Tag Archives: idun

Loki’s Courage

Most of the time, when Pagans/Heathens discuss Loki, they end up calling Him a coward or accuse Him from running away from a fight. The lore doesn’t support that, but it does show Loki’s cunning. Gnosis also fails to support the idea of a cowardly Loki.

In the aftermath of the Aesir-Vanir war, when the wall around Asgard had to be rebuilt, it was Loki who lured the horse away from the wall to prevent the giant from completing the wall and claiming Freyja as his bride.

Loki could have chosen a different approach. He could have killed the horse or lamed it, but instead He chose to assume the form of a mare and lead the horse away through temptation. Granted, considering the way Loki thinks, He may not have even considered laming the horse or killing it, as He doesn’t naturally go out of his way to injure or harm other living beings.

Instead, Loki assumed the shape of a mare and ended up mating with the horse and giving birth to Sleipnir, Odin’s 8-legged horse. It’s easy to see Loki working as a catalyst here because there is no greater catalyst than the womb. To put that in perspective – a woman can house an infant in her womb for nine months, but that woman will not be able to control, in full, the person that child becomes after it is born.

When Loki kidnaps Idun because the giant Thjazi traps him on a rocky island, Loki agrees. Some people view this as desperation, as a “Loki will do anything to save His own skin,” type of scenario. While that may be true to a point, Loki also bears very strong grudges against those who wrong Him or force Him into corners.

The way I’ve always viewed Loki’s kidnapping of Idun is as the fulfillment of His word – He agrees to Thjazi’s request. But after Loki is free of the island, He does what He needs to do in order to get Idun back and also manages to kill the giant in the process – the debt is paid and Loki gets His revenge.

While Loki is often seen as a God lacking honor, He is, perhaps, one of the most honorable (despite being the most mischievous). He never breaks His oaths, and He always admits to the actions He takes and He always sets things right again. A lot of Loki’s mistakes end up being to the benefit of the other Gods, as some of the most powerful tools the Gods possess wouldn’t be within Their possession without Loki. Those tools include Sleipnir, Gungnir, Draupnir, Skidbladnir, and Mjollnir, amongst others.

Where Loki’s courage is seen most clearly is perhaps in the way He acts as a catalyst for Balder’s death. It would be easy to see Loki as the villain here because Balder is the God of the Sun and is a peaceful deity. This story is the #1 reason that Loki is often painted as the Norse “devil,” even though that is far from the role He actually plays.

I’ve seen multiple interpretations of the story of Balder’s death, and it’s not a subject Loki seems to be willing to talk too much about. There is no real animosity between Loki and Balder, but there is a lot of sorrow in Loki regarding that incident.

The only stories I’ve seen that could perhaps explain the sorrow I sense from Loki about Balder’s death include the interpretation that shows Loki acting to kill Balder in order to keep Him safe from the other Gods who are constantly throwing weapons at Him as a source of entertainment (in short, Loki acts to put Balder out of His misery). The other interpretation I’ve seen is Loki acting to kill Balder because Balder has a dangerous duality that, if unleashed, could destroy the world and bring about Ragnarok.

There are so many interpretations of Balder’s death that it’s hard to know which one is the most accurate, and, like I said, Loki doesn’t seem to be too keen on sharing. I do, however, get the sense that there’s a lot more to that story than the lore portrays.

Now, you might be wondering how exactly Loki can be seen as courageous, but Loki is one of the most courageous of all the Gods – I won’t say most courageous, as that title belongs to Tyr (for good reason). But Loki is definitely high on that scale.

The reason I say that is because Loki always admits when He’s done something wrong or when He’s played a prank (I’m not sure Loki considers any of His actions “wrong”). He always owns up. That’s a type of courage that we can all learn from.

What I see most frequently in the world around me is that people are afraid to be wrong. People are afraid to make mistakes, or, when those mistakes are made, they are afraid to own their mistakes. But if we live our lives in the fear of making mistakes, then we stop truly living. Life is all about embracing our fear of doing things wrong, but doing them anyway.

