Tag Archives: mythology

Loki: Guardian of Sacrifice

One of my favorite myths about Loki is the one in which he kidnaps Idunn because it is the myth that I feel best demonstrates his character.

In the most common version of the myth, Loki, Odin, and Hoenir were traveling to Jotunheim and stopped to cook an ox they had hunted. A problem arose, however, as the fire refused to cook the meat.

Thiazi, in the form of an eagle, offered to help cook the meat if the gods would allow him to partake in the feast. The gods agreed, but when the meat was cooked, he took off with both hindquarters and both shoulders of the ox.

That angered Loki, so he struck at Thiazi with a stick (probably large enough to be considered a staff), but Loki ended up stuck at the end of the stick and dragged around until he begged for mercy. The only way Thiazi agreed was to force an oath from Loki that he would entice Idun to leave Asgard so that he could have access to her life-giving apples. Loki agreed.

Back in Asgard, Loki tricked Idunn into leaving the walls of Asgard by saying he had found apples that tasted better and were more life-giving than her own. She wasn’t convinced and insisted Loki show her the apples, which he agreed to do. Once they were outside of Asgard, however, Thiazi showed up in the form of an eagle and abducted her.

Once the gods noticed that they were aging, Odin threatened Loki until he agreed to rescue Idunn. Loki did this by transforming her into a nut while he wore Freyja’s falcon cloak, and Thiazi chased them as they fled towards Asgard. Once there, Loki navigated the fires but Thiazi was caught by the flames, fell to the ground, and Thor killed him.

Now, I generally utilize Sallustius’s five levels of myth interpretation to interpret myths but I just finished reading the last couple chapters of Volume II of the Culture of the Teutons by Vilhelm Grönbech, and he raised a couple of intriguing points specifically about the myth of Idunn’s abduction.

  • “The character of Loki is apparent in the myth: he is the stirrer up of strife and thus the provoker of victory (p.393).”
  • “This myth turns upon a later moment in the sacrifice and reflects a rite used at the lighting of the fire to ward off the influence of the demon [Thiazi] and to secure the preparation of the sacrificial meat (p.392).”

Addressing the first point, one of the most common counterpoints I hear that works to paint Loki as evil generally points out that Loki is the one who caused the problem in the first place, and that he is only trying to save himself. Essentially, Loki gets painted as inherently selfish when this myth is picked apart.

However, if Loki is viewed throughout the myths as the one who stirs up strife in order to make victory possible, that isn’t an inherently selfish behavior. It can certainly come across as selfish or seem self-serving in the moment, but the person exhibiting such behavior generally has the welfare of the entire group in mind.

For example, the gods agree to let Thiazi partake of the meal, but then the eagle tries to take over half the ox. There are three other people who need to eat. Loki strikes Thiazi out of anger, but does he do it because he himself wanted more food or because Thiazi taking so much of the ox threatened the ability of all the gods to sustain themselves in enemy territory?

There’s always more than meets the eye in every myth, and that’s a truth multiplied when Loki is present because he is such an ambiguous character. He defies all attempts at explanation; that’s a common complaint among scholars. Loki’s ambivalence is such a defining characteristic that it tends to make him, well, undefinable. It stands to reason, then, that none of his actions in a myth can be seen as straightforwardly what they seem to be at first glance.

The next action Loki takes is to beg Thiazi for mercy, who refuses and provokes an oath from Loki instead. Loki knows the consequences of the oath before he swears it, but he swears it to get out of enemy hands. He struck at an enemy he could not defeat, and that enemy took advantage of the moment to pin Loki into a difficult situation. Loki then has to fulfill his oath – in every myth where he swears an oath, he upholds it. Loki never breaks an oath. That is another defining characteristic.

So, thus far, the only things we really know about Loki is that he a) defies definition and b) never breaks his oaths.

After Loki coerces Idunn out of Asgard and is found out, he finds himself threatened by Odin to fix the problem. Loki not telling the gods immediately what had happened works to stir up strife; the gods’ ire is piqued – not just at Loki but also at Thiazi.

While the myth never details whether or not the gods strategize together what they will do when Loki returns to Asgard, it is telling that Thor is waiting at the wall when Loki returns with Idunn and Thiazi is unable to penetrate the wall of fire and falls to the ground where Thor slays him. The victory is twofold – the return of Idunn returns the health and vigor of the gods and it also allows the gods to slay one of their strongest adversaries.

