Learning About Loki

It began, as far as I can consciously tell, with John Beckett’s article about Loki’s message at this year’s Mystic South conference. As I read his report of the Trickster’s words I began to feel a tug. A spark if you will.

Up till now the only deity that’s really held my attention has been An Mòrrìgan. I’ve briefly done journeys with Manannan Mac Lir, and a few rituals with Lugh. But these never turned into sustained regular relationships.

This felt different.

Ever since that post dropped, I’ve been reading everything I could get my hands on about Mr. Scar Lip. I’ve learned a LOT.

Then, almost a month ago, I formally reached out and invited the God of Mischief into my life. And yeah, things immediately got a bit weird.

Making A Very Loki Entrance

First, a bit of backstory. My mother in law passed away in June. She was cremated, and the memorial service was scheduled for the weekend after I first reached out to Loki – at the church that contributed so much to my CPTSD.

I’d had a decent relationship with my mother in law, and it wasn’t that I didn’t want to honor her or be there for my husband and kids. But going back to that church, interacting with those people – it’s not at all good for my mental health. I really didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t see a way out without upsetting my family.

It was Friday when I first called Loki’s name. I told him what I wanted out of the relationship – more joy and laughter as I battle with depression. To be more powerful in witchcraft and spirit work. I asked what he would want in return for these things if he were to grant them, with the understanding this was not yet a binding agreement but the beginning of negotiations.

And I said I’d really like to somehow not have to go to the memorial service the following weekend.

Sometime over the next day or so, I think that very evening, I was bitten by an insect of some kind while out on my deck. There was at least one welt that looked like a mosquito bite on my cheek. At first it looked like any other bug bite. But overnight on either Sunday or Monday I began to feel a burning sensation, first on my forehead and then spreading.

By the time I needed to start packing to head back to eastern NC, I looked like this:

A full allergic reaction to whatever insect stung me

My husband said it would be better if I stayed home. Nobody was mad.

Why This Had To Be Loki

So… in the myths, Loki is a shapeshifter. In one story, he becomes a flea to sneak into Freya’s bedroom in order to steal her famous necklace (on Odin’s orders), and in another he becomes a fly that bites and stings the dwarves making Mjolnir. In yet another, he is punished by being bound in a cave with a snake dripping venom onto his face.

All of that was a bit too much of a coincidence having happened immediately after first calling upon him.

I made a couple cups of tea (and put an entire stick of cinnamon in his) one evening after everyone was asleep and my face was swollen and I was MISERABLE, sat in front of my altar with some lit candles and had a heart to heart with the Trickster. Yo, I said. What gives? This is not the most pleasant introduction I’ve ever had to a deity.

You know what I got? He laughed. He thought it was hilarious. And, I had to admit, it was pretty funny. I could see the humor. Which seemed to really impress him. Part of this was him taking stock of me, to see what kind of follower I’d be. Dude, I said. I been with the Morrigan all this time. I can take shit. But it doesn’t mean I will for no reason.

Considering this did, however, have a reason… thanks?

Loki Is More Than A Trikster

As I’ve voraciously read about him these last few weeks, several takeaways have stood out. The biggest is, he’s gotten a bad rap, at least since the Christianization of the Norse world. Snorri Sturlsson really did him wrong making him out to be some sort of Viking Satan.

Loki once made a grieving goddess laugh by tying his testicles to a goats beard. Blizzard sees the humor.

It seems that back in the day Loki was on equal footing with the other gods. He was an Aesir, blood brother to Odin himself. He had a seat among the gods at Asgard. He was responsible for the wall that protected their stronghold being completed without having to give up the sun, moon AND Freya. He brought them Odin’s famous spear, Thor’s hammer – all the famous wonders the gods are so proud of.

It’s that fact (among many others) that leads author Dagulf Loptson to theorize that Loki was not JUST a god of fire, but the god of sacrificial fire. That “Bringer of Gifts” meant that he was the literal vehicle in which sacrifices were carried through the fire to the gods. Even more, as the personification of fire he was also the very fires of cremation which carried the souls of the dead to the afterlife.

And it is this sacred nature which led Christians (who considered cremation to be an abomination that prevented resurrection for the Judgement) to particularly vilify Loki as they recorded the myths and sagas.

Loki As Father of Monsters

Loki is often called “Father of Monsters.” But… is he tho?

Astrid and Smudge would like not to be sacrificed and impaled on a pole as goats may have been offered to Loki back in the day

He is indeed the father (with the giant Angrboda) of Hel, Jormungandr (the World Serpent) and Fenrir, the ravenous wolf. In the book Playing With Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson Dagulf Loptson theorizes that the events of the Lokasenna, in which Loki participates in a ritualized “rap battle” of sorts with the other gods is indirectly a result of his resentment at the unfair treatment of these three children. But was it really unfair for all of them?

Once the gods discovered that Hel, Jormungandr and Fenrir were being raised in Jotunheim by their mother, they searched out prophecies about them – and found out that the siblings would “cause great mischief and disaster.” So Odin had them brought to Asgard to see what could be done.

