Höðr and Baldr…

hod and loki

Höðr (often anglicized as Hod, Hoder, or Hodur ) is the blind god of night, winter and darkness and brother of Baldr, the god of light, beauty and innocence in Norse mythology. Tricked and guided by Loki, Höðr shot the mistletoe arrow which was to slay the otherwise invulnerable Baldr.

Höðr and Baldr were the twin sons of Odin and Frigg. Because Odin had heard that Baldr would one day be slain, the goddess Frigg made everything in existence swear never to harm Baldr; except for the mistletoe, which she found too young to demand an oath from.

When the gods enjoyed themselves by using his brother Baldr as a target,  Höðr  unintentionally killed him by throwing a fig made of mistletoe, the only object that could harm Balder.  Höðr was put to death for this deed by Vali, Odin’s youngest son who was born for revenge. However, after the destruction of the cosmos when a new world is built, it is said that  Höðr  will be reborn. Balder was considered the best of the gods – being fair, good, kind and strong and it is his downfall by his brothers hand that begins the cycle of Ragnarok, the Norseman’s own armageddon.

Loki 2Some legends say that it was all because of Loki and because of the prophetic dream, that Baldr died and with his flame extinguished began to cast the world in shadow.

Arrogant and filled with pride, Loki envied the goodwill and praise that Baldr received. So he planned, upon learning the secret of the mistletoe,to fashion it into a spear and went to the hall where the gods were amusing themselves by throwing things at Baldr. Watching the objects bounce harmlessly off of him, Loki went to Bladr’s blind brother Höðr, who was of course not joining in the games; given that he was blind. It is said that Loki convinced Höðr to let him aim, and thus tricked Höðr into throwing the mistletoe through his own brother’s heart, killing him on the spot.

The slaying of Baldr by Höðr signified long winter nights replacing the sky once covered by the sun, which had seemed so strong that nothing could chase it away from the sky during spring and summer.

Though Höðr was manipulated into slaying Balder, his was still the hand that did the deed and Norse customs declared that a death must be avenged. Thus, Odin used trickery and magic to trick the giantess Rind into siring a son for him, the god Vali.

The infant Vali grew rapidly, and when he was just one night old, came to Midgar and slew Höðr with an arrow, never washing his hands or combing his hair unitl he had done the deed.

Loki too did not escaped unpunished. Though he had escaped from Midgar after the deed was done, the gods hunted him down, and chained him to three boulders, placing a snake above his head in such a way that venom constantly dripped down upon him. His wife Sigyn remained faithful to him and stayed by his side, where she caught the dripping venom in a bowl. She has to turn away to empty the venom when the bowl is full though, and it is then that the venom spashes on Loki’s face, causing him to writhe in pain, which the Norse say is the cause of earthquakes.

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