Loki thus provokes strife to procure victory – or, put in a different way, he utilizes his own sense of strategy to procure a victory out of what seemed like an untenable starting position. He overcame the odds stacked against him, which indicates how he is involved with the very concept of Luck.

What is really intriguing though is the way that Grönbech discusses the fire at the wall as a fire meant to ward off evil influences from a sacrificial meal. Loki’s attempt to keep Thiazi from absconding with the meat (the sacrifice) is met with resistance. He nearly finds himself foiled in that because Idunn is tempted from Asgard and kidnapped. What becomes interesting there is that Idunn refuses to hand Thiazi any apples, and it is only the apples she hands to the gods that allow them to stay young. She refuses him access to the feast.

When Loki rescues her, he flies her straight through the fires of Asgard – flames through which Thiazi cannot pass, but he and Idunn can. Once back in the safety of Asgard, the gods are able to regain their youth and Thiazi – the giant that threatened the very sanctity of sacrificial offerings – is destroyed. With this understanding, Loki’s connection to sacrifice itself is underscored.

So, having incorporated these two new ideas from the Culture of the Teutons, what the myth of Idunn demonstrates about Loki includes the following characteristics:

  • Ambivalence
  • Cunning used as a strategy
  • The stirrer of strife to provoke victory
  • Upholds oaths made
  • Embodies Luck
  • Guardian of Sacrificial Offerings

Few myths about Loki delve quite this deeply into his character, and it bears continual and constant examination to discover new things about him. All the myths about him do. While it may be tempting for some to paint him as evil and be done with it, stories are never that simple and gods are far more complicated than they seem at first glance. Especially a god who seems to make it his business to evade the very process of being defined.

 

Analysis of Seigfried’s Comparison of Loki and Trump

Okay, so I definitely responded in the comment section to this latest travesty of an article from Karl E.H. Seigfried, Column: Loki in the White House, where the author compares Trump to Loki, but I think I need to do a more in-depth analysis than the short overview I provided the other day. Fair warning – this is going to be long.

Since the piece starts with the author’s credentials, let’s review them, shall we? Once that’s done, I’ll examine the meat of the article itself (if that’s the part you’re interested in, just skip down to where it says “Article Review”). 

Credentials Review

“Today’s column comes to us from Karl E.H. Seigfried, goði of Thor’s Oak Kindred in Chicago. In addition to his award-winning website, The Norse Mythology Blog, Karl has written for the BBC, Iceland Magazine, Journal of the Oriental Institute, On Religion, Religion Stylebook, and many other outlets. He holds degrees in literature, music, and religion, and he is the first Ásatrú practitioner to hold a graduate degree from University of Chicago Divinity School.”

So, Thor’s Oak Kindred began in 2016 and is part of the Troth Kindred program. The Troth Kindred program requires that all kindreds abide by the Troth’s inclusion statement, which is as follows:

“I stand with The Troth against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, ableism, or any other form of prejudice.”

Hmm. Comparing Trump to Loki does seem to violate that statement of inclusivity since the last time I checked, Loki belongs to the realm of Germanic religion and culture. Just a thought.

Moving on, the Norse Mythology Blog is a website dedicated to Karl’s own writing. There’s nothing wrong with that – we all have our own websites. The claim that the website is award-winning is a bit misleading, considering the only awards the website has won have been weblog awards.

When someone claims to have an award-winning site, I expect to see awards that originated from professional organizations. Not awards that came from a few people on the internet getting together and nominating a website with content they enjoyed. That’s great for getting people to read your stuff – it isn’t great for convincing people that you have solid writing credentials.

Looking for his other writing credentials, this is what I have found.
For BBC, he read a radio essay about the appeal of Norse Mythology.

For Iceland Magazine, he wrote an essay entitled, “Heathenry in Iceland, America and Germany: The Mainstream and the Fringe.”

He claims to have written an article entitled “One Crime over the Line: Śiśupāla in the Mahābhārata” for the Journal of the Oriental Institute, but I cannot locate that article anywhere. If anyone else can find it, please let me know. In any case, it deals with Hindu mythology, not Norse mythology, so it seems a bit odd to use that as a writing credit for a piece based on Norse mythology.

