Once, all of creation lived under Wisdom’s Peace, a golden age without violence or aggression. It was a time of unending summer, with abundance and joy. But this season of peace was not destined to last forever. It had been foretold that a time would come when peace would end and the world, as it was known, would end. This is the story of turning of the seasons of the gods and the death of Baldr.
Baldr lived in a place called Breidablik (bree ah di blick), which means broad-vision—we might say, open-mindedness. When he began to have dreams about his impending death, Frigg, mother of Baldr demanded a promise from every thing in creation, even the rocks and the air, that none would harm her son, the shining star, the fair of feature, bright and tall. As a result, Baldr never got so much as a scratch or a cold.
Son of Odin, brother of Thor, Baldr was loved by all so this promise was easy to exact. Frigg, however, failed to obtain a promise from a small young sprig growing on a tree. In time, this sprig grew. As it grew, it reproduced and covered the trees. This sprig was mistletoe.
Now Loki liked to cause mischief. Not really part of Asgard himself, Loki hated to see the gods complacent in the summer of peace. Naturally inclined toward chaos and the change it brings, Loki often caused a good deal of trouble. Every time Loki played a trick, the gods were forced to puzzle a way out of Loki’s disorder and reestablish the order they preferred. You see, Loki was part of the primordial giant race. Odin made a blood-pact with Loki and brought him into Asgard as a brother. The other gods didn’t like Loki’s trickery, so Odin had them promise never to kill him—as this too would bring about the Twilight of the gods, Ragnrok.
On the other hand, all of the gods loved Baldr. And one of their favorite sports was to use Baldr for target practice because their weapons would bounce right off him—even battle axes—even Thor’s mighty Mjolnir. When everyone would gather around to play with Baldr, Hödr Blindi or Blind Hodr, half-brother to Baldr, was often dejected because he could not take aim at Baldr in the games. Holdr’s name means “blind aggression.”
This gave Loki an idea. You see, he had been paying attention when Frigg made all of creation promise never to hurt Baldr and he noticed the mistletoe that everyone else overlooked because it was too young and too small. Now that it was fully grown, he knew he could use it to his devices. He took the juice from the mistletoe berries and dipped a spear in it. He gave the spear to Hodr, who was eager to be included, and helped him set aim at Baldr. The spear struck and killed Baldr. Everyone was shocked.
In his grief, Odin had another son, Váli, who grew to adulthood within a day and slew Höðr.
Baldr was ceremonially burnt upon the largest of all ships.
Frigg’s begged Hermod, the fastest of the gods, to go to Hel and ask her to release Baldr from the underworld. Hel agreed upon one condition: if all objects alive and dead would weep for Baldr. All did, except Loki disguised as a giantess named Dry Eyes.
It is fated that Baldr will remain in the underworld until after Ragnarök, when he and Höðr will be reconciled.
So what we have in this story is an allegory for open-mindedness being destroyed by blind aggression lead by the voice of trickery. This leads to the demise of all that Baldr stood for and a rise in all that Ragnrok stands for.
It is also a story about the end of summer. Technically, with Midsummer being the longest day of the year, we are seeing the beginning of Autumn. Winter is coming.
What we do when we symbolically hold funerary rights for Baldr, is recognize that it is feelings like fear and jealousy and blind aggression that keeps us from having the broadmindedness and open vision that Baldr represents. It is this that keeps our minds locked in the cycle of Ragnrok.
Today, we will make a symbolic gesture to rid ourselves of those things which make us blind to the light of Baldr’s broadmindedness. As we strive to awaken the childlike joy and acceptance of love and light within ourselves, we prepare for the return of Baldr, the one who will come again.
So, just as Baldr’s funeral ship burned, we will burn away those things which prevent us from being light and joyful. Just as Baldr will return to reestablish a golden age, we look for the return of our childlike wonder and acceptance of life’s everyday joys.