Bifrost and the Rainbow Bridge
Asgard is the smallest of the Nine Worlds, although one feels its vastness when one sets foot here after crossing the Bifrost, the bridge of flames, the Rainbow Bridge. The Bifrost is not always visible, and often is only accessible when Heimdall wills it so, to let in the warriors killed in battle or to let the Aesir come or go.
The first home is located at the end of Bifrost and belongs to Heimdall the white Aesir, guardian of Asgard. Its name is Himinbjorg, the ‘castle in the sky’. Although this god is especially friendly to Midgard’s people, he will not let anyone in who is not explicitly invited by one of Asgard’s inhabitants. He will not usually attack humans but will simply forbid their entry and the huge fence, more than 30 feet tall, will not open.
There is no city in Asgard; however the divine halls are grouped together. Seasons in Asgard are the same as in Midgard, which may explain the interest of the gods for the world of man and its beauty.
Gladsheim, the Bright Home
The temple dedicated to the Aesir is a huge and magnificent longhouse in which the Hlidskjalf tower and the throne of the All-Father of the gods are located. Seated on his high throne is Odin, the god whose ravens observe the Nine Worlds, the Sky and the Earth, and the actions of all. This hall also has a high throne for each male Aesir. They sometimes hold council here (when they do not do so in Yggdrasill’s shadow) and also receive homage from Midgard.
In every way similar to Gladsheim and located by its side, Vingolf is dedicated to the goddesses, the Asynjur. Aesir and Vanir goddesses can reign here and make all the decisions because no male can enter. Blots dedicated to their names resound there, the sacrificial fumes rise in the sky, rejoicing the gathered goddesses.
Valholl is Odin’s banquet hall, which welcomes those warriors who died in combat, and who have not been sent to Freya’s Hall, Folkvang. The hall is so high it is difficult to see its ceiling, and it is covered in gold. It shines like the sun. It holds six hundred and forty doors; each of them is so large that nine hundred and sixty warriors could walk through each of them at the same time. By the western door a great, gaunt wolf stands guard, and an eagle constantly flies over its roof.
The framework is made out of spears, the roof out of shields and several suits of scale armor lie on the building’s benches. Here the Einherjar (unique warriors who died in combat, chosen by Odin) drink, recover their strength and train while they wait for Ragnarök. Every day they fight each other, and when the evening comes, the wounded recover their vigor and all return to feast in the hall. Standing on the rooftop, the goat Heidrun grazes on the branches of Yggdrasill that fall here. Mead comes from its udder and fills several vats every day.
While mead flows constantly, good food was also promised to the Einherjar. The boar Sehrimnir is sacrificed every day and his meat served by Asgard’s cook himself, Andhrimnir. The animal is reborn every evening to be sacrificed again the day after. Warriors feast on his flesh, but Odin, the supreme Aesir, has none of it. Instead he feeds his two wolves Geri and Freki and drinks with his unique warriors.
Freya’s place, Sessrumnir, stands on the battlefield Folkvang, the training grounds for the dead warriors picked by the Valkyries. This is where she hand picks them for herself, even before Odin, the All-Father; such is their agreement. Freya reigns in Folkvang as a Valkyrie and goddess of war and fate. When she is in Asgard, she presides over the dead warriors’ combats.
In Sessrumnir, a place of high magic, Freya the mistress of Seidr only welcomes her brother, her maidens of honor, and select guests. There, it is always spring, fountains always flow, and golden-furred cats the size of panthers roam in the gardens or peacefully sleep in the grass. Some of these beasts are chosen to pull her chariot.
The dead who are welcomed in Sessrumnir, be they mage or skald, can enjoy the tranquility of the place. Indeed, many are moved to compose songs to the beauty of the place and its mistress. Love affairs are accepted and even encouraged, as well as idylls as long as they do not disturb the hall’s inhabitants. Peace and fulfilment must at all times be maintained in this heavenly place where Freya has tried to recreate the memory of her Vanaheim palace and its relaxed rhythm of life, to the extent of bringing forth lush vegetation in the middle of her Asgard home.
Njord can’t live without his Vanaheim home. He misses the sea, even when he is in the best of all the known worlds. Thus he built an identical copy of his palace, Noatun (‘ship- enclosure’) on Asgard’s only shore. This is a little piece of Vanaheim in Aesir territory. The original Noatun located in Vanaheim is visible at the other end of the sea, thanks to magic. Njord is often gone during the day as he spends most of his time on ships and fishing. He only comes home at night to cast his nets like a humble fisherman.
Thor’s palace is the largest in all Asgard, as big as a city. It is made out of dried bricks and stones, and is composed of six hundred and forty rooms with very high ceilings and wide open windows. It is filled with peals and claps of thunder, which do not seem to scare the palace’s inhabitants. When he is in his palace, Thor’s great laughter and legendary fits of anger echo through the rooms. When he is out hunting giants or pursuing other businesses, golden-haired Sif, his wife and friend of Freya (also her equal in swordsmanship and knowledge of warfare) welcomes guests with simple courtesy.
Ydalir is the most remote palace, hidden in a copse of yew trees (used to build bows). It is the home of Ullr, the bowman god and the hunter who often wears ice skates to fly across frozen places after his prey. From this place he can gaze at the northern lights he loves so much. Ullr was born from the goddess Sif’s former union with an alfar prince named Aurvandill. He speaks little but is patient and tenacious. Odin sometimes entrusts him with the protection of the domain of the Aesir when the gods travel during winter, to show the other gods that he is trustworthy.
Frigga’s palace, nicknamed ‘Fen Halls’, looks like a country house with a golden roof. It is surrounded by ponds teeming with life and is bordered by birch trees with white bark (the goddesses’ favorite trees). Frigga, the All-Father’s spouse, has retired here since her son’s death, a sorrow she is unable to get over.
However, the goddess is not only Odin’s consort, she is also his first adviser. He often confers with her and takes her advice into account as much as Tyr’s, Thor’s or Frey’s. She is the most powerful goddess among the Aesir. Frigga is a formidable wizard and her prophecies are always correct. She is exceptionally beautiful, a perfect hostess and she reigns over Fensalir with her handmaidens (among which is Eir, the Aesir healer). However, Fensalir is her retreat, and she pursues her duties from Vingolf with the other goddesses.
This palace, one of the most beautiful in Asgard, is empty and its doors have been magically sealed by Frigga herself. It was home of Balder and his wife Nanna, who are now dead and live in Hel’s palace. No impure object or negative rune is able to approach or enter the palace. Frigga often enters to cry and leave offerings that disappear, accepted as gifts by her departed son.
Balder’s son, Forseti, deals out justice in this tribunal and palace, the name of which means ‘splendor’. It is stunning indeed, with its silver roof supported by red-gold pillars shaped like horns, and its sparkling floor. Forseti himself is a middle-aged man, eloquent and wise, a mediator with no equal who wields his axe on his back. This shows that discussion is better than blind violence. He is the god of the ‘thing’. Tyr, the god of strategy and justice is always welcome to provide his advice in Glitnir.