I cannot find any evidence of an article he wrote for the UK On Religion Magazine, so, again, if someone can find it, please let me know. The same is true for the Religion Stylebook.

As for the degrees he holds, I visited his LinkedIn profile to get a better picture of what his education credentials are. He has taught as an adjunct professor of humanities at the Illinois Institute of Technology for the last year, and he teaches religion, mythology, and literature with classes like “Religion and Social Movements,” “Norse Mythology and Religion,” and “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.”

He graduated with a Master of Arts in Divinity from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and he was the first Asatruar to enter the program and graduate from it.

Let’s consider this for a moment – he obtained a degree in divinity from a school that had never had an Asatruar in the program before and somehow considers that valid. Being the only person in the program means he had no graduate professors who could actually guide him in his research about Asatru, as divinity degrees are typically sought by Christian scholars. Let that sink in.

He has a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Music from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Music from the University of California in San Diego.

Okay, if I want to know anything about music, I’ll hit this guy up. He obviously knows music – those credentials I’ll accept. The master of divinity from a program that has never had another Asatruar in the program? I don’t view that degree as credible – he had no Asatruar mentors in that program, and he essentially would have designed the program himself.

Some people can be successful doing that – this guy is not one of them, and this article on the Wild Hunt demonstrates exactly why his religious credentials are suspect from the start.

Article Review

Moving on to the article itself, he seems to start out fairly well. He talks about how people in the past have viewed Loki as evil and then discusses how people today, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, have found Loki to be a more inspiring figure and a deity worth veneration.

This is the first of many problematic statements he makes:

“If the literary and cinematic character appeals to a person, that is their truth. If the mythological character speaks to someone as a spiritual model or appears in their personal gnosis, that is their truth. It is not anyone’s business to attack those experiences.

My own approach to Loki, however, is quite different. I believe in a theology that turns to the ancient myths for guidance, first attempting to understand them in their original context and then bringing them into our own cultural moment.”

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to be particularly problematic. It seems he is saying that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, whether they base those beliefs off personal gnosis or myths. But he quickly turns to say that he bases his beliefs completely off the myths, as if the people he mentioned previously do not engage with the myths. For the majority of polytheists, that is a generally untrue statement – we engage with the myths because the myths explain who the gods are.

“I do not believe that we should reconstruct every aspect of ancient worldviews situated in a time and place of normalized slavery, entrenched homophobia, and celebrated violence. I do not believe that it is even possible to reconstruct the detailed internal worldviews of a plurality of peoples who left behind no second-level theological discourse.”

I agree with him here. Reconstruction-derived practices are far better than pure reconstructionist ones. We live in a new world. His tone changes rapidly, though, as the next section reads:

“That said, I am bothered by approaches to myth that brush aside any elements of ancient sources that readers don’t like or find problematic as “Christian influenced.” Academics and practitioners alike are guilty of this rhetorical turn. Too many elements of today’s version of Loki come from nineteenth-century misunderstandings (Loki as god of fire) or postmodern rewritings (Loki as the “real hero” of the Norse myths). Again, I do not deny the personal meaning that many find in Loki. I simply can’t follow them to a place where the sources of our knowledge are read in ways that sometimes seem parallel to conspiracy theorist readings of today’s news stories.”

Okay, first of all, why? Christian influence is actually problematic when you’re dealing with ancient religions and the reconstruction of them. Christians read a lot of things into the myths and stories of multiple cultures that never existed – to deny that is to deny the veracity of academia. Academics are “guilty” of this so-called “rhetorical turn” because the research they have done support the conclusions they have reached.

Loki as a god of fire or hearth-god has been pretty well-researched, so to call it a “misunderstanding” is to downplay the difficult etymological reconstruction those academics have done. I don’t see Seigfried here going out and reconstructing ancient Icelandic etymology, so to call it a “rhetorical turn” is a fancy way of saying “I don’t like it because I don’t agree but I don’t have a good way to rebut it.”

I’m not really going to touch on his comment about postmodernism because he clearly has no idea what postmodernism theory even is, considering it is mostly compromised of the post-structuralism and deconstructionist schools of thought. Suffice it to say, postmodernism is far more complicated than the idea of “Loki as hero,” so this piece of drivel is best regarded as a misinformed comment.

Moving on, this next point is one I can agree with.

