Thursday, 6 February 2014

Loki's Role in the Northern Religions

A Note On The Article

The article, "Loki's Role in the Northern Religions", by Kveldulf Gundarsson (Dr. Stephan Scott Grundy), which can be read below and featured in Idunna magazine, issues 93 (Autumn 2012), 94 (Winter 2012), 95, and 96, is a study of the so-called "trickster" Gods role within ancient and modern Odinism and is ultimately a whole new perspective on Loki as opposed to, for example, "May Loki Be Bound", and "An Understanding of the Role of Loki in Odinic Mythology", both by Heimgest (Jeff Holley) of the Odinic Rite. The original and final version of the article which featured in Idunna (sent to me, and posted with permission, by Dr. Grundy), is a single monograph that had to be split into 4 parts for the magazine. You can read the document in full below. At the end of the document I offer PDF, ODT and DOC file formats of the article. There is another PDF version uploaded elsewhere on the internet without permission (not linked here) but I do not know if this one has been altered in any way. The one I offer was sent by D.r Grundy and titled 'final'. What is offered at the end of the article are three different file formats of the 'final' version that was sent to me directly by Dr. Grundy. When asked if it was OK to publish online he said, "I'm perfectly happy to see it put online... My only rules are, no links to racist sites and no one using it for their own profit." When pointing out the version that is already available online, posted without his permission, he commented, "Well, I really appreciate your courtesy in asking - and checking to be sure no one had messed with it. Well-done, and thank you for putting the work up where more people can see it!" The PDF, ODT, and DOC file formats have not been changed and are exactly as Dr. Grundy sent me the original file. The article you can read below without having to download anything has only been edited by myself to take out the automatic hyperlinks to footnotes. You will have to scroll down yourself to view these. Currently Dr. Grundy is expanding the article a bit for a Troth publication in the future (FB message. February 6, 2014). You may also find interesting the Sound of the Gjallarhorn podcast of February 9th, 2014 entitled, 'Loki's Role in our Faith'. NOTE: If the downloadable files I offer below are no longer available it is because they haven't been accessed enough so the hosting site has removed them.


Loki's Role in the Northern Religion
by Kveldulf Gundarsson (Dr. Stephan Scott Grundy)

          Some questions have lately been raised regarding the role of Loki in the beliefs and practices of the Northern religion, both among our forebears and today. The Steerswoman, the Rede, and the editor of Idunna have requested me to take a complete look at this issue. I will part this article into three main things: Loki's place in the tales of the gods, Loki's place in Scandinavian historical and folk practice, and Loki's place in worship today.

I. Loki's Place in the Tales of the Gods

Loki is perhaps second only to Óðinn and Thórr in the number of stories told about him. He is the central figure in the tales of the rebuilding of Ásgarðr's walls and the birth of Sleipnir; the gaining of the main treasures/signs of might owned by the gods; the loss and re-winning of Iðunn and the sequel in which Skaði comes among the gods; the death of Baldr, the Eddic poem “Flyting of Loki” (Locasenna), and the post-Heathen Faroese “Loka táttur” (Loki's þáttr). He plays a strong secondary role in the reclaiming of Thórr's Hammer, Thórr's faring to the houses of the etins Geirröðr and Utgarð-Loki, and the full-length Brísingamen tale. Finally, his bound status, freeing, and return as a figure of terror were significant images of Ragnarök in, at least, late Viking Age eschatology. I will discuss the death of Baldr and Locasenna separately: Locasenna is problematical in many ways, and thought on Baldr's death is needed to decide which, if any, category of Loki-tales it falls into. The question of Loki's binding - when and why? - is also a difficult one which calls for separate thought.

The most common form for Loki-tales is: Loki does something which leads to a breakdown of order in Ásgarðr. He then does something which not only brings back that order, but makes it better.

Ásgarðr's walls (they must be rebuilt; at Loki's suggestion, the gods make a contract with an etin-mason which puts them at risk of losing Sun, Moon, and Freyja; Loki takes mare-shape to distract the mason's horse. Result: Ásgarðr gets its stout walls almost wholly finished in a very short time, and Óðinn gets Sleipnir).
The treasures of the gods (Loki crops Sif's hair; to make amends he gets the dwarves to make her hair of real, but live and growing, gold, plus Óðinn's spear Gungnir and Freyr's land-and-water faring ship Skiðblaðnir; he then makes a bet with another dwarf which results in the making and gifting of Freyr's boar Gullinbursti, Óðinn's ever-breeding ring Draupnir, and Thórr's Hammer - these he tries to interfere with in order to win his bet, but with very limited effects. Result: not only does Sif get better hair, Óðinn, Thórr, and Freyr get some of their greatest treasures - especially Thórr's Hammer).
Iðunn (Loki comes into the power of the etin Thjazi, who forces him to ransom himself with Iðunn and her apples; he rescues Iðunn and Thjazi is killed; Skaði comes to the gods seeking battle or weregild, and Loki is the only one who can fulfill one of the weregild-terms by making her laugh. Result: Iðunn and her apples come back unharmed; Skaði joins the ranks of the gods).

The second sort of Loki-tales are those in which Loki acts for another god to restore order which has broken down for non-Loki related reasons.

The reclaiming of Thórr's Hammer (according to Þrymskviða, when Thórr realizes he has a huge personal problem, he goes first to tell Loki what no one else “on earth or in high heavens knows”, in hopes that his clever friend can solve his problem for him. No account even hints at implicating Loki in the original loss, but he is pivotal in carrying out Heimdallr's scheme of disguising Thórr as Freyja. Result: Thórr gets his Hammer back, and the worlds of god/esses and men are safe once more).
Stealing the Brísingamen (done at Óðinn's request. The Sörla þáttr version has this furthering Óðinn's plans directly, as a means of forcing Freyja to set kings to strife and involve herself in a version of the Everlasting Battle; Snorri's version has Heimdallr taking the necklace off Loki, with no change, good or ill, occurring; Úlfr Uggason's account in Húsdrápa, which Snorri tells the tale to explain, only mentions the fight between Heimdallr and Loki in seal-shape, with no further details - presumably because the house-painting the poem describes only showed that sequence).

