The Visit

It was dark. Very, very dark.

As I looked into the blackness a dull red glow seemed to slowly materialise in front of me. Something was stinging my face and making it difficult for me to keep my eyes open. It was specks of snow, that small icy snow that came with the fierce cold of a deep winter's east wind. God, it was cold.

I tried to gather my thoughts, "Where was I before I was here? Was I doing something? What was I doing? Had I fallen to sleep? Was it one of those dreams?"

But was it a dream? I could definitely smell smoke from a wood fire and I could feel the biting chill of the wind. It could not be a dream. I had far too much awareness, far too much sensation.

I struggled forward to the red glow. I could feel my footfalls on the hard frozen ground; I could feel the numbness setting into my toes and knees. No, this could not be a dream.

Then I saw him, seated on a fallen log in front of the fire. He looked fierce. The cascading locks of grey hair and the band around the forehead emphasised his warrior like appearance. His chin rested on his hands where they gripped the pommel of a massive broadsword which glinted ominously in the dull red light of the smouldering embers.

"Where am I"? I asked in confusion.

He lifted his chin from the hands grasping the handle of the mighty sword. "You are in the place you were searching for". His eyes studied me.

"I don't understand. How did I get here?"

"You came the way everyone who searches for this place comes".

His answers did nothing to lift the confusion from me and I searched for more clues. "Will you tell me who you are?"

"Do you not know me?" There was something in the tone of his answer that suggested I should.

"I seem to think I do but I cannot recall".

I felt I should know but somehow I just couldn't put a name to what seemed to be a familiar face. "Your face is somewhere", I continued, "perhaps in a distant memory or even another life". I felt frustrated with my inability to recognise someone who seemed so familiar but somehow I knew that I had never seen him before. Please tell me" I begged. "Who are you"?

"I am Odin".

I felt no surprise. It seemed to be right. But how could it be?

"And will you tell me where I am please. It may seem strange but I just don't know how I got here. I don t know where here is and I don't know where I was before I was here. I seem to have a mental block. Please help me."

"You are with me and my fellows. You are where you were before you came here You have not moved in body, but in spirit".

"I am dreaming then". The relief in my own voice surprised me but he didn't take it very lightly. His voice rose and the answer came with a hint of indignity.

"I am no dream. I am real to all those who believe in me and come to pay homage".

"All those who believe in you and come to pay homage?" I echoed. "Does that mean that others have visited you here? At this exact place".

"Yes, others, at this place. Not as many as in times long ago". Then, sighing, "But what is time to us. It is just the passing thoughts of our followers".

"If I am not dreaming and I am where I was before I came here, Where on earth am I".

Perhaps my confusion coupled with what felt like the onset of hypothermia was manifesting itself as fear and anxiety. He smiled a gentle and reassuring smile. "You are within yourself just as I am within you. Just as I am within all of our people."

He gestured around with his hand. "This is the temple you have built for me and my fellows".

He could see me shivering from the bitter cold and beckoned for me to move closer to the red glow of the fire. As I approached I could see past him and was able to make out the shapes of others huddled behind him. One held a double-headed hammer.


"Yes, that is he"

Whether Thor's image had reminded me of something I cannot tell but memories started to creep back to me. I addressed Odin, "I remember now, I was sitting in my chair, in my warm house, I was thinking about history. I was wondering about my identity, things like who I was and where I had come from. The next thing I remember is being here".

"It happens that way" was the nonchalant reply.

"But why is it so cold. Why is it winter here"? Perhaps he was going to tell me it was always winter through the wardrobe just like in the C. S. Lewis book!

He lent forward slightly and spoke slowly and deliberately, like a parent explaining something to a child. "Because this is where you have banished us to." Memories spread sadness across his face, "But it has been colder. It has been harsher. For many centuries you have turned your back on us in favour of the other interpretation, the belief you call Christianity". His voiced rose in accusation, "We all but perished in the cold deep winter of your neglect". Then thoughtfully, "Yet a few, a brave band who never forgot their true selves, kept us alive. Without them we would have been lost forever," a finger pointed accusingly at me, "and so would you". Then his eyes brightened again and the gentle smile returned. "More and more of our people are turning their thoughts to us now, just as you have, and they are rediscovering the inner power that we represent. I sit and watch over this fire that started as a small spark. I have seen it grow and can now feel a little warmth. Soon I hope to see yellow flames flicker into life. Perhaps spring will come again and our people will find the true path once more".

"You depend upon people believing in you to give you power"?

"Yes, but not any people. Our people, yours and mine for I am all of you as you are a small part of me. Call yourself Celtic, Saxon, Viking, Aryan or what you will, we are all one people".

"Do other races have their own, well, what ever you are"?

He laughed, a deep rumble of a laugh, "You fear to use the word God because it may mean something else"?

"Err", I stumbled, "I did have reservations".

"Fear not. Call us Gods or Spirits and, yes, other races have their Gods". He paused and smiled again, "Or whatever".

"You said we had banished you by not believing. Does that mean that where we transferred our belief to the other God that then made the other God more powerful"?

"No, it is wasted. You can only believe in yourself and through self in your own God".

"What did you mean when you said the other interpretation. Interpretation of what?"

"Many, many millennia ago, our people emerged from their ancestral roots in the northern lands." A broad smile spread across the weathered face. "They were good times. It was then that our people first called us to them. What times we had." Then the smile faded again; "As their tribes grew and flourished many of them started to wander. Some east, some further north, some to the south and some west to become your ancestors. When the time of ice came great numbers were driven south and settled in the warmer lands that you now call the Middle East. At first they remembered us as they had made us but over the centuries their thoughts and beliefs were taken over by new ideas brought in by the other peoples that they interbred with. In the end they declared that they were a race in themselves and rejected us. They gave their thoughts to a new God". He paused and studied me, perhaps seeking my reaction. Then in a deliberate voice "That is what I mean by the other interpretation."

"Then what happened. What happened to you and your fellow gods?"

"They carried their new belief back to the homelands in the north. That did not matter at first because they lived an isolated life within the homelands. They kept themselves to themselves because they saw themselves as different. Then a new figure emerged in the east, the man you call Jesus. Then others of our race began to follow him and that's when the sun started to set upon us here. The land grew cold and winter came. We have sat here awaiting our fate for two thousand years. We thought Ragnarok would soon be upon us".

A feeling of deep sadness descended on me. I understood straight away what it was he was telling me. I saw myself as a sinner denying what is. I had to go away and think on this. "If I leave now, will I be able to return"?

He nodded reassuringly, "You have found the path to our camp fire and you will always be welcome."

"How do I get back to before." I half expected him to tell me to click my heels three times and say that there's no place like home.

"Think of where you want to be and you shall be there," was the simple reply.

I thought of the chair, the fire, and the room. There was the blackness again then I started to wake up in the warmth of my home. "It was just a dream after all”, I said aloud to myself. I went to stand up. It was a surprise to find that the cold in my legs and hands made the simple task so difficult. I looked at my fingers and the nails were blue. They always go that colour in the winter cold.

"Oh my god".

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