The beautiful hall of Vingolf was originally commissioned by Odin for overflow of the growing Einherjar of Valhalla, but since Valhalla itself is not yet full, Vingolf was claimed by the Aesir goddesses as a kind of female haven. Although men are not specifically disallowed from Vingolf, they are subtly discouraged from going there. This is a feminine sanctuary, with halls full of female crafters, beautiful gardens, and a kitchen with excellent food. Vingolf's main charm is that it is built around hot springs, with a sacred healing spa in the center. Men are explicitly forbidden from entering the spa. The walls are rose-colored, and roses climb the walls, drenching the place in their scent.
If you are female and wish to visit Vingolf, it's best to get permission from at least one goddess - any female deity who dwells in Asgard probably spends at least some time there, even the warriorlike ones. Bring some small lovely gift that they can use to beautify the place; homemade soaps or cosmetics are especially valued.
The largest single-owner hall in the Nine Worlds is Thor's place, Bilskirnir. The biggest building ever built, it is practically a small city, with six hundred and forty rooms, swarming with the overflow of Valhalla, specifically those who died while sworn to Thor. The walls are made of sun-dried brick and stone, and the rooms are all high-ceilinged and airy. It's par for the course to leave the windows open even when raining; since there is little natural rain, most rainfall is likely Thor's doing and therefore one does him honor to get wet even in his hall.
Thor himself has been the most popular Norse god for centuries; so much so, in fact, that his hammer is currently the generic symbol for most Norse-religionists. As the thunder-god, hurling his lightning-hammer in one of his famous rages, he is the champion of Asgard, and the one who gets sent out to deal with troublesome invaders. He is the god of the common folk, the ordinary farmers, which is why his chariot is pulled by two goats. Thor is tall and broad and has immense strength - showing the blood of his giantess mother Jord - and is red-haired, and red-bearded. He is impulsive and honest, quick to anger and quick to party, over-hasty in judgment and prone to drinking and carousing, but completely reliable when others are depending on him. Though he is teased for being simple - sort of the uberjock - Thor is very concerned with honesty and honor, and keeping one's promises. He has no patience with prevarication and hypocrisy, or fancy word-games that come perilously close to being either of those. To Thor, whatever you do, you do it with your whole heart. You defend what's valuable to you, you keep your commitments, you are a loyal friend and tribesman, you don't need to lie about anything. Thor can also be surprisingly sensible; one of his by-names is "deep-minded".
Thor is commonly known to be a "size-shifter", which is another trait that he inherited from his earth-giant mother. He can shift from ordinary human size to as immensely huge as any giant, which is why he gets trotted out to fight them so often in Asgard's defense. However, one of the side effects of this talent (for him; not all size-shifters have this issue) is that even when he is only six feet tall, he weighs as much as he would if he was twenty feet tall. Because of this, he is apparently banned from crossing Bifrost, and must leave Asgard by the long way around, crossing the Thund Thvitr river in a (one would assume very sturdy) boat, or even swimming or wading across. His hammer is called Mjollnir, and it strikes with the thunderbolt. Jokes about its overly-short handle abound in the Nine Worlds. His belt of strength is called Mengingjardar, and aids his size-shifting skill.
Thor is an eminently approachable guy. Unlike one of the complaints about Odin - that he sometimes treats those who deal with him in an impersonal, how-can-I-use-this-person-effectively way, Thor treats everyone that he takes an interest in with personal attention. He has baffled some folks by simply showing up to chat and schmooze, but that's the way he is. He's pretty good at smelling ulterior motives and dishonesty, so if you approach him, do it on his terms - be straightforward and hail-fellow-well-met, talk to him and party with him, and strive to be honest and open in his presence.
On certain rare occasions while visiting Bilskirnir, you might run into Meile (whose name means "Mile-Stepper"), the younger brother of Thor by many years. He is usually wandering the Nine Worlds - often in disguise, as he has no wish to be famous or do great deeds - but when he decides to come home, he stays at his elder brother Thor's hall. It might be wondered whether Meile's aversion to being known comes out of his relationship with Thor - after all, who could compete with that kind of fame? - or whether he is just an intensely private person. He will talk to those who run across him, and be reasonably friendly, but it's best to pretend that you don't know who he is (assuming you figure it out), and he may give you a cryptic name if you ask.