The rest of the Loki stories are best spoken of as “miscellaneous”, fitting neither pattern clearly.

Thórr's faring to the etin Geirröðr (Loki is coerced into talking Thórr into visiting this etin without his Hammer; Thórr is given his staff, iron gloves, and a belt of mainstrength[1] by the etin-frowe Griðr on the way; when attacked by his ill host and kin, Thórr duly slays them. In effect, another “lasting good comes from Loki's dicey doings” tale, but in this case, the good is incidental rather than a direct result of Loki's work)
Thórr's faring to the house of Utgarð-Loki (Loki and Thórr, as is their usual habit, travel together to Etin-Home, and are embarassed together by Utgarð-Loki's deceptive challenges. Loki himself acts only as Thórr's partner. The name of the etin is suggestive, and much ink has been wasted on it, but to no particular conclusion - though it could be said that order is broken down in the apparent mocking of Thórr and his companions, and restored, slightly the greater, when the true nature of the challenges is revealed: we honour Thórr the more greatly, I think, for his heroic fight against Old Age and for the strength that moved the Middle-Garth's Wyrm to make the world tremble. But there is little specific to be made of this, given that Loki himself is there all the way through and has no particular role in the decision to make the trip. And Thórr does pick up Thjálfi and Röskva as servants, but Loki has no involvement in this - this part of the episode is wholly a Thórr-one, which also casts a little light on the god's worship).
The beginning of the Rhinegold story (a combination of Loki/troublemaker/rescuer and Loki as facilitator for another god: he initiates the situation by killing the otter for its hide and salmon - as, one may suspect, any Norseman might have done if he saw a lucky chance to get a good pelt and a good dinner in one; he then acts as Óðinn's agent to get the ransom-gold, which leads to Óðinn's chance to raise up the greatest heroes of the Germanic world; once Loki has done his job, Óðinn is able to take over the situation completely in his own way).
Loki as father of monsters - Loki's family relationships seem to have been well-established by the ninth century: Thjóðólfr or Hvini refers to Hel as “jódis Úlfs ok Narva” (“horse-dís”, that is, female relative, of the Wolf and Narfi - Ynglingatal 7) and to Loki as Fárbauti's son and the Wolf's father (Haustlöng 5, 8). Hyndluljóð 41 also describes him eating the half-burnt heart of a woman and quickening from it; “from thence are all ogres/witches (flagð) come”. The age and authenticity of this passage are uncertain. Thjóðólfr also mentions Sleipnir in Ynglingatal 9; though this kenning does not describe Sleipnir's origins, there seems no particular reason to be too doubtful that the tale was already known.
Loka táttur (a Faroese piece, most commonly dated to the fourteenth century, contemporary with the later family sagas and the fornaldarsögur; Óðinn, Hoenir, and Loki try in turn to save a child from an evil etin; Loki succeeds, and brings the child safely back to his parents. This story is far more fairy-tale than Norse god-tale in character, but does say quite a lot about the lingering view of Loki in Norse culture).
Ragnarök (the unbound Loki comes back for vengeance on the gods; according to Snorri, he and Heimdallr slay each other).

Overall, in the vastly greater part of the surviving god-tales, Loki appears to be a strong worker of weal for the gods' sakes - even when he does not seem to intend it himself, at some or any points in the story. Only at Ragnarök, presumably seeking vengeance for his long imprisonment and torture, shall/does he appear as, apparently, the foe of the gods. How this affects or should affect our practice today, I shall speak in the third part of this article.

