Theodish Thoughts

Musings on Theodism, religion, mythology, history, and contemporary Heathenry

Category: Lokeans

The Troth Says Loki-Dokey!

Well, at least nobody could say this was a surprise. The Lokeans have been applying steady pressure on the Troth for years, even through their Warder of the Lore, who is married to a Lokean.

The Troth, the bastion of Universalist Asatru in the United States (and elsewhere) made their official announcement the other day that the ban on honoring Loki at Troth events was lifted.

But more than that, there will be a Loki blót at the next ten Trothmoots, “in primetime”. Presumably that means Friday or Saturday night. This is supposed to be some sort of Schuld* in recompense.

The whole ideology of “everyone should be able to do whatever they want, and if you don’t agree you’re a bigot” has the Troth firmly in its grip. It will be interesting to see if the Troth actually makes it to the ten-year mark after this decision. I predict… chaotic times ahead for them.

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* Which I presume means shild in Rob Schreiwer’s never-ending campaign to convince people that his Amish Heathenry is actually equivalent to Asatru in popularity, like the use of the word “Sege” which means nothing outside the context of his couple of dozen followers. You’d think the Troth of all groups wouldn’t let someone who appeared publicly in blackface to have such influence, but not my circus, not my monkeys…

Right on cue

And there it is, as predicted, the Lokeans lashing out against Karl Seigfried because of his post about Loki last week on the Wild Hunt. Apparently he got one credible death threat on Twitter (which has since been removed), and the Lokeans have put together a response/open letter.

And boy, does that letter tick all the boxes when it comes to the worst parts of pagan self-righteousness and martyrdom:

  • “Seigfried’s article crossed an important line from eccentric opinion to bigotry. “
  • “…Seigfried’s final two paragraphs… are essentially “a call to action” to discriminate and further marginalize all who hail Loki in their religious and devotional practices…”
  • ““Lokiphobia” is a word we wish we did not need to coin, and yet many members of our spiritual and religious community have been dealing with prejudice for years.”
  • “Many of us are women, LGBTQIA, have disabilities, or hold other identities that on the whole have made us targets within the larger Heathen community which has consistently held much more traditionally conservative views. “
  • “…discrimination against a religious minority “

All the words we’ve come to expect from whiners when they think they’re not getting the respect they haven’t earned, yet still deserve. Bigotry. Discrimination. Marginalization. -phobia. All the words that usually send certain folks into a tizzy, trying desperately to avoid sounding like the people they usually, themselves, condemn.

Congratulations to the Wild Hunt for not giving in to this sort of pressure.

Loki in the News

Over at the Wild Hunt, Karl Seigfried has an article up that attempts to conflate President Trump with Loki.

sigh

His standard left-wing hit piece journalism about Trump notwithstanding, I have to say I find myself in agreement with him on his characterization of Loki. I’m very certain such a high-profile denunciation of Loki as an object of popular veneration is going to cause a lot of waves in the coming weeks; Lokeans are nothing if not a vocal lot.

In general, I find myself disagreeing with Dr. Siegfried more than I agree with him, but looking at the actual points he makes about Loki, I find myself in agreement. He even (correctly) points out that the association with Loki and fire is a 19th century misinterpretation.

Here are some of the salient points he makes about this figure in the mythology:

  • “Loki is quite willing to place women in harm’s way in order to help himself.”
  • “Loki repeatedly privileges his personal desires and needs over the well-being of his community. “
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “I believe that the idea of Loki as the bound giant who finally breaks free to destroy the world is the root element of his character. I suggest that maybe we should support those who seek to bind the beast rather than cheer on his rampage. “

It’s a pity we can’t have a version of the article that omits the Trump-focused paragraphs, so we can have a clear and concise explanation of why Loki isn’t a good guy in the mythology, and certainly isn’t worthy of veneration by mortals.

Utgarda-Loki

One of the more interesting figures from Norse mythology is Utgarda-Loki (Útgarða-Loki in the original Old Norse, and Utgarthilocus in the Latinized version), whose name means “Loki of the Out-yard“). Found in both Snorri’s Prose Edda and Saxo’s Gesta Danorum (“History of the Danes”), Utgarda-Loki is a giant with god-like powers. Some contemporary Heathens contend that Utgarda-Loki and Loki are the same being, owing to the similarity of their names and some of the details of their respective stories. However, the evidence for this is as illusory as Skrýmir’s bag.

