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Vetranóthelgr, Balders travel to Hel

Vetranóthelgr (the weekend of the winter nights) falls in the last month of the year in our ancestors' oldest calendar. The month is called Ýdalir ("sun / evergreen") - home to the god Ullr /Höðr (Ull / Hod). The time is also in the middle of the months Haustmyrkr, Haustmánaðr and Vetra (the latter being “winter month”) in the Iron Age calendar. Therefore, the mark around Balders Helferd is at the time just before entering winter, on the winter night weekend.


From our mythology, it is Hod (the blind (darkness)) who shoots Balder (the sun / light) with an arrow of mistletoe, and kills him. All weapons, growths and creatures had become harmless to Balder, so the Æsir (the forces of nature) were amusing themselves on the ramparts in Valhall by unleashing, shooting and chopping an "immortal" Balder with all the world's various weapons. But, with Lokes cunning, he transformed into the Sorceress by the name of "Takk" (“thank you”) – and made sure that there was only one growth that did not swear to love Balder - the mistletoe. It is evergreen, and represents the sun itself, and is symbolic Balder himself. Often you will find it at the top of the oak trees crowns, the holiest of all our trees. Loke tricked the blind Hod to shoot the arrow of mistletoe, and it became Balder's death. Hod is also equivalent to Ull, which is naturally the ski god and winter god. Balder (the sun / light) is killed and winter / darkness has prevailed - for this time…



I saw for Balder,

the blood of Tyr,

Ódin's child

destiny follow:

Stood he grown up,

high over field,

lean and soft,

the bright mistletoe.

Was of the injury,

that hit him mildly,

harm-flying badly;

Hodr was shooting.

Baldrs brother

was born ere long,

and one night old

fought Odin's son.

Wash he never hands,

nor head combed,

till to fire he bore

Baldrs cause of death.

But Frigg she cried

in Fensalom

over the act in Valhallar.

Understand ye yet, or what?

- Völuspá



As previously mentioned, ship burning in the form of both real and symbolic cremations was done. Just like Balder's dreams and his own death. This happens on the first Sunday (Balders day / the sun´s day) after the first full moon, after the autumn equinox. Elsewhere in the year, the ordinary funerals were probably held on the first Sunday after the full moon. These cermonies must have been magnificent. The higher the rank the person had, the bigger the bonfire. As the sun travels across the horizon / sea, ships are sent ablaze out on the water, and/or the remains are put inside a burial mound. On voyages where deaths occurred, it was probably more common with ship cremations, where the remains were not put in a mound, all the while the decieced were not on their own soil. In these cases, a ship cremation, where the ship was pushed out to sea or a river, was most likely to be equated with a burial mound. It was considered that the fire itself brought the person in the ship back to his ancestral soil.


In the family's burial mounds, many were moored to the ground, often around a large rock inside the burial mound. This symbolizes the blood heritage of the deceased and that the lineage is eternally linked to its soil. Therefore, the ships the deceased were put inside in the burial mound with - were not considered a means of transport in this case, but rather a manifestation of being moored to their own blood and soil. In other cases, when pushed out to sea or a river in a ship cremation in foreign land, the vessels were regarded as a means of transport to take the descendants home – a vessel of the spirit.


We can read in Gylvagínníng that Balder was placed in the ship Ringhorne. The meaning is "ring" or a symbol of cycle and sun, just as a burial was considered a transitional ritual, which was celebrated for three days to the end, where death and ancestral cult were seen as the kin's fertility by our ancestors [3]. In the myths it is Thor who lights up and blesses the fire with his hammer. It's called Mjølner, which means "crusher". His hammer also means "stone" [4]. There were a number of gods, goddesses, Vanir and mythological figures represented by the burial ship where Balder (the sun, the light) and his wife Nanna (the summer) lay, and just this tells us that it is the sun, the light and the summer here that are symbolic and mythological “buried”. Even Thor falls short in strength when the ship is to be pushed out. They had to send a message to the primeval forces in Jotunheimen to ask for help. From there came the “Gygre” Hyrrokkin, a female Ettin. This force's name means "creased by fire," and she pushed the ship out with one hand only. One of Saturn's moons is named after her. The sun is mighty, it is the Sky God's own attribute. Cosmic primordial power is needed to move and turn it.


Thor, in good mythological narrative spirit, was very humiliated by this. One of the dwarves standing next to him, he kicked into the fire in anger. This dwarf is called Lét. Today we have knowledge from archaeological sources that tell us that flintstones were both used to light up, and not least were sacrificed on these bonfires. When you throw flint stones at a bonfire, it bangs in high sound. Minerals, stones and metals are personified as dwarves in our mythology. This dwarf's name Lét, is related to flint. The name means sound / bang. Just like a hammer / rock is needed to spark a fire – a bang that re-cindles the new flame of the ancestor!


Sir Frank Bernard Dicksee (1853-1928).



Inland, the ashes were put in ship formations (made of stones), with mistletoe inside the mound. This symbolizes that Balder (the sun / light) will rise from Hel (winter darkness), but also on a closer level - that the ancestor in the burial mound should return (be reincarnated). In other words, this also represents the ancestral rebirth in the kin. Oak trees are used - as mistletoe is connected to oak, grows in oak, and the oak tree represents the same as mistletoe - fire, sun, life, the prerequisite for all existence. The evergreen mistletoe symbolically contains the power of the sun and life itself.


The first fire came to us through the sun, where thunderstorms (Thor) chase the lightning (Loke) that strickes down in the tree (the sun's battery), leading fire, heat and life to earth. This cosmic and earthly event is also described in our myths in a more human form of fire-making and control.


