As the father of Hela, Fenrir, and Iormungand, and yet the blood brother of Odin in later Viking myths, Loki represents the true embodiment of all that underlies the very essence of all the Rökkr forces, the spirit of paradox.
Loki was the son of the giant Farbauti (Cruel striker) and the giantess Laufey (Wooded isle), who is sometimes known as Nal), and was conceived when his father struck Laufey with a lightning bolt. This lightning set Laufey, the wooded isle, alight, and from this fire Loki emerged; thus, Loki is fire, born of fire. Both his character and nature is shaped by the genes of his Jotun parents and the method of his conception, and thus from his birth he displays the fiery character that eventually brings about the destruction of the entire world. Fire is both friend and foe. It is an aid to humankind, and yet, it has the inherent potential to totally destroy everything it touches.
Primarily, Loki appears to have been a fire god, with the name of a Jotun fire-spirit, Loge, being cognatively similar to Loki. In the role of a fire spirit, as a god of the hearth, he was married to a fire goddess called Glut (Glow), with whom he had two daughters Eisa (Embers) and Einmyria (Ashes). As the mythology of the Æsir gods developed, Loki acquired new status and new roles. He became a blood brother of Odin, and would often be counted amongst the Æsir despite his Jotun blood; although the Æsir themselves are of Jotun stock, Odin being the son of the etin Bor. Eventually Loki grew into one of the most popular folk figures for the Nordic peoples, and accumulated more tales and legends than Odin, or even Thor.
Like all Rökkr beings, Rökkr tradition presumes that the existence of Loki predates the myths through which he is now made known to us, and that he is part of a pre-Æsir pantheon that held sway before the Iron Age introduction of the Æsir. One, paradoxical, concession to this concept is his slightly masked presence in the Norse creation myth. After the kozmos was formed from Ice and Fire, the descendants of the primal being Ymir were a trio of gods who created the first humans, each imparting a particular gift. The three are referred to as Odin, Vili, and Ve, but elsewhere they are known as Odin, Hoenir (bright one), and Lodur. Lodur, whose name means fire, has been identified, by some scholars, as Loki, and the gift he gave to Embla and Ask, the first woman and man, was blood and a blooming complexion. The gifts given by Loki-Lodur are the sum of what it means to be human, and it is because Loki understands what it is to be human that he can give them to us. Blood, to stir within us our human lust for life, and the blooming complexions for when we laugh.
Another similar legend calls the primeval being Fornjotnr, to whom were born three sons: Hler (water), Karl (air), Loki (fire), and a daughter: Ran (the sea). From these primal gods descended the three Jotun races: from Hler came Mimir, Gymir, Grendel, and the sea giants; from Karl came Thiazzi, Thrym, Beli, and the storm giants; and from Loki the giants of fire and death, Hela, Fenrir, and Iormungand. In this myth, Loki is given absolutely no dependence on the Æsir gods; it is a far more ancient tale, remembering the times when Loki was a pivotal god of the old Rökkr pantheon. What is also of note is the presence of the terrible goddess Ran, who manifests as an expression of the Dark Goddess.
Loki is described as being handsome, dashing,
and attracted to all the goddesses of Asgard; the feeling
being quite mutual. He is quick witted, hot tempered and
spiteful, but not necessarily malicious. Essentially,
Loki gives the impression of being an exuberant youth,
he rarely contemplates the results of his actions, but
if cornered, he is able to escape relatively unscathed.
As the blood brother of Odin, he is safe from the respite
of the other gods, and so he gives the impression of a
spoilt child. While the gods and goddesses of Asgard are
sombre and purposeful, aware of the fate that awaits them
at Ragnarok, Loki is the court jester, leaving a wry smile
on the face of every god. Often, however, the humour is
at the expense of others, as in the Lokasenna (Loki's
Mocking) from the Elder Edda, where he insults every one
of the Æsir. He calls Odin a transvestite who dabbled
in magick and awarded victory to cowards; he accused Freyja
of sleeping with all the gods; and boasted of seducing
Sif (the wife of Thor), and Skadi (the wife of Njord).
Notably though, these taunts are not vicious unfounded
lies, but instead all possess a kernel of truth. Odin
did, indeed, award victory to several cowards, and he
also indulged in transvestism on a number of occasions,
while his exploration of magick has always been second
hand. Likewise, it is likely that Freyja, as the Vanir
fertility goddess, had slept with all the gods, and given
his mischieviousness and charm, it is very probable that
Loki did seduce Sif and Skadi. Further to this, Loki claimed
in the Lokaseena that he had also had a child by the unnamed
wife of Tiwaz: "Enough Tyr, you know that your wife
mothered a son by me."