Thor's wife Sif is tall, blond, and classically beautiful, with the same sort of queenly grace and dignity as Frigga, except with a younger and more girlish cast to it. There is something of the upper-class golden athletic type to her. She is very much a goddess of the high summer. According to the now-infamous story, Loki shaved off Sif's beautiful long golden hair as a prank. When her husband threatened to kill him, he commissioned a wig of hair made from strands of real gold. While Sif's own hair has long since grown back, she still wears the glittering gold wig on ceremonial occasions.
Sif is generally friendly to visitors as long as they are the sort her husband would approve of. She is fairly good with a sword herself, although she does not fight in battles but instead trains young warriors at home. She has been invoked as a goddess of skill in battle, and also as a powerful seeress and sibyl. Another function of her is that of fertility, and sanctifying spaces. Sif is called upon whenever a new building is built for the Aesir, to walk through its rooms with light and flame and hallow it for new living. She is a gracious hostess and will be attentive to the traveler, but she has a great deal of work to do being Lady of Thor's Hall, so be considerate and try not to monopolize her time too much.
Sif's first husband was Aurvandil (Orvandil), for whom she bore Ullr. It is not known why she and Aurvandil broke up, except that his next wife was Groa, a giantess-sorcerer. Thor didn't seem to mind that Sif had been married before; he is still devotedly in love with his golden-haired wife, and it is most unwise to flirt with her in his presence. It's not that she would ever be unfaithful to him - Thor and Sif are extremely monogamous - but the implication that she might even be interested would be insulting to both of them, and Thor tends to return insults with deadly force. Sif bore Thor the two boys Magni and Modi, both of whom are enormous guys and don't know their own strength, much like their dad.
Two other denizens of Bilskirnir are Roskva and Thjalfi. They are either the half-human children of Egil Skytten, a Midgard human who had an affair with Groa, the giantess wife of Aurvandil, or the youngest children of Groa and Aurvandil themselves, depending on who you ask. Groa and Aurvandil were friends of Thor, and after raising the children to their teen years they sent them to be fostered at Bilskirnir. Thjalfi became Thor's page, accompanying him on many journeys. He is the official Bilskirnir courier and messenger, being very quick on his feet; he is an excellent guide for humans wandering about Asgard and especially the confusing maze that is Bilskirnir. Roskva is also an excellent guide, and as she keeps her ears open, she is a good source of gossip and information as well.
Somewhat behind Thor's hall is a smaller hall that belongs to his daughter Thrud, the sister of Magni and Modi (who apparently prefer to hang out bachelor-style in their father's enormous place). Thrud is red-haired like her father and nearly as strong as her brothers, and people have generally described her as a tall, large-boned woman in battle gear. It's said that she sometimes rides with the Valkyries for fun. She is a warrior woman, and not to be trifled with; she has killed several men who made inappropriate passes at her. The land around Bilskirnir is named Thrudheim, so called because of Thor's doting pride in his daughter.
The best offering to bring to Bilskirnir is food. Thor's house, like Valhalla, is always struggling to feed everyone, and he doesn't have Odin's budget. Any plain, wholesome food or drink will be welcomed, and will usually come with an obligatory invitation to dinner. Thor particularly appreciates a good dark beer or ale and either makes an excellent offering.
Folkvang and Sessrumnir
Freya, the goddess of love, sex, fertility, springtime, warcraft, and magic, is the most honored of all the Vanir hostages who live in Asgard. The eldest child of Nerthus and Njord, she was already an accomplished sorceress - and a great beauty - when she came to Asgard, and she was the one that Odin was most eager to have. This was not necessarily for any prurient interests - although it is well-known that she has had the occasional affair with the All-Father - but because she was the mistress of seidhr, one of the northern-tradition magical arts. The bulk of information about Freya, in general, can be found in the Vanaheim chapter.
