Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Novel Gnosis part 15: Hodur

In the Lore, which is what we heathens call the body of literature collectively chosen by the heathen community as our canon, Hodur is either Baldur's brother or his human rival for Nanna or both.  In the story in which Hodur and Baldur vie for the affections of Nanna, which ends with Baldur both winning the girl and getting killed, there are three basic versions in the lore. The lore has two stories in which Hodur and Baldur are brothers and a different story in which Hodur is a human warrior. In only one of these stories is Loki even a character in the story. In the non-Loki stories, Hodur and Baldur fight with swords. In the story with Loki, Baldur dies in a mock sacrifice that turns into a real one when weapons that can’t hurt him are hurled at him but one of them is magically turned into a lethal weapon. This weapon is made of mistletoe, the only substance which his mother has not made to promise not to hurt him—she made everything else promise because of a prophetic dream he had. This story is in one way a story about self fulfilling prophecy, and in another way about the nature of a sacrificed god who is also prophesied to rise again as king in the next universe.

Now, the novel gnosis: The reason Frigga did not bother asking mistletoe not to harm Baldur is because mistletoe was his own sacred plant. She must have not it wasn’t necessary to ask. But of course that is what also makes it perfect for a sacrificial ritual. Mistletoe is a liminal plant, neither of earth nor of air but partaking of both. It blooms and produces berries but they are poisonous. It grows without roots, and is green in the winter when its host tree is dormant. It’s a bundle of paradoxes, which is what makes it sacred. That is Baldur’s symbol when he is alive. But after his death, his symbol is the ox-eye daisy.  Daisies in general are also a symbol of the dead.

The story of Baldur and Hodur is a story of sacrifice, of the bright king and the dark king battling. In the versions of the story in which they fight with swords, it’s more directly a story about fighting over Nanna, but also more directly a story about a summer king and a winter king doing battle over the changing of the seasons. In the Fireverse, I tell the version of the story in which Loki is involved in Hodur’s victory. There are many reasons for this. The story of Baldur, Hodur, and Nanna resonates more strongly as a story about the sun god and the night god competing to be the mate of the moon goddess than a story about yet another summer king and winter king competing for a land goddess, since there are already multiple summer kings, winter kings, and land goddesses in Asgard. Loki was the one narrating the entire history of the gods of Asgard to the main human character, so it makes sense for Loki to be in his own story. Perhaps most importantly, one of the main threads running through the entire narrative is the question of how to respond to prophecy. Frigga consistently chooses to try to avert prophecy, and Odin consistently tries to embrace and fulfill it. Fireverse-Odin is obsessed with Voluspa and does a lot of things specifically to try to fulfill that prophecy. That prophecy says that after Ragnarok Baldur is coming back from death to rule the next universe. He can’t do that if he dies during Ragnarok like the rest of the gods—like Odin himself will, according to the prophecy. So Fireverse-Odin wants the sacrifice to happen so Baldur will become immortal by passing Ragnarok safely in Hel. Fireverse-Odin tasks Loki will making this happen. They both know that the Prophecy also says Loki will eventually be bound, but it is not a punishment, it is simply what must be to make the next universe come out right.

So, Hodur: Hodur is the god of the dark. There is a goddess Night in the heathen pantheon but Hodur also has powers of night, of darkness. He is blind because he had to be to get the power and wisdom that comes from excluding all light. But, he still longs for light—for moonlight, for Nanna. He tells her that the dark of night would make a better husband for the moon than the sun would, because there she could shine. But eventually Baldur wins Nanna, and after Baldur’s death Nanna joins Baldur on his funeral pyre and goes with him down to Hel. When Baldur’s death is avenged, Hodur also dies, and he also goes to Hel, but without a wife. Hel is not known to have a husband herself. It is my gnosis that they are together, but Hodur is consort to the queen of Hel, not king. He is her lover, not her husband, and takes none of her power or authority.

When Baldur, Nanna, and Hodur die, their sun, moon, and darkness powers pass to other hosts. The story in which Thor gets his servants by recompense for damaging a goat bone is also the story of the quest to find the new sun and moon power hosts. Sunna and Mani are found and made to be the new hosts of those powers. Hodur’s power flows to Loki. Loki already has a lot of powers at that point in the story and will develop more later, so Hodur’s power isn’t as huge a deal for him as the sun and moon powers are for their new hosts.

Image: Faroe Islands postage stamp featuring art The Return of Baldur and Hodur, public domain via Wikimedia Commons


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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


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