Lessons from Loki Article 1
Baldr’s Death from The Gylfaginning in the Prose Edda (Snorri’s Edda).
For my first article, I wanted to tackle the first part of two stories from beginning to end of Loki’s “fall from grace” of the Aesir to his binding before Ragnarok. The first part is Baldr’s death and the events leading up to it and the action. The second part is Lokesenna, Loki’s flyting of the gods in the hall of Aegir after Baldr’s death. I see the two linked canonically.
The story of Baldr’s death starts with his dream. Baldr is the most beautiful and beloved of all the gods and when Odin & Frigga pressed him of his worries and heard of his dream, she immediately went out and demanded an oath of all things large and small to not bring harm to Baldr. She took the oath from all things, save one small spring of mistletoe which she believed too small and young to be of any importance. The gods put this to the test and began to hurl things at Baldr which fell to the ground harmlessly before striking him. It had become a game to the gods to throw rocks, spears and other heavy, deadly objects to see them fall.
Loki saw this and took the form of a woman and questioned Frigga of the oaths and learned she had not taken an oath from the mistletoe. He made off and took a branch of it to make a dart. When returning to the hall, the game was still on, and the gods continued to throw objects at Baldr. All except Hodr, his blind brother. Loki approached Hodr and had him throw the dart at Baldr, guiding him. The dart pierced Baldr’s chest, killing him and Loki ran.
Odin knew of the prophecy to have a child with the giantess Rindr who would have a son named Vali, to grow to an adult in a single day, to kill Hodr to avenge Baldr. Vali was born and he killed Hodr. Baldr was put to a sea funeral, with Odin’s ring Draupnir. Nanna, his wife, died of sorrow and was put to sea with Baldr. Baldr, Nanna and Hodr reside in Helheim. Frigga asked of the gods that one would be rewarded her love if they could go to Helheim and retrieve Baldr. Odin’s other son Hermod stepped up and traveled to Helheim upon Odin’s mount Sleipnir, which can travel between realms. Hela said she would allow Baldr to return if everything grieved for him and all things did, save a single old giantess in a cave who said what Hela has, she should keep; and Baldr was not able to return. This old giantess was Loki in disguise. Baldr had Hermod return Draupnir to Odin and continues to reside in Hela’s hall until the end of Ragnarok.
What can we possibly learn from this?
Frigga, wyrd, her oath and attempt at changing destiny. The way wyrd works may seem like pre-destination. Wyrd is like a brick wall. Each brick is put there by us and our actions. Our combined orlog is to build a wall. The wall might not be described as a “good” or “strong” wall. Our actions are the brick and mortar. Actions that could weaken it, effecting the wall, but we still build it. Inaction is also action – if we know we are to build a wall, no matter what, it will happen – but the quality of the wall might (and probably will) suffer. Odin knew of the wyrd that Baldr was to die by Hodr’s hand starting Ragnarok, and Frigga knows what Odin does. As a mother she attempted to either stop or forestall this by her oath-taking from all things in creation.
There is five lessions to be taken from this:
1.) The belief that you can take EVERYTHING into account for your own desires is false. It’s a Sisyphean act (impossible) act, as proven by Frigga not taking the oath from the mistletoe, and the actions of Loki and Hodr being their own orlog, weaving the wyrd of them all leading to the death of Baldr
2.) The gods loving Baldr so much they became upset over his death. Baldr is the most beloved of all the gods. But when Frigga took her oaths and they saw the result, instead of being prudent, they made a game of throwing objects at Baldr. This is the same as playing with fire. It’s also overconfidence in themselves. The gods are not above wyrd. Over-reliant on their actions, they threw caution aside and made little of the predicament.
3.) Follow through with all your words and actions. If Frigga took the time and effort to take an oath from every thing in creation, why would she skip the mistletoe? Doubtful she was being lazy. She just took an oath from everything in creation! This is obviously a lesson based in arrogance in the Aesir’s believe of absolute supremacy.
4.) Loose lips sink ships. Loki came to Frigga as a handmaiden to gain information about her travels in taking oaths. This was obviously a HUGE deal resulting in Frigga traveling all of creation with the serious business of taking oaths – a pillar of heathen life. Oaths were not broken easily, if at all. Many oaths were to the death and after! Why would Frigga give someone she either didn’t recognize, or recognized in disguise Loki and regarded? Again, over confidence.
5.) Wyrd will not be denied. Baldr’s death and remaining in Helheim is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Odin and Frigga learned of Baldr’s death, they sought to avoid it by their actions and then became over confident in themselves. Loki saw this and took his own action against them – be it personal, moral or immoral – and in his actions ended up in the death of Baldr. Again, when they tried to change this, Loki again stood in the way by not shedding a tear as Hela demanded to release Baldr.
Each person in this prophecy has a place in fulfilling it:
A.) Baldr’s dream of his death.
B.) Odin learns of what starts Ragnarok
C.) Frigga’s oath-taking, which leads to the gods over-confidence creating the situation of objects being thrown at Baldr.
D.) Frigga letting important information be known about the mistletoe to Loki (an agent of Chaos/Change/Possibly). All based in over-confidence in her lack of follow through.
E.) Baldr being killed
G.) The return of Baldr
Odin is no more important in this chain than Loki, Frigga or Hodr.
Our actions and words, like everything, should be measured and acted out with intent and completed to the absolute best of our ability. Loki saw this when he saw the gods making game of trying to harm Baldr by throwing things at him from blades to stones. We can see the over confidence here on the side of the gods, and how this is the wrong action. Caution should always be taken in people’s homes, as described in the Havamal and one should never mock death when one has taken it so seriously as Baldr’s dream was. Loki then saw it again and acted when Frigga told him of the mistletoe shoot. She didn’t follow through completely with her oaths. She saw worthiness in her work to take oaths but then stopped at one final thing she didnt feel was worth due to it’s size and age. Her lack of action (follow-through) resulted in Loki taking the dart and guiding Hodr’s hand in killing Baldr.
Over-confidence should never blind one’s true intent and hamper their actions.
Follow through with all your words and actions.
Wyrd will not be denied. You alter the path, but not the destination.
Article and work (c) 2014 Matthew Thomas Barker, American Asatru Association & Heathen Hall
American Asatru Association and Heathen Hall are trademark Matthew Thomas Barker
Artwork taken from hurstwic.org.