23rd of December 2017
Myth of Baldur, here retold by Bluetiger:
Baldur was the most beautiful of the gods and the most beloved of Odin’s sons. When he was but still a babe, his mother, the goddess Frigg, visited every thing and living beign, asking them to swear a saced oath, that they shall never do any harm to her child. However, she omitted the mistletoe, believing that this tiny plant, attached to the oaken branch, between the earth and the sky, is entirely harmless.
When Baldur came of age, the gods would throw various objects at him, for such was the game they created, and the youth laughed, seeing that nothing can wound or kill him. But Loki, who loved tricks and wiles of all kind, and besides that, was very jealous of the attention and friendship shown towards Baldur by inhabitants of The Nine Worlds, decided to find out if Odin’s son is truly resistant to every injury.
Hence he came do Frigg and, deceptively, learned that the goddess bypassed the mistletoe. At once, he ran to the woods, whence that inconspicuous plant was growing, picked it, chiseled an arrow, and returned to Asgard the same hour.
Lo and behold, Baldur’s brother, the blind god Hodor, was sitting aloof. Loki approached, and, with smile on his lips and innocent tone in his voice, asked: ‘Forwhy thou are not playing with the others? Doing so, is thy intention to show everyone that thou do not respect Baldur?
‘Oh, not at all’ quoth Hodor, ‘The thing is, I do not have anything to throw at my brother, and besides that, I can’t see where Baldur is standing’. Then Loki gave him a bow and an arrow, and guided his hand. Hodor loosed. When the mistletoe branch hit Baldur, he fell, dead.
Many a day the gods grieved, but finally, they decided to find a way to return Baldur to the world of the living. So they sent an envoy to Helheim, the realm of the dead. The goddess Hel had the dominion there, and she agreed to realease Baldur, but on one condition. All living beings had to shed a tear for him. Hence the gods, men, animals and plants gathered, and wept. But suddenly, an old giantess came in, and announced that she does not miss Odin’s son. (It was whispered that she was no giantess, but the wicked Loki in one of his disguises). And so, Baldur has to wait in The Underworld, till the day of Ragnarok.
The gods took Baldur’s body, and laid it on a pyre, and the pyre they placed on his ship. When the wood caught fire, Baldur’s wife, the goddess Nanna, dissolved in tears, and her heart cracked, for so great was her sorrow.
Thus died Baldur, son of Odin.
In The Golden Bough Sir James George Frazer gives the following interpretation of this myth:
Baldur symbolises the oak, the mightiest and most sacred of trees. Mistletoe is believed to be holy as well, and to possess a great power (the druids would cut it with a golden sickle, on solstices, in such way as to not let it tough the ground).
When winter comes, the trees stand naked, with bare branches. But mistletoe is still growing on oak’s trunk, evergreen. According to Frazer, in ancient cults it was believed that mistletoe contains the tree’s soul (just like The One Ring is a part of Sauron, and Bran can move his consciousness into his direwolf). Therefore, the oak can be destroyed only after the mistletoe is killed, just like in a fairytale, the hero has to break the evil wizard’s ‘soul jar’ before he can kill his enemy once and for all.
Frazer believes that mistletoe was collacted at Mindsummer and Midwinter, because those two days are special points on sun’s yearly voyage across the sky, and thus, it’s soul the most powerful.