The Story of Mistletoe

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The Story of Mistletoe

Post by John T Mainer on Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:16 pm

Inside the greatest stories are a hundred little stories that get forgotten. In
the story of the first winter, the death of Baldur the bright, there is a story
too of little Mistletoe. At Yuletide now we hang mistletoe, and whenever a boy
and girl pass beneath it they must kiss, but so many have forgotten why. The
tale of mistletoe is one of love and pride, foolishness and forgiveness.

First and best of the sons of Frigga and Odin was Baldur the bright. The
shining one, his laughter and courage were beacons to the Aesir, and his
gentleness the offer of peace when the battle din had faded. Where the world
carved by Jottun and Odin from Ymir’s bones was cruel and cold, would Baldur
add a touch of gentleness and wonder. Where spearsharp mountain was cut by icy
stream would Baldur carve a hidden flowered glen, and softly whispering pool.
Where Muspelheim’s fire clawed at the ice and rock of earth would Baldur twist
and twine them to forge a bubbling spring of warmth to bring the promise of
life to the most forsaken fell. When the first war raged between Aesir and
Vanir sweet Frigga feared for her son, for ever was he first in battle, and all
too swift to offer mercy where death strokes were safer. In time the Aesir and
Vanir swore to peace, and the Vanir too grew to love Baldur. For a time the
nine worlds were near peace, the Aesir and Vanir united, the raiding with the
Jottun more friendly sport than earnest war. At this time did Frigga vow to
make her Baldur safe from harm from all.

To the dwarvish deeps she went, and begged favour of the dwarves. Let not stone
or steel, nor metal forged dare harm sweet Baldur’s hide. The dwarves looked
deep into the secret earth, at the ropes and rivers of gold, the sparkling
diamonds promising the wonders of the night sky, and the thousand secret riches
that Baldur had woven into the iron deeps when the world was new forged and so
they swore. To the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the whales and
fishes of the deep did she go and beg safety for bright Baldur, and as each
would look to the beauty Baldur had woven into their world, they would promise
his protection. From Yggdrasil and all lesser trees did Frigga then beg favour,
and one by one they all swore Baldur’s weal for the beauty he had given them.
At last came Frigga to the youngest of plants, the newborn Mistletoe. She
begged protection for her son, and Mistletoe said no.

Mistletoe lives on the oak, and never sees the sun. Far from the ground it sees
not beyond the mighty oaks dark leaves. The oak itself did lend its voice to
beg and plead with Mistletoe, but Mistletoe had never seen the gifts of
Baldur’s making. All Frigga’s tears and oaks stern words did not move Mistletoe
to mercy, in ignorance and pride it swore no oath to the lady mother.

Alone of giant, man and god was Loki is his jealousy. Baldur’s love meant
nothing to him, and he ever sought to mock him. For all his jests did him no
good, as Baldur never angered, but laughed instead with right good will when
Loki’s wit did best him. With envy and rage did Loki plot to do fair Baldur
evil, at last he thought to ask of Frigg the protection she had won him. In the
high feast hall with a gentle smile did Loki come to Frigga.

”How you must fear with such a bold son, that evil must befall him. Of all the
gods your Baldur’s courage in the vanguard ever finds him”

At Loki’s words did Frigga smile, never suspecting evil. She shared with her
kinsmen her sons defence, the secrets of his protection.

“The stones of earth, all metals forged, all beasts of water, wind and land
have all sworn him protection.” Did Frigga smile.

Loki pressed for answers

”What of tree and leaf and nut? What of dandelion or rose?”

Frigga laughed at his silly words, and revealed the last of her secret.

“Trees and grasses, bush and vine have all sworn his protection. Only lowly
mistletoe of all that lives still dares withhold protection.”

Loki laughed and slid away, his mission now completed. Sweet Frigga not
suspecting yet that Loki plotted treason. Down to midgard with a silver knife
did Loki make his harvest. A slender wand of mistletoe that in the fire with
spells he hardened. His arrow forged of mistletoe, and murder in his heart,
Loki crossed the rainbow bridge and came to Odin’s court.

