Ancient History

The History and Significance of the God Balder



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In Norse mythology, Balder was the god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation. Born to Odin, king of the gods, and Frigg, Odin's wife, Balder was beloved by everyone. His wife was Nanna, daughter of Nep, and together they had a son Forseti, who was the god of justice.

According to Norse mythology, Balder had dreams about his death and his mother Frigg, taking it to be an omen, took steps to prevent it. She went throughout the whole world, extracting oaths from every thing, be they dead or alive, moving or unmoving, big or small, that they would not harm her son Balder.

With this done, nothing could harm Balder. Stones, darts and other projectiles would turn away when thrown towards him, and the other gods took to playing a game where they would throw knives and various other projectiles at him.

Loki, the god of trickery, was jealous of Balder and he set about finding a way to destroy him. First, he turned himself into an old woman and approached Frigg. He asked her if she had really extracted oaths from every thing, and she informed him that she had extracted oaths from every thing save one, a small plant, the mistletoe, which she thought was too weak to be of harm to Balder.

Loki went to gather the plant and he fashioned it into a dart. Back in Midgar, the gods were once again playing their game where they attempted to hit Balder with projectiles. Loki went to Balder's brother, Hodr, who was blind and therefore did not particpate and gave him the dart fashioned from the mistletoe. He offered to guide Hodr's aim, and the dart flew true, piercing Balder through the heart.

The slaying of Balder by Hodr is thought to signify the coming of winter, just like blind Hodr was the hand who slew Balder, the god of light, so would long and dark winter nights replace the days when the sun shone in the sky.

The gods lamented the death of Balder, and Odin sent another of his sons, Hermod, messenger of the gods, to the underworld to plead with Hel, the goddess of death, to release Balder.

Balder set forth to Helheim, the realm of the dead, and begged Hel to release Balder, as he was loved by everyone in the world and they would miss him. Hel agreed to release him if everything, dead or alive, would weep for Balder. Hermod went back, carrying this message and even stones and trees that he talked to wept when he heard this.

Then Hermod came upon a giantness Thokk, who refused to weep for Balder, and because there was one thing in the wrold that would not weep for him, so Balder had to stay in the realm of the dead.

The gods now prepared for Balder's funeral, dressing him in crismon cloths and placing him, along with his wife Nanna, who had died of a broken heart, on a funeral pyre abroad his ship Ringhorn. They placed on his possessions on the ship and the giantness Hyrrokin then pushed him out to sea so hard that the rollers actually caught fire.

Lokki who was the one who had disguised himself as Thokk, was punished for his crime. he was hunted down and chained to three boulders, and a serpent was placed so that venom constantly dripped on his face. His wife Sigyn stayed loyal to him and remained by his side, and she would catch the dripping venom in a bowl. However, when the bowl was full, she had to turn away to empty it, and it was then that the dripping venom would cause Loki to writhe in pain, which the Norse would say was the cause of earthquakes.

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