Question: What is the worst misconception about Loki that you have ever encountered?
Of all the Norse gods, Loki is the most often maligned, so it’s rather difficult to determine which misconception is the worst. There are so many to choose from!
The most often touted one, of course, is that Loki is evil and the Norse equivalent of the Abrahamic Devil. That is a misconception derived from a fundamental misunderstanding of how myths work and an over-reliance on source material compiled by a Christian author 1000 years after Iceland converted to Christianity. This one is pretty much only touted by U.S. Heathens, and it comes from a holdover from the Protestant mindset that is embedded into the foundations of society in this country.
There are also the misconceptions within the Lokean community itself, especially those who equate Marvel Loki and Norse Loki. While it may be the case that Loki is a shapeshifter and can take on the form of Tom Riddle if he chooses to do so, he is, emphatically, not Tom Hiddleston nor is Tom Hiddleston Loki.
There are some people who conflate the two, but Tom Riddle is definitively human and Loki is definitively divine. There is no equivalence. There is a huge amount of difference between a person who understands that Loki can assume such a form if he chooses to, and those who believe that the form is inherently Loki. There is also a difference between those who enjoy the Marvel movies and those who look to the Marvel storyline as the basis for their understanding of the Norse gods.
Another misconception I have seen is that Lokeans refuse to engage or work with his Worldbreaker aspect – arguably one of his most dangerous aspects. I find that most of the Lokeans I’ve ever interacted with on a deep level have definitely encountered Loki’s Worldbreaker aspect and done the work required. For those who are not familiar with the Worldbreaker, a first encounter can be terrifying. Especially because working with this aspect when you’re not ready can threaten to drive you insane – that’s the risk of working with a god of the liminal. The in-between is not a safe place, and Loki is not a safe god. None of the gods are, but Loki is, in some ways, more dangerous than most. That danger is due to his liminality, and it takes a strong and flexible mind to be able to handle the liminality of in-between spaces.
The absolute worst misconception about Loki that I’ve ever seen, however, is that Loki is not a god but instead a literary figure dreamed up by Snorri to make the Norse myths more interesting. I came across that argument in what was supposed to be a scholastic journal – I threw it away in rage and disgust. For something that was supposed to be scholarly, the authors really had no idea what they were talking about.
Loki exists in stories besides the Eddas – the Lokka Tattr, for example, is a Faroese ballad that tells a story of when Loki saved a child and killed a giant in the process. There are also proverbs that suggest Loki may have originated as a hearth spirit. We don’t really know how gods come to be, so it could very well be that he started as a small hearth spirit and grew into a god. Gods do evolve, and maybe there’s a process that allows spirits to evolve into deities. We just don’t have that kind of data available to us, not being gods ourselves.
So, out of all the misconceptions I’ve ever come across, I’d say the worst two are
- Loki is a literary figure and not a god, created by Snorri
- Loki is a safe god to work with and is nothing but love and light
I’ve already discussed why both of these things are false, but I want to make something clear. Loki is not a safe god because he is a liminal being, and liminality is an inherently dangerous place. Loki is a loving god but he is also a god full of anger and rage – it depends on the aspect that you are facing.
I’ve noticed that when I work with Loki in his Lodur form, he is deeply compassionate, loving, and kind. When I work with Loki as Loki, he is chatty, sex-and-chocolate obsessed, and rather childlike in his insistence. When I work with Loki as Worldbreaker, he is piercing, unrelenting, and unwavering. When I work with Loki as Loptr, he is powerfully connective and encourages community growth and facilitating the crossing of boundaries. When I work with him as Scarlip, he is cunning and ruthless in pursuing his goals. Etc. and so on for his other aspects.
My point here is that no matter what aspect of Loki that I work with, I keep it in my mind at all times that he is always all of these things simultaneously. As a human being, I have to approach Loki through one face at a time because I cannot comprehend his vastness in its entirety, let alone at once.
There is an Egyptian saying that refers to a god as being “Lord to the limit” which means that a god encompasses the entirety of the universe all at once, and every single god bears that title. When we work with a god, we walk in their universe. That can be a rather intense realization, as it means when we do a ritual to a god we are literally restructuring the fabric of our universe by calling into focus the centrality of a named god and thus, their universe. That understanding comes from the doctrine of polycentric polytheism, and I highly encourage everyone to do their own research into that doctrine.
That said, what I am trying to get across here is this: there is no wrong aspect of Loki to work with; all of his aspects are simply parts of him working to communicate with us in the only way we are capable of understanding the divine. Few gods make as much effort to talk to us in ways we understand as Loki, and, in turn, few gods understand humanity as deeply.
It’s not surprising that there are people out there who view Loki as a safe and loving god. I would say that he is a loving god, but safe? That would be to deny Loki’s existence as a god, and I won’t do that. Unlike the so-called scholars in that journal, I have lived experience with Loki that tells me he is far from a simple literary device created by a Christian author for dramatic effect.