God of the Week: Balder

God of the Week 8/24/09: Balder

Balder_the_Good_by_Jacques_ReichBalder was not the god of baldness, as you may expect, but rather a Norse god known primarily for a rather mythical death. In the story, Balder had had a prophetic dream of his death. Because of this, his mother traveled all around the world and made every living thing promise not to harm her son. The one hold out was the mistletoe.

It eventually became a game among the gods to hurl spears and knives at Balder and watch them bounce off of him, because of their promise not to harm him. The mischievous god Loki, however, had created a spear from mistletoe and gave it to Balder’s brother to throw. It penetrated his chest, killing him. Moral of the story, don’t trust Loki.

His story was symbolic of animosity toward your enemies, especially in a sanctuary known as “Balder’s Grove”:

Whether he was a real or merely a mythical personage, Balder was worshipped in Norway. On one of the bays of the beautiful Sogne Fiord, which penetrates far into the depths of the solemn Norwegian mountains, with their sombre pine-forests and their lofty cascades dissolving into spray before they reach the dark water of the fiord far below, Balder had a great sanctuary. It was called Balder’s Grove. A palisade enclosed the hallowed ground, and within it stood a spacious temple with the images of many gods, but none of them was worshipped with such devotion as Balder. So great was the awe with which the heathen regarded the place that no man might harm another there, nor steal his cattle, nor defile himself with women. But women cared for the images of the gods in the temple; they warmed them at the fire, anointed them with oil, and dried them with cloths. – Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough, Chapter 61

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