“I hope we can agree to not be dominated by the surviving sources, to avoid slavishly treating them as holy writ that must be applied to our lives as commandment and law. But I also hope we can agree that it is possible to both engage with the texts as received and apply them to our modern situations: mutatis mutandis.”

The lore should not be treated as the end-all, be-all of any religion. Yet, right after saying this, he spends an inordinate amount of time explaining how the lore itself helps to conflate Trump and Loki.

“There are at least four major characteristics shared by Loki Laufeyjarson and Donald J. Trump. Do the other gods of Norse mythology have negative qualities? Yes, they do indeed exhibit them at times. Loki, however, embodies them as no other deity does.”

Okay, so we’re getting to the meat of the article now. We’re 800 words into his article before he even makes his main point! Are we sure this guy knows how to write? Last I checked, the thesis was supposed to come at the beginning of the piece, not nearly 1,000 words into it.

Now, what are these four characteristics that Loki and Trump supposedly share? Here’s the list: 1) Objectifier of women 2) Betrayer of Community 3) Opposer of Law 4) Bringer of Chaos. Let’s take each of these in turn.

Objectifier of Women 

“Loki is quite willing to place women in harm’s way in order to help himself. In the first myth recounted in Snorri Sturluson’s Skáldskaparmál (“the language of poetry”), Loki wins his freedom from the giant Thjazi by luring the goddess Idunn out of Asgard and into the woods, where she is abducted by the giant and made a prisoner in his home. Loki makes no mention to the gods of his role in the abduction of the goddess and only agrees to help free her after his actions are discovered by the godly community and he is ‘threatened with death or torture.'”

Okay, so this is, unfortunately, a pretty standard way of reading the Idunn myth.

What Seigfried neglects to mention, however, is that Loki swears an oath to kidnap Idunn in order to save his life because he is on the verge of death when Thjazi manages to extract the oath from him.

Loki never breaks an oath. That is the most heinous sin a mortal can commit, next to killing kin, and Loki never breaks an oath he swears in any of the myths.

Does he kidnap Idunn? Yes, he does. He lures her out of Asgard. Once his deed is found out, Loki borrows Freya’s falcon cloak and rescues Idunn. On the way back from the rescue, Loki manages to evade Thjazi by flying through fires lit on Asgard’s wall that he knows how to navigate. The giant, however, does not know how to navigate them, and he slams into the wall and dies.

In the end, the gods claim victory because Thjazi was one of their most well-known nemeses. Sure, Loki kidnapped Idunn to keep an oath he made under duress, but he also ensured that Thjazi died.

Myths are meant to be read as moral lessons. There are tons of moral lessons to be learned from this myth. First of all, Loki is caught by Thjazi because he is too stubborn to give up on trying to cook a piece of meat that refuses to cook. That’s a lesson right there – too much stubbornness is a bad thing.

Another lesson? If you have to swear an oath to save your life, then do so but have a backup plan so that you can recover whatever it is that you have to give up in order to escape the terrible situation of the moment. This is a lesson of how to survive against terrible odds.

It’s also a story of revenge – if someone tricks you into making an oath you would never otherwise make, then do whatever is necessary to get revenge. Loki got the ultimate revenge – he killed Thjazi for the insult of the oath he was forced into making.

No myth is as simple as Seigfried seems to want it to be – there are at least five levels of myth, according to Sallustius. If we’re going to interpret myth, let’s do it at more than the superficial, shallow level that Seigfried employs.

And here’s his comparison of Trump to Loki:

“Trump has shown a similar disregard for the safety of women who stand in the way of his objectives. After Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made detailed allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and following his own escalating statements questioning Ford’s integrity, the president made intensely inflammatory remarks about her at a campaign rally attended by thousands and broadcast widely in the media. After openly ridiculing her testimony, he called those who supported her “really evil people.” Due to the “continuous stream of death threats” Ford and her family continue to receive, she has still not been able to return to her home. Like Loki, Trump doesn’t seem bothered by what happens to the women he places in harm’s way; all that matters are his own goals.”

This is a huge leap in logic. Loki kidnapped Idunn – he did not sexually assault her. He did not call her evil or claim that he was in the right. He fulfilled an oath he made, and yes, that meant he had to put someone in harm’s way. That’s the nature of oaths – they aren’t all love and light.

His next example? The cutting of Sif’s hair.

