Our journey through the Nine Worlds will start with Midgard. There are a lot of differing opinions as to what and where Midgard actually is. One opinion is that it is actually a reference to our world, our material plane here. However, although our world here does have an "astral" body, just as we do, that is not Midgard.
Midgard is a world that spins around the World Tree that is Yggdrasil. It is the one of the Nine Worlds that lies the closest to our own, and as such it's the easiest to get into. Beginning journeyers would do well to start with moving themselves into Midgard before moving to any of the other worlds. Actually, that's often exactly what happens, if only unconsciously - the journeyer's thoughts move their body in the direction of Yggdrasil, and it's Midgard they get pulled into, sometimes only for a few seconds before moving to another of the worlds. Our concept of Midgard as being central and close is so strong that much of the lore claims that it is the central world that all other revolve around.
Some journeyers experience it that way, or haven't looked critically enough to see any differently. Others have noticed Midgard as being simply one world in a line, spiralling around Yggdrasil at about mid-level, and somewhat to the east. This differentiation varies depending on whether journeyers are seeing the worlds organized into a spiral or into three flat layers. The denizens of the other eight worlds do not see Midgard as particularly more important than any other world, and less so than some. They also do not see it as physically central, so it may be that this perception is largely our own Earth-centric and thus Midgard-centric view.
Midgard itself seems to be similar in nature to our world many centuries ago. There is
some speculation that there may have been a time when the two worlds were joined even closer
than they are today, and that the boundaries between astral-Earth and Midgard, or even physical-Earth and Midgard, sometimes blurred and folk could wander back and forth, on purpose or
accidentally. As the split between the two seems to be that our world is so much more
physical/material than the Nine, it may be that many centuries ago, that split was not as
pronounced, and our world has changed some since then. This gives rise to the idea that the
humanfolk of Midgard actually once came from our world, when the two were more joined than
they are today. However, there is almost no way to probe further than speculation into these
matters, so let us consider the situation as it stands.
Time and Seasons: As the sister-world to our world, Midgard's seasons are lined up perfectly with ours - or, more specifically, those of the northern half of our northern hemisphere. This may be why Midgard is so much more accessible to us. Day length varies depending on time of year and where you are in Midgard. The continent is about the longitude of Europe from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle, and in latitude about as wide as Eurasia, so day length will vary accordingly.
Midgard's seasons are remarkably similar to that of Europe, and line up with them as well
in terms of the months and year. It is the one place in the Nine Worlds where you can reasonably
guess the season and weather before entering.
Geography: Midgard was constructed by the Aesir out of the brow-ridge of Ymir's skull. It is still mostly water, with one large single continent, surrounded by ocean and river. As we will see by studying the rest of the Nine Worlds, water is more often the path of a world-barrier than earth. The ocean on which the continent of Midgard floats is dotted with small islands and fjords. Mountain ranges, hilly ridges, valleys and lowlands all figure into its varied topology.
Those who envision Midgard as central to the worlds see the worlds of Muspellheim, Vanaheim, Niflheim, and Jotunheim circling it to the south, west, north, and east respectively. (There is conflict in the lore as to whether it is Niflheim or Jotunheim that lies to the north of Midgard. In the spiral map, both are true.) Yggdrasil is seen as rising up through the center of the world in this particular map.
For those who envision the Nine Worlds as a spiral, it's a little more complex. In the north, the ocean boundary narrows to become the great salt river Elivagar, which carries the world-boundary between Midgard and Jotunheim. To the west, rising on the spiral and passing through the Tree, one moves through the world-boundary to Vanaheim. To the south, once one crosses the water the shores give onto the dark Myrkwood, which then gives way to Muspellheim. To the east, the world-border falls off downwards towards Svartalfheim and Nidavellir, which are technically under (but not underground) Midgard.
Not far off from the coast in any direction is the great bulk of the Midgard Serpent,
Jormundgand. The Great Serpent, child of Loki and sister-brother of Hela and Fenrir, was
enchanted by Odin to forever encircle the continent of Midgard. This is more than some kind of
decoratively cruel act; the Serpent is the living carrier of a protection enchantment. With that ring
of living flesh in place, no great enchantments can penetrate, and the fragile humans are safe
from fatal divine interference. Actually, there are a lot of rumors around what sorts of terrible
things the Serpent-boundary protects against, but it may be that only Odin knows what they all
are. There are also rumors that the Serpent-boundary keeps some magic in as well as out, but
again it's all speculation.
This chapter is a good place to stick in a reminder about the Myrkwood. Reports vary on whether or not it is technically part of Midgard or of Muspellheim; as far as we pathwalkers can tell, it is a liminal space between the two that belongs to neither. It is a thick, twisted, dark wood on the shore of Muspellheim, just beyond the narrow Midgard ocean to the south. The Myrkwood is inhabited by tribes of...well...something. Rumors vary as to what they are - Midgard humans who have gone feral, or who have interbred with some kind of Alf or Jotun, evil Alfar who live on blood, or some other race of beings that are not described anywhere. The fire-etins of Muspellheim claim that they are not Jotuns of any sort, and generally give them a wide berth (which suggests against their being human, as Surt's sons are generally not intimidated by anything remotely human).