Gylfagínníng tells about Thor's duel with the Ettin Hrugne. This stone Ettin's name means "stick together". Thor is associated with the earth, he is the son of the earth (Jord), and can thereby be connected to the earth's inner fire, volcanoes and the sparks of the stone. In the duel, Hrugne has armed himself with a large wetstone that he throws at Thor, whereupon Thor throws Mjølner against Hrugne. Thor's hammer Mjølner hits Hrugne's head and crushes it, but on the way there it splits Hrugne's wetstone in two parts. One of the pieces hits Thor in the head and stays there. The other falls to the ground. Hrugne is killed. What "sticks together" is thus split and something new is created.


Symbolically, this myth tells that Thor got the properties of the wetstone mountains, and that the part that hit the ground represents all the wetstone mountains. The myth represents that strokes against the stones cause sparks, and that this represents fire. This process involves gods and Ettins, Thor, Loke, Hrugne, Mjølner and their attributes. The process also contains Odin (the spirit, the thought) when it was he who raced the horserace with Hrugne in the opening story, gave Hrugne a place around the feasting table in Åsgard, which Thor had to duel with Hrugne to get back. This myth, like the other myths, is also multidimensional. When we look back at the previously mentioned myth about Thor at Geirrød, it contains the same components. The myth of Thor and Hrugne is identical in content - where Thor fights after an invitation to battle, and then regains his vitality and is reincarnated. Hrugne would be the ancestor.


Trees are the sun's battery. It's no wonder that trees are sacred to us, and that the mistletoe follows us as a symbol from autumn (sun fall) and through our Yule rituals - until Balder (the sun / light) returns. The reason why ships were used in the ritual and in ordinary burial mounds was that this too was a mythological and not least practical means of transport, as previously mentioned.


In Hárbarðsljóð, where Hårbard (Odin) is a ferryman, and Thor (the protector of men, your own loyalty and willpower) is to pass over the strait, is a mythological picture of such a burial. In this case, the myth is about a migration from one state to another - between life and death. Its about reincarnation. There are several rivers in our mythology. Gjall flowing from Hel are one of them, where the dead must cross over Gjallarbrua (the brigde, Bifrost) to enter. In Roman and Greek mythology, we find an identical river “Lethe” which means "oblivion". The "river of oblivion" had to be crossed - and in our tradition the spirit is the ferryman. This is just a symbol that when you die, the soul is reset to oblivion, and your experiences in the present life are added to the intuition. This part of your sense register, our ancestors regarded as "blood memory", or your "vardøger" (what you can sense) in other words. Some call this "the sixth sense", “your gut feeling”. When your spirit accumulates, it starts again in a new shape - but as a better person, more attached to nature and more attached to your ancestors if the potential is utilized. Your memories, your blood heritage, you must re-call yourself. The “actors” of the myths that "invite to battle" is the factor that instigates it, and most likely it was precisely our ancestral Sorceresses who imitated precisely this.


The year was for our ancestors, embraced and ended by the symbolic Balder's funeral bonfire and sun fall. During this period, Primstaven is marked with a crown, arrow, ring and a branch with two leaves. It is probably no coincidence that in pagan tradition the crown represents the sun and the ring cycle - and that it is now closed. The symbolism of the arrow and the mistletoe-like branch with two leaves also indicates what this period is really about. Balder's death with his wife Nanna (the sun, the light and the summer), and the upcoming rebirth after the winter.


The last day of the year during the winter nights was used to wash houses, weapons, gear and - youself. One should meet the new year clean and free, just as before the new week we should do the same after Saturday [4] (Laugardagr).


After the forced Christianisation, the days of the pagan winter nights were renamed and given new and foreign content. October 21 was by the Christians named “Ursula, 11,000 virgins”, and was dedicated to Saint Ursula and her virgins who suffered martyrdom. It is told by the Catholic Church that Ursula received a marriage offer from the pagan king of the huns, which she refused - and that the pagan king shot her in the chest with an arrow so that she died. After her martyrdom, the Christian story goes on to say that an army of 11,000 angels chased the pagan Huns being in horror and fear.


October 28 the Christians named “Simonsmesse”, and dedicated the day to the apostles Simon and Judas. In the Norse tribal communities, it was customary this day for newlywed couples to go from farm to farm, where they received donations such as meat, crops/seeds, food, drink, wool and other necessities of life to help them settle.



[1] This is why we say "thank you, or in Norwegian “takk” to this day.


[2] In the countryside in Norway, it has been common with both “likvake” (open coffin of the ancestor) and celebrating a funeral three days to end, right into the 20th century.


[3] Ever since the Stone Age, stones are considered sacred, and it was common for the dead person to place a stone (often flint stone) in the neck pit. This stone represents life - it has been used for hundreds of thousands of years to make fire, used as a vital tool, weapon, knife etc. by our ancestors. Therefore, Thor's hammer Mjølner is also a mythological symbol of just this. It represents your life force. Thor's hammer amulets were extensively used in the Iron Age, and are also used as jewelry to this day. The roots and symbolism are thus ancient, and date back to the Neanderthal period in Europe. Thor's hammer always returns to the owner, and in many cases is symbolized as a symbol of eternity (swastika), in the same way that an honorable soul was believed to have moved on with its life force in a new body, reborn, after its “orbit”.


[4] Our ancestors were, in fact, concerned about hygiene, being well-groomed, and washing themselves. Many, on the other hand, often portray them as dirty, evil barbarians, which is nothing but a lie.

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