Hel was half black or blue (depending on the source) and half “flesh colored.” Odin decided she would be sent to Niflheim and given rule over all who died from sickness or old age. She is given “authority over nine worlds” – in other words, over everything in existence. She rules a vast land full of many great mansions, where most living beings will eventually come under her rule. This doesn’t sound horrible?

Jormungandr is a serpent. He is cast down to the ocean that surrounds Midgard – the material realm. He grows so large that he encircles the entirety of this realm so that his tail is in his mouth. He is not just a giant sea serpent encircling planet Earth. He is the boundary of known reality. He is what holds reality together. Again, not exactly a bad thing?

But then we get to Fenrir. And here, we do indeed have treachery and betrayal. Fenrir is a wolf, vicious and voracious of appetite. The stories say that he was so fearsome that none of the gods were willing to feed him save Tyr.

And now I have questions. Um… Where was Loki when Fenrir was a hungry cub??? Why was Tyr the only one feeding him? Loki is known to have a seat among the gods, to be around and present for their councils and such. Why wasn’t he feeding Fenrir? There are 2 options: Either he was already bound in the cave (in which case this is after Lokasenna and can’t be a cause for it) OR Loki, too, sees the danger Fenrir poses. As well as that of Hel and Jormungandr as he doesn’t protest what’s done to them (which, again, seems arguably not so horrible. They’re given important jobs.)

Raven does NOT like this story AT ALL

But back to Fenrir. Tyr feeds him well because he grows… and grows. And everybody gets nervous at how incredibly large he’s getting. So, sadly, they decide to bind him. They tell him they want to play a game called “break the chains” and see what he can break out of. Fenrir isn’t stupid (he has a very smart dad) and wants assurances that if he cannot break a bond he’ll be let out. Everyone gives oaths, and Tyr (whom he trusts like an actual father) says he will go so far as to put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth as surety.

The first couple attempts are easy-peasy for Fenrir to break. But then the gods bring out a magical ribbon, made by the dwarves. It of course works and Fenrir is bound. Betrayed, he bites off Tyr’s hand. But it’s hollow justice. The gods leave him on a deserted island, bound and alone. As a final insult they stick a sword in his mouth so that he cannot close it. A river flows from his open mouth they cruelly name “Hope.”

That’s pretty damn fucked up, y’all. If Fenrir wasn’t gonna destroy the gods before, he damn sure is now. Between this and the whole bound-in-the-cave thing, I’d be on the other side at Ragnarok, too. (Assuming it hasn’t already happened. But that’s another post for another day.)

Lokabrenna: Loki’s Torch and Possible Historical Worship

“Nobody worshipped Loki back in the day,” people say.

Well, they might have.

So, in Ireland (which is my frame of reference up till now) the old gods have mostly become saints or “fairy queens.” In Scandinavia, Freyr is the Lord of the Elves. Maybe not exactly the same. But Loki is remembered in many local sayings, such as beams of sunlight being “Loki drinking water” or the shimmering of heat from the ground as “Loki drives his goats.”

There is a place named Lokkafelli (Loki’s Fell) in the Faroe Islands, from whence the story Loka Tatur comes from. Other place names that honor Loki include Lockbol, Luckabol, Lockesta and Locastum. There’s also a giants grave in Vestergotland, Sweden, named Lokehall.

But the best evidence for worship of Loki comes from Denmark, and the fact that the Norse refered to Sirius as “Lokabrenna” or “Loki’s Torch.” In Playing With Fire Dagulf Loptson records a travel account by a Spanish Arab named At- Tatuschi from the late 900’s when he visited Schleswig (now Hedeby, Denmark.)

Schleswig (Hedeby) is a very large town at the extreme end of the world ocean. In its interior one finds fresh water sources. The inhabitants worship Sirius, except for a minority of Christians who have a church of their own there. They celebrate a feast at which all get together to honor their god and to eat and drink. He who slaughters a sacrificial animal puts up poles at the door to his courtyard and impales the animal on them, be it a piece of cattle, a ram, billygoat or a pig, so that his neighbors will be aware that he is making a sacrifice in honor of his god.

They worship Sirius. Sirius was Loki.

Hail Loki!

There’s a lot more – did I mention that I’ve been reading voraciously? But these are my major takeaways and impressions so far. Loki was way more than a Trickster or just a god of mischief. He was those things, but so much more.

Fire is transformative. Not only did he bring gifts to the gods, possibly being the fire of sacrifice that carried gifts to them, but even in the Ragnarok myth when he rides the ship from Muspelheim and participates in the battle that closes one age and begins another, he is an agent of regeneration. Stagnation is the thing that he cannot allow, even among the other gods. Every “crisis” he gets them into and then out of leaves them stronger and wiser.

So Hail Loki, God of Regenerative Fire! I’m glad you’re in my life.

*Featured Image by Isca Lox

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