The first story concerning Utgarda-Loki is by far the best known. As told by Snorri, Utgarda-Loki is a king among giants, a master of magic and illusion who sets Thor, Loki, and Thor’s servant Thjalfi through a series of tests which they all seem to lose. Loki is pitted against fire in an eating contest, Thjalfi races against the personification of thought itself, and Thor is not only made to feel fear while hiding in the giant’s glove (thinking it a hall), but drinks so deeply from a magic horn that he lowers the level of the sea, and picks up the World Serpent disguised as a cat.

At the end of the contest, Utgarda-Loki admits his deceptions and disappears along with his magnificent castle, right before Thor can slay him with his hammer. It should be noted that this story is a fair indicator that Utgarda-Loki and Loki are two distinct individuals. They are in the same room as one another, after all. But of course, given the powerful illusions Utgarda-Loki is said to employ during the episode, that’s not a certainty. Too, if it were the case, it means that Loki/Utgarda-Loki is creating the whole incident specifically for the purpose of humiliating Thor, which undermines the “but Loki is a boon companion to the Gods early on” argument that many Lokeans make.

Let us press on to see if there are other differences that play out.

In Saxo, Utgarda-Loki is very different indeed. He is seen as a being to whom prayers for intercession could be made:

At first his [king Gorm’s] voyage was prosperous; later however he was battered by contrary gales until his comrades were expiring of starvation. When only a few were left alive he turned his thoughts to religion and resorted to offering prayers to the gods, reckoning that divine assistance was the only defense in their extreme plight. Finally, whilst the others were imploring the different heavenly powers and deciding that a sacrifice must be made to the majesty of various deities, Gorm solicited Utgartha-Loki, with combined vows and propitiations and thus obtained the beneficial spell of weather they desired. (Gesta Danorum VIII, Hilda Ellis-Davidson tr.)

Later on, Thorkil is sent on a journey to visit Utgarda-Loki in order to “gauge the opinion of heaven by consulting divine oracles”, when the king was concerned about the disposition of his spirit after death. What Thorkil found is a far cry from the vast palace that Thor and company found:

After this, with others in front acting as torch-bearers, he [Thorkil] squeezed his body into the narrow jaws of the cave and gazed on every side at rows of iron seats festooned with slithering serpents. Next, a quiet stretch of water flowing gently over a sandy bed met his eyes. When he had crossed it, he reached a place where the floor sloped downwards rather more steeply. From here the visitors could see a murky, repulsive chamber, inside which they descried Utgartha-Loki, his hands and feet laden with a huge weight of fetters. His rank-smelling hairs were as long as tough as spears of cornel-wood. Thorkil kept one of these a more visible proof of his labours by heaving at it with his friends til it was plucked from the chin of the unresisting figure; immediately such a powerful stench rolled over the bystanders that they had to smother their nostrils in their cloaks and could scarcely breathe. (ibid)

This is obviously a very different individual than the one described by Snorri. Is Utgarda-Loki creating the illusion of himself bound? Anything’s possible, but there’s nothing to suggest it in the text. Too, there’s nothing in that description that makes one think of an individual capable of stilling storms or granting wisdom relating to the afterlife. It is a very pitiable figure, in all.

That account has echoes not only of the description of Nastrond, the beach of corpses where murderers and oath-breakers go to a hall made of serpents’ spines and where poison drips from the ceiling, but also recalls the punishment of Loki at the end of Lokasenna (and in Gylfaginning), where he is bound with chains made from the entrails of his children, and set under a serpent whose venom drips on him, causing him to thrash and cause earthquakes.

That said, the details are different enough to see that we are not looking at the same creature. Absent, for example, is Sigyn, the wife of Loki, who is said to hold a bowl over her husband to protect him (mostly) from the serpents’ venom. Too, the poisonous serpent dripping onto his face is missing in Saxo’s account, and there is no mention of the bound Loki being associated with a horrible smell.

Despite the surface similarities, especially in their names, it’s pretty clear that Utgarda-Loki is not the same individual as Loki.

However, there remains the fact that king Gorm offered prayers and made vows to Utgarda-Loki to calm the bad weather, and later seems to have taken on Utgarda-Loki as his patron god, perhaps in fulfillment of one of those vows made to spare his life and the lives of his men, when he looks to the giant for wisdom. Is this proof of an historical cult of giant-worship?

That’s a question I’ll take up in a later post.

A Lokean sums it up

Read on the web this weekend, written by a Lokean in a post about why Heathens “hate” Lokeans:

“Many Lokeans I know live with physical disabilities, chronic illness, or are neurodivergent.”

That should tell you all you need to know about worshiping Loki.

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