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loki

on Loki

As invariably comes up from time to time in our community, one of the mailing lists I'm on, began discussing about the "controversial" Gods of our faith (including my much beloved Loki) and speaking of Giants. Why I'd much rather just be able to worship in peace, I also know that if the good Lokeans who are out there don't speak up about Him when such conversations arise, then we have failed Him and ourselves. Our faith is about being trothful in actions and deeds, and being frithful by doing what is right. Sometimes there are times to hold one's tongue, and other times it is far more important to bite the bullet and stand and speak for your beliefs.

So, here are my words, and a snippet of part of the specific conversation I had been responding to, and the rest of the response was an in general response to a number of comments.


>Rather than honor 'those beings that fall within the label' consider this:
>What are the characteristics & attributes of the Gods?
>
> Odin: Selfless Quester,
> Frigg: Frith of home
> Thor: Courage, Straight Forwardness & Protectors of Humans,
> Freyr and Freyja: Growth and properity

> Loki: dishonesty & trickery


None of our Gods can be broken down to such simple descriptors. Odin is much more than a selfless quester. He is the breath-giver, gift-giver, Lord of Valhalla, one-eyed, hanging-one, cloaked traveler, God of the Wild Hunt, God of War, God of the berserkers, the God of poets, a God of Runes and the God of shamans. The etymology of Oðinn's name equates Him as the "bringer of ecstasy." One of His regional names, Wodan, originates from the Germanic word wut that means "high mental excitement, fury, intoxication, or possession. "The notion of fury associated with the God is repeated in the famous quote from Adam of Bremen: "Woden, id est furor." Fury here can mean the wild fury of the hunt, of war, or the fury of excitement and agitation that could be descriptive of ecstatic techniques. This is hardly a God that could be solely defined by the
words "selfless quester."

And He is selfish to an extent... at least in terms of pride (Grimnismal), which is where Frigga teaches him a lesson and has his "agent" roasting him between two fires (how is that necessarily indicative of Frith of home? Imagine the troubles that may have introduced into the marriage!). Freyja is not always about growth and prosperity, she is also a deity of warriors and the dead (since she gets first choice of the battle slain, even before Odin), as well as a Goddess of magic. Thor isn't always straightforward... I'd hardly call dressing in drag being straightforward and honest when he goes in disguise to steal back his hammer from Thrym? And who assists Him? Loki.

Loki is much more than a God of dishonesty and trickery. He is a God of change, one
even of magic and transformation, and one who appreciates a joke and a laugh. He
introduces change to the Gods, and without him we wouldn't have:
  • Odin's 8 legged horse sleipnir
  • Sif would not have her 'golden' hair
  • Thor would not have his 'mjollnir' which he uses to protect Asgard/Midgard
  • there'd be no wall around Asgard to keep the destructive Giants at bay
  • Odin wouldn't have his oathring draupnir (from which all other oathrings are
    said to derive)
  • Freyr would not have his ship Skidbladnir
  • Freyr wouldn't have his boar, Gullinbursti
  • Odin wouldn't have his spear Gungnir

If we really look at the symbolism of these items, and Loki's role, he is connected with the tools that protect Asgard, and tied to "oaths" more so than he is connected with being "against" the Asgard/midgard. In fact while many people point to Loki being part of Baldr's death, there is another version of Baldr's death that doesn't point to Loki's involvement at all. We even have folkloric evidence (that may pull from much older source material) of people relying on Loki as a helper and protector of the people, even when Odin was unable to.

Also remember, that our lore constitutes a collection of "stories" and an incomplete sets of stories at that. There are some regional variances. And these were stories written down AFTER Christian conversion, almost always by Christian scholars such as Snorri (of whom we have evidence in other matters that he "altered" things to suit the current political/religious regime). Our lore is not irrefutable, nor is it 100% concrete in what it states. I mean, do you believe that Thor is descended of the Greek, Agammenon? While many look at Loki's actions in Ragnarok... is that really certain? Does not the actions in Ragnarok support the destruction of our Gods? If they can be killed off, isn't that a convenient thing for Christians to want to show their God is better? So, our lore is not infallible. Really, our lore is at best a diving board, surely some things in there are "right" some things are "wrong" and some things may be allegorical. To me the meaning of faith and religion is in the individual struggle to wrestle it into meaning.

And, in alot of world religions, the concept of Gods meant to be emulated wasn't the case, in fact they would perform in transgressive behaviors and manners. We have instances of other gods, Odin, Freyja most notable behaving in ways that seem against the status quo, but would any of us mere mortals call them out on it? Call them ergi? a whore? I think not. The last one who did, during the period of conversion in Iceland, was punished for slandering Freyja by calling her a ‘bitch goddess’ (bitch with overtones of being a ‘whore’) at the national althingi. That right there tells me, that the ancient peoples who were adherents of the old religion would never presume to pass moral judgments upon their Gods and supports that some actions in the lore may be transgressive and not meant to be emulated.

Loki is listed time and time again throughout our lore as a God, and described alongside
Them. Why else would he go on so many adventures with Them?

