Balder myth in gold

Balder myth in gold

Some Nordic goldsmith got the idea to tell about the Balder Myth in gold. We have around a half dozen golden bracts in series from him on the theme. They are not quite like the several myths we know on the theme.

Balder myth, Poetic Edda, Valaspa, Hauner, Laur, Laukar, Chaos Mights, well cult, Yggdrasil, Tree of Life, Achilles's theme, Balder's fire, Misteltoe customs, Loke, Holly Oak, swastika,

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The Elder Edda is also called the Poetic Edda since it consists of a collection poem gathered and written at Island in 13th century. Since Island belonged to Norway and was colonised from there the poems are naturally from that sphere. However we see from picture stones, rune stones and other remains that many of the motifs were widely spread in entire Scandinavia. In fact some of them are just versions of poems from the Anglo-German past.

Furthermore there is a great influence of Christianity in some poems and more in the Prose Edda written by Snorri Sturlusson in beginning of 13th century. His Edda is like explanations to the Poems and contains much of the Old Norse mythology. His second book is advices for the poet and even that teaches us about the old society.

Havamal is a long poem that is more like a collection of proverbs and old wisdom that can be thousands of years old. Voluspa the songs of the seeress may be thousand of years old in parts. It consists of a song about creation in the beginning and about Ragnarauk or the Worlds final collapse with an end that tell about a new world. It can be the end of the individual as well as of the tribe. But why not the collapse at harvest since they animated the crops by humanlike deities?

In the middle of the Poetic Edda is some verses about The Leader and another about fettering the too free imagination in the shape of Loke. There is also a song about harvest time and the dead of Balder. Verse 29 is about herself the Vala who get neck-gold and some wisdom of the Leader. She uses her skill in learning from signs and by casting sticks … I think of the Evenstorp rock-carvings where we in centre see the Leader speaking to the leading Lady. Then she sees the Valkyries coming like harvest-girls … nobility thinks about harvesting men, but peasants think about harvesting Balder's grain.


31. I see Baldr, the bloody god,

Ódin's bairn, his fate hidden;

standing in a field of growing grains,

faint and fair is misteltoe.

32. I warn of his tree, while seeming slight,

harmfully hurled, Haudr will shoot it.

Baldr's brother, was born soon,

slay Ódin's son; while one night old.

33. Wash his hands not nor comb his hair,

until burnt on brush is Baldr's adversary;

but Frigg will grieve in Fensalum,

over woes of Valhallr.

Wit you again, or what?


This golden bract is from Fakse East Zealand and there was a fragment of another similar in the find

The golden bracts are like old poems we maybe understand some of the details but not all. They tell the saga by showing us some detail and we should know the story behind. The figures look like humans … but not. The artist shows distance to his world. Even in our days we have difficulties in separating real and virtual world in TV… and some people have difficulties in seeing our ancestors as humans. We are brought up to see them as primitive barbarians believing in strange things. It is always an individual question and the will to understand and "feel in".

The artist is skilled and tells in a very old way his story. The Sumerians worked in the same way and made odd figures out of merging details. Artists with that skill could have made natural figures if there was time and anyone would pay.

Since the figures in a way are understandable we can catch some of the ideas, Think if they had used geometrical figures instead, then we had no change in catching some clue. Maybe that is why our ancestors made the archetypes … however people soon believed that when they invoke the idol then the work is done. We should not have that fun.

Many in nobility and handicraft surely soon forgot what they knew as child about farming and would not know about the natural year …I know that from myself. A friend from a neighbouring farm did not know much when he was twenty-five and had been in another profession since he was 16.Without my studies in agriculture and contact with the field I would have been a bookworm with a distant view on nature.

Maybe the tall figure was called Hauner that we know from Edda as "Meile of the steps". We meet a figure with one long leg in Bronze Age and he has something to do with time or season in the calendar. In a way it is the Sun, but here picture as the "growing force" during a period. He show that since his hand is holds two symbols "to and fro". He is shot with something and we think about mistletoe and are in the mythical world.

