Day 1, Midgard: "I am a traveler on Man's Roads."

Midgard SeaWhen I visualized leaving for this journey, I imagined slinging my bag over my shoulder, kissing my loved ones, and going off down the path without looking back. The focus, in my mind, had been entirely on what I'd do on the journey, without any thought to how I'd leave.

My friends and family, however, insisted that there be a ritual to send me off. For once in my life, I didn't think that I needed such a thing. Usually I'm all for rituals marking times of passage in life, but somehow I just wanted to sneak off without fanfare. It felt vaguely like the reasons that I have not celebrated a single birthday of mine with a party in nearly twenty years, except for the occasional surprise party thrown by loved ones. It didn't seem triumphant, or sad, or any good emotion. It felt tense and uncertain, and I couldn't think of a good way to celebrate that. However, it became clear that they, the people who know and love me, needed such a ritual, perhaps more than I did. So I agreed to it, except that I didn't want to help create it. I have enough to concentrate on, I told my friend Allyson who brought up the idea. Don't make me do anything but show up.

So after all my things had been carried out to the little treehouse, just big enough for a futon rope bed and a large box, after my crow Maegen had been brought out in her cage and hung up, we all trooped out to the ritual field. My friends called the four elements, asking the blessing of four deities that they felt to be appropriate. My daughter Jess called Air, and asked for the blessing of Freya, the leader of the Valkyries, upon me. (She said that she picked Freya because Freya likes spooky violent chicks like her.) Allyson called Fire, and asked for Loki's blessing. Joshua called Water, and asked for the blessing of Jormundgand the Serpent. Julie picked Earth, and asked for the blessing of Angrboda, Loki's wife and Hel's mother. She gave me mint and roses, and smeared a tiny bit of blood from a razor cut on my forehead. Joshua also cut himself, but since he's my lover and we're fluid-bonded, he fed me the blood from his cut as a going-away present, a way to take part of him with me on the journey.

Odin had requested that I formally delegate my kingly duties to others before going on this journey, and I had already delegated the symbolic rulership to my wife Bella, and the administrative duties to Sir Tannin, neither of whom could be present because of work commitments. I officially gave my mediation duties to Dame Allyson, kissed Josh and Jess, and then everyone left and I was alone in the field.

My first task was to talk to the land-wight. I call it Oong, although that's not it's actual name, just something that it's willing to answer to. I doubt I could understand or pronounce it's real name. I lay flat on the ground and talked to it, and it came, as it always does. I told it where I was going and asked it to please pull me back here if I needed it to. It agreed enthusiastically; Oong is sort of like a big overgrown puppy who is not too bright but eager to please. I dug a hole between my thighs and buried a polished carnelian as a gift to seal the bargain, and then donned my cloak of the Nine Worlds and picked up my drum.

I walked the labyrinth all the way to the center, drumming slowly, with the piece of the cloak that is Midgard clutched in my other hand. As I went, I tried hard to concentrate the way Loki had showed me, reaching out toward Midgard with my mind, pulling it toward me, pulling myself toward it. When I reached the center I put the drum close to my head, closed my eyes, and drummed the Midgard spot, first softly, then getting louder until it reached a crescendo. The drumbeat pulled me over and through, and I tapered it back to quiet, and stopped. I opened my eyes and looked around, seeing the doubled sight of two field, and other things. I was in a clearing surrounded by trees, but where my home is on a hill and there is nothing above the treeline but sky, in Midgard I could see mountains rising beyond, and I realized that I was actually in a valley there.

I shouldered Bag and began to walk; there was a well-worn road lining up with the bare, well-trodden spots in the field. As I went down the road, the images of houses and other small buildings came into view. One of them, larger than the others and with a hinged sign hanging out front, seemed to be an inn. As I passed it, a man came out and looked at me curiously, and then hurried to catch up with me.

"Are you a traveler in these parts, my lord?" he asked me. I was a little annoyed at the "my lord", as I was trying to travel unobtrusively, but perhaps the fact that my clothing was in good condition - well, and that I was wearing this ridiculous fancy cloak - gave the impression of riches or nobility. I affirmed that I was traveling, and he invited me to stay at his inn, telling me that the beer was good. Besides the fact that I don't drink beer, I had places to go, and I didn't feel comfortable being around large groups of second-world people just yet, so I declined.

Then he asked me if I was a king. I was startled - I had brought nothing with me that signified kingship; in fact, I felt like all such things were best left at home on this trip. He seemed to sense my discomfort, because he rushed to tell me that he had seen quite a few kings come through here in his time. Then he asked where I was headed, and I said that I was off to speak to the serpent. His eyes widened; as I strode off, I called back, "It's all right - I'm a relative."

To invoke the serpent, I ended up at the chalice in the west part of the field. I sat before it and called, but it wasn't quite right. Then I remembered that Ken Russell had given me a bottle of seawater, and I poured about a third of it into the chalice, drew the Ior rune on its side with a wet finger, and called again. The wind picked up, and a black dog suddenly ran in from the woods, circled me, and ran away again. By this I mean that the black dog was fully and thoroughly in the homeworld, the actual field, not Midgard. (I later found out that it was newly acquired by my neighbor.) At the time, it bothered me - omen? Spy? Message?

I looked up and the blue sky, and the body of the serpent began to rise above the treetops - s/he is so huge! - and then move into the sky, as if the sky was ocean. I wasn't sure how to interpret that particular joining of worlds, so I decided not to think about that - the idea that the sky of our world could be lined up with the ocean of Midgard, even if only temporarily so that I could talk to the Big Snake. Or talk at it, rather; I sort of tried to think thoughts at it, but it was, as usual, alien and difficult to understand. One of its coils seemed to run ethereally through my whole body, and I just got an image of sky and clouds and sea, and then it was gone. I liked to think that it was a blessing.

Afterwards, I wrote this chant:

Serpent bound, wound around,
Holding all the world within your coils,
Serpent bound, wound around,
Turning through the ocean's shining waves,
Serpent bound, wound around,
Ring the world with power like a wall,
Serpent bound, wound around,
At the cost of your freedom Midgard's saved.