S Balder (sol)
The sun is the light of the lands
I bow to the holiness
Sun- shield of the clouds
and shining ray
and destroyer of ice
Balder is Odin and Frigg’s son, married to Nanna, father of Forsetti.
He is a representation of the sun and dies at midsummer.
Balder is an interesting conundrum.
Let’s explore his myth, and consider how it reflects on our understanding.
He is the son of Odin, and his wife Frigg- both Aesir.
A simple statement- but not actually one that is so easy to say about any of the other deities. Most of the other deities are either Jotunn or part Jotunn, and their parentage is often confused. In Balder we (perhaps for the first time) have the simplicity of Aesier parents, married, a non-blended nuclear family.
This is reflected in Balder’s family; married to Nana, father of Forsetti. We seem to have moved from the inter-relationships of the Vanir to the complicated melting pot of the Aesir, to a family unit we might recognise today. (Not suggesting this is the “right” way- just it is more recognisable as a modern cultural norm.)
Is this a cultural memory based on the changing family structures- possibly due to the influence of Christianity? As a patriarchal religion marriage is essential to the Christian religion. Because the paternal line can only be ensured if the woman’s sexuality is bound to one man.
There are two ways to experience the death of Balder- and I think both are needed to understand the myth.
If we consider only the personal side of this myth- then Odin and Frigg going to any lengths to save their son is totally appropriate. Would not any loving parent do the same?
But did Frigg’s work- extracting a promise from every living thing (only over looking the Mistletoe as being too small) in some way create the ending. Was Balder’s belief he was invincible lead to his downfall? Are we being reminded as parents that raising children to believe they are invincible is a dangerous choice.
I also question here the importance of fate. Of the need to work within the laws of our universe to live our best life- rather than twist the laws to try and outwit fate. This is a deeply personal question- but “how far would you go to save a loved one?” And how important is the natural order when making this choice?
Was Ragnorok always inevitable? Or was it the natural realignment as the Gods had bent the natural laws to far for their own needs, and this is chaos ensuring an equilibrium is reset.
The Bigger picture.
As well as a much-loved son, Balder also represents the sun.
We need the wheel to turn, for the Autumn to bring the harvest, and the winter to allow the soil to rest before Spring.
To have halted the wheel of the year, to have maintained a consistent sun, is an act of destruction. In the end perhaps Loki did not kill Balder out of spite or envy, but a natural awareness of balance and equilibrium. Because he knew that the Autumn had to arrive to allow the harvest.
If we take the personal out, and see this only as the journey of the sun- then just as we hope for his re-birth in mid-winter, so we need his death at mid-summer.
Balder goes to Hel
It’s easy to overlook. Balder does not head off to his hall or land, he dies and goes to Hel.
Perhaps its as simple as he didn’t die in battle, and so as he is not chosen by Odin or Freya he goes to Hel. But I don’t buy that. A sword could easily have been thrust in his hand, if it was that’s simple Odin would have worked it out!
To me this seems connected to the fact that he is an Aesir, born of two Aesir parents- rather than complicated mixed parentage as is the case with most of the other Gods.
It feels symbolic of a new time somehow, a new order where death and reincarnation is the norm.
This also resonates when I think of Balder & Nana’s son- Forsetti. He is a God associated with negotiations, fairness, justice and law.
I think of the Vanir as reflecting a time when we lived in harmony with the land.
The Aesir seem like warrior invaders- marking out their territory through war and wit.
Perhaps Balder & Nana’s lineage reflect an emerging society where law, justice, negotiation were becoming more important than invasion and the might of the sword.
The Romantic Ideal
It is curious to look at the relationships of the main deities- let’s be honest. None of them seem especially healthy in modern terms, and many of them are lost to us.
Njord, Tyr, Heimdall etc- they don’t seem to have named monogamous partners listed.
Freya- so often referred to as the Goddess of love (though personally I prefer sexuality) is referred to as having lost her love, and to cry as she searches for him. Frey gave up his magical sword for one night with Gerd- though little more is shared of this story. Frigg and Odin seem happy, and well matched- but there is a lot of power play and infidelity in this relationship!
It's worth remembering that the monogamous family unit is our current cultural ideal, based on a patriarchal system where the eldest son inherits -therefore the man must be certain this child is his.
The two key relationships that seem to fit into this modern ideal are Thor & Siff, and Balder & Nana
Based on the myths we have Balder & Nana seemed equally happy within the relationship, and when Balder died Nana seems to have chosen to die to allow her to journey with him to Hel. A small part of me is deeply aware of how this concept can be misconstrued to suggest that a woman “should” show her partner that level of commitment. But my understanding of the myths is that Balder and Nana’s relationship was equal, and this was a genuine choice on her part rather than a cultural expectation.
Keeping it real
No matter how “good” anyone may be perceived to be, we all need to keep it real.
Is one of the curiosities in this myth that everyone considered Balder to be a shining example of “goodness”? And in being perceived this way he lost the inner balance of dark and light within himself?
If I think of this culturally, I consider those stars who were surrounded by fawners and sycophants, who lost grip on their life because no-one was honest with them. Perhaps if Elvis had had a genuine friend in his inner circle who had been honest about his addictions- he may have got the help he needed.
Balder put himself in a dangerous position because he believed the hype about being invincible.
Perhaps if Balder hadn’t died- but had continued to live in this bubble of “good, invincible God” he would have believed the hype- leading to a God of hubris, unquestioning and unquestionable. It makes me think of the wisdom of Galadriel in turning down the offer of the ring;
“And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair” (The Lord of The Rings)
Perhaps the most dangerous part of the Nazi party, and the power of Hitler (with the Swastika having links to the symbol of the sun) was their absolute self-belief that they WERE the chosen race.
The power of the crowd.
Who is really to blame for the death of Balder?
Fate- it was going to happen anyway, and nothing could have changed that.
Odin & Frigg- they interfered with the natural laws, and the equilibrium needed to be established.
Loki-the obvious fall guy.
Balder- maybe if he hadn’t have believed the hype about his invincibility he wouldn’t have encouraged the Gods to test it out.
Hodr- did he have a feeling that something wasn’t right? Was he jealous of Balder and a little bit hopeful that his dart might harm him?
The crowd- there is a strange energy when a group of people get together and don’t really consider the consequences. When they get filled with the hubris of the moment, swept along with their action, overlook the consequences.
It’s a question for the individual. I don’t believe we can hold Hodr culpable, when everyone else was throwing things at Balder. But I do believe that everyone else can be held- to a degree- responsible.
Lessons to consider from Balder’s story
Nothing is too small to be overlooked. (a whole life can be changed by one small habit)
Equilibrium is the natural order. If you try too hard to hold onto the status quo- beware the natural forces that will (in the end) always return to a state of balance and flow.
Keep it real. Believing yourself above the natural order will have consequences.
Love is a powerful force, don’t underestimate the importance of genuine companionship.
Death will come to all of us.
Working with Balder as a healing energy
Although I would especially associate him with the solar plexus, I think his rune could be used for any chakra- especially to bring light and healing in after extraction of negative energy.
So much healing is based on our shadow selves, owning our wounds, understanding our past traumas. Sometimes I think we forget that living a good and enjoyable life is important too. Bringing a light into the darkness, finding joy and happiness.
I would work with Balder to bring light, confidence, joy to a client. To help them enjoy the present moment – which may not change the future but will certainly make the journey more enjoyable.
A useful rune if someone is struggling with confidence- whether that is not enough, or at times too much!