The myth does not need to have been exactly the same and the names maybe were different in various parts of Northern Germanic area. We have also the name Laur and Laukar on the golden bracts. The former means "flow out" and the later have been interpreted "leek" that also means flowing = "grow up". Balder is just the name that was written down and erases all old names.

He has long hair like most of the figures on the golden bracts. Right hand is in the shape of a symbol for Gemini and it shows that this is myth and astronomy. The left hand ends in a "hook" symbol of harvest. The eagle feet associate to the sun but also to harvest since Eagle = Aquila was originally the autumn symbol. Once we speak about astronomy and calendar he stands on angle symbol for the VI that is symbolised in different way. It is the most used symbol and institution since 4th century. Maybe the six big dots mean moons of the summer.

The idol at the left is maybe the meadow guard, maybe the larder guard we know from the astro-symbolism. Besides is a bone we know from rock-carvings and symbolism. In Sumer it meant simply "work". The cross is his hand is made of bones and he holds one wing as if he marked that. If it is a year cross that means, "end of season or quarter".

Under the Vi there are a couple of beings that may be the asterism Fishes, which should have been the fix-stars at that time. Others used the Horse = Pegasus, but there were no standard.

At last we have the odd female looking figure decided by the skirt. It looks like a wing and she has her feet underground. The big dot at her feet make us think of the big cupmark in rock-carvings showing that the earth is open. Is it the New Moon goddess symbol of fertility? Her arm with the ring confuses me and I think of the Roman goddess Victory. So it is we got mixed explanations and often more than one possibility.

Beresina near Kiev Russia is the address of this. In the find was also a C-bract and a golden medallion with Constantius II 323 - 361 AD.

This bract has fewer symbols than previous. The guard has an axe that must have been suitable for building houses. We do not know if we should associate to Thor and his special hammer that was like a boomerang. Maybe the asterism Gemini was a hammer with short shaft and that returns every day. Thor was often in east for some reason. 

"Longleg" has a ring in his hand. A ring symbolises victory sometimes and they were given to the winner. Otherwise the circle is always symbolising entity and something complete.

There is also a fish and the Vi. The female idol has a twig in her hand. The twig as such symbolises growth and was set up in beginning of May. If this is mistletoe it is Frigg who wandered around the world asking all Mights and being to not harm Balder. But she did not ask the mistletoe since she thought it looked young and innocent.

Squared and triangle shaped symbols are very frequent on the golden bracts. The moon symbolism and myth is connected to agriculture and is maybe as old as that. At least since Bronze Age they divided the year in three and that fitted the Egyptian year. Sometimes small symbols and dots may be just a decoration. We have to leave open for that it symbolised the Arian Trinity in some cases.

Maybe our forefathers in general knew more about agriculture and the laws of nature than citizens in our times. The general structure in many myths is that they symbolised the water circulation as the Moon and Watergate The Sun is naturally the heath in the biological engine and the climate gives different cycles of season on the level of Egypt and in Scandinavia.

Third part is the soil or Mother Earth and the offers were naturally directed to her. In between these were the Chaos Mights such as heath, storm, thunder and lightning, night frost in a wet climate, which all could spoil the agriculture and give trouble in getting enough food. That is why we see the Libra in the middle of the season. It is just a question "grow or not" and does it give more than you put in the soil.

I saw recently a programme on Discovery in which they supposed that our forefathers did not know about the laws in nature. It is simply that they would not have survived without exact knowledge. The first question was how to get fresh water. The streams in nature are not reliable and in winter when the putrefaction made it risky to drink water without cooking it ... we do not understand that when we use our tap. But get maybe a little reminder when it tastes salt since they used it for disinfecting at the water plant. When they practised so-called Well Cult it was a matter of life and dead and getting good water from a natural well.

Golden bract from unknown place in Denmark

The three idols and the Vi are there. But why is there an arrow from the head of Longleg to the guard? Can anyone tell me? Mail me! … I get ants on my baldhead.