It is apposite to note that Loki also had
an affinity with Skadi, as when her father, the elf-jotun
Volund-Thiazzi, was killed by the Æsir, she threatened
them into giving her a husband, and making her laugh.
Her heart was cold and full of rage, and it was only Loki’s
cavorting with one of Thor's goats, with his testicles
tied to the goat, that made Skadi, and the rest of the
gods, laugh until their sides ached. This image reflects
an ancient archetype, which infers a sexual-magickal link
between Loki and Skadi, in which the humorous display
of the genitals incites fertility. In Japanese mythology,
Amaterasu, the sun goddess, would not come out of a cave,
and only the lewd dancing of the shaman goddess Uzume,
exposing first her breasts and then her vagina, peaked
the curiosity of the sun and brought her out of the cave.
This imagery is mirrored in the carved Sheila-na-gyg figures,
found throughout the British Isles. Despite the joy that
he had given her though, Skadi was responsible for causing
Loki the most pain when the gods bound him, by placing
a venomous serpent above his head.
Loki's caustic comments about the sexuality
of Odin could, perhaps, be a self-conscious reference
to himself, for Loki has the most peculiar sexual exploits
of all the gods. Not only does he sire Hela, Fenrir, and
Iormungand, two of which are a wolf and a serpent no less,
but he is also transgendered and bisexual. When Asgard
was in the process of being built by the giant Hrimthurs,
Loki transformed into a pretty mare, and lured Svadilfari,
the etin's horse, away, to ensure that the building of
the god's home would not be completed by the allowed time;
and so they would not have to pay the prize of Freyia's
hand in marriage. As a result of this coupling with Svadilfari,
Loki gave birth to a cloud-grey foal, with eight legs,
called Sleipner. He grew to become the swiftest horse
in the nine worlds, and Loki gifted him to Odin, for his
own special stead. At Ragnarok, Odin rode Sleipner into
battle, and thus as Fenrir killed the All-Father on the
field of Vigrid, it may be presumed that he likewise,
killed his equine half-brother. Further to his accusation
against Odin, Loki himself never evinced any aversions
to transvestism. He frequently stole Freyja's magickal
cloaks to travel through the nine worlds, and dressed
up as a bridesmaid to accompany a disguised Thor, also
in bridal garb, to the wedding of Freyja and Thrym.
The sexuality of Loki is a true expression of his freedom, unhampered as he is by moral paradigms, and also expresses his gender paradox, in that he is inextricably bound to the Feminine, to the dark goddess, both literally, and symbolically. Loki bears the surname Laufeyson, a reference to his mother, not his father, illustrating wherein his power lies, in the Feminine. It also adds weight to the idea that Loki was part of a previous, matricentric culture where descent was matrilineal. Likewise, Kaunaz, the corresponding vulva-shaped rune of Loki, has a feminine polarity.
Loki is a central part of the mysteries
of the Dark Goddess, and as such there is a method to
his madness, an order to his chaos. While his actions
often seem sporadic and unplanned, they are in fact an
expression of the Wyrd of the goddess. As Hela, his daughter,
manifests as the dark, and left-hand soul of nature and
the kozmos, so Loki is its light, and right-hand side.
He is the child who is not afraid to dream, or to create
the dreams of others, he is the irresponsibility without
which the world, and the Æsir, are stagnant and
reflective. He is the innocence that is unafraid to point
out that the emperor has no clothes, or perhaps, more
to the point, that Odin likes womyn's clothes. He is laughter,
the snigger in the corner, the witty aside, the remark
that stings, but also induces discovery. He shows both
the Gods, and humankind, that we, as children of the kozmic
goddess, cannot afford to take ourselves too seriously
all of the time. Loki teaches us that the difference between
kozmic and komic is just one letter.