“Also in Skáldskaparmál, Snorri tells the tale of Loki cutting off all the hair of the goddess Sif. The assault may be referenced in the poem Lokasenna, in which Loki brags of cuckolding Thor by sleeping with his wife and calls himself “malevolent.” The supposedly anti-Loki Snorri downgrades the motivation for the shaving to “love of mischief.” If the two sources connecting Loki and Sif are indeed related, then the act of shearing can be seen as a trophy-taking designed to mark Loki’s sexual humiliation of Thor. Sif herself is merely an object in Loki’s attack on Thor’s masculinity.”

Does Seigfried at all realize that the cutting of Sif’s hair is an allegorical metaphor for the reaping of the harvest? Sif is a grain goddess. Loki is a catalyst. It makes sense that a catalyst would be required for a seasonal change. This is a cyclical seasonal myth, and the fact Seigfried cannot recognize that? Utterly preposterous, especially for someone who claims to be a priest.

The comparison to Trump?

“In her sworn divorce deposition, Ivana Trump describes a 1990 assault that occurred after she had recommended the plastic surgeon that performed a “scalp reduction” procedure on her then-husband Donald Trump. According to her sworn deposition, the real estate mogul was angered that the surgical attempt to reduce a bald spot was so painful. In fury, he ripped out a handful of Ivana’s hair before raping her and – the next morning – mocking her own pain. As with Loki, there is the idea of violating a woman’s bodily integrity as a way of gaining revenge for perceived wrongs from a man with whom she is associated. Loki is really aiming his fury at Thor when he assaults Sif, and Trump is thinking of the doctor when he violates his wife.”

Okay, Trump is a scumbag. We all knew that. In the story with Loki and Sif, Loki is never angry. He cuts her hair off while she is asleep – i.e. the change of season as the summer turns to fall – and then Sif is afraid Thor won’t recognize her with her shorn hair. Again, this is a metaphorical allegory, not proof Loki objectifies women.

On top of that, Loki is consistently gender fluid in the myths. Someone who objectifies women would never willingly turn into a mare to lure the giant’s stallion away from the wall to protect Asgard. Someone who objectifies women would never suggest dressing up in women’s clothing to retrieve Thor’s hammer nor wear women’s clothes himself.

This is just so far off base it’s appalling.

Betrayer of Community 

“In the myths, Loki repeatedly privileges his personal desires and needs over the well-being of his community. In addition to the tale of his willingness to aid the abduction of Idunn in order to save himself, Skáldskaparmál tells of Loki delivering the unarmed Thor to the giant Geirröd in exchange for his own freedom. Given Thor’s stated role in myths as the defender of deities and humans, Loki is willing to sacrifice the safety of entire worlds for his own personal benefit.”

Yet again, this is another myth where Loki was forced to swear an oath that he could not avoid making. And, yet again, this is a story that ends with the death of one of the gods’ fearsome nemeses. Thor wins the day. Loki’s oath is upheld.

“Over and over, Trump has shown that he privileges his own desires over the safety of the nation he leads. Whether openly examining and discussing documents on North Korean missile tests in front of paying members of his golf resort, renting space in Trump Tower to the Chinese government for millions of dollars, or charging the entourages of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman so much for a five-day stay at one of his hotels that the income boosted its quarterly revenue by thirteen percent, the president has made clear that his personal enrichment trumps the security of the United States.”

Yeah, Trump does do this. He does it out of his desire for wealth. The only reason Loki has sworn oaths in myths that have negatively impacted the gods is because his life was at stake. That’s generally an understandable reason to, ya know, make a crappy oath. Life is viewed as sacred – the Havamal tells us that, considering there’s a verse that says it’s better to be lame or blind than dead!

Oh, and of course, the Baldr myth gets brought up. Go figure.

“Loki lets imagined insults to his ego drive his role in the killing of both a praised servant and a praised god. By driving the murder of Baldr, he causes the gods “great deprivation and loss.” Would the presence of Baldr – a leader of warriors in both the Poetic Edda and the History of the Danes of Saxo Grammaticus – have swayed the outcome of the final battle and given victory to the gods at Ragnarök? Whether or not the answer is ultimately knowable, Loki makes doubly sure of Baldr’s absence during the conflict by guaranteeing that the god cannot return from Hel before the mass destruction of the final battle is complete. Loki’s dedication to avenging supposed insults knows no temporal limits.”