Loki's actual place among the gods themselves is fairly straightforward. Although wholly of etin-blood, he, like the other god/esses who are known to spring only from etins (Skaði, Gerðr, Týr - yes, Týr; Hymiskviða shows us both his parents in Etin-Home, not to mention his grandmother who is, in the memorable phrasing of one Web retelling, a “nine-hundred-headed amalgation of butt-ugly”!), is legally and socially one of the Æsir through his blood-oath to Óðinn, as surely as the etin-frowes are through marriage. His words to Thórr in Þrymskviða 18, “The etins will dwell in Ásgarðr, if you bring not your Hammer home”, are an unequivocal declaration of his allegiance. As a result of this, it should be noted that a hail to “all the gods” by definition includes Loki unless he is specifically excluded - even in the accounts of his binding, there is no suggestion that he is outlawed!
In regards to the other gods, Loki acts as Óðinn's effector in the Brísingamen tale and Völsunga saga - and, perhaps much more meaningfully, in the death of those versions of the Baldr tale where he plays any part at all. But the role in which we see him most often is as Thórr's friend and travel-companion, a role which also defines his place in many tales directly. The close symbiotic partnership between these gods is one that bears a great deal of thinking on, from the friends of Thórr as surely as the friends of Loki.
What does Thórr see in Loki? First, while Thórr is “deep-souled” or “deep-minded” (djúphugaðr), he is not notably swift-tongued. His wisdom is a practical wisdom; but he clearly sees having a friend who is quick with his mouth and able to work out tricky problems (and solutions) as a good thing. I think that Snorri's portrayal of Thórr as easily tricked by his more clever buddy (as in the visit to Geirröðr) is hardly accurate. Thórr may be slow of speech, but, as Alvíssmál shows, is not easy to baffle with bullshit - only Óðinn (in Hárbarðsljóð) manages it successfully, and even he takes the wise precaution of keeping a large river between himself and Thórr's Hammer when he tries it.
Secondly, Thórr, while his chief goal is always the weal of gods and humans, is not notably bound by social rules. As seen in both the tale of Hrungnir and Locasenna, if he sees a guest who deserves a thumping, then to Hel with the laws of hospitality! Alone of the gods, Thórr is a woman-slayer...a repeated woman-slayer...which was absolutely against the Norse culture's understanding of seemly deeds. Even when a woman's deeds had earned some form of retribution - from comparatively small matters, such as Hallgerðr sending her thrall to steal a neighbor's cheese (Brennu-Njáls saga, ch. XLVIII, p. 124) to due revenge, as when Hervör kills a man out of spite in the hall of Guðmundr of Glæsisvellir (Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, ch. VI) - the man who raised hand against a woman was clearly in the wrong. But Thórr is, if anything, more noted for slaying etin-women than etin-men, as seen in the praise-poems written to him by Thórbjörn dísarskáld and Vetrliði Sumarliðarson, which list the names of his foes; Vetrliði's poem lists six females slain to only three males (Finnur Jónsson, Skjaldedigtning BI, p. 135). This is for good cause, to be sure: some of the females of Ymir's brood are more terrifying than their male counterparts, and, as Thórr says himself in defense of his lack of what a later age would describe as “chivalry”, “Great would be the ætt of etins, if they all lived; there would be no humans in the Middle-Garth” (Hárbarðsljóð 23). Thórr sees what needs to be done and does it - whether it is lawful and socially acceptable or not.
Thirdly, Thórr likes trouble. He does not start it directly himself, but he is always ready to go out looking for it, rightly sure of his own might to overcome anything he may run into. While the other gods are feasting, he is likelier to be “in the east, fighting etins” - facing them on their own turf; often enough accepting their hospitality while it lasts, but always ready to make a fight of it. Travelling with Loki, as we particularly see in Þórsdrápa, gives him the chance to do so.
On a more speculative level, we may also think in this regard on another manner by which our forebears could have seen the close friendship between Loki and Thórr. It is my contention that, far from the simplistic view that our god-tales were simply “nature-stories” made up by primitives to explain how the world worked, our forebears are likelier to have understood what we saw in Miðgarðr as reflecting the might of god/esses in the Otherworld, and to have come closer to understanding and touching their being thereby. The close linkage between lightning and fire - or the sparks of flint-and-steel and fire - is highly suggestive of the pairing of Thórr and Loki; if this were our forebears' understanding, then that also tells us a great deal about Loki's value...and dangers.[2]
In most of the god-tales, Loki's character seems typically two-pronged. Both the abduction/rescue of Iðunn and Snorri's prelude to Þórsdrápa show him as, when subjected to sufficient major torture, willing to apparently further the plans of the gods' foes among the etins to save what remains of his own skin. However, there seems to be a strong element of the double agent in Loki in both of these tales. Even though Snorri quotes the whole of Þórsdrápa below his own account (Snorra Edda, Skáldskáparmál, ch. 18, pp. 284 ff.), he notably leaves out the fact that - although in both versions Loki has lied to Thórr about it being safe to visit Geirröðr without his Hammer - in the original poem, Thórr and Thjálfi (whom Snorri leaves out of his version altogether, but whom Eilífr seems to consider a major hero) are keen to get on with the trip specifically so they can kick some etin booty. The kenning Loka bölkveitr (Þórsdrápa 4 - translated for intent by both Meissner and Sveinbjörn Egilsson as “Loki's helper”; literally, “Loki's bale-smiter”) used for Thórr as he strikes down Geirröðr's daughter (who is attempting to kill them all) suggests that Thórr is, apparently quite happily, acting here and possibly elsewhere in the role of Loki's “muscle”.[3] Certainly Thórr nicely effects Loki's revenge on Geirröðr for his torture. Likewise, in Locasenna, the credit Loki takes for Thjázi's death, and Skaði's subsequent fury in Locasenna, long after she had accepted her father's weregild (and slept with Loki) makes the most sense in the context of Loki knowingly luring the etin to his doom - most likely in vengeance.
Is Loki ill-willing towards the gods in these tales? It doesn't seem so. Certainly in Haustlöng, and at least in Snorri's prose addition to Þórsdrápa, he is forced to act against the gods rather than doing so of his free will. In Haustlöng, he is stepping up in defense of his companions Óðinn and Hoenir when he is captured. The prose Snorri gives for the lead-in to Þórsdrápa is ambiguous: either, as Snorri states, Loki is flying about in Freyja's falcon-hide for sport (which suggests that she is inclined to lend it to him on a regular basis); or he is actually spying or otherwise on a mission for the gods (or, admittedly, Snorri could have been missing the initial part of the tale and made up Loki's motivation after elements from Haustlöng). Is he a coward? He does eventually give in to harsh, prolonged torture in both cases - but his vengeance is accomplished, and the gods bettered in the process. By the end of both stories, Loki may, with a straight face, quote Grettir, “A thrall takes his revenge at once, a coward never” (Grettis saga, ch. XV, p. 44). Did he plan this result? As far as we can tell, only he knows - but it seems probable.

