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Food for thought: Lokasenna

All too often we dive into the meat of the sagas, without bothering to read the notes provided by the scholars that translate the work.

Today, upon one of my many re-readings of the Lokasenna, I recalled that I don't think I've ever heard others speak about the translator Hollander's comments on it. And considering that his translation is the one most prevalently used today... I find that most decidely odd.

Especially since Hollander is pretty much coming right out and saying that the events in the Lokasenna should not be taken as 'gospel' or the truth or even commonly believed, but rather it seems to be created by a skald who thought he was being clever.

Here's what Hollander has to say:

"It is safe to say that the "Lokasenna" is not, and never was, in any sense, a popular lay. It is the product of a witty and clever skald who conceived the idea of showing the solemn and glorious gods from their seamy side."

"It is a veritable Lucianesque chronique scandaleuse of the Northern Olympus. Indeed, there is the remote possibility that the author--through Varangian intermediaries perhaps--had an acquaintance with Lucian's amusing Assembly of the Gods."

The footnote attached to this goes on to say, "It is impossible to believe that the "Lokasenna" was composed in any spirit of serious propaganda, or even with a faith in the gods, as some eminent scholars opine."

So in a nutshell what does all that mean, or rather what is Hollander saying?

  1. Hollander is saying the lay is an artifice, created by a skald for sheer sauciness and absurdity
  2. most likely modeled after another work, Lucian's Assembly of the Gods, which would actually be in keeping with many other known flaws within the Eddas. The eddas are very much a text of their time, with many common literary characertistics of medieval christian literature that would insert references to the "classical" world as characterized by Greek & Roman literature, history, and the Greek & Roman Gods. This crops up continuously within our lore, one prominent example is Thor's descendancy from the Greek Agamemnon which was referencing the classical work the Aenid.

    Or cause I'm lazy, here's a snippet from my thesis on this:
    "Snorri’s Prose Edda also shows what can only be further tampering with the original Heathen mythos. Snorri’s erroneous attestation that the word Æsir etymologically meant Asia-men suggested an euhemeristic process in the organization of the Edda. He begins by stating in a didactic manner that the almighty [Christian] God created heaven and earth, and that all people are descended from Adam and Eve. Neither is Yahweh a Heathen God, but Adam and Eve are far from being Heathen people. Later in his Edda, he describes the origin of the god Þórr as coming from the historical Trojan King Agamemnon. This was a common device of narrative plot among continental Christian literature during the time in which the Edda was written. "

  3. only an idiot would take this lay as the truth


Only an Idiot...

would base all their Beleifs on one source. This is one of the reasons I'm disgusted with Heathenry as it's being presented now. Someone reads a single bit(Lore, llewellyn book, website, entrails...)and bases everything around it, then wondering why their Lives don't work and are such disasters.....
Some of the disparaging remarks I've heard about the Loksenna are from folks that do what the author does. Most of the parodies of the Regin are written by the same folk who consider the Loksenna "Christian Hatespeech"....

Re: Only an Idiot...

No, indeed no one should base their beliefs on any one source, the lore included.

I just find it peculiar, that considering that one of the major fault lines in American heathenry is the issue of Loki, and the Lokasenna is a part of that, that no one has ever really talked about Hollander said before.

I mean we're an opinionated bunch, usually there are debates all over the place, and it just seemed odd to me that for all the years I've been Heathen, it's never once come up.

Even if the scholar was sourcing and modeling the lay after an ancient work, there is still some level of truth to the lay, somewhere. Even if it's only referencing vague tales that didn't survive elsewhere.

Re: Only an Idiot...

Probably becasue even with it's sarcastic humour, it's material is in line with the rest of the Lore on Laufey's Childe. It's only those that choose to Beleive the Lore is Wrong on Him that the authoring of the Loksenna(and the rest of the Lore that disagrees with their chosen Beleifs on Him) becomes problematic....
All the Lore was written down post Heathenry. That's a fact. The thing is, you either beleive the Christian Authors wrote down what they thought were a bunch of "fairy tales" OR that they Beleived that in the Future Christianity was Dooomed and that they had to change everything around to prevent Heathenry from Conquering their Descendants. To me, the more simple is more likely. I just can't see Christian writers re-arranging and changing attributes of material they thought of as "Granny Tales" so that no one would know who reeeeaaallyy was who in fear that in a thosand yrs a bunch of Church critics and diaffected Adolescents might turn from the Church....

Re: Only an Idiot...

It seems though you're saying either:

1. the lore is fact, period.
2. the lore is fairy tale, period.

Rather it's a amalgam. It's a document of it's time, to a certain extent the traditions that inspired that lore are somewhat preserved, but we know undoubtedly that certain parts of the lore are unquestionably tampered with, or rather adjusted to suit medieval tastes.

Then of course there's the fact that if you examine the wide range of lore we do have, beyond the sagas and the eddas, but all the other bits and pieces from the archaelogical record, written about those cultures by eye-witnesses from other cultures, other bits of writing... we find that there were differences in some of the stories. We see contradictions, and in other places we see things more or less in agreement with one another.

Our lore is neither.

Re: Only an Idiot...

True. We have to look at everything from the original culture;Language, Archeology, Mythology, etc. My problem is the argument I usually get for "non-standard" practices and Beleifs in Heathenry is that the Lore is to be Discounted because Christians wrote it down. So was/is most of the info in the West. Do we discount Medicine, Law, etc because the authors or scribes were Christian? Of course not but when we only have our personal feelings to support our arguement, we "trash" the "messenger". I'm probably as well-read as you and do not find Laufey's Childe you and others Follow....

Re: Only an Idiot...

That's because our Gods are not chracters in a book, confined from one cover to the next. They exist outside the book. They continue to spin new stories whether we know of it or not.

Our lore is but a start. It is but a seed buried in the dirt. And it's up to us to dig our way up, past the surface to the air, and the vast forests and hills, skies and waterways to meet our Gods.

To me a measure of a person isn't the amount they've read, but rather whether or not they honor our Gods outside of the book. And I have met Heathens who could quote you the most obscure bits of trivia from our lore, but had never once raised a horn to Them, never once had they set up an altar, or prayed.

(Although that being said, I cannot abide those who just make things up willy nilly, or borrow heavily from outside traditions to fill in the gaps, so I'd say it's important to have read and have a foundation to begin with.)

As to my thoughts on Loki, well they abound in this journal. Particularly in this post and also in this one.

IMO/IME, while I have found I can't throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak, it pays to read the Eddas with a very large grain of salt, due to the bits listed above about Snorri putting in ideas about the Gods being from Troy, and Adam and Eve as the original humans. The story of Ragnarok sounds suspiciously influenced by Christian Armageddon. Etc. The entire Eddas should not be completely discarded as this is all we have to go on for mythology, but it certainly should be viewed critically.

Unfortunately all of our primary sources were recorded by outsiders, whether Tacitus the cultural outsider or the Christians Saxo, Bede, and others. So, we have to figure out which was plausible and what was most likely "spin", and to do that involves things like looking at the archaeology of place.

In other words, it's the religion with homework :3
It's the religion with homework, that at the end of the day goes "Guess what, you still don't have any more answers. It's up to you to navigate your way to those answers between your heart and mind and your Gods."

But you have to do the Homework. Sadly, that's beyond a fair chunk of newbs. In the Olden Days(back before Madonna had a British Accent;>)they'd just drop off back into Paganism but with all the "Whatever you Beleive is Just as Valid" crowd in Heathenry today, they just keep doing and Beleiving the stuff they came with, just with Nordic terms...poorly conjugated and prounounced.