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Norse God Baldr Killed by a Mistletoe Dart

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By —— Bio and Archives December 23, 2017

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Today, we associate mistletoe with the kiss of love. Yet, according to the ancient Norse, it once brought death to the Aesir’s most beloved member.

Even the most ferocious of the Norse Pantheon, the Aesir, recognized the essential goodness, even gentleness, of Baldr. Son of Odin and Frigga, twin brother of Hodur who had been born blind, he demonstrated the use of medicinal plants to the men and women who dwelt in Midgard. The healing chamomile was called Baldr’s brow for its beneficial qualities.

In due course, Baldr married Nanna, sweet and slight as the most delicate of blossoms. And so, all was well for the couple and the rest of the Aesir until one day Volva the Prophetess foretold Baldr’s fate. His blind brother Hodur holds the very branch of fate, she told Odin. He will be the cause of Baldr’s death, she predicted.

The news horrified Frigga, mother of the twins. Never shall it be, she vowed. So saying, she demanded an oath from everything that grew from the earth they would do Baldr no harm. Nay, not only these but the soil, rocks and minerals were bound to grant her son safety as were birds in the air and creatures of the sea even the very waves themselves. Nor did Frigga end there, for she demanded the same of the Aesir, the Jotun or Giants, the Trolls; even the causes of sickness and poisonings would not harm her beloved son.

And indeed, so it came to pass. In order to amuse themselves, the Norse Gods would spend a merry afternoon attempting to harm Baldr. Rocks hurl at him bounced off. Slashing swords glanced off. Spears tumbled to his feet.

But the evil Loki, a Jotun (Giant) of ill repute was jealous of Baldr. Learning of the oath Frigga demanded of all things on earth, he sought to circumvent her. On a barren heath west of Valhalla there grew a solitary gnarled oak. On this mighty tree grew a profusion of the semi-parasitic mistletoe. Loki plucked a section and, cutting and trimming it, created a dart. Chanting magic runes over this dart, it became iron hard, rigid and deadly.

When next the Aesir met to engage in their jolly games of pitting everything against the patient Baldr, Loki observed his twin brother Hodur standing sadly to one side, unable to partake in the amusements. Loki sidled up to Hodur and, placing the mistletoe dart in his hand, urged him to throw it at his brother. Loki even held the blind brother’s arm to ensure his aim.

And so it came to pass, the tragedy could not be averted. The dart made of mistletoe that is not of the earth and which Frigga had failed to gain an oath from, struck Baldr. Instantly he fell dead thanks to Loki’s machinations. Baldr now lives in Hel, ruled over by the self-named goddess.

Eventually a terrible punishment was to be inflicted upon the wicked Loki. But as the skald, the teller-of-tales said, that is another story . . .

Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.