I’ll never forget when I first learned to play the viola, my orchestra director explained to my class that the top mistake string musicians make is to try to hide their mistakes. He told us that if we made mistakes, to make them proudly and loudly, as if the mistake was an intentional sound. That’s the type of courage Loki has, and that’s the type of courage we all need.

Of all the Gods, it is perhaps Loki, in all of His facets, that is the closest to humanity. Loki is, in my experience, the easiest God to connect to, and I think that has a lot to do with how human He can seem. It is, often, far too easy to forget that He is, in fact, a God, and thus worthy of respect and admiration.

Loki and Balder – Loki as the In-Between

All heathens know the story of Balder’s dream and his subsequent demise, but to make sure everyone’s on the same page, I’ll summarize. The story goes that Balder, the most beautiful of the gods, starts to have troubling dreams about his death. He tells his mother, Frigga, about the dreams, and she grows worried because Balder’s dreams are prophetic. So she travels around the world, extracting oaths from all living things not to cause harm to befall her son. Once those oaths have been extracted, the Aesir begin to throw weapons made of all types of materials at Balder, and none of the weapons harm them. This annoys Loki, who shape-shifts and learns from Frigga herself that she has not extracted an oath from mistletoe because she believed the plant to be too young. At once, Loki finds a sprig of mistletoe and goes to Hod, who isn’t participating in the festivities. When Loki asks Hod why he doesn’t throw anything at Balder, Hod’s response is that he doesn’t have anything to throw, and besides, he’s blind. So Loki gives him the mistletoe sprig, guides his hand, and Hod’s weapon causes Balder’s death.

Now, nearly every heathen interpretation I’ve read of this myth turns Loki into the bad guy. It seems like a lot of people want Loki to be evil, but I don’t think Loki is evil. I think he is an agent of change and the god of catalysts. I’ve discussed the idea of Loki as catalyst before, but I think it’s more than that. I have been reading a book called “Trickster Makes This World” by Lewis Hyde (and you should check it out, it’s fascinating), and Hyde suggests that this myth is something else entirely.

According to Hyde, Loki is trying to keep change alive, and he is annoyed by Frigga’s attempts to stop it. In a way, it becomes a battle between the conventional and the unconventional. Balder’s dreams prophesy his own death – his fate is foretold, his death is ascertained. Frigga takes it into her own hands to try and prevent that fate. She attempts to cheat death; she attempts to prevent change from happening. Loki, as the agent of change, the god who relies on accidents, happenstance, and chance in order to continue existing himself (as he could not exist outside the realm of change, being the embodiment of change), cannot let Frigga’s actions stand. So, he investigates and finds a way to re-introduce change.

This is the first interpretation of Loki’s role in the Balder story that has made perfect sense to me because it highlights two opposite forces, and Loki tends to walk the boundaries that fall between opposites. He’s a troublemaker, yet a problem solver. A god, yet a giant. An adult, yet a child. A man, yet a woman. He is the personification of the in-between. He is the rebel that fits into society just enough to not get thrown out, but he is also the god who introduces change into that society. Loki is the god that gets the wall around Asgard built, which keeps the gods safe from the giants, yet he is also the god that steals Idun and her apples away from Asgard and introduces the concept of aging to the gods.

Loki is a trickster, and tricksters aren’t inherently evil. People forget that the Eddas were written by a Christian who did not believe in the Norse gods – a man who was also trying to suggest Christianity was a better and smarter way of life and belief. When we remember that the writer of the Eddas was a Christian with his own agenda, we can see that Loki was painted as the stand-in for the Christian devil. Since we only have the Norse myths through the words of a Christian, we need to peel away the layers and find the truths that exist behind the deceits.

To do that, we need to enlist the aid of Loki, as he is the trickster who has perfected the art of the lie. Only Loki can help us see through the illusions of the world around us, as there is no one harder to deceive than the god of deceit. But to work with Loki, you need to have a sense of humor, and you need to be comfortable with ambiguity. In other words, you need to be comfortable in the grey areas of life because it is only in the in-between that Loki can be found.