As with all Rökkr entities, Loki embodies a very dramatic and destructive type of change, however, the difference lies in his role as the instigator of this change. The onus is on him to cast the first metaphorical stone, to which the other Rökkr beings respond in kind. The first major act of change is the creation of the means to destroy the Æsir: the fathering of Hela, Iormungand, and Fenrir. The giantess Angrboda, the Distress Bringer, was apt choice for the mother of his Jotun children. She was his Outlander wife, while faithful Sigyn was his wife in Asgard. Sigyn herself had two sons by Loki, the twins Vali and Navri. As we have seen, in addition to these five children, and excluding the unknown child of the wife of Tiwaz, Loki also had two daughters by his first wife, the goddesses Glut, who were the hearth goddesses Eisa (Embers) and Einmyria (Ashes). The birth of the Rökkr children of Loki sets in motion the procession of events that ensure the inevitability of Ragnarok. It is the initial stage in the definition of a new cycle of Wyrd.
The second stage occurs with the death
of Balder. It was prophesied that Balder, the shining
son of Odin and Frigg, would die in his youth, and so
his mother sent messengers throughout the nine worlds,
extracting oaths from every living creature that they
would not harm Balder. But the mistletoe plant was not
asked to make the vow because it seemed to be so insignificant
and frail, and unable to be of any threat. With nothing
apparently able to harm Balder, the gods would play a
game by throwing things at him and watching them glance
off causing no damage. However, Loki disguised himself
as a crone and learned from Frigg that the mistletoe had
not taken the vow. He brought a sprig to where the gods
were playing, and gave it to Balder's blind brother, Hodur,
and offered to guide his hand so that he too could join
in the game. The tiny sprig flew from Hodur's hand, striking
Balder and killing him instantly. In revenge, Hodur was
killed by Odin's son Vali, The Avenger, and with Balder,
went to Helheim. Here Balder sat on the right hand of
Hela, until the cleansing flames of Ragnarok receded and
he and Hodur returned reconciled to the upper world.
The third stage of Lokian instigation is
seen in the binding of the four main Rökkr beings;
although as is obvious, these stages do not necessarily
occur concurrently or according to linear time. Hela was
given the realm of the underworld; Iormungand was thrown
into the Sea of Midgard where she encompasses the whole
world; Fenrir was chained deep within Amswartinar, the
Gulf of Black Grief, and Loki was also chained beneath
the earth. The Æsir gods, having been angered by
the death of Balder, and by Loki's mocking in the Lokaseena,
set out to punish him. Odin, from his high seat of Hlidskialf,
was able to see where he hid in his cave behind a waterfall.
A group of gods were sent to catch him, and after assuming
the guise of a salmon, he was finally snared by Thor and
dragged into a cave. His sons Vali and Navri were also
brought with him. The gods transformed Vali into a wolf
and he attacked his brother and tore him apart. The gods
took Narvi's intestines and used them to bind Loki to
a three pointed rock; turning the bonds into iron once
he was secured. Skadi placed a serpent above Loki, which
dripped venom onto his face, making him writhe in pain.
His loyal wife Sigyn sat beside him holding a bowl to
catch the beads of venom, but whenever she emptied the
bowl, a few drops would fall on him, making him shake
the earth as an earthquake.
The fourth Lokian stage is the unleashing of the Rökkr entities, particularly Fenrir and Loki, because the feminine powers of Hela and Iormungand already possess a high level of freedom. Fenrir, empowered by Wyrd, breaks the bond of Gleipnir, and Loki similarly breaks the iron bonds that bind him, and in a completion of this Wyrdic cycle, the destruction of Ragnarok ensues.
Each of the four stages is a direct result of the express actions of Loki, and each action incurs change. Every action enforces the new cycle of Wyrd, every stage being a separate wyrdic cycle within a greater one.
Loki is fiercely proud and self-assured, none amongst
the Æsir, Vanir, or Jotun can compare to his self-possession;
if vanity were a crime, Loki would be guilty. Essentially
Loki's nature in this respect is Faustian/Luciferian/Promethean,
he is the man who would, and will, be god. Coming of pure
Jotun stock, he worked his way up to achieving the god-hood
of the Æsir, the divinity that, for some, is offered
by the world of Asgard.
His is the fierce spirit of Homo-Galactica. If one were to rename that divine spark, inherent in humankind, that desires to reach the stars, one could call it Lokian. As the possessor of this divine spark, Loki also imparts it to those others who would be gods; it was within the blood and blooming complexions he as Lodur gave our primal parents Embla and Ask. Loki is the Light-Bearer, the god who ignites the divinity inherent within all beings, shaking the sullied mind into action.
