Posts Tagged ‘modern retelling’

Birthing Rope

Prologue – Nations At War

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Odin’s daughter cried out when she was born – a wail worthy of any Valkyrie announcing the death and sorrows to come. It made him proud, showing her battle spirit was strong. Even the chanting crescendo of seven midwives was not as loud as the scream of his newborn shield-maiden. Strips of red cloth hung from all rafters in the birthing hall, and blessings rained down from these like the blood of her ancestors, drop by drop in the dim light of clay oil lamps. None sat on the benches lining the side walls, and green fresh-cut grasses carpeted the ground of the birchwood longhouse. Three log pillars supported the roof. The women, clustered near the one at the front, used the door flap to let in more air as needed. He was at the opposite end, where breathing was more challenging. Burning pine sap vapors filled his nostrils with a cleansing scent, made cloying by the stifling heat. His blue tunic was soaked, clinging to his skin, sweat dripping from his brow onto the thundering drum he held.

The youngest midwife poured one last ladle of reddish water upon hot stones in the pit at the center of the hall, raising a scalding cloud of steam. Until now, that hiss had been the grandmothers and grandfathers breathing life into this new spark. The last pouring though, that was for the first breath of the babe, and the warming steam all around saved her from the cold shock of separation. It eased the transition from the womb to the world.

He had lost so many good people during the war, it was good to see new life from his loins. When her end came, as it comes to all, seven mourners would raise wails within these walls to ease her passage from the world into the mists beyond. To the Vanir, death and birth were journeys that mirrored each other, Odin reflected as he pounded the last birthing beats on his oiled drum. For now though, his heart swelled with joy and a large grin split his face. It was time to approach his newest daughter! (more…)