Ljossalfheim, which is sometimes just referred to as Alfheim, is located next to and just south of Asgard. It is one of the "faery realms", the set of realms that span several cosmologies and intrude into many of them. The faery realms themselves are fairly self-contained, although there does seem to be a good bit of travel between them - you can easily get to the realm of the Celtic Sidhe from Alfheim, for example. The exact nature of how the faery realms work, the permeability of their boundaries, and the geography of their cross-world placement has been studied itinerantly by many scholars over the years, largely in vain. It continues to be something of an elven mystery.
Humans have been inspired by the Alfar (and the Sidhe, and the rest of those diverse races, but from now on I am only going to refer to them as the Alfar for the sake of convenience) for millennia. We have also been lost many times in their realms, often with disastrous results, or so the stories go. Warning tales abound regarding humans who go to live in the country of the Fair Folk, only to return to find that everyone they knew is dead, or old and grey. Or they themselves have aged beyond their years; it is almost the signature of elven places.
Time and Seasons: Time flows very differently in Ljossalfheim, more so than in any other of the Nine Worlds. Day length is variable, and changes randomly. When Sunna and Mani pass overhead, they too are drawn into the magical web of the Alfar, if only temporarily, and although they always make it out the other side on time (or a great many folk would be very angry), their normal effects are distorted.
Seasons will vary, also, depending on the area. Unlike other worlds, where there is a distinct "year" that turns (if only subtly, in the case of Muspellheim and Niflheim) similarly for every place in the world, in Alfheim it may be summer in one place, and winter in another. Generally the seasons follow each other, but any one area may be on a different cycle depending on the whim of the House that rules it. They are also not above "freezing" one season for a while in order to enjoy it further, although this takes a good deal of work. Some places do seem to be permanently "frozen" in season.
"Travel Advisories: One thing you should pay attention to when traveling in Ljossalfheim is that the time discrepancy between it and the mortal world is very hard to control. Ljossalfheim is a land built solely around magic, which is totally nonlinear. It's almost impossible to predict when the days, seasons or years will line up between it and any other world; it seems random, and it's said only a few of the Alfar themselves really understand the cyclic patterns of their world. If you are a spirit-worker skilled in time travel or time manipulation, this should be easier to deal with. Otherwise, be prepared for your journeys to the light-elves' realm to warp your sense of time considerably for hours or even days after you've completed the journey. While you're in Ljossalfheim, you may feel that your stay was only an hour or two long, whereas many more hours might have passed back home. Or you might have spent many days in Ljossalfheim, only to return and find that a mere two or three hours has gone by."
-Elizabeth Vongvisith, spirit-worker
"The time differential is worse the deeper in you go, which is another reason to keep to the fringes at first. Casting a protective circle (no, you don't have to do it Wiccan style: there are simpler but valid precedents in the lore for how to do this) will help keep you anchored correctly in your own time stream. The really odd thing about time in Alfheim is its fluidity. When comfortably "at home" there, you can actually control it to some extent; time really does become relative and even subjective. It can be difficult to wrap your brain around at first."
Geography: Also variable. Ljossalfheim is more of a manipulated world than any other; the very stuff of the earth is continually being changed around, reworked, glamorized, unglamorized, and generally transformed over time. There are many villages in Alfheim, and many thousands of peasant huts where the poorer faery-folk live. However, the fact that the land and its residences change so often means that it will be much more difficult to magically extract a map from the Big Library. In fact, it may mean that the second time you visit, things are not where they were the first time.
"I usually go into to their realm at a sort of gate right of a large branch on Yggdrasil. Essentially every season is idealized and represented in the landscape. Their structure and make up is very medieval with a caste of nobles; these are the Alfar. Along with them are numerous commoners (vaettir/wights) that perform all sorts of functions. Some of their homes (which reflect the "season" their land is in) are magnificent mansions, others are castles and still others are glorious Halls. I frequent the Duke of Autumn's realm, the Duchy of Spring and venture to the mountain castle of the Old Man Duke of Winter. The land of Summer is usually too hot for me. All of these names are my name for them because that's the season they closest represent. There are also lesser realms of air, sea, river, lake, forest, prairie, hills, and other landscapes."
-Rod Landreth, seidhmadhr
"The landscape is largely forested, with both deciduous and coniferous regions; the trees almost everywhere are huge (though not Jotunheim-huge). There is at least one rather gentle range of mountains, and in that area there are also the green hills and valleys that form the other major "tourist attraction" of Alfheim. There are ways to pass directly from here to Svartalfheim: several of these are tunnels beneath the mountains. There is also at least one above-ground route, but my sense of absolute direction is not such that I can describe it from here. Big urban areas are not the elven style: instead there are numerous small villages, built predominantly of low wooden buildings alternating with huts on stilts alongside particularly tall trees. These are arranged, as far as possible, so as to blend with the landscape, as to an extent are trails, so neither is particularly easy to find without either some familiarity with the area or a guide. Rivers and streams are many and bright."