Then we have the one and only traditional image of Loki I'm aware of, the Snaptun
Stone. This stone is a depiction of Loki carved and used in the hearth of a home found in
Denmark, and dated to around the time of conversion. Now, let's step back and think a moment here. The hearth/fireplace was the most important part of the home. In the cold winters people slept by it, they cooked their foods over it, they sat around it and socialized with friends and family. The hearth was very much the heart of the home. I find it personally unlikely, that if Loki the God was so villified as the great evil of all things, that he would have his image in such a central part of the home. Also, there are a number of place names throughout the indigenous lands of Heathenry etymologically derived from Loki's name, which suggests to me that he was obviously honored in some shape and form in ancient times. In fact the name Loptur, one of the names of Loki, has been a name given to thousands of Icelandic men through the centuries into the present day. This suggests to me, that this God was not vilified, but rather honored.

So what of the Lokasenna and Ragnarok? I would say Loki is also the god who speaks the Truth people do not always wish to admit to. In fact in the Lokasenna in the area where he "calls the gods out" from what we can tell (and yes some of it we have no other references to so we can't prove/disprove it in it's entirety) he's only speaking the truth to his fellow Gods. And the Gods aren't happy about having the truth flung so publicly in their faces.

Was Loki tried in an althing? Did he have his year to gather witnesses on his behalf? We see no real “charges” ever brought against him. And if we look at what happens, while he suffers, it is his children born of the Goddess Sigynn who truly have the God’s wrath. What have they done? What did Sigynn do to deserve being punished so? If as some believe it was in punishment for the slaying of Baldr, then why wasn’t he punished earlier? Why no “althing” or something similar. Even when Skadhi came to Asgard she had her “hearing” for the loss of her father. So where is Sigynn’s justice for the loss of her sons? Was this story really meant to be taken literally of what truly happened? Or is it little more than a story created by people as little more than entertainment of the people of this ancient culture? Take Loki out of the lore and well the lore would be rather boring now wouldn’t it? Loki is as much a God as he is an element of a story in our lore.

Discerning where the truth and the fiction divulge, well none of us can figure that out for
certain. See that’s the problem with ANY holy book, any LORE. We just don’t know. Religion to me is the combination of belief, of faith, and the struggle between what we know and what we don’t. We simply put can’t ignore the human factor that has gotten involved in the process.

My greatest blessings have all been a result through His hands. I do however find it unfortunate, there are many who "CLAIM" to be Lokeans, who frankly only have the shallowest understanding of Him, and I do not consider these persons, those who act out for no other reason than to act out as truly being representative of this God.

Simply put this isn't simple, or easy. If you really look at our Gods, from those that we
have family information of, MOST are the descendents of giants. If the Gods are our
ultimate ancestors, that also means that the Giants/Jotuns/Ettins are also our ancestors as
well. Now just like in real life, there can be some bad apples in that family tree. But,
again, this is not a simple issue to discern. And frankly with us having so many holes in
our lore, in what the beliefs truly were pre-conversion... any theories any of us put forth
are just guess work. I could be wrong, you could be wrong.

All I'm saying, is we can't pass any easy judgment here, there's alot of subtleties we have
to consider and analyze, and utlimately, unless we master the art of time travel, or find
some critical new discoveries we won’t have the answer to this in our lifetime. Meanwhile the best we can do is for each and every person to learn the lore, learn the history, and make an informed CHOICE as to what they believe. But what we choose to believe, one way or the other doesn’t mean it’s reflective of the truth. That’s something only THEY know, and it’s not like they’ve written down their words in stone for us.

As for me I will honor Loki and the other Gods to my dying breath, and I’m sure I’ll honor them where I end up as well after I do die. They are part and parcel of my heart and life, and I walk in the great paths they have set upon midgard.

I can understand some people’s trepidation with Loki, which is why when I may go visit their land, their houses, their kindreds, if I know they wish Him to not be hailed there, then I shall not do so. That to me is simply polite hospitality to the host. It’s like your parents saying “live under my roof, you obey my rules” and I consider it the same thing and part of frithful hospitable behavior.

---
Of course there's more now that I wish I had said as well. Doesn't that just figure? Like the gifts of Loki are linked to not only oaths and the protection of asgard/midgard, but also to the wealth and prosperity of it as well.

And Loki is also a God of the impossible, a God who creates paths where there were none.


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Comments

I friended you based on this post. I see Loki in the same light most people see Kuan-Yin.

--zen
I'm specifically Norse-centric, so while I have a passing familiarity with Deities from other traditions, I don't know much about them. I know Kuan-Yin has a number of different traditions and stories about her from varioes cultures, but usually is associated as a Goddess of Compassion and Mercy and one of the Bodhisattvas.

So for someone not as familiar with Kuan-Yin, care to explain the connection for me?
The story I am familiar with in regards to Kuan-Yin is at the final stage of her life where she was able to enter the next level of enlightment, instead she chose to not reach the next level of enlightenment until all of humanity could reach the next level of enlightment.

I see Loki in much the same light, I do not believe he is a victim of his own pranks but more a master of any situation. He is willing to play the fool and do the absurd as long as it benefits other people. In my mind, that makes him the ultimate trickster.

In other words, he is willing to look foolish, play the fool and even take accusations (right or wrong) until people reach a better state (or enlightenment).

--zen

PS does that make sense?
Ah, thanks for the explanation. Now that I understand what it is you're saying, I definitely concur. :)

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