil, was bone white. The wolves came and smelled and licked his hands and Odin smiled grimly.
This was a journey he had never taken and he was looking forward to it.