At this point, many are probably shouting, “But what about Baldr's death? You can talk about all the times Loki did good stuff in the past all you want to - but didn't he, by killing Baldr, become irrevocably and for all time a bad guy?” It is now time to look at that.
First, the result of Baldr's death: because Baldr is slain when he is, and is neither restored to life nor brought to Valhöll, he stays safely in Hel through Ragnarök rather than falling with his kinsmen. He is then able to return - with his brother/slayer Höðr by his side, so that they may take Óðinn's sig-throne together (Völuspá 62). In addition, Baldr bears what appears to be Óðinn's greatest secret, with which Óðinn wins at least two riddle-games (Vafþrúðnismál 54 and the Heiðreks gatur section of Heiðreks saga), to Hel with him - and back.
It seems most likely that this secret is linked to the source of Óðinn's own might as self-offered god of death. Certainly Baldr and Höðr, as Óðinn's sons who have passed through the realm of death, must be understood to bear their father's soul into the new world (a reading strengthened by the swallowing-whole and ripping-apart-the-Wolf account of Óðinn's death[4] - a traditional Germanic folk-tale motif, in which the result is generally the surviving and freeing of the swallowee). Therefore, whether Snorri's assertion that Loki acted out of envy and malice has any truth to it, or we take the considerably more likely reading that Loki was aiding in Baldr's offering/initiation-death on Óðinn's behalf, the good long-term result cannot be denied.
As for Loki's own place and motivation in the tale: there are three main surviving accounts of Baldr's death.

1) Ca. 500 C.E.: Loki offers Baldr or marks him as an offering to Óðinn, in a context suggesting very strongly that this was not only a holy ritual, but an occurrence fit to use on an amulet for “luck” and/or godly might.
This account comes from the group of Migration Age bracteates (stamped gold pendants, usually showing holy images or significant heroic-ritual scenes, often with runic inscriptions; generally accepted as likely to have had significant amuletic use as well as social and artistic meaning) known as the “Three-God Bracteates”. On all of these, there are three figures in an enclosure. The one on the right holds a spear; the one in the middle holds a ring; and the one on the left - winged, of indeterminate or definitely mixed gender - is throwing a twig over the middle one's head (Gummerup-B); offering a twig to the middle one (Beresina-Raum-B), aiming a twig at the middle one (Skovsborg-B), or has just thrown it to jut out of the middle one's chest (Fakse-B). A bird of prey flies above; there is a fish below.
It is commonly accepted that this group shows Loki, Baldr, and Óðinn, and that the scene is that of a dedication or offering in a holy garth or enclosed . The most likely reading of these bracteates is Karl Hauck's:[5] that they are meant to show the sacrifice of Baldr, and that in the oldest version of the tale, Wodan gave his son the ring while Balder was still alive, to mark him out for doom. The enclosure on these bracteates is especially interesting: they seems to show a fence of some sort, and in the area from which these bracteates stem, a number of place-names go back to an original "Óðinn's enclosure", in which the particular term for "enclosure" seems to describe something built of wood (Hauck, "Frühmittelalterliche Bildüberlieferung", p. 487) - it seems very likely that Hauck is right about these pieces displaying an offering in a holy stead. They may, in fact, not show Baldr's actual death: Fakse-B appears to; we cannot tell on Skovsborg-B; but Gummerup-B and Beresina-Raum-B certainly seem to be showing a ritual death-dedication rather than the actual slaying. This would also explain why Höðr is missing from the scene (another explanation might be that the artists were hard-pressed enough to get three figures, raptor, a fish, and a holy garth into the very small space available without adding a fourth). Like the death of Sigmundr Völsung, although vengeance must properly be taken on the actual slayer, the important moment is not the physical weapon in flesh, but the moment when Óðinn decrees his hero's death.
The commonly-accepted understanding of the bracteates as amuletic also argues for Baldr's death or death-hallowing as a holy occasion. In Snorri, Baldr's death seems to be the pivot-point where everything starts going wrong for the gods; it is downhill until Ragnarök thereafter. This is not the sort of occasion one would put on an amulet meant to bring weal for the wearer. The rest of the bracteate corpus also argues against Snorri's view. When scenes are recognisable, they are always moments of power: the magician in trance (Várpalota-B, Allesø-B), Sigurðr talking to the bird (Lellinge-Kohave-B, Schonen-I-B), the man seeking rede from the mound-dweller (Penzlin-B), the mighty woman or goddess with her textile implements (Oberweschen-B and several others), and the C-type bracteates which show the Óðinnic rider with steed and raptor - perhaps the god himself (Fünen-C actually has the name Hár, “High One” stamped in runestaves) or the rider, possibly Freyr, with boar and horse (Maglemose-C)...a disaster brought about by short-sighted malice and envy, leading to the end of all, no more fits into this context than it does into the apparent amuletic use of the bracteates.
The Norse view of Baldr as a holy offering is also seen in the kennings for him, heilagt tafn (holy sacrifice - Húsdrápa 9) and possibly blódugr tívorr (Völuspá 31); it certainly lived on into the Viking Age, and possibly past.
2) Ca. at least late Viking Age and following: Höðr slays Baldr and is the object of Óðinn's elaborate vengeance; Loki is not involved.
This version is seen most fully in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (written between 1187-1216, probably; III, i-iv, pp. 63-73). Baldr is a mighty and rather aggressive warrior and “demigod” - in fact, something of a murderous brute. When he comes into conflict with the human hero “Hotherus” over Nanna: “it happened that Othinus' son Balderus was stirred at the sight of Nanna bathing and gripped by unbounded passion...for there is no stronger incitement of libidinousness than beauty. But Hotherus, whom he feared would be the most obvious block to his wishes, he decided to kill with iron, so that there should be no delay or obstacle to the swift satisfaction of his lust” (III, i, 3, p. 69). Nanna prefers and weds “Hotherus”);[6] after battling back and forth, with Otherworldly aid given to both sides, Balder is slain by Hotherus with a magical sword. Loki does not appear in this rendition at all. But some elements of it remain consistent with other accounts: Baldr's near-invulnerability appears in Snorri; his death-boding dreams of Hel's greetings are seen in Snorri and Baldrs Draumar; Óðinn's fathering of Baldr's avenger is spoken of in Völuspá and Baldrs Draumar, while his magical date-rape of Rindr to father Baldr's avenger on her, described by Saxo in detail, is mentioned by Kormákr in Sigurðardrápa (ca. 970) - “seið Yggr til Rindar”, Yggr (Óðinn) performed seiðr on Rindr.
The two main Eddic poems that speak of Baldr's death appear to chiefly follow Saxo's version in regards to the follow-up to Baldr's death. As Turville-Petre notes, Baldrs Draumar does not suggest Loki's involvement at any point - there is only a vague reference at the end to his binding, with no cause given. Thus, “It is possible that the poet of the Baldrs Draumar was following another tradition, according to which Höð alone caused the death of Baldr” (p. 110). That is to say, closer to the version known by Saxo than that of the “Three-Gods Bracteates” and Snorri. The same is true for the Völuspá account - Baldr's ørlög is set; Höðr slays him; Óðinn fathers Váli to slay Höðr. Loki is not mentioned, although the language of stave 31 hints at a sacrificial character to Baldr's death, and the same stave mentions the mistletoe, so it is possible that his role as sacrificial effector was known to the poet.
There may also be a brief reference to the tale of Baldr's death in Beowulf (2435 ff.), which describes the death of “Herebeald” at the hand of his brother “Haethcyn” and their father's grief: certainly the -beald and Haeth- elements match the names of Baldr and Höðr.[7] Whether this is coincidence or was a deliberate euhemerized reference is uncertain. Loki does not appear in any form here; the vengeance-tale is also missing.
3) Ca. 1220 C.E.: Snorri Sturluson, Prose Edda (Gylfaginning chs. 49-50, pp. 172 ff.) Many of Snorri's details fit with the earlier tales, but there are some truly notable changes. The first of these is in the characterization of Baldr and Höðr - Baldr is no longer a warrior, but a bright, mild, perfect “Christlike” figure; Höðr is no longer the able-bodied warrior of all other accounts, but has suddenly become a pathetic blind guy who can't enjoy the manly sport of the gods; and Loki uses Höðr's disability to slay Baldr out of envy, because everyone loves Baldr for being such a nice guy.
The next notable change is that of plot: although Snorri knew Völuspá, he completely cuts out the spiritually crucial sequel of vengeance against Höðr which is described in detail in that poem, and shifts the due vengeance to Loki instead, making his binding the direct result of his part in Baldr's death. In this, Snorri stands completely alone.
So, what are we to make of these different accounts? It seems clear enough that in one strain of the tale, apparently, Loki's essential spiritual role was forgotten altogether (and perhaps the story was dropped more towards the human-hero level, although the notable euhemerism of Saxo and the Beowulf author - if the Beowulf reference is indeed to this tale - make that reading problematical). In the other, it was remembered that Loki brought the needed Otherworldly might for Höðr to achieve the sacrifice/slaying, just as Óðinn often advises, guides, or in extreme circumstances (the breaking of Sigmundr's sword) appears himself to overcome his heroes' Otherworldly wardings or might so that they can be slain. Loki is, in fact, playing the role usually taken by Óðinn or one of his valkyrjur; most likely, at Óðinn's behest. The role of Óðinn as originator of the situation and its sacrificial nature gradually faded, though both seemed to still be present in the late 10th century, as is made clear by Úlfr Uggason's description of Baldr's funeral in Húsdrápa 9: “There knew I valkyrjur to follow the wise warrior (Óðinn) and ravens to the drink (blood) of the holy sacrifice (heilagt tafn)”: the same words could as easily describe a battle where one side had been given to Óðinn, or even an ordinary ritual offering (human or animal) to the god. Many of the story-elements remained stable, but were open to considerable re-interpretation two hundred years after Iceland's conversion.

