This being a blog about trauma, most every deity I encounter gets a write up about it eventually – either in how they experienced it in the lore, or how they work with human survivors today. Loki Laufreyjarson dealt with trauma on an almost unfathomable level.
CW: violence against (mythological) kids
Loki as Enforcer of Fate
The trouble begins (in some accounts) with Baldr. Favored son of Odin and Frigg, Baldr the Beautiful is having dreams of his own death. His father knows this has been foretold by the Seer, and that Baldr is to be resurrected after Ragnarok.
You can’t rise from the dead without dying first.
But Mama Frigg just can’t let it happen. She travels all 9 worlds and gets promises from every living thing not to harm Baldr. Once he’s invincible the gods make a game of throwing things at him and not hurting him. Asgard must’ve been really lacking for entertainment.
Loki sees this and, disguised as a giantess, has some gossip with Frigg. “You really got everything to swear?”
“Yep!” Says Frigg. “Everything but this weird little plant out west called mistletoe, but it’s too young and small to worry about.”
And quick as a flash, Loki headed to Ireland and got some mistletoe, made a spear out of it, and gave it to Baldr’s blind brother Hodr so he could play the game, too.
And Baldr was dispatched to Hel where he was supposed to be. But everyone was still pissed at Loki.
Loki Exposes Uncomfortable Truths
Sometime after this, the gods were all having a feast at the hall of Aegir, a sea giant. They were heaping praise on two of his servants, which really bothered Loki (why isn’t explained). But he is so bothered that he jumps up and kills one of them.
This is a serious transgression. The other gods chase Loki out of the hall, and go back to feasting. (So, not THAT bad…) Loki comes back and challenges them to a Senna. This is a ritualized verbal battle that, had he won, would have seen him reinstated to his place in the society of the gods.
And Loki was winning. He calls out everyone present, one by one, for shameful behavior. He knows ALL their secrets. But just as he is about to win and reclaim his place, Thor shows up. And Thor doesn’t play fair.
Instead of engaging in the Senna, Thor just threatens violence. (Insert obligatory brawn-no-brains insult here) He ends the ritual, and Loki’s chance of being reinstated. Loki is now an outcast, and is again chased away from the hall, and from the society of the gods.
Loki On The Lam
Betrayed and rejected by his friends, including his oathbound blood-brother, Odin, Loki has no choice but to flee and hide. He is joined by his wife, the goddess Sigyn and their two sons, Narfi and Vali.
For a brief time they lived as a family in a remote cottage near a waterfall. Loki had 4 doors, one in each direction so he could keep lookout for the Aesir’s arrival. In the meantime, he invented the fishing net to feed the family. Perhaps they were even happy for a time.
But one day Loki looked up to see the gods approaching. Hurriedly, he threw his fishing net into the fire so they wouldn’t use it against him, turned himself into a salmon and hid in the deepest pool below the waterfall.
But the net didn’t burn fast enough. Thor used it and caught Loki. And despite everything he’d done for them in the past, the great treasures he’d brought them and the troubles he’d gotten them out of, Loki’s former friends were out for a horrible vengeance.
Loki the Bound God
They brought Loki and his family to a cave. And they made him and the boys mother watch as young Vali was turned into a wolf, then set upon his own brother. Whatever Loki had done, the boys were innocent. Yet they stood and listened to Narfi’s screams as his brother mindlessly tore him apart.
But even this wasn’t punishment enough for pointing out the truth of the gods own shortcomings. They took Narfi’s steaming intestines off the ground and used them to bind Loki. He’s just seen one son turned into a wild animal, and the other viciously torn apart. And now he’s being tied up with his own child’s entrails.
Deep inside a cave, they leave him bound. Tied to rocks with his son’s remains. To top it all off, one of them hangs a venomous snake over his head, so that it’s poison will drip constantly onto his face like acid.
The ONLY comfort is that Sigyn chooses to stay with him, holding a bowl to catch the poison and keep it off his face. But every so often, the bowl fills up and she has to quickly empty it. During that time the poison hits his face and Loki writhes in pain.
It was said Loki was to remain bound this way until Ragnarok.
Loki Knows Trauma All Too Well
One of the major indicators of a traumatic experience is feeling trapped and having no control. That your life is in danger and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Loki was completely powerless during these events. From the time Thor captured him – as he watched his son’s brutal murder, and as he was so cruelly bound and tortured – there was nothing he could do to escape.
As hard as that situation is for humans, it must be even worse if you’re used to having the supernatural powers of a god. Of ALWAYS getting out of scrapes. Perhaps I’m anthropomorphising a bit too hard here but it just seems extra intense.
If Loki were human he would undoubtedly have PTSD. Possibly even CPTSD considering how long he is supposed to have remained bound. I don’t know if deities can suffer such a thing, but if they can there’s no doubt Loki would.
At the very least, Loki is a god who would understand trauma in his followers. I think this is why he was so quick to answer when the very first time I called on him I asked him to help get me out of attending a funeral at a church in which I had experienced a great deal of trauma.
He gets it.
Beyond that, how will he be to work with when dealing with that trauma? I’m not sure yet. I’m hoping for more joy and laughter, the fun kind of chaos and mischief. I need more of that.
I’m sure there will also be some facing-the-truth-of-what-happened, as that definitely is part of his character. But it seems that will come.from a place of understanding. Of one survivor to another.
And that, I think, is a very precious insight for a deity to have.
Hail Loki, survivor of the cave!