However, meeting her in Asgard is somewhat different from meeting her in Vanaheim, because her duties are different in each place. Aside from the beautiful gardens and rich earth of Folkvang and Sessrumnir, she does little of her fertility magic in Asgard. She is still Mistress of Love, and Mistress of Seidhr, but the aspect of her that you will not see in Vanaheim is that of warrior-goddess and collector of the Dead. In her Asgard hall Sessrumnir, she can be seen occasionally in full armor, shining and white, over simple white clothing, going in or coming out to and from battle. Sometimes she can also be seen conferencing with the Valkyries of Valhalla, whom she accompanies onto battlefields. She automatically takes all spiritually-appropriate (meaning not sworn to some other deity such as Odin, Thor, Christ, or looked after by someone else) female warriors, and warriors who are queer or transgendered, who fall in battle. She also takes other folk who worship her and come into her notice, unless they need to pass on to Helheim for some reason.
As Freya conducts her warrior duties out of her Asgard hall rather than her Vanaheim home, it is here that she keeps her armor, weapons, and war animals. These include a great bristled sow named Hildisvin ("Battle-Pig") who can run at great speeds and is sometimes ridden to war (apparently more for her effect on the enemy than anything else, for a boar can't be a comfortable ride). Hildisvin was sired by Gullinbursti, her brother's great Vanir boar.
The great hall is named Folkvang ("Field of the Folk"), and this refers to the land around it as well. However, Freya has manipulated the earth around Folkvang so that it is always springtime there, something that she would not be able to do in Vanaheim. The gardens surrounding the great hall, and the smaller but still graceful hall Sessrumnir beyond, are always in bloom with spring flowers. Blooming trees, a gift from Iduna, float like a cloud of color up and down the broad paths between buildings. Two trees that seemto be her favorites, and are found in many places, are linden and medlar. Green banks are studded with tiny strawberries. Fountains leap, filled with bright fish, and generally the place looks as if Freya has the best landscaper in Asgard, which she does - Herself. Just walking around the place is enough to raise anyone's spirits.
You'll find people strolling there as well, and it may take a while for you to figure out that nearly all of them are dead. Unlike Valhalla, where the warriors spend a good deal of their time practice-fighting, in Folkvang people are expected to behave themselves and partake of the gentler arts. If they want to engage in fighting practice, well, Valhalla's over there in that direction, and no better place for it. The Dead of Folkvang spend their time playing music, telling tales, making love, wandering in the gardens, and - in the case of Freya's priest/esses - giving advice to mortal seidhworkers. There are also lots and lots of cats, everywhere, of every conceiveable color. They are pampered and allowed to do as they like; never mistreat a cat in Freya's lands, and speak to them as courteously as you would a person. You might see a couple of really large cats, golden-colored and the size of small panthers; these are said to be Beegold and Treegold (named for honey and amber), who draw her chariot. They do not attack guests, but don't take liberties with them.
Inside, Folkvang is graceful, comfortable, and generally looks as if Freya also had the best interior decorator in Asgard. (See above.) Unlike other halls, which tend to have large feast-hall-type spaces, Folkvang is divided in many smaller areas surrounding beautifully carved hearths, which encourage people to gather in groups, converse, and entertain each other. Bedrooms are generally off of these areas, for folk to dally in.
Just beyond Folkvang is Sessrumnir, Freya's own hall. It is smaller, as it only needs to house Herself, her maidens, and a few dozen guests of her own choosing. If one were to compare architectural styles, Sessrumnir would far more resemble a Vanaheim hall than anything else. There are several rooms dedicated entirely to the workings of seidhr, including a high seat that is reputed to be the spookiest-feeling high seat in existence, practically a door in and of itself.
It is generally easy to get fed and entertained in Folkvang, and as long as one is courteous, well-behaved, and contributes to the hospitality, it is possible to linger for some time without trouble. The offerings listed in the Vanaheim chapter for Freya work well here, with the possible addition of fine armor and weapons for her folk.
This is Njord's hall in Asgard, located outside the walls and directly on the coast, in a small bay. It is easy to find - a great, arched white structure with curves vaguely resembling a ship, with dozens of actual ships anchored in the bay below like a flight of white-billowed birds. It is full of open windows high up near the great arched ceilings - more like the halls of Vanaheim than the A-frame or square-roofed halls of Asgard - so that the sea breezes constantly blow through. Old fishing nets are hung like curtains and tapestries, swaying in the salt winds. Seabirds cluster in droves on the roof and fly through the open upper areas of the hall, but somehow never leave droppings inside.
