Idunna's Apples

Generously contributed by ADF/RDG Druid Melissa S Burchfield
Bard, Three Cranes Grove, ADF

Way back in time, when the world was yet new, the Gods were not as we know them today. Mortals, they were, with immense powers, and death loomed on all of their horizons.

Among the Orchards, there lived a proud family with four beautiful daughters, three of whom were studying to be Valkyries with Freyja herself. Idunna, the youngest of these, however, was not a fighter. Though she watched from her hilltop perch, silently longing for the camaraderie and fellowship of common interest, she knew this life was not for her. When she tired of the incessant swordplay and displays of physical prowess, she wandered off to the patio alone.

The patio was her domain, and Idunna spent most of her hours here among her plants. Idunna had a special gift. Every seed she preciously held in her hand. Every seed she kissed before laying it in its bed of soil, and every seed she planted grew.

Just as Idunna had watched her sisters, so, too, was Idunna being watched. A stirring among her bushes, laden with blooms, alerted her as Jord, an Earth Goddess, stood up in the garden and met Idunna's eyes.

"Idunna," Jord said. "I have been watching you with great interest as I have been watching many who dwell in this land. I have been searching for someone, someone extraordinary, and now I have found you." Idunna tilted her head to the side in concentration as she considered Jord's words.

"Gracious Lady of the Earth," she began. "I know not of extraordinary things. To the contrary, I think you will find I am the absolute of ordinary."

Jord smiled. "Idunna, not all gifts bring fame and glory. If you will accept, I have an all important task for you. It concerns the realm of men. The men grow weak and angry, fighting amongst themselves and losing their way. As the Aesir and Vanir age, we are losing our connection to men, and this must not be allowed to happen lest they destroy themselves. They need us, Idunna, to inspire them, to motivate them, to provide order for them."

"I understand, and I have seen the decay of mankind myself." Idunna replied. "But what does this have to do with me?"

Jord took Idunna's hand and place therein three small seeds. Apple seeds. "Idunna, I am asking you to take these seeds and plant them in a secluded spot where no one will stumble upon their bounty. These seeds hold the key to maintaining balance and order in the world. Do you accept the care of such a charge? It will require a long journey and much work on your part, and you must leave immediately."

Idunna studied the seeds, but even without her keen sense of discernment would have been able to feel the pulse of energy within them. "I accept," She heard herself say. "Only I worry about my family. They will surely miss me while I am gone."

Jord smiled, "Idunna, I know your family is close and loves you dearly, but this is of the utmost importance, and once you return, they will understand. Do you understand?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Good. Now, here is what you are to do, and you must follow these instructions to the letter. Take you these seeds and plant them in your special way. Once they are in the ground, you must hold vigil until they sprout. It is absolutely essential that you never leave them unattended, and you must be present while they grow." Idunna nodded in understanding.

"How long will it take?" she asked.

"For three days you must hold vigil. The seeds will know that you are near." Jord answered. "Once they sprout, you must catch their first fruit—do not let it hit the ground—and plant it among the roots as quickly as you can and then wait for me there. I shall find you." And with that, Jord was gone.

Idunna gathered her provisions, and with one loving glance back to her home, she walked deep into the Orchards, the bounty of which was so immense that no one need travel very far into the trees to obtain more than enough of the fruits. She knew of a clearing farther back and up a hill, as she had sat there often, basking in the sunlight while her sisters trained away.

When she reached the clearing, she began to dig. She kissed the seeds one by one and placed them into the soil, covering them gently with a blanket of earth and a drink of spring water. And then, Idunna waited.

Through three long, worrisome nights and tranquil days, she waited, never straying more than a few feet from her seeds. And then it happened. She felt it before she saw it, a shift in the earth around her, and then three seedlings shot forth from the ground, causing Idunna to step back. They flew high into the air, growing at an impossible pace, waving in the air. At once, they twirled around one another to create one massive trunk from which a thousand tiny arms reached for the stars.

She saw the first fruit form on a low branch and watched as it grew to full apple-ripeness and just as quickly began to shrivel and dry. When it fell, she was ready to catch it. It continued to whither in her hand. As fast as she could, she kissed her magic into this new seed and placed it into the hole she dug with her other hand.

When she had finished covering it with soil, a myriad of glittering lights traveled up the trunk of the tree. The branches sprouted leaves in waves, followed by beautiful white flowers. The tree gave a great shake and the flowers exploded, causing a rain of petals to fill the air. The flowers were replaced by the most perfect apples Idunna had ever seen.

Idunna stood in awe of what she had just witnessed. As she marveled at the tree before her, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Jord had returned, and she was smiling. She handed Idunna a wooden box.

"Idunna, this is the Tree of Life. These apples, when eaten daily, shall grant eternal life to those who partake of them. You are now their keeper. You are henceforth to give the apples to the Aesir and Vanir who will remain forever to inspire, to motivate and to maintain order among the cosmos, the shadow of which is mankind."

"But how will I know to whom I am to grant this gift of eternal life?" Idunna asked.

"You shall know in your heart as each comes before you," Jord replied. "You will understand as you carry on. Before you begin, you must partake of the first apple."

Idunna hesitated for a moment, and then bit into the best tasting apple she had ever eaten. She felt the power course through her in that very first bite and knew that her life, her eternal life, had finally found a purpose. Jord slipped back into her earthly shadows as a voice called from the front of the orchard.

"Idunna! Idunna!" It was Bragi, blessed of words and music, Bard among the Aesir. Idunna went to meet him.

His frown of deep concern turned to a radiant smile as their eyes met. "Idunna! Oh, what a relief! We have been searching for days for you! You look..." He trailed off as he realized for the first time that he had not the words to describe the beauty and powerful aura that emanated from the woman before him.

Idunna smiled at him and felt a stirring in her heart. "Bragi," she asked. "Would you like an apple?"