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Worshipping Lali

Baldur’s Body

Baldur, son of Odin and Frigga, brother to Thor, was one of the most beloved and celebrated of all the Norse gods. So loved was he that when he feared for his life, sensing something horrible was soon to befall him, the gods sent Odin to Hel to determine Baldur’s fate from the lips of a powerful seeress.

Their fears were confirmed: Baldur was to die soon. His mother’s heart splintered into a million tears. But Frigga, herself a powerful goddess and witch, would not have any of it. She traveled far and wide, spoke with every creature, every craggy rock, every ferocious animal, every blade of grass, every human and non-human, compelling them to swear to her that they would not harm her son. And they did. She won. Baldur’s life was saved.

But if you become immune to pain, you must also forego the prospects of pleasure. Baldur became anaesthetised from death. He became an unfeeling, impervious body of thwarted prophecy, incarcerated by the life he could not give away.

The gods would gather often around the inoculated Baldur, shooting sharp objects at him, just for the fun of it. Frigga, peering through the trees at her son, would smile an uneasy smile. It had to be done. She couldn’t lose him. Her journey left no room for failure. Well, that isn’t quite true: she recalled that she did not consult with the innocent mistletoe, believing the plant to be too gentle and too soft to ever produce any harm. Loki heard of this, fashioned an arrow out of the mistletoe, and had Baldur shot in the chest.

He died instantly.

The archetype of Baldur did not vanish with the advent of modernity. His fair and cursed carcass, the crossroads where a mother’s yearning for absolute certainty and the tragic aftermath of perpetuity meet, breathes through the body of white supremacy. This Baldurian body of whiteness wants assurances of perpetual stability. It wants to secure the future for its prized possession, its loved fetish: the dissociated self. So it will build up concrete walls, push away the erotic wilds, condemn the traffic of microbes, and lock the “human” into a discrete incarceration of privacy where no other forces might disturb it.

Whiteness longs for transcendence. Purity. Innocence. Oblivion. And the lessons of its failures, like the teachings of Loki, speak loudly especially now: if you must truly live, learn how to die. See and be seen. Look away from rapture, and dig down into the rupture. Run your fingers across the terrain of your vast body and re-examine your claims to completeness. Feel the sutures and threads of your constructedness, and receive the gifts of loss and emergence. Cultivate an aesthetic of demise, and then you would live as everything else does: through each other.

Bayo Akomolafe

2 Comments
  • Sushma Sagar on July 6, 2020

    You have said it in your inimitable, lucid, powerful prose; shone a light on the grey, foundering hag of obstinacy that has been lurking in our midst since centuries. We refuse to give her the attention she demands of us, because simple as it may seem, whiteness, supremacy, perpetuity are so intertwined we do not distinguish one from the other. I love the hindu idea of death being temporal, and life eternal through the premise of rebirth. The hindu is not terrified of letting go.

  • kathrin winkler on August 1, 2020

    My 37 year old son had heart surgery, and Frigga speaks the language of a mother’s heart but there are no pacts, no valhalla thresholds….just rowing with wax in ears until we can lay it all down and drift away. Dear Mr. Bayo, thank you.

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Falling might very well be flying – without the tyranny of coordinates.