I don’t really think Seigfried read this myth. Loki doesn’t catalyze the death of Baldr because he was insulted – he catalyzes the death of Baldr because Frigg ignored the mistletoe when gathering oaths. It is an entire story about exploiting loopholes to prove a point, and it also demonstrates that death is a natural cycle that even the gods must adhere to. Also, by ensuring that Baldr is in Hel during Ragnarok, Loki ensures that the cycle of the world continues, as Baldr is the only god who survives the event. There is also circumstantial evidence that suggests Baldr held the power of reincarnating other deities, so Hel would be the absolute best place for him during Ragnarok.

The Trump comparison:

“During his presidency, there are constant reminders of Trump’s deep dedication to revenge for perceived sleights. In addition to wanting to order the Justice Department to prosecute his political adversaries, Trump has repeatedly used the presidential pulpit to attack media outlets that he feels don’t show proper deference and business leaders whose successes he feels eclipse his own. He has shown himself fully willing to trash relationships with America’s long-term allies around the world when he is either jealous of their leaders’ popularity or feels affronted by their independence. Like Loki, he places a greater importance on his own easily bruised ego than on the priorities and needs of his society.”

There’s not a lot to say here considering Seigfried completely misread the Baldr myth. On top of that, there are actually two versions of the Baldr myth – the one by Saxo Grammaticus does not involve Loki at all. Instead, Baldr and Hod fight to the death over a woman. Which of these is the right myth? No one really knows.

Seigfried ends this section with the following:

“Don’t Loki’s actions redound to the benefit of the community, though? Throughout the myths, Loki only performs actions beneficial for others after his harmful acts are discovered and he is threatened with grave bodily harm. There is a pattern to his myths: Loki does something intended to benefit himself; the act causes harm to the wider community; he is forced to make it right under pain of death; his externally mandated act of restitution results in some benefit – the gaining of treasures, the death of powerful giants, and so on.

Should we celebrate that his willingness to save his own skin by helping his captor abduct a goddess eventually results in the elimination of the giant when the benefit only arises after the gods discover his act and force him to make amends? Aren’t the gods the ones we should credit for the positive outcome?

Don’t Trump’s actions also sometimes help the community? He kindly agreed that family separationat the Mexican border was inhumane and took steps towards ending the policy, but only after his own support for the policy seemed destined to cause the loss of independent votes during the midterm election. Even then, he denied his own responsibility for the separations and put the word heart in quotation marks when claiming to care about the children.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s response to the situation could also be applied to myths of Loki: ‘I don’t applaud the president. He created a crisis. He said he solved the crisis. He has not.'”

Really? Through all the myths Loki only does something to benefit himself? What about the myth where he ties a goat to his balls to make Skadi laugh? Doesn’t that benefit the community at an expense to himself?

Loki, as many scholars have deduced, is a trickster, and tricksters in myth are deities that demonstrate extremes. Yes, he acts badly at times. He acts goodly at times. He is a complex being, just like all other deities. Just like all people, for that matter.

And no, to answer Seigfried’s question – Trump’s actions never actually benefit the community. They are like band-aids thrown over bleeding wounds.

Loki actually solves problems, actually brings benefits into Asgard in the form of weapons and gifts and the deaths of giants. These aren’t band-aids; they are bonafide solutions to problems. And not all the problems are ones Loki causes – after all, Thor loses his hammer and asks Loki for help. The gods understand that Loki is the best at solving problems. He is a problem-solver.

That is, emphatically, one thing that Trump is not. 

Opposer of Law 

Alright, so now Seigfried brings philosophy into the equation.

“Although there are hints in the surviving myths of rivalry and enmity between Loki and Heimdall, the poems and tales that we have show Thor as the god in strongest opposition to Loki. It is Thor who is called on to capture Loki when he seeks to escape righteous punishment, to drive him from the hall when he attacks the goddesses present, and to deliver him into bondage for his role in the murder of Baldr.

It can be argued that Thor’s hammer is a symbol of community – a symbol of belonging to a community and of protecting it from harm. In The Symbolism of Evil, the French philosopher and theologian Paul Ricoeur writes that myths are “a species of symbols,” that they are “symbols developed in the form of narrations.” If Thor’s hammer is indeed a symbol of community, and the hammer is repeatedly raised against Loki, what does Loki symbolize?