"Alfheim is rather forested, at least the parts I saw of it, with evergreens. It is breathtaking, though not unearthly so. During my first visit, the dwelling I was ushered into looked like an extremely elaborate and expansive longhouse. It was constructed out of wood, and the ground level looked to be the primary meeting place, with the central floor space taken up by a long table. There were small alcoves off to the side for small informal talks. To be honest, they more resembled booths in a bar, though all the wood was a rich gold colour, and it was warm and inviting. I think most of the living quarters were upstairs. I didn't notice any fire pits or fire places, though it was warm as if there might be. Either they have such features hidden with in their structures, or they are using magics to achieve the desired affect. My bet is on the latter.
"Their realm is quite far-flung and somewhat mountainous, with different clans/tribes/houses living in different areas. The architectural styles change somewhat, as do the clothing and foods, but this seems to be more based on the environment than anything else. There doesn't appear to be much distinction between the houses with regards to specializations, which is somewhat odd. That is to say that none of the houses has a specialty that only they have developed and the others haven't, which are considered jealously guarded secrets. There are variances, but this is mostly cosmetic. If a new technique is developed, it is shared (not that it isn't tradeable)."
"I'm treated as a guest, with all sorts of hospitality, like an honored visitor - though not of noble birth; more like a dignitary of some merit but still not a member of their "caste." The nuance is difficult to express. Several courts seem to treat me as a rather amusing fellow because of my various faux pas in trying to navigate through many of their intricate protocols and etiquette. I've also been to the homes of many commoners, which are amusing times of drink and song. These range from essentially glorified beaver dams to hollowed out trees to all sorts of residences from hovel to respectable cottage. Many of the lesser elves, however, really don't have homes; just finding somewhere to rest when needed and pursuing their function or whim when they are not resting.
"I work best with the commoners and they largely are a friendly lot. When I have gone to the mansions, castles and keeps of the nobles, they are formal in varying degrees. The Duke of Winter is a robust fellow that enjoys hunting and often goes out to monitor the commoners. I enjoy his and his court's much more congenial atmosphere. The Lady of Spring is much more formal, albeit the best food is found in her court."
-Rod Landreth, seidhmadhr
History: No one knows exactly how the Alfar got into the Nine Worlds. We are quite clear, however, that they are not native, unlike the Duergar. They came into the Nine Worlds from their original home - which may be the same place as the Sidhe, or not - and were given Ljossalfheim by the Aesir. They are on excellent terms with both the Aesir and the Vanir, but don't get on well with the Jotunfolk, whom they consider to be completely irredeemable barbarians.
This is, of course, one of the subjects that the Alfar consider terribly rude to ask about, so don't try it.
Frey's Hall: The Vanir god Freyr is called the Lord of Alfheim; it is said that the patronship of Alfheim was given to him as a tooth-gift. For the most part, this is a ceremonial function, but it is Frey who speaks for them in the Aesir's council, and they need him on their side. That is not the only reason that he is treated with a great deal of respect; the Alfar revere his affinity for fertility magic and plants, although they are uncomfortable with his yearly sacrifice and death. His wife Gerda is not so well liked, being an etin-bride, and was almost cursed by the Alfar in the beginning of their marriage.
Frey's hall in Alfheim is the only place that you can absolutely count on to be in the same area every time, and to look the same; that's because Frey insists on it. Even when Frey is not home, you can get a good meal out of his household servants, who have orders to be polite to any visitor, and to feed them and put them up for three days without judging them...so long as they do not break any rules of hospitality. It is a great Norse-style hall, thatched with many different kinds of grain. In fact, a good offering is a bunch of different grains still on their stalks and in good condition, to be added to his roof.
"When I first started defining my path as Asatru, one of the gods I discovered I had an affinity to was Frey, though in his role as Leader of the Ljossalfar. In fact I pledged my allegiance to him as my liege, even though Tyr is my patron and mentor (this is also quite apart from my subsequent ties with Loki and his kin). This was several years ago, probably about eight."
The Rebels: Memories of Blood
Somewhere along the line, some of the Alfar started an internecine war, which ended in a great split between the two warring factions. The smaller group was forced out en masse, and they emigrated to the world of the Duergar, who negotiated a territorial bargain with them. These are the Dark Alfar of Svartalfheim, and their information is found in the Svartalfheim/Nidavellir chapter. The Ljossalfar prefer not to speak either of the war or of the existence of the Dokkalfar, so it is wise to avoid the subject when visiting.
"There is a forest in Alfheim called the Svartvidr, a nasty place where the trees are twisted as if in pain, no animals dwell, and noxious and often poisonous plants grow. Most of the Ljossalfar give it a wide berth, though there are those who are (secretly) drawn by morbid curiosity to explore it. The Svartalfar cursed that forest when they were driven out of their homeland by their cousins. It used to be a place of great beauty and was said to have been planted by the first Alfar, but few of them can even bear to go near it now."
-Elizabeth Vongvisith, spirit-worker
The Problem of Glamour
The most difficult thing of all for the pathwalker is that Alfheim is covered in a constant coat of glamour. It's on everything - the trees, the grass, even the clouds sometimes. Every realm is a work of art, quite literally. This means that, unlike the journeyer who only sees the astral, some pathwalkers may have to cope with seeing two or more layers superimposed over the physical realm. The frustration level largely depends on the ability of the pathwalker to see through magical glamour in general. If you don't have this talent, then you're no worse off than in any other world, at least where visual discrimination is concerned.