In this case, Loki's involvement in Baldr's death - assuming that those versions of the tale in which he is not involved at all did, indeed, lose the spiritual background of the “Three-Gods Bracteates” altogether behind the tale of heroic rivalry and revenge - falls neatly into the second category of Loki-tales: those in which he acts on behalf of another god, with results matching the usual means of working of that god. The apparently catastrophic offering-slaying of the marked hero, decreed by Óðinn as something done directly for a longer-term good, is wholly typical of all Óðinn's dealings with his heroes (many of whom are also his descendants to one degree or another). If this reading is correct, Óðinn's indirect role would also fit his usual pattern: he dooms his heroes to death; he may advise and whet on their slayers (especially in the case of those who have magical wardings against normal weapons), but he is never seen lifting his hand to kill them directly. He breaks Sigmundr's sword, but leaves his death to the swords of others (Völsunga saga, ch. 11, p. 28); and even when he comes directly for Geirroðr in Grímnismál, he simply frightens his former favourite into stumbling and falling on his own blade.
Hence, in the tale of Baldr's death, Loki takes the role of offering-goði (or takes the valkyrja's place); Höðr does the actual slaying and bears the necessary vengeance; but Óðinn is the source and, at the root, the chooser of the whole matter. To follow Snorri in making Loki into the “Judas” or “Benedict Arnold” figure, thereby turning Baldr from heilagt tafn into the sweet, innocent victim of a malice-wrought disaster, is to refuse to think about one of the central mysteries of Óðinn's nature.


