Let me introduce you to the myth that these beautiful ‘ice stars’ inspired:
Balder and the Ice Stars
Balder the light god, son of Odin and Frigga, was the most handsome of all the Norse gods. Radiantly beautiful, he gazed over all the nine worlds and rejoiced in the beauty that he saw there. Balder took great delight in learning many things, and the runes carved on his tongue showed the extent of his boundless knowledge and insatiable curiosity. Always bright and happy, the gods of Asgard became concerned when one day they noticed a change in his sunny disposition. The light began to dim in Balder’s eyes. He had been having nightmares, and a fearful cloud of impending doom began to envelop him. Odin and Frigga took their son’s concerns seriously and set about trying to help him.
Frigga made everything in the world promise that they would never hurt her son. Animals, plants, stones, all agreed. All that is, except the mistletoe, but Frigga’s messengers persuaded her that the puny mistletoe could never be a serious threat to Balder the great light god.
Meanwhile Odin made the hazardous journey to the gates of Hel to consult the prophetess. Disguised as a mortal, he used his cunning only to discover that Balder would indeed die, and soon. The prophetess, beguiled, declared that his death would be gloriously avenged by Vali, the son yet to be born to Odin and Rinda, goddess of the frozen earth. Odin returned to Asgard, heavy of heart, but was promptly reassured when Frigga explained what she had done. Now there was nothing that could harm Balder. Or so he thought.
No-one had reckoned with Balder’s deadly rival, Loki. Discovering that the mistletoe had refused to make the universal promise, he made a sharp stick from it and persuaded Balder’s blind twin brother Hoder to join in with the other gods who were entertaining themselves by throwing all sorts of objects at the laughing light god. Hoder rose to the bait, threw the mistletoe dart, and to his horror, killed his brother. Everyone knew that Loki was behind the deception, but the laws of Asgard declared that it was Hoder who would have to die to avenge his brother’s death. Nevertheless, it was taboo to shed blood in Gladsheim, so there was nothing that could be done immediately.
Through her tears, Frigga once more came up with a plan. Balder’s death had not been prevented, but there was still a chance that the goddess of death could be persuaded to let Balder return to the land of the living. The valiant Hermod volunteered for this fearful task, and set off for Niflheim on Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir. After many adventures he returned to explain that there was only one way in which Balder could return to them, and that was if everything in the nine worlds showed their mourning by their tears.
Frigga sent out her messengers as quickly as she could, and soon the whole of the nine worlds were weeping for Balder. All mourned the death of the god of light and learning. All except Loki, who refused to comply, disguised as the giantess Thok. Defiant to the last, he let not a single tear fall.
At this news, Odin remembered the prophecy he had heard in the halls of Hel, and immediately set off with Sleipnir to the domain of Rinda, goddess of the frozen earth. He found her seated outside her magnificent hall of glittering icicles, weeping great tears of grief onto the shores of the frozen lake that surrounded her. Odin stared at the lake in amazement. Rinda’s tears had splashed onto the lake and made beautiful stars in the ice. Rinda explained that since the light-god had died, there must be beauty in the frozen earth to remember him by. Odin was greatly touched, and comforted her with the explanation of his mission.
At first, Rinda was less than flattered by his attentions, but Odin persuaded her that only a goddess with as great an interest in beauty as the light-god himself could be the worthy mother of Balder’s avenger. At this she consented, and the result was a baby boy who grew so rapidly from birth that on the very first night of his life, Vali raced to the gates of Asgard and slew Hoder with an arrow.
Frigga at first could not be consoled in her double tragedy, for she had now lost both her sons. Then Odin took her to see the ice stars that Rinda had made in Balder’s honour, and this brought ease to her sadness.