The upper text is runes IWLI, but it is not intelligible and can be some shortening. Even the Roman coins have many of them. The other seems to be a mix of runes and Greek letters.

There is a bird and above the head of her is maybe a squirrel. Then I think of her as the Tree Lady or Oak Lady with the mistletoe at her neck. In Egypt, Sumer and the Nart Epos they have a Tree Lady that sometimes take the guise of an Owl.

The Oak was the holly tree and maybe the World Tree called Yggdrasil in Edda. In Yggdrasil is the squirrel Ratatosk as messenger between the Eagle at top and the snake Nidhaug at the root. It is also the "Tree of Life" or the symbolism of growth. The mistletoe is growing on that host.

This is found near Viborg Jutland Denmark together with another in same style

This composition is mirrored compared with the previous. The Vi is simple but in the angle there is a bird and maybe that below Virgo in the sky.

The long text is maybe Greek letters or symbols as such NU-cross-NG-T and the other maybe half-year marks I-NU below and U-NU above.

Here we also a wavy line that may be a snake and then the Hydra or womb of earth. A snake bit in the heel of Longleg and we associate to the Achilles' theme but also Balder's only weakness. The Greek letters on the golden bract points at Greece and we know that some have been there and that surely Greek goldsmiths made some of the golden works.

Once we look at the myth it is easy to forget reality and se the persons as real doers, while they are ideas showing methods or happenings in animated sequences. The "Balder Fire" and the "Mistletoe customs" are connected to midsummer in Scandinavia. Ritual myths are usually looking forward to forecast what should happen during coming season. Midsummer is of course a turning point in the sun year before the harvest season.

We have to remember that in their methods maybe they harvested leaf as well as hey and that was after midsummer. One-year seed-plants must set the seed before they could harvest them otherwise there would be no plants next year. It was also soon time for root-barking trees to timber they could harvest next year. The burn-beaters time came when they saw wheat. Lastly it was time for harvesting spring-sown grain.

A soon as they animated vegetative life they got persons and they were under the normal law. Then came the problem of "killing" the grain and they needed some innocent to do the killing. The blind Hauder did it and Loke the innovator got the idea of course. Balder's brother is the harvested grain that is a revenge for killing by carrying the life to next generation. The revenge is not in blood, but simply by continuing the specie with a new generation.

Even in this case an arrow points at the guard but also at the one who saw the grain and wants the killing. Maybe the long leg of Longleg shows that like a plant he has his roots beneath. His place on the night sky is surely our Cancer with the symbolic sowing into Hydra. In some places they symbolise it with a pole. Maybe it was also the place for the World Tree symbol of all growing.

The Celts holy tree was the Holly Oak and that tree can be very old or more than 1000 years and it is the host for at least 600 species of life. No wonder that they saw it as a symbol of life. We have the chain from the Sun Eagle in the Oaks top to the root with the snake and womb of Earth that continues in time to the occasional harvest time. From the Oak only the Mistletoe as person is harvested and that is an occasional parasite like the sowing.

Find from unknown place in Denmark

This is simpler than previous. The female idol "flying New Moon" holds a symbol for the trisected moon year and at her foot the dotted symbol is maybe the Vi.

Longleg is hit in back of the head. His upper hand ends in the two KK and as syllables they are the word KAKA that means harvest time.

Find from Fyn Denmark and possibly a pair from same place

In the last bract we are a little confused since the supposed female idol lift a sword against her son … or is it so? Even here we have the bird in the Vi and the snake bits in heel. New is the swastika symbol of the four seasons and sun year.

This series of golden bracts are obviously made of the same goldsmith. It gives us the story with variation and we can not be sure of all interpretation. These are made around 700 years before the Balder myth was written in plain language. Oral myths live their own life and are a little different from place to place. We know that from Greece were the former states have their own versions of same story and in addition some tales of their own.

Balder myth background