Opinions on the date of this poem and the poet's motivation in composing it vary a great deal. The most common reading has been that it is a piece of post-Heathen work, on the grounds that folk could hardly have been expected to talk that way about the god/esses they worshipped and loved, whereas a christian author might well be moved to say, “See, look at all these stories of the times when the gods did untoward things or were otherwise embarassed”. The counter-argument, as expressed most notably by Gurevich, is that Locasenna represents a common theme in traditional religion, one that appears even in the folk practices of mediaeval Catholicism - the brief space of “misrule” where the holy is mocked and the social order turned upside down, only to be restored the more strongly. Gurevich suggests that, in fact, far from showing the weakness of the Ása-troth at the time of composition, Locasenna shows its strength: only a strong religion can take mockery, whereas a weaker faith, acting from fear, must root it out.
Further, the gods are not above self-criticism, or criticism of each other, in other, more certain works. In Hávamál 110, Óðinn warns us directly, “Óðinn swore an oath on the ring; who can trust in his truth? He swindled Suttung, took symbel from him, and left Gunnlöð to weep”; and also tells the tale of how a woman he lusted after got the better of him in an embarassing fashion, promising an assignation and then tying a she-dog to her bed in her place. Hárbarðsljóð has Óðinn disguising himself to taunt Thórr, comparing his own deeds of seduction and betrayal favourably to Thórr's constant battle with woe-working etins, and including the memorable crack that Óðinn takes the jarls fallen on the field, whereas Thórr has the kin of thralls (24). This by no means proves that Locasenna was a Heathen work, but leaves the possibility open.
So, for evaluating Locasenna, we are left with three hypotheses: religious criticism from a christian point of view; Heathen ritual social inversion; and, as discussed below, an attempt to explain or fill in some form of inherited lore. And there is no solid data to help us choose between the three.
One of the most interesting points about Locasenna is that all the things Loki says appear to be true - at least in the context of the poem; and it is most likely that the audience would have recognised the tales referred to as well, even if several of them are lost to us. He is repeatedly told to shut his trap because the god/esses he is criticizing are good, wise, or whatever; or because he himself can be accused of things just as bad as whatever he has mentioned; but no one can actually say, “Loki, you're lying.” Whatever the author's motivation, Loki's function in this poem is certainly to demonstrate that when the same ordinary social criteria are applied to all the deities - himself, Óðinn, Freyr, or whoever - none comes off as much better than the others; he can even embarass Thórr.
Whether the poem was the work of a christian trying to discredit all the Scandinavian deities, or a Heathen engaged in a ritual-inversion mock, the materials with which he was working lead to a crucial Heathen question. Did our forebears see our god/esses as humanly fallible? Or was there a trust and understanding that every apparent flaw or untoward deed was, in fact, something of soul-meaning beyond the shame that might be perceived if all their deeds were reduced to a merely human level? I am inclined to the latter view. At best, I can guess that terms like fulltrúi meant literally what they said - that one's closest god was literally one's “fully-trusted one” - and seek a greater understanding thereby. But I don't really know how our forebears saw this question. And neither does anyone else. The best I can truthfully say in this respect is that Loki was not exactly the Lone Ranger among the Æsir (or the Vanir) when it came to deeds that might seem untoward in an ordinary human context, and that there is likely more to be gained by looking for a deeper meaning in such deeds than in casually trashing any of our gods for their apparent breaches - or trying to ignore the breaches of some while condemning others (certainly Óðinn has a much worse long-term record than Loki, and seems to be far more dangerous and apparently destructive, when he involves himself with humans).
The actual poem ends with Thórr threatening Loki and Loki cursing Ægir's hall as he leaves. The prose tag describing Loki's actual binding was added by the late thirteenth-century scribe, most likely after the threats made to that effect in the poetic text (41, 49). The relationship between the scribal prose and the inherited poetry of the Poetic Edda is always at least a slightly problematical one. In many, probably most, cases, it is usually accepted that the Eddic scribe or one of his immediate predecessors was filling in from still-known lore; on the other hand, he was sometimes prone to over-interpretation (for instance, his firm belief that every woman who flew “lopt og lög”, over air and water, had to be a valkyrja - swan-maidens and human idises alike). However, we generally accept, or at least really hope, that he was relatively clear on the material filling the plot-holes (and quite possibly, in some or all cases, serving as “stage directions”) in the poetry; and since it is suggested in the poem that Loki's binding is not a punishment for anything he has done in the past, but for mouthing off excessively to the other gods (Freyr says, “You shall be bound soon if you do not fall silent” - 41; Skaði elaborates the matter gruesomely before Loki mentions his part in Thjazi's death - 49), it is seems quite reasonable to take it that, to the best of the late thirteenth-century's scribe's knowledge, Locasenna provided the transition from “good Loki” to “bad Loki” and “Loki bound”.
Whether the author and/or the scribe saw Locasenna chiefly as a convenient bridge to explain “Loki bound” and Loki at Ragnarök, is another question. The prose sections of Locasenna are, linguistically and stylistically, thought to have been the latest pieces of text in Codex Regius (Lindblad, Studier, p. 286; “Poetiska Eddans förhistoria”, pp. 159, 162). Gunnell comments that the prose tag, “must be based, however clumsily, on the Prose Edda...all the extant prose linked to Lokasenna would seem to be extraneous...Much of it probably represents a later attempt to manipulate the material of the work towards some given end, applying it, for example, to a new external narrative context such as the death of Baldr and the coming of Ragnarök” (pp. 228-29). He also points out that the initial prose actually directly contradicts bits of the poem: for instance, if Loki has just been thrown out of the feasting hall for losing his temper and killing a servant, as the introduction states, why does he speak of having come “on long ways?” as soon as he enters in the poem (pp. 225-26). Taking this into account, the direct association of Loki's binding with the events of Locasenna becomes more dubious, suggesting, as is also often the case with Snorri, the effort to create coherence where no coherence existed. The most curious question is that of why, if the scribe knew the Prose Edda, he did not relate Loki's binding directly to the god's part in Baldr's death as mentioned in the poetry of Locasenna. The most obvious answer would be that it was generally known that Baldr's vengeance was taken on Höðr, not Loki; and that no certain cause for Loki's binding was generally known or accepted; but the poetic text here offered one explanation, which the scribe was thus bound to follow. What we do not know is whether the author meant the forebodings of Loki's binding simply as references to something that would happen, cited by Freyr and Skaði as part of the generally antagonistic tone of the piece, or whether he intended to provide a specific explanation for the binding. Neither seems fully satisfactory in terms of understanding the event itself.