Like his aquatic daughter, Iormungand, Loki is a universal archetype found throughout many cultures of the world. He is, in fact, several archetypes. He is the Bound Giant, like the Greek Prometheus, or the Hebrew Azazel; the Trickster of the plains Indian Coyote, and the Greek Hermes; the Shapeshifter of the Celtic Taliesin; and the Light-bearer of Lucifer, Lugh, and Prometheus. He is the closest, of all the Rökkr, to humanity because of his humanity; more than any of the other gods his characteristics are inherently, and obviously, human.
Loki's cross-cultural archetypal forms
help provide a deeper understanding of those aspects of
him that are merely hinted at in our myths. Prometheus
is a Titan, the elder race like the Nordic Jotuns, and
although the relationship between him and Zeus is far
more vociferous than that of Loki and Odin, he was similarly
bound as a punishment. However, what is of interest is
that Prometheus echoes the archetype's forgotten role
as primal creator. In one myth, Prometheus is credited
with the creation of the human race, from clay and water,
an act similar to the hand Loki, as Lodur, had in our
creation on the shores of the primordial sea.
Beyond the obvious European trickster archetypes
of Hermes and Pan. Loki's cultural cousins are most prominent
in the mythology of North America. Here the trickster
has even persisted in the modern figure of Brer Rabbit.
Across the continent, the trickster appears under a myriad
of names, Raven, Blue Jay, Coyote, Rabbit, Mink, Great
Rabbit, Nanabush, Glooskap, and Spider. The characteristics
of trickster are consistent whereever he appears. He is
always a bungler; his reckless often result in the loss
of life, he frequently never learns from his mistakes,
although there is always a great truth revealed in his
naivety. Like Loki and his sexual foolery with Thor's
goat, the American trickster figures are often connected
with sexual vulgarity. In one story, Great Hare told his
anus to watch some cooking food while he slept, but when
he awoke the food was gone. So Great Hare punished his
anus by burning it with a fiery brand. As a result, his
intestines fell out, and Great Hare had to sew his anus
back together with a length of string. Which is why the
anus has its wrinkled shape. Often, as in this case, the
trickster is left to perform those peculiar jobs that
the other gods consider to be beneath them. But he is
beyond such self-consciousness, because he is fully aware
that every task in the kozmos must be performed for it
to function and continue.
Loki's tricker aspect also makes him one
of the most recognisable, or perceivable, northern deities.
He will often manifest himself in vicious, although inevitably
innocuous, mishaps, such as making a computer crash when
he is the subject being written about. Likewise, often
naming someone or something after Loki can ultimately
prove detrimental. However, as with all Rökkr deities,
the risk or threat that Loki poses or more apparent for
those who are not of him. Loki never stops his trickery,
but for those who are aware of him, and one with him,
it is often in more of a friendly, well-natured way, with
a glint shining in his dark eyes.
The myriad of aspect possessed by Loki,
for no god is as diverse as he, are listed as kennings
in the Skaldskaparmal. He is called: Son of Farbauti and
Laufey, of Nal, brother of Byleist and Helblindi, father
of Vanargand (Fenrir) and of Iormungand, and Hel's and
Nari's and Ali's relative and father, brother, comrade
and table-companion of Odin and the Æsir, Geirrod's
visitor and casket ornament, thief from giants, of goat
and of Brisingamen and Idunn's apples, relative of Sleipner,
husband of Sigyn, enemy of the gods, Sif's hair-harmer,
maker of mischief, the cunning As, accuser and trickster
of the gods, contriver of Baldr's death, the bound one,
and wrangler with Heimdall and Skadi.
Loki is also the god of lightning, the
god of the southern or auster wind, and the god of transformations.
He has several favoured animal forms: the salmon, the
fly, and the falcon, but his most applicable form is the
spider. Not only is the spider one of the totem animals
associated with Native American tricksters, but it is
also an animal with a strong connection to the goddess.
Significantly, an ancient Swedish word for spider, lockke,
suggest a linguistic origin for Loki's name.
CORRESPONDENCES OF LOKI
Animals: Serpent, wolf-dog, spider, salmon.
Planet: the Sun
Body Point: Solar Plexus
Constellations: Canis Major
FURTHER LOKIAN ESSAYS:
THE FACES OF LOKI: Along with the familiar image of Loki as seen in Norse mythology, there are two other guises he assumes.
THREE LOKIAN EHWE: Three channelled messages from Loki, describing his aspects of Jotun, Trickster, and Light-Bringer.
LOKASENNA: The Lokasenna is an important Lokian work, in which Loki attends a banquet of the gods and insults almost everyone in attendance. His insults though are not empty menace, but contain cutting truths