Weekly Deity: Loki


Almost everyone has heard of this particular god: Loki, the Nordic trickster god who is so adept at causing trouble.

Attributes

Loki is a changeable god, so assigning him one or two specific attributes is difficult.  The animals he is associated with include snakes, salmon, and horses.  He is usually shown in the form of a man, bearded, and varying from young adult to middle age.  The mischievous look on his face is characteristic of Loki, however, and he can usually be identified from this alone.

Mythology

Loki is the son of Farbauti and Laufey.  He marries one of the Giants, Sigyn, and bears a number of children who also play large roles in the Nordic myths: the wolf Fenris, who will be the downfall of the gods; the Midgard serpent; Hel, the underworld goddess; Nari; Vali; and Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir.

Throughout the myths Loki is always the cause of trouble and is always playing tricks on the gods, which he is then usually required by the gods to reverse the trouble he caused.  In the myth of the building of the Val-hall, an unnamed builder is allowed to build the hall with the help of his stallion.  Loki was the one who convinced the gods to allow the man to use the stallion’s help.  However, because of the stallion, the builder was going to complete his task in the time allotted and so win the sun, the moon, and Freyja as wife.  The gods, upset at these events, told Loki to fix his meddling so they would not have to surrender the sun, moon, or Freyja.  In order to stall the builder’s labor and cause him not to complete the building in time, Loki turned himself into a mare in heat and caused the stallion to chase him all night, while the builder chased the two horses.  This is how Loki bore Sleipnir.

The trickery catches up with Loki, however.  After Loki tricks Baldr’s blind brother Hothr into shooting his own brother with the one plant that can kill Baldr (mistletoe), the gods realize who it was who caused the death of their beloved brother.  They catch Loki, after many trials, and kill his son Nari.  The gods used Loki’s son’s entrails as rope and bound Loki to a rock.  They placed a venomous snake above Loki’s head, which would drip poison onto his face.  The gods then left him there with his wife Sigyn until Ragnarok, when Loki would be freed and would fight against the gods on the side of the Giants.

Light and Dark Sides

There is very little of the Light about Loki.  He very often causes trouble that is harmful to other people, and at times his meddling kills (ex.-Baldr).  Loki doesn’t cause trouble or inflict pain because he wants to, or because he takes enjoyment from the trouble–he causes trouble because it is his nature to do so, and so he must play tricks.  That may be the only bit of Light about him, that he doesn’t do these things from any personal motivation, but because he is bound by his own godlike nature to do these things and partake in mischief.  Otherwise, Loki is a Darker creature.  His tricks are harmful.  He is a shapechanger, a slippery being that gets in and out of the cracks.  Loki is the Shadow of both human and divine (for the Nordic gods at least) existence, all those things which we know are bad but which we don’t want to acknowledge in ourselves, so it’s no surprise that there is very little of the Light in this character.

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One response to “Weekly Deity: Loki

  1. Pingback: Versions of the End of the World | A Witchy Life

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