Tag Archives: preChristian

Musings on Loki: The Spirit of Shame

I always found it very peculiar to find adherents of Germanic belief who found it fitting to honour the spirit Loki; going to great lengths to “prove” that he was a common fixture of elder Germanic belief, recast by the Eddic poets into a “Satanic” role, but actually honoured by all of our preChristian ancestors as some kind of  First Nations-style “Trickster” figure. Of course, outside of Saxo Grammacticus’ Gesta Danorum, there is no evidence to suggest that he was even a pan-North Germanic mythic figure, to say nothing of being known outside of the Viking Age. He is isolated to Norse-Icelandic and Danish sources of the Viking Age or later. As such a strong Catholic influence might well be expected — and can be extended to Balder and Ragnarok itself — but which hardly can be taken to mean that Loki was just a good ol’ boy in the original preChristian Norse-Icelandic-Danish material. Indeed, the only commonality we find between the (abundant) Norse-Icelandic material and the (scant) Danish is Loki bound in the underworld. One might ask, is that not a direct parallel between Loki and Satan? Fair question. But more on this later. Finally, even a casual glance at Norse-Icelandic mythology will reveal that if a Trickster figure is necessary it is already well represented in Woden, right down to his association with the raven. But of course, we also find the supposedly “dull witted” but always honest and forthright Thunderer tricking a dwarf named Alvis (All-wise), while ever-constant Tiw (and the gathered Tivar) is content to trick the Fenriswulf. As such, it is painfully evident that the Eddic pantheon has no need for a Trickster figure, let alone in the spirit of Loki, as the figure already exists in spades.

A gift for a gift, a lie for a lie“, after all.

Interestingly, this fascination with Loki, which generally came with harsh criticism of the Tivar, was soon followed by other fetishes with such figures as the Fenriswulf and etinkind in general. It also seems to have coincided with the advent of universalist Asatru and most notably with the influx of large numbers of Wiccan and generic “NeoPagan” into Germanic heathenism in the early to mid 90s; who brought with them a very modern, far left culture and imposed it on Germanic belief and then set out to reinterpret those beliefs within that cultural paradigm, ie. as opposed to trying to understand them within an indigenous Germanic cultural paradigm (or at least some approximation thereof).

One will note that, unremarkably,  the Lokasenna pretty much reads like an SJW Bible, with Loki playing the role of SJW and the Tivar assuming that of Western Civilization.

He who gives gladly lives the best life,
and seldom has sorrow.
But the unwise suspect all
and always pine for gifts.

— the Havamal (trans. – J. Chisholm)

So then, what does indigenous Germanic culture, which itself gave rise to Germanic mythology, have to say about Loki? As mentioned above, the one common motif associated with Loki that has any resemblance to a pan-Germanic belief was the notion that a malicious spirit was bound in the underworld. One need not look to Christianity for such a belief at all. It is in fact quite evident as early as the 1st century A.D. in Tacitus’ observations about Germanic law as it pertained to capital offense,

Traitors and deserters are hanged on trees; the coward, the unwarlike, the man stained with abominable vices, is plunged into the mire of the morass with a hurdle put over him. This distinction in punishment means that crime, they think, ought, in being punished, to be exposed, while infamy ought to be buried out of sight

This statement is of course backed up by the archaeological evidence, which demonstrates that some people in elder times were roughed up, quite considerably, before being pinned to the bottom of a bog. At times this might well have been a matter of sacrifice, but the evidence is clear that it was, at the very least, also a matter of capital punishment … just like hanging could itself be one or the other, all depending on context.

Needless to say, there are many aspects of the Eddic Loki’s character that correspond to Tacitus’ “bog felons”; ranging from the initial freedom within and toleration by the tribe and ranging up to malicious tricks such as the shaming of Sif (ie. cropping her hair, a symbol of adultery) to the murder of Fimafeng to the blaspheming of the Tivar to the “abominable vices” (ergi, assuming a female role) committed in the birth of Sleipnir. In some ways one could argue that the Catholic missionaries of the 8th century A.D. were the prototype for the Viking Age Loki. Afterall, while Catholicism brought with it numerous boons for our ancestors, just as Loki’s ill deeds at times resulted in unintended good for the Tivar, the incessant blasphemy and acts of sacrilege carried out by their missionaries ultimately led to a level of martyrdom that hadn’t been seen since the days Rome was tossing Christians to the lions.

Indeed, even in Loki’s “blood-brotherhood” with Woden, the “Lord of the Gallows”, we see an echo of the two forms of capital punishment practiced by the tribes of Germania; hanging and bogging. I sometimes wonder if perhaps the Eddic Loki was some aspect of a more archaic Woden … Wod perhaps … that became largely incompatible with the god as his cult evolved from the Iron Age onward into that of the Tiwic Viking Age Allfather, but which could never fully shed the association either? Perhaps it was originally Wod who accompanied Thunor on his journey to the hall of Utgard-Loki???

Anyway, as the spirit of the bog, of shameful felony, we can clearly see why his chief enemy at the Eddic Ragnarok was believed to be Heimdal, the father of mankind and keeper of the (w)holiness of the innangeard, ie. the divine-human community.

We might also see some reflection of the Eddic Loki in the Anglo-Saxon Grendel; whom made his home beneath a bog in “nithsele” (hall of shame) as the Beowulf poet called it, and who, like Loki in the Lokasenna, was pained and moved to murder by the joy he heard coming from the feast hall.

It should never be forgotten that some of the sickest “human beings” we have ever known, were also some of the most charming. And even the most corrupt creature can issue from the loins of our people, and begin their lives as “innocent little kids”, whose true nature only unfolds and reveals itself over time.

And it is here, I think, that we see the greatest difference between modern Lokians and people of Germanic belief. To the former Loki is at best an idea, a literary figure, that exists exclusively in their imagination. To the latter, he is a culturally particular mythic manifestation of a spirit at work within the human community. A spirit that no one thinks is at all “charming” or “funny” or “beneficial” when they run up against it in reality, eg. a child-fucker. A spirit that belongs … at the bottom of a bog.

Incidentally, no one says “Loki made me/them do it”. Strawman. But be careful of doing what he did, or we might do what they did.

Be whole!

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