“A game!” cried Loki shouting loud, “A sport to test our mettle” Loki’s
challenge drew every eye and he worked his trick so vile.
“Let Baldur stand before the host, let every warrior try him” Loath were the
gods to raise hand against him, but Baldur did beseech them.

”What harm in this? Lets have a game, let all my friends and brothers try their
mightiest of strokes and let me judge the winner!”

Baldur’s words stirred every heart with honest love for battle, and laughing
did they all array to try their strokes against him. Odin’s spear and Thor’s
dread hammer, swords of Frey and Heimdall, the bow of Uller all did fail amidst
the warriors laughter. Blind Hod alone did not take part, until dread Loki
urged him on and promised his assistance.

”Come now brother, what’s the harm” smiled Loki in his treason. “I’ll guide
your hand upon the bow, let your warriors heart remember”

Hod then smiled and drew his bow, and Loki fit the arrow, dread mistletoe
struck Baldur dead and the light of the world fell with him.

All remember what happened next, how sweet Sunna (the Sun) fled from a world
without Baldur, how winter came to the world. All remember the punishment of
Loki, a binding and torment that would last until the end of days. Each Yule we
remember Baldur’s arrival at Hel’s own hall, how she bade him to sit beside her
and join her in her hall until the end of days when he will return to lead the
survivors. Who now remembers the fate of Mistletoe, the agent of Baldur’s bane?

When Baldur fell, sweet Sunna turned her face away and fled. Without the light
of the sun, the world grew cold and dark, the trees lost their leaves, and for
the first time Mistletoe saw beyond the embracing arms of oak. Everywhere the
dying light showed emptiness and loss, but here and there would beauty shine and
mistletoe did weep. “Who has made this” would Mistletoe ask at each thing of
majesty and wonder, “Baldur” was the answer every time until the heart of
mistletoe was shattered.

Mother Frigga in her rage demanded the death of her sons dread slayer. Of Odin
and of Yggdrasil, of Frey and gentle Nerthus she begged the price of mother’s
vengeance, until every god condemned it. Alone of all the gods did Freya hear
the weeping. Alone of all the Vanir did she stoop to hear the reason. To
mistletoe she swiftly flew within her falcon cloak, upon the oak tree did she
land beside the weeping plant. Loves golden goddess softly asked why mistletoe
did weep?

“For Baldur slain, for beauty lost, for love gone out the world”

Freya asked of Mistletoe what wergild would it pay? How could it give back the
beauty lost, the love that Baldur offered? When Mother Frigga in her rage came
down the Bifrost bridge. Freya stood with mistletoe to greet the grieving
mother.

“Blessed Frigga will you accept the wergild of the weeping flower? Or will you
slaughter and stain the memory of the loving son you’ve lost?”

Frigga stared hard eyed and cold to hear the wergilds terms, Mistletoe in
humble grief did make this solemn vow.

“Where Yuletide brings the pain of loss will Mistletoe bring love, beneath my
humble leaves let love be now kindled. What fairer grave goods for the sun
bright lord than the promise of love new kindled? When two now meet beneath my
leaves, let loves kiss light between them. Let the light of love remember him
that the world weeps for this season.”

Now down the ages we remember beneath the mistletoe, a kiss the promise of new
love, within this coldest season.

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Re: The Story of Mistletoe

Post by Ottr on Sun Dec 13, 2009 1:16 pm

That was beautifully written, John. I hope you don’t mind, but I saved what you wrote for my kids to read. I’ve told them the story almost every year, but not with as much eloquence as you’ve displayed here.
Thank you.
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Re: The Story of Mistletoe

Post by John T Mainer on Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:00 pm

Please do! Stories are given to skalds by the gods so that they will be told. Let whatever joy it brings be an offering to the gods who shared it with all of us.

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Re: The Story of Mistletoe

Post by Ottr on Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:50 am

Excellent. Thanks again.
May your celebrations this year be filled with the joy that family, and good friends bring.
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