What is known is that they are territorial, fierce, and cannibalistic. As you enter the Myrkwood on the shore side, you will see a variety of shrines scattered under the eaves of the trees, containing squat, deformed, bizarre-looking idols. These are the Gods or worshipped wights of the people of Myrkwood. Immediately leave offerings on every shrine you see, and every one you come across. This is the best way to make sure that they will leave you alone. Propitiating their protective spirits will get you safely through without even a sight of the Myrkwood people; it's always worked for me.
Running through the middle of the Myrkwood is the Blutwasser, the River of Blood. It is
only knee-deep, but if you wade through it, you will smell of blood for days. Not far beyond the
river is the border of Muspellheim; you will see the trees becoming more and more charred as
you go closer.
Ulfdalir and Ysetur
In the northernmost stretches of Midgard, close to the northern border of Jotunheim, there is a place called Ulfdalir, or the Wolf-Dales. The wolf-reference, however, is neither about real wolves nor Jotun werewolves; it refers to those individuals who are branded a "wolf's head", or outlaw. Bands of outlaw brigands roam there, but this is no jolly Robin Hood story. Most are starving, violent, and dangerous. However, somewhere in Ulfdalir there is a secret entrance to Helheim, so people sometimes wander in anyway. Don't bother asking the outlaws where the Hel-tunnel is; assuming that they don't kill you anyway, they don't know and have no interest in finding out. They are known to laugh at people who come looking for it, and offer to send them to Helheim by a quicker route.
Also on the Jotunheim border is a fortress named Ysetur, which was built by the Gods to
keep an eye on the Jotnar and make sure that they do not attempt to lead an army into Midgard.
Thor was originally stationed there, but he grew bored and the command was turned over to a
bunch of Ivaldi's hired Duergar mercenaries. The Duergar actually do little to prevent any Jotnar
from entering, especially those with enough money to bribe them. However, the Jotnar seem
extremely disinterested in invading Midgard in force, being more focused on Asgard. If you need
to cross into Ulfdalir for whatever reason, hiring a troop from Ysetur is your best protection, but
that requires some gold or silver coin.
Denizens: Midgard is home to the humans of the Nine Worlds. They are rarely found anywhere else in the Nine, being intimidated by the denizens and conditions of the other worlds, although sometimes you will find one journeying to more interesting and dangerous places. Svipdag, for example, was famous for journeying through the wilds of Jotunheim to find the etin-bride that it had been prophesied he would marry. For the most part, though, the humans of Midgard live agricultural lives in small villages which they rarely stray from, except to travel to another village to find a mate. Some, living in the low Midgard mountains, have a herding or hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but most are farmers. Midgard has no cities, and few towns.
According to legend, Odin put his son Heimdall into a human body and let him live a human (or rather superhuman, actually) life among the people, both to get some good bloodlines into them and to allow him to gain some emotional investment in aiding them. During his human lifetime, he was named Rig, and he mated with women of different classes, and supposedly created the bloodlines for inbred class itself. While we of this world tend to be disturbed by the idea of genetic "classes", I have found the many if not most of the denizens of Midgard are thoroughly sold on the concept, and use it as a justification for being whatever it is that they are. There is little point in trying to argue with them on the matter.
Midgard is also home to various Jotnar, Alfar, and Duergar who prefer living there for some reason. It is also home to the Huldre-folk, land-spirits who are humanoid in shape, if very small. Huldre-folk live in high mounds, underground yet above the level of the earth. They correspond to the "little people" of our world, who are not actually related to the Alfar, but are elemental beings whose nature is closer to that of land-wights. Huldre-folk are industrious and shy, and generally go about their business, although they have been known to capture humans who cut down woods that are sacred to them, or otherwise ruin natural beauty that they are particularly fond of. They are masters of healing with herbs, and will sometimes share their knowledge with humans in rare cases. As their name implies, they worship the goddess Holda, and are dedicated to her.
Female Huldre-folk will sometimes take on human sizes in order to seduce unwary
human males, but there is generally something off about their presentation, as they can't seem to
get it quite right. At the least, their mannerisms will be strange, and their clothing in disarray; at
worst, there will be extraneous tails or limbs that are revealed when things become intimate.
Tales abound of Huldre-women with cow's tails or donkey ears. If you are attracted to someone
that you fear is a Huldre-woman, ask her to swear by the goddess Holda that she will neither
harm nor detain you, and see what happens. If she likes you enough, she might actually do it. If
she refuses, get away quickly.
Offerings: It is unlikely that you will be making an offering to a human of Midgard for anything
except shelter or a guide. You can give them food, or jewelry, or coins. You can also help them
out with their farm chores, although I've found that they really prefer tangible gifts (a strong
difference from the rest of the folk in the Nine Worlds). Huldre-folk like sparkling things, and as
for any other of the races of the Nine Worlds, check their world of origin for ideas.
Warnings: One can get stuck in Midgard, if only partially, and not even know it. It's easier to drop bits of oneself there, or if you pathwalk there, to have it only recede partially so that a shadow of Midgard hangs around you. This can wreak havoc on your ordinary life, not to mention your physical health. Make sure that you are cleanly separated from Midgard, especially if you utilize it as the highly useful jumping-off point that it is.
There is very little that is dangerous in Midgard, otherwise. There's also very little that's interesting....except when Gods and spirits interfere, and then it becomes both more interesting and more dangerous. For advice, check the type of God or wight by tracing them to their home world, and then react accordingly.