So, I joined up with the Pagan Blog Project, which is a weekly thing where you pick from a list of subjects starting with the same letter, each letter getting two weeks in the spot light. Last week I did Blots, mainly Thorrablot.
This week I am going to focus on Balder/Baldr.
The basic run down is this. Balder is the son of Odin and Frigga, he’s the God of Light, beauty, and goodness. He isn’t as popular or as well known as many of the gods, though he is a bit famous and does have an important role to play, as after Raganarok he is one of the gods, along with his brother Hodr and the children of Thor who begin the pantheon again and guide humanity. He’s most famous for being killed by Loki.
The story goes something like this.
Frigga, gifted with the ability to know the future, sees that her beloved son Balder is destined to die. (Presumably she could also see the role he was to play after Ragnarok too). But she could not stand to have the son she loved most die, so she went all over the nine worlds, obtaining promises from every single thing that they would not kill her son, all except from Mistletoe, which was too young. And so Balder became invincible, for no thing would harm him.
This of course led to great sport in the Halls of Asgard, where it became customary to hurl things at Balder and watch them bounce off, leaving him unharmed. We today might wonder how Balder felt about this, but he acted the good sport. But Loki, the trickster, found out that mistletoe had not been bound to be harmless, and so he fashioned a dart and gave it to Balder’s brother Hodr.
Now Hodr was blind, and the God of Darkness, and Loki gave Hodr the dart and directed his throw. And so the dart flew true, and struck Balder, killing him. Thus was Balder slain and his soul went to Helheim, there to be guarded and kept by Hel, Goddess of Death, where he was quickly joined by Hodr after vengful gods slew him. Hel said Balder could come back from the dead only if every single thing wept for him. (Because one does not lightly let the dead come back, for that way lies chaos and destruction).
A complicated and not all together complete series of events later, and an old Hag had refused to weep for Balder, so he remained in Helheim. Eventually, Loki was blamed not just for the trick, but accused of being the Hag who did not weep (though this is never proven conclusively in any of the remaining records. Also, by certain accounts, it hasn’t happened yet, Loki is still out and about free and with Asgard). And so vengeance was taken upon him too.
That is the most commonly known story, and I’ll come back to it in a mintue.
The less well known story is that Balder was a jerk and an asshole. A classic case of Light is Not Good, and he went around doing all manner of not nice things. He is also killed by Hodr in this version too, but in this case Dark is not Evil, and mistletoe is the name of his sword that he uses against Balder. Loki’s part in this is small, if at all.
Because of his part in Balder’s death, Loki is often treated as the Norse equivalent of Satan. Which is interesting, because in Icelandic magic grimoire the Galdrabok, at least the early part, they called on Satan, God, Odin, Loki, and anyone else they thought they needed in the same breath and with no assumptions of great evil.
Still, for his part, Loki rarely does things for evil reasons. Oh he causes trouble, but he is also the one who brings the gods great boons. So too, I think, is the situation with Balder.
Balder was fated to die. Now, that may not sound like a big thing in our modern world, where we’re all about fighting our fate, but Fate is different for the Norse Pagans. Wyrd (Fate) is the threads and fabric of the universe itself. Threads come and go, begin and end, and a person is bound by their thread through the tapestry. And Wyrd is woven to an end, and each thread must go where it needs too, or as with any great tapestry the thing is ruined. And in the case of something like the universe, ruining the work can have some pretty bad consequences.
And Frigga tried to do just that by preventing the fated death of Balder. And if Balder didn’t die, he wouldn’t be safe in Yggdrasil when Ragnarok happens, he’d be out there on the battle and destroyed with the rest of the universe. He wouldn’t be alive after to lead the pantheon, work with Thor’s children, his brother, or Hel for the creation of the things to come, to guard and keep Mankind.
Loki, the trickster, the lie-smith, restored the threads of Wyrd and upheld fate. In killing Balder, Loki prevents untold damage. And by all accounts Balder never hated Loki for killing him, at least in anything that I’ve read. Frigga may have been furious and heartbroken, Odin no doubt angry, but both of them certainly knew what was at stake, even if Frigga tried to fight it. But let us try to think kindly of Loki, for he may have saved the present, the future, and even the past.
So that is the story of Balder, in part.