I would argue that he represents all that is harmful to the community itself, from the placing of self over others to the objectification of women. The opposition set up in the myths between Loki and Thor shows the son of Laufey as a figure who seeks to escape punishment for breaking the norms of the society, who indeed seeks to mutilate the very instrument of the enforcement of the law, as he interferes with the forging of Mjölnir and causes it to be made with a defect in the handle – the very place where the hand of the enforcer grips the instrument of justice.”

Okay, so, first of all…Thor is the guardian of Asgard. He is an agent of order, and the symbolism of his hammer? It’s protection. That’s why so many Asatruar wear the Mjolnir pendant – it acts like spiritual protection in the same way that the Christian cross does or the Wiccan pentacle does.

Where did Seigfried even come up with the concept of Thor’s hammer as representative of community? He says it can be argued that it is one, but he doesn’t provide any evidence whatsoever as to how he came to that conclusion.

Also, he makes an erroneous statement about Loki and Thor being oppositional figures. Loki and Thor often journey together in the myths. Take the story of when Thor lost his hammer or the story of the visit to Utgard-Loki. Where’s the oppositional piece in that? There’s no good-evil dichotomy in Norse mythology – that’s an Abrahamic religious construct.

Then he compares Trump’s investigation by Mueller to the supposed Thor-Loki dichotomy? What is this nonsense?

“The president’s greatest foil in the legal system has been Robert Mueller, currently serving as special counsel leading the investigation of “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Trump has consistently insisted that there has been “no collusion” and that Mueller’s investigation is a “witch hunt.” If Mueller is playing the part of Thor in this story, serving as the dedicated challenger of the one who flouts the rule of law, then Trump is acting out Loki’s part in mucking about with the handle of the hammer as he endlessly obstructs the investigation, obfuscates his relationship with Russia, and promotes those who publicly attack Mueller’s credibility – such as Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who has echoed Trump’s portrayal of the investigation as a “witch hunt” and ‘political fishing expedition.'”

Where exactly does Loki flout the rule of law in any of the myths? When Odin orders him to do something, he does it, no questions asked. He does not evade. He does not dodge the accusations – he returns fire with fire. When he is accused of acting unmanly in the Lokasenna, he responds to Odin by reminding him that he, too, has performed unmanly acts. That is nowhere near the same as dodging accusations. Loki does not deny the accusations hurled at him that are true – he owns them and says, “Yeah, and?” In fact, he always owns up to his actions. That’s a far cry from Trump’s inability to be honest.

The irony is that Loki is known as the father of lies and deceit, yet he never actually tells a lie. Does he let people assume his identity at times? Sure, so he is guilty of deceit. But lying? That’s not his mode of operation.

Bringer of Chaos 

Okay, so Seigfried starts this part with a question:

“I’m not sure exactly when and where the concept of Loki as a beneficial bringer of chaos entered modern Pagan and Heathen discourse. Did it come from a grafting of chaos magick concepts onto Norse lore? Is it an adaptation of Wiccan dualism to Germanic myth? Whatever the origin and entry points, the idea that Loki brings needful chaos to the otherwise stifling order enforced by the Norse deities isn’t borne out by the surviving myths.

It is difficult to view Loki positively when he helps a giant abduct the goddess who brings health and life, when he calls any woman who speaks out in public a slut, when he attempts to lure the unarmed protector of the worlds into a giant ambush, when he does any of the things detailed above. How do his specific actions in the actual mythology counteract negative actions by the gods and goddesses in a way that is beneficial for humanity? What I myself see as negative behavior by the gods – misogyny, violence, betrayal – are exactly the core elements of Loki’s character. So what are the ordered behaviors that he is supposed to bring into harmonized balance by injecting chaotic elements?”

The concept of Loki as a beneficial bringer of chaos originates with the academic understanding that Loki is a trickster figure, and tricksters introduce chaos into an otherwise orderly world. Chaos and order are opposites, and one cannot exist without the other. That’s a fundamental universal truth – opposites require the other to exist. Without heat, there can be no cold. Without wet, there can be no dry. Chaos and order both have to coexist for the world to exist.

As for the other questions asked here, Seigfried fails to acknowledge how tricksters operate within myths. He would really benefit by getting his hands on a copy of Lewis Hyde’s phenomenal book, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art. 