Loki Bound

The age of the “Loki bound” theme itself is wholly unknown, although it was firmly set in Norse thought at least by the ninth century, as Thjóðólfr or Hvini mentions it in Haustlöng 7. The image of bound, tortured Loki has often been compared to the image of bound, tortured Prometheus; could the theme of a rebellious, fire-linked deity punished by the gods go back to Indo-European times? Perhaps; though if so, the link between the two is so attentuated by time and change in cultures as to be vanishingly faint. There is little to match in their relative stories or characters, at any rate. Other efforts to shed light on Loki's binding until Ragnarök have included suggestions of influence from the “bound giant” tales of the Caucasus, which include torment by both eagles and serpents (Olrik, Ragnarök, ch. V; Myterne, pp. 560 ff.), or the bound Antichrist of christian mythology (Turville-Petre, p. 145). The latter has a particular intellectual (if not spiritual) appeal, given the rush of pre-millennial frenzy in the christian community during the period when the most was written about the matter of Ragnarök and the events foreboding it (Völuspá, in particular, shows significant christian influence, to the point where it cannot be distinguished and is relatively irrelevant “whether it was composed by a pagan of mixed beliefs late in the tenth century or a half-heathen Christian early in the eleventh” - Jónas Kristjánsson, p. 44). Any or all of these could be possible; none is in any way verifiable.
Only Snorri and Locasenna give us a specific reason for Loki's final binding - two very different specific reasons; and, as mentioned above, neither is overwhelmingly satisfactory. Snorri's deliberate shifting of the revenge for Baldr from Höðr to Loki makes his identification of Baldr's death as the reason for Loki's binding very, very questionable. As discussed earlier, it also fails to match the Locasenna account or vice versa: some have assumed that Loki's binding in Locasenna came directly from his involvement in Baldr's death; but that factor is neither ignored nor given any more significance than his sleeping with Sif, Týr's wife, etc. in the poem, just as it is not even mentioned in the prose binding-account at the end. There is certainly no sense of, “you jerk, we can't prove you did it, but we know you did it, and we're going to get you for it”. In fact, Frigg remarks that Baldr would beat Loki up for calling her a slut if Baldr were still around - to which Loki replies, roughly, “Neener, neener, he isn't because of my advice”. But no one seems particularly startled or outraged - in contrast to Skaði's shock and anger when she discovers Loki's ultimate responsibility for her father's death.
A further problem with the issue of the causality between Baldr's death and Loki's binding - if, indeed, there ever was any such causality outside of Snorri's brain and desire to systematize his collection of old lore - is, as De Vries observed in The Problem of Loki, the impossibility of setting a clear time-line for our forebears' god-tales. At best, the time-line of the god-worlds seems to be relative: only now and again can we find a clear sequence, usually based on either needed causality (Locasenna must come after Hymiskviða, because Ægir did not start hosting the gods until he got Hymir's brewing-cauldron) or definite individual action (För Skírnis must come after the Iðunn episode and Skaði's marriage to Njörðr, because Skaði starts by noting that their “son” Freyr has a problem). Likewise, Vafþrúðnismál must come after Baldr's death in a sequential sense, since the game-winning question is “What did Óðinn whisper in Baldr's ear on his bale-fire?” (54). But Loki's binding and return are not mentioned in this poem at all - oddly unmentioned, given that the questions Óðinn asks the etin are mostly about Ragnarök.
Loki's binding is referred to three times in actual Eddic poetry: as a foreboding in Lokasenna; once in Völuspá, and once in Baldrs Draumar. Neither of the latter poems gives any hint as to why he was bound. The events of Völuspá seem to be sequential, and the seeress' vision of the bound Loki is mentioned right after after Baldr's death. On the other hand, this stave is also where she moves from the active-narrative to the ominously descriptive mode. The image of Loki bound is certainly, as in Baldrs Draumar, a presentiment of Ragnarök - but is it meant, here, to suggest a causal relationship, a chronological sequence, or a shift in the poem's focus and tone? We have no way of knowing.
Not only does Baldrs Draumar fail to mention any Loki-involvement in Baldr's death - although it describes the vengeance taken on Höðr in full measure - but the last stanza can very well be read to suggest that the author thought Loki was bound before Baldr was slain: “So no man will come to learn from me afterwards, until Loki's limbs are loosed from bonds, and Ragnarök comes riding.” This is not a certain reading - one could argue that the seeress is looking further ahead, past the binding that is yet to come and beyond to Ragnarök, and just did not feel moved to tell Óðinn about it. But that reading is rather more strained, and depends wholly on the assumption that the version the author knew had a perfect chronological fit with the prose of Locasenna and Snorri's account. The stave itself bears a marked resemblance to the end of Hákonarmál, “Unbound through all the worlds the Wolf Fenrir shall run, before so good a king comes to the empty fallow land” (20) - it has the sound of a stock phrase, much as Christians commonly use (or at least used to use) phrases like, “Till Gabriel's trumpet sounds” or “Until Judgement Day”. But in this case the stock phrase seems, in the context of the poem, nonsensical unless Loki were already thought of as bound when Óðinn was speaking to the seeress. This would seem contradictory with the other sources; it is certainly impossible with the bracteate, Locasenna, and Snorri versions. It would only make sense if the version of the tale known by the Baldrs Draumar author were roughly the same as the one known by Saxo, with Loki playing no part in the event. But this is quite possible, especially since Saxo also mentions Baldr's dreams of a pleasant reception in Hel's realm: that seems to be a consistent part of the tale. If Baldrs Draumar is taken on its own apparent merits, then, it would considerably support the lack of any relationship between Baldr's death and Loki's binding.
