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An illustration of the blind Höðr killing Bald...

An illustration of the blind Höðr killing Baldr, from an Icelandic 18th century manuscript. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also known as Baldur or Baldr in Norse mythology, Balder was a noble, gentle and yet powerful god. Much loved by all, he was son of Odin and Frigg.

Reminiscent of Achilles, Balder was invulnerable to harm, except by the mistletoe. He was mistakenly killed by the blind god Hodur, who’d been duped by the trickster Loki into piercing him with a dart crafted from mistletoe.

The ensuing weeping among the Aesir immortals over the death of Balder lead some to liken him to the Norse version of Christ.

The roots of the his name are somewhat unclear. Wikipedia has a good discussion here:

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Fenrir, bound by the gods.

Fenrir, bound by the gods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Norse mythology the Fenris is a giant, evil wolf born of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. All the Norse gods fear him, and with good reason.

The Fenris wreaks cosmic ruin, devouring the sun and killing Odin at the great battle at the end of the world, Ragnarok.

The Fenris is finally destroyed by Odin’s giant son Vidar.

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Bele, Gorshin's other famous television role, ...

Star Trek: The Original Series episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield © 1969 Paramount Pictures, produced by Gene Roddenberry. Click on photo for fair use rationale via Wikipedia

In Norse myth Loki is the son of two giants and confounded the gods with various tricks until, after bringing about the death of Balder, was fastened to a rock. On the day of Ragnarok Loki will break free and lead the giants into a terrible war against the gods.

The American scholar Bergen Evans sees Loki as an evil god in Norse myth with parallels to the Old Testament Satan as depicted in the Book of Job. Others see Loki more as a trickster and as a reversibly transsexual shapeshifter.

Loki (or Lokai) is also a TV character in the original 1969 Star Trek episode, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” a classic episode dealing with the inanity of racism. Loki is a non-human who’s half white and half black. Meanwhile, another non-human character, Bele, is also half white and half black but in the reverse symmetry to Loki,

Like Lokai, Bele is half black and half white, with the color divided by a line through the exact center of his face. However, the sides of Bele’s black and white skin are reversed from those of Lokai, a difference which seems inconsequential to the Enterprise crew but of great importance to Bele, Lokai, and, apparently, their civilization. The difference is pointed out by Bele to a perplexed Captain Kirk who asks what is the difference between them, to which he replies, “Isn’t it obvious? Lokai is white on the right side. All his people are white on the right side.”¹

As mentioned in other Think Free entires, part of Star Trek’s popularity arguably rests on its liberal use, reinterpretation and reimagining of mythological characters and their names. Possibly this elicits a kind of numinous resonance within viewers, perhaps even if they don’t consciously know about the mythology in question. As C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell suggest, mythic ideas and sounds may resonate within the viewer’s subconscious or unconscious mind.

¹ See

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Captioned as "The little spring of mistle...

Captioned as "The little spring of mistletoe pierced the heart of Balder". Illustrating the death of Baldr. Published in 1908, via Wikipedia

The Mistletoe is a shrub that’s traditionally been charged with symbolic import, and it still has cultural significance today.

Robert Graves says that in European pagan times Mistletoe was taken to be the oak tree’s genitals. The Druids ritually chopped it with a gold-colored sickle, which was a kind of “symbolic emasculation.”†

In addition, the juice of the berries was understood as the tree’s sperm, having “great regenerative virtue.” So in pre-Christian Europe mistletoe was associated with the spark and spice of life.

In cultures across pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a representation of divine male essence (and thus romance, fertility and vitality), possibly due to a resemblance between the berries and semen.‡

In ancient Roman mythology, Aeneas is prompted by Sibyl to journey to the underworld. On his journey he carries mistletoe, which enables his safe return to the everyday world. And Graves believes that a “‘certain herb’ that raised Claucus from the tomb” was probably mistletoe.†

The Mistletoe is also important to pagan Norse myth. Provoked by the conniving Loki, Hodur kills the beloved Aesir god, Baldur, with a spear made of mistletoe.

Today, Christmas revelers continue to feel obliged kiss under the mistletoe, this curious custom possibly having its roots in Scandanavia (others associate the practice further back to the ancient Roman Saturnalia festival).

Search Think Free » Balder, Diana

† Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, Combined edition, London: Penguin, 1992, p. 176.

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