I don’t know about you, but it feels as though this year has been one of loss and heartache, at least for my family and friends. We’ve had loved ones pass away, both sudden and expected, but it’s never, ever easy. Others have been diagnosed with scary illnesses that may endanger their lives. I can only imagine how tough it must be for them to keep their spirits high. Many of my friends have also faced financial loss- of jobs, and homes, and other issues of security.
I was reading on the myth of Frigga and Baldur, as those are the deities we plan to honor at my coven’s annual open Yule rite, and one lesson jumped out at me.
Baldur is the son of Frigga, a Norse goddess associated with motherhood and the sky. They lived in Asgard, and Frigga and her husband Odin ruled over the Aesir, the principle race of the Norse Gods. Frigga began having awful nightmares about her son, Baldur, dying before his time at the hand of his blind brother, Hod. After conferring with Baldur, it was known that he had been having very similar dreams. Odin invoked the prophetess Wala, and she also confirmed that Baldur was destined for the Otherworld before his time. Frigga, panicked, took the names of every living thing and set about visiting them to gain their oath that they would not harm Baldur in any way. Having received the oaths, they threw a lovely banquet in celebration. The other gods threw objects at Baldur, as it was entertaining to watch them hit the god, but Baldur remained unharmed.
Loki, the trickster, dressed as an old woman and cornered Frigga at the party, asking her questions about the oaths taken to do no harm to Baldur. He asked many questions until Frigga told him quietly, that the only oath she did not receive was that from the mistletoe, as she felt that it was too small and innocent and was unable to do harm to her son. Loki took that information and fashioned an arrow out of mistletoe. He then asked Baldur’s brother Hod why he wasn’t participating. When Hod replied it was because he was blind and couldn’t shoot arrows like the others in fear of harming anyone, Loki offered to help. Hod took the arrow from Loki and notched it in his bow. Loki helped Hod aim the arrow and shot it at Baldur. His aim was true, and Baldur died, fulfilling Wala’s prophecy. Aldur’s wife, Nanna died shortly thereafter, of a broken heart.
At the funeral, Frigga and Odin sent Baldur and Nanna to the Otherworld in a burning boat. Receiving the boat was Hel, the Goddess of the dead. Never had Asgard grieved so much. Frigga was inconsolable. Hermodur, the divine messenger was so touched by Frigga’s grief that he went to try to persuade Hel to let Baldur return. He rode for nine days on Odin’s eight-legged horse until he reached the realm of Hel. Hel didn’t want to give up Baldur, as it was well known that once one enters Her realm, that they will never return to the realm of the living. Finally, Hel broke down and agreed to release Baldur and Nanna, but only if every living creature upon the earth would cry tears for Baldur. Driven by hope, Hermodur raced to Asgard to give Odin and Frigga the news. Frigga implored every creature to cry tears for her beloved Baldur, so that he might return once again to Asgard. Every creature cried. Every creature, but one. Loki had transformed himself into a giantess, Thokk, who refused to cry for Baldur, and so Baldur still sits in the realm of the goddess Hel, and will remain there, until the end of the world, Ragnarok.
No matter how hard Frigga tried, and no matter how many tears fell for Baldur, he remains with his wife in the Otherworld. He’s not hurting, he’s not in pain, he’s waiting to be reborn in the new world. Like Frigga, we cope with the possibility of loss by trying to circumvent it, in any way we can. With treatments, and love, in energy and in prayers, we try to control the situation. This is natural and good, and within our means to do so. Sometimes it works out in our favor, and sometimes it doesn’t. Still, I can’t help but feel as though we get some sort of cosmic “credit” for trying. That the energy we put toward the health of our loved ones, financial stability or happiness is thrown out unto the universe. Not only may the universe apply it where we hope, but also, that this energy, with our pure and good intent might come back to us in some way, guided by the law of return. Perhaps this might be in the smile of a child, a message from a loved one, or in the warm, loving energy of family at the holidays.
It’s important that we acknowledge our loss, but it’s also important that we do not allow our losses to cloud our lives permanently. Depression and sadness is part of loss, it’s part of the grieving process, and it’s crucial that we allows ourselves this time to go through the cycle. However, we shouldn’t allow our loss to completely take away our ability to see good in our lives. The gods will things beyond our control- and we aren’t always going to understand it. It's not easy to move past it, it seems like a new lesson every time. But we should do our best to live our lives the best we can, finding our joy wherever possible.
Open your heart; do not shut it completely, waiting for another loss to come. There will always be loss, such is the nature of life. But there will also always be love, always be sunshine. Don’t let the possibility of shadows chase away your sunshine. Live in the moment, love your family, appreciate what you have today- and embrace your sunshine.