Seigfried goes on to say the following:

“Even beyond the bringing of chaos to disrupt quotidian existence, Loki is a leader of the forces of destruction at Ragnarök. He breaks free from his bonds, steers the ship full of doomsday troops, stands with “all Hel’s people,” and kills the god Heimdall before being killed himself. In addition to the deaths of the major deities, all of humanity but one couple are killed as “heaven and earth and all the world is burned.”

It’s hard to see Loki’s role in all of this as laudable, but some have asserted that he is generously destroying this world so that a better world can arise. This idea is bit too close for comfort to the ideologies delineated in Jeffrey Kaplan’s Radical Religion in America: Millenarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah.

If the Heathen ritual of blót is indeed meant to – as its etymology suggests – strengthen the god who is its recipient, then worshiping Loki is meant to provide aid to an agent of earthly destruction and human genocide. I just can’t do it. Call me a square, but I’m more interested in increasing the peace and working for positive change than in doing works, as Kaplan writes, ‘in the belief that the apocalypse is imminent and thus that some immediate action is incumbent on believers.'”

First of all, there’s a LOT of contention around the Ragnarok myth. There’s not even solid proof that the myth of Ragnarok originated from Norsemen rather than Christians. There’s some evidence to suggest it’s a Northern tale, but it’s circumstantial at best.

Assuming that the tale is true, however, it is just another old Pagan myth about the continuous cyclical rebirth of the world. It isn’t meant to be an end-of-days doom-and-gloom kind of myth, though it can be taken that way on the surface. It is a reaffirming that life and the universe itself exist in a cyclical way; seriously, has this guy ever read anything about mythological interpretation or does he interpret everything this shallowly?

As for whether or not Seigfried performs a blot to Loki, I highly doubt anyone cares. I certainly don’t. If you’re afraid of a god, it’s usually a good idea not to try to work with that god. I can’t imagine that many deities would find a person approaching them out of fear to be anything other than offensive. Maybe amusing, depending on their personality. But it’s rather offensive to offer a drink to someone you’re terrified of, and Seigfried is obviously terrified of Loki.

He’s also terrified of Lokeans, if his ending statement is anything to go by:

“Finally, I would like to make the simple request that, following this article, lovers of Loki and partisans of the president refrain from making death threats against me. I know that these are two figures who inspire passionate devotion, but I think it is possible to have differences of opinion without threatening lives and livelihood. Thank you for rejecting fundamentalism.”

Like, this is so ridiculous it’s almost hard to take seriously. I know of -ZERO- Lokeans who would ever issue a death threat to another person. Seriously. Why the fuck would we do that? That’s insane.

It’s pretty obvious Seigfried knows nothing about the Lokean community, which is, by far, a group of some of the nicest people on the planet! I say that as one of the founders of the Loki’s Wyrdlings facebook group, which currently houses 431 members. Our number one rule? Respect each other.

Loki does not inspire fanatical devotion – in fact, I’ve never known him to ask for it. I think he might feel insulted by it, though I don’t dare claim to speak for him. He can speak for himself. I get the feeling, however, that he would much rather a person figure out their beliefs for themselves and question him incessantly through their doubt. I have never followed Loki blindly. I don’t know many Lokeans who do.

This entire piece is yet another insult from the wider Heathen world against Lokeans, which, these days, are pretty much par for the course.

Some people expressed surprise that the Wild Hunt allowed such an article on their site. I don’t know why – it’s just another person bashing on Loki. Nothing new to see here. Same old story, different tune.

Other Lokean Responses 

Dude! I Call Unverified Political Gnosis! by Amy Marsh

Dude, I Call Lokiphobia! Check Your Bully Pulpit by Amy Marsh

Lokasenna Time! by Amy Marsh

Loki and Trump: My Thoughts by Dagulf Loptson

Loki is Not Trump (Neither is Odin) by Sarenth Odinsson

Rebuttal to Article: Loki in the White House by Sonya Odinsdottir

Prometheus and Coyote: The Theft of Fire

I was recently approved and selected as the editor of the Bella Online website for the Folklore and Mythology section. My first article has been posted: Prometheus and Coyote: The Theft of Fire. I will be adding at least one article per week, more if time permits. If there are any specific folklore related questions you’d like to have answered or just articles you’d like to see, please feel free to let me know, and I will add them to my list for article ideas.