In Heathenry, Intro To Heathenry

Loki is a controversial figure that appears within the Scandinavian historical lore, in a great number of tales, as companion and mischief maker to the Aesir and Vanir. Yet outside of it, he does not appear. On one hand he is considered an etin, not one of the Gods, and on the other he is considered one of the Aesir and dwells among them. Gylfaginning describes him thus:

There is one tallied among the Aesir, whom some call the strife-bearing [or discordian] As and the most seductive-speaking, and a blemish on all gods and men. This one is named Loki or Lopt, son of Farbauti, the etin; his mother is Laufey or Nal; his brothers, they are Byleist and Helblind. Loki is beautiful and fair in seeming, ill in character, very variable in manners; he has that speech, known as slyness, far from other men, and wiles for all lots; he came always to the Aesir in hard times, but the often had the best rede in the end. His wife is hight Sigyn; their son is Nari, or Narfi.
And Loki had more children. Angroboda was a giantess in Jotenheim; Loki got on her three children; one was Fenris-wolf, another Jormungand, which is the Midgard-wyrm, third is Hel.

Yet, there is no evidence that he was worshiped as a God. He is considered a trickster, resembling the trickster character in native American tribes. He is considered a thief, stealing treasures from the Gods and Goddesses of Asgard. Many stories in the Poetic Edda are structured around these stolen treasures and the ways in which he is coerced into correcting the situations.

In the Eddic poem Lokasenna, which means ‘the flyting of Loki’, his nature is easily seen. In it he appears at a gathering of the Aesir and Vanir in Aegir’s hall, uninvited, and insults those present in ways which are deeply revealing. He calls Bragi a coward, Idunna, Gefjun, Frigg and Freyja sluts, Odin a pervert, and accuses Njord of incest, until Thor finally arrives and threatens to kill him. Loki says (58):

Thor has come to the hall.
But why are you making
such a big show of yourself, Thor?
I don’t think you’ll look
half so daring at Ragnarok,
when the wolf swallows your father.

Thor says (63):

Silence you sissy,
or I’ll let my hammer
silence you instead.
I plan to send you straight to Hel
beyond the corpse-gates.

He finally agrees to leave and at the end of the poem professes to Aegir (64):

I’ve spoken to the gods,
and the gods’s sons,
said everything I dared to say.
But it’s because of you, Thor
that I’ll leave. I know you,
and you alone, mean your threats.

You made beer,
Aegir, but you’ll never again
host a feast here.
Everything you own
will burn up-
and you will feel flames
on your back.

The Gods and Goddesses take a rather dramatic revenge on Loki after this, binding him with the intestines of his own son Nari and dripping poisonous venom from a snake onto his face. His writhing in pain is said to cause earthquakes.

In Skaldskaparmal Loki cuts off Sif’s hair, and after being threatened again with death, convinces the dwarves, sons of Ivaldi, to make golden hair to replace it. In this tale the treasures Gungnir, Odin’s spear, and Freyr’s boat Skidbladnir get gifted to the Gods as well as the hair. Loki had wagered his head to the dwarves that they could not make three things more magnificent than these and loses when the Gods deem the next gifts, Draupnir, the magical ring, a boar that glowed at night, Gullinbursti, and Mjollnir, Thor’s hammer, were in deed the best. Loki runs, but is caught and the dwarf Brokk, sews his lips so he cannot utter another word.

Snapton bellows stone

Image from Snapton bellows stone thought to depict Loki with sewn lips.

This image carved in a stone, called the Snaptun bellows-stone, found near Horsens, Jutland is thought to depict Loki with sewn lips.

There is much controversy surrounding the worship of Loki in modern Heathenry. He is known to be a blood brother to Odin as Loki states in Lokasenna (9):

Do you remember, Odin,
when in bygone days
we blended our blood?
You told me then
that you would never taste a drink
that was not served to us both.

Odin then replies:

Get up, Vithar,
let this father of wolves
take a seat and have a drink.
Let’s not let Loki
slander us here
in Aegir’s hall.

For this reason, many Heathens will not fail to toast Loki at their blots and sumbles.

For this introduction to Loki, I will leave it to you to decide how to approach Loki. There are those that worship him and there are those who will not. Myself, I like to take the ‘mutual non-aggression pact’ with him. It is described by Patricia M Lafayllve in her appendix to A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru:

For many, there stands a sort of “mutual non-aggression pact.” The feeling here is that if the person leaves Loki alone, Loki will in turn leave that person alone. In this sense, there is not, by and large, any enmity. It is simply a matter of wanting to be left alone, and avoiding action that will attract Loki’s attention.

Sources / Reading:

A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru by Patricia M. Lafayllve, p 48-49, 219-223, Llewellyn, 2013
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, H. R. Ellis Davidson, p 176-182, Penguin, 1990
Our Troth: History and Lore Vol.1, compiled by Kveldulf Gundarsson, Ch 11, BookSurge, 2006
The Poetic Edda:Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes, Jackson Crawford, Lokasenna, Hackett, 2015
Snorri Sturluson: Edda, translated by Anthony Faulkes, p 26-27, 76-77, Everyman, 1988
Teutonic Religion by Kveldulf Gundarsson, p 67-71, Llewellyn, 1993

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