All the furniture in Noatun is carved from the wood of old ships, sunken or decommissioned. You can see the projecting bows of ships in every hearth, and the sideboards in every table; keels and wheels and masts make up every part of anything one sits or lies on. The folk about the place are generally going about some aspect of shipmaking, or net-mending, or other such business; behind the great hall are extensive woodcarving and shipbuilding works.
There is a lovely walled garden in a courtyard just off of the main building of Noatun. It is filled with lush plants, many not native to Asgard. This garden is said to have been the favorite place of Sigyn while she was growing up, according to those who place Sigyn as Njord's foster-child. Bringing a potted exotic plant is one possible offering. Njord's favorite herb is rosemary, and the hills around Noatun bloom with many varieties.
Njord himself is generally only home in the evening. He spends the days out on one of his boats and comes back around sunset to feast and go over the day's labor with his crowd of servants, which are mostly Vanir folk but include some humans and the occasional rare ship-mad Alfar. Information about Njord himself can be found in the Vanaheim chapter; basically, what goes on in his one hall goes on in his other hall. Noatun is very much like a small slice of Vanaheim seated on the border of Asgard, and one ought to act appropriate. If you stay for dinner, expect to be served fish and seafood.
Saga, the goddess of learning and lore, lives in a seaside hall called "Sunk-Bench", referring to the fact that the front porch goes right down into the sea. You can literally sit on the benches in front of this many-windowed hall and dabble your toes in the saltmarsh-stream and drink, which is one of Saga's favorite things. Sokkvabek almost always has an informal drinking party happening on its porch, with a great deal of storytelling. Saga collects songs, poetry, and anything that can be committed to memory. She is on good terms with the Norns, although she is more concerned with the past than the present or future. Her hall is sometimes referred to as being made of glass or crystal, but that is largely due to it being windowed entirely around, like a greenhouse.
The stream that flows by her hall is filled with stories and memories; drinking from it (with her permission) will give one better recall and memory, but might also fill your mind with odd snippets and bits of stories, which can be maddening. For an offering, bring her books, or more ale for her regular salons.
Skadi's Hall: Thrymheim II
As far as we can tell, the giant Thjatsi married an Aesir woman and inherited her property and hall in Asgard when she died. When he was slain by the Aesir's flaming wall while attempting to invade Asgard, his daughter Skadi came all the way from Jotunheim to demand her inheritance, and an Aesir husband to make her "legitimate" and accepted in Asgard. While her arranged marriage to the Vanir god Njord didn't work out, she still owns and lives in her late father and stepmother's hall. During the Asgard summer, she goes back home to the northern mountains of Jotunheim for the snow-hunting there. She is a winter goddess, clearly showing her father's frost-thurse background, and those who work with her report her as having dark hair and eyes, very white skin, and a temperament that slides between icy cold and fierce rage.
Skadi has little patience for weaklings, and does not suffer fools at all. If she respects you, and you can keep up with her, she can be a good companion. Her hall in Asgard she named Thrymheim, in honor of the frost-giant Thrym who is the titular king of Jotunheim; his hall in Jotunheim is also called by this name. It is her way of telling the world that she still owes as much loyalty to her Jotun heritage as to the Aesir with whom she currently makes her way. This makes for a certain amount of confusion; if you are in Asgard and someone mentions Thrymheim, they likely mean Skadi's Asgard hall. If you are anywhere else in the Nine Worlds and it is mentioned, they likely mean the Thrymheim in the northern mountains of Jotunheim.
Skadi's Thrymheim is found in the Hartshorns, the sole narrow, cold mountain chain of Asgard. It is a snowy place, but with weather much kinder than that of her home in Jotunheim. She finds it quite balmy, and can often be found hunting there.
Ydalir, which literally means "yew-dales", is just that ... a great, high, heavily-timbered hunting lodge in a thick grove of yew-trees. It is the home of Ullr, the hunter-god. He is the son of Sif (currently Thor's loyal wife) by her first marriage with the star-hero Aurvandil. Ullr is lean, dark, and very silent, with a hunter's gaze and patience. Due to some unknown political or spiritual reason, when Odin leaves home for short periods in the winter, it is Ullr that he puts in charge of Asgard temporarily, perhaps because of his utter neutrality.
Ydalir is sited so that one can easily see the Aurora Borealis, which is dear to Ullr. He is reasonably welcoming to guests who are interested in hunting with him, and his table serves mostly game.