When the world was young and the gods still roamed across the rainbow bridge to sit at the well of Urd, the most beloved god in Asgard was Baldr.
Now the gods of the Norsemen were not like the gods of the Greeks, who could not die – and therefore, as Edith Hamilton points out, could never truly be heroic.
Rather, the Norse gods were as mortal as the humans who worshipped them, and the fate of many gods was to die.
Thus it was with Baldr.
Frigg, queen of the AEsir and wife of Odin, dreamt that death would come to her beloved son, the god of light.
Odin, having long since traded an eye for wisdom, knew that Baldr could not escape his fate. Not so Frigg, who determined to save her son’s life.
After accomplishing her mission, Frigg could once again rest easy. Meanwhile, Baldr’s popularity surged.
The trickster Loki, however, observed these games with bitterness. One day, he disguised himself as a woman and went to speak with Frigg.
The next time the gods were playing hurl-the-weapons-at-Baldr, Loki approached Höðr, the blind god.
Frigg lived to regret skipping the mistletoe. Her son now dwelt in the shadowy realm ruled by Loki’s daughter, Hel. And when the corpselike queen agreed that Baldr would revive if the entire world wept for him, a single holdout prevented the light god’s return.
Moral of the story: mistletoe is for mischief, so skip the smooching.
Mistletoe is deadly, not romantic. In fact, the plant is parasitic and poisonous, and its name may derive from the German for “dung branch.”
This year, find proper uses for mistletoe – like binding your enemies, playing tug-of-war across a volcano, or weaving Viking-shaped lawn ornaments. Don't kiss under it.
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