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Balder (Baldur/Baldr), The Shinning God

Balder was known as the 'Shinning God' or the 'Bleeding God' and was the fairest of all the gods in the Germanic pantheon. He was tragically killed by the trickery of Loki.

Balder (Baldur/Baldr) was the son of Odin and Frigg, and was looked upon with favour by all the other gods because of his gentle goodwill and fair nature. As a young man he had nightmares, which gave suggestion that he was to die at an early age. Odin travelled to the land of the dead on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, to converse with a seeress on the nature of Balder's dreams and other omens. She told him that the blind god Hodr was fated to kill Balder with a wooden branch.

On hearing this news Frigg, his mother and the queen of the gods, set up a plan to ensure that this could not happen. She travelled through all the nine worlds and extracted an oath from all things that they would not do harm to her son.

This momentous task completed, the other gods tested Balder's new found invulnerability by throwing branches and stones at him, these swerved to avoid hitting him. Jealous as ever of the love the other gods held for Balder, Loki disguised himself as a woman and approached Frigg in her hall. He conversed with her, and found that she had not bothered to extract an oath form the mistletoe plant, as she thought it too small to be of consequence.

Hearing this Loki quickly cut himself a branch of the plant, and sharpened it to a spear, he then returned to the gods and found them still throwing objects at Balder. He tricked Hodr into joining in, and gave him the mistletoe branch to throw. This passed straight through the fair god and he was killed outright.

The gods, in grief and shock at what had happened sent Hermod the swift, Balder's brother, to bargain with Hel, the queen of the underworld in the hope of restoring Balder to life. She agreed that she would release Balder only if everything in the nine worlds wept openly for him. And so it was that soon all things, trees, stones and the animals were weeping in grief. However the frost giant Thokk refused to shed a tear, and said that Hel should hold what she has. Too late the gods found out the Thokk was really Loki in disguise.

The myth of Balder has many similarities with those of divine kings, and there was a general belief that he would rise again and rule with his wife Nonna over a land of plenty. The legend of the sleeping king is found in many other mythologies, and it seems deeply rooted in early beliefs. It is possible that early Nordic converts to Christianity saw the similarities between Jesus and Balder.

The festival of the Midsummer Solstice was sacred to Balder, as was the colour white, in some stories sacred wells appeared from the hoof prints of his horse.



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