If you are the sort who can see through glamour if you stare at it, then your best bet is to merely keep running your eyes superficially over the landscape, and you won't get too confused. The key is to remember to respond to the glamour-figure and not the actual one behind it. For example, if a shorter Alf is using glamour to look taller, look at where the glamour-face is, and not the real one a foot lower - as he's probably built in the magic to where a gaze directed at his glamour-face actually looks in his eyes, you'll be staring a foot above his head, and he'll notice that...and be offended that you're looking under his clothing, as it were. If someone puts out a glamour-appendage, take it, and try to stop thinking about the fact that it's not real. It will feel perfectly real, if you do that; if you don't, your fingers may sink through it, and they'll know. Your courtesy depends on your ability to pretend that you can't see through things.
If you are the rare sort who is so immune to glamour that it is merely a vague veil over the reality of what's underneath (and this is really a rare thing; in fact, it's most often a specific modification by certain gods done on their sworn servants), you had best work very hard at pretending otherwise. Keep in mind that a raking glance from someone who has blotted out an Alf's glamour entirely is not only rude, but can temporarily interfere with the glamour magic itself. (There is some truth to the idea that rabidly disbelieving in it can wipe it out, which is worse than rude.) Alfheim will be a constant discipline for you of concentrating on that glamour, and you may get a headache from the multiple floating layers of vision.
However, glamour may also be used to conceal traps or dangers, and being able to see through it can be a lifesaver in the wrong places. It's all right to let the Alfar know that you are capable of seeing through glamour; they won't care that you can as long as you are courteous about it. Skill in changing your perceptions at will is the key to dealing with Alfheim glamour in a safe and constructive way.
"Glamour is natural here; it's a game, an art form, an intrinsic part of the nature of the place and its people. Some ability to deal with this is absolutely expected before anyone will guide you further in than the fringes. Often potential guides will greet you with little tests to see if you understand the principle: a choice between two glamoured objects, say. For me the key has been to judge things by their feel and not their look - unfairly easy for me since my sight is poor anyway! If you practice this skill in your mundane life - knowing when the deal is too good to be true or the pretty person has a rotten soul - then it will also work in Alfheim."
"Travel in the Alf-realms can be hazardous and confusing. The time discrepancy between Ljossalfheim, in particular, and the mortal realms is very great and often unpredictable. Alfar behavior is likewise often unpredictable and inconsistent; formerly friendly beings may turn prickly and annoying without warning, and it is all too easy to offend an Alf without having any idea why you're suddenly getting the cold shoulder. However, if you must sojourn among the Alfar for whatever purpose, you should keep a few things in mind.
"Getting In: Ljossalfheim is somewhat difficult to get into without an invitation, more so than other places in the Nine Worlds. If you do manage to trespass there, it's probably because someone, usually the Lady or Lord ruling that portion of Ljossalfheim, or perhaps even the high Lady or Lord, has decided you are harmless and unlikely to do any damage, rather than being worthy and favored (though they like to think of it that way). You will not be allowed unlimited access to all parts of the realm, but you most likely won't be harassed, either, unless you've somehow gotten on the elves' bad side. In any case, you will be watched constantly, even if you're not aware of it.
"The light-elves are a stern people, but they are not generally malicious or sadistic. Assuming you are polite and behave in a civilized manner, as in any other world in which you are a guest, they will tolerate your presence without too much trouble. Some may even be curious about you, and therefore inclined to be friendly (those such as the forest-dwelling wood folk, who look vaguely treelike, are far more interested in mortal visitors than the proud Seelie Court types). If you're there on business -- say, an errand for your god-boss(es), or you have an appointment with a particular resident of Ljossalfheim, the elves will already know this, even if they don't speak of it. You would do well to state this openly when it seems appropriate to do so, just so there isn't any confusion. If you are just there as a tourist, be sure to openly admire everything you see. Ljossalfheim is very beautiful, so this shouldn't be hard. The Alfar are very vain and they feel that the natural reaction of any mere mortal finding hirself in their world should be awe and abject gratitude for being allowed in. Kissing their butts may become really tiresome, but a little flattery can go a long way to ensure that later visits go smoothly."
-Elizabeth Vongvisith, spirit-worker
"I would certainly suggest that someone first visiting Alfheim should find themselves a trustworthy guide. There are outposts along the edges where those willing to serve as such can be found, and those are the best places to start. Keep in mind that as an outsider you are not completely safe, particularly before you have a native companion who will vouch for you. In particular, as so much folklore attests, do not eat or drink in Alfheim until you have found this companion. If you know animal or plant spirits who will vouch for you, or if Frey, Freya, or Odin will, this will speed things up to an extent in finding a companion among the Alfar. Likewise, if you smell very strongly of Helheim or Jotunheim it will be slower going (though it is still possible, you may always be regarded with a hint of suspicion or alarm)."