And some of the sources actively deny others. Once again, Snorri is the only source that has Loki's binding as a consequence of Baldr's death. He either did not know the poetry of Locasenna, or chose to ignore it in favour of smoothing his “plot” and throwing the blame/vengeance for Baldr's death wholly onto Loki; but Locasenna shows us a hiatus of indefinite length. The timing between Baldr's death and the vengeance on Höðr is equally vague; Baldrs Draumar mentions Váli fighting at the age of one night old, but says that he will “neither wash (his) hands nor comb (his) hair / before Baldr's slayer is borne to bale-fire” (11). Völuspá's description is suspiciously similar - almost word-for-word the same - but both suggest a rather longer period than one night. Baldr's death must come after the wedding of Skaði and Njörðr - if Snorri's account of Skaði's desire for Baldr is true and not another Snorri fill-in. It is not spoken of anywhere else, though it has been suggested that the “choosing by feet” motif may go back to the Bronze Age, if there is indeed a linkage between this tale and the bare footprints found on many of the Bronze Age rock-carvings. Locasenna must come after Hymiskviða, because Ægir obviously has Hymir's brewing-cauldron for the Locasenna feast; but there is no way to tell whether Hymiskviða comes before or after Baldr's death.
The same, in fact, can be said of most of the Eddic poems. The only tale of the gods in which Baldr appears before the immediate foretellings of his death is the wedding of Skaði and Njörðr, and even that may be questionable. There is no way to tell whether the perfect fitness of subsituting Baldr for Freyja when the sex of the desirous etin is changed was true Norse belief or Snorri logic (though I tend to believe it, given that Hel is also quite keen on Baldr in Saxo's version). Because Saxo was fundamentally, not to mention extremely, a euhemerist, we also cannot tell anything solid from his presentation of Baldr as a god who acts altogether as a mortal hero - living in the human realm, lusting aggressively after a human woman, and so forth. But he is the only source who gives us any tales of Baldr himself doing much of anything but dying and coming back. The same is true for Höðr: in Saxo he is an active, able-bodied, and indeed exemplary human hero; in the Icelandic-collected sources, he is absent outside of this tale. Because these two play so little role in the doings of the gods, we actually cannot tell whether - even in the relative godly time-line - the larger part of our god-tales take place before Baldr's death...or after. Vafþrúðnismál must take place afterwards, since the winning riddle is the question of what Óðinn said to his son at his funeral; but was Loki, even in relative chronology, thought to be bound then, or not? Likewise, För Skírnis has Skírnir offering Gerðr the arm-ring (Draupnir) “that which was burned with Óðinn's young son” (21); and it is clear that this poem happens well before Locasenna, since Loki refers there to Freyr's giving up his sword (42). Baldr does not appear at all in Þrymskviða: is he already dead, or just irrelevant to the story? We have no clue.
To further confuse things, the worship of Baldr, such as it was, apparently continued for centuries after the first likely recorded report of his death, and certainly after the binding of Loki was first definitively reported by Thjóðólfr in Haustlöng 7. It could be argued that the many Continental Scandinavian place-names could have preserved older names dating from the memory of his “lifetime” (if one wants to try to put his death into historical human time, a very dubious undertaking indeed!). But two steads in Iceland were also named “Baldrsheimr” (de Vries, Religionsgeschichte II, p. 230). They must have been named long after the “Three-Gods bracteates” were made; even if everyone who has studied these items is wrong in reading them as showing Baldr's death, Iceland was not long-settled when Thjóðólfr spoke of Loki's final binding. De Vries suggests that these names could have been chosen in reference to the tale, but, if so, that would make them unique among god-based place-names.
No one is quite sure what Baldr's godly function was - efforts have been made to liken him to the dying/returning fruitfulness gods of other cultures, even to suggest a Near/Middle Eastern origin for him - but he obviously had one.
In fact, it is likeliest that our forebears were as vague on godly chronology as we are, and moreover did not try to time-bind the tales of the gods, but accepted the constant reality of all of them. The traditional culture's view of ritual drama as literally embodying the gods and their doings, not as a retelling, but as an immediate and true thing (discussed further in Section II of this article), is particularly expressive of this lack of specific time-binding. The use of skaldic kennings also suggests a non-time-bound view of the gods. Unless we were to imagine that the ninth- and tenth-century Heathen Norse thought Ragnarök had already taken place - which is highly unlikely at best - the “future” is spoken of in the same manner as the “past” and “present”. Thus Thórr is the single-handed slayer of Jörmungandr before he has even hooked the Wyrm, let alone met him at Ragnarök (Hymiskviða 22); Óðinn is Fenrir's opponent (Sonatorrek 24), and Earth is Óðinn's widow (Haustlöng 15) long before Ragnarök. Haustlöng describes Loki as “the cargo of Sigyn's arms, whom all the ruling mights (reginn) glare at in his bonds” in the same stanza in which he is Hoenir's “loyal friend” (7). The language of the skaldic poems shows both Loki's harms and his helps together: there is no distinction between “early Loki = good guy”/ “late Loki = bad guy”. The language of the skaldic poems where he appears or is referred to, in fact, stress all aspects of this god equally, and refer to most of his known deeds, with no distinction of chronology.
The issue of Loki's final binding may be partially explained by the fact that this is not the first time he is bound and tortured or at least threatened with torture: it happens at least three times before, in all cases as a means of compulsion. In Snorri's prologue to the Þórsdrápa tale, the etin Geirröðr captures Loki by means of enchantment which causes Loki's feet (while he is in falcon-form) to be stuck fast on his hall; when Loki refuses to speak to him, “Then Geirröðr locked Loki in a casket and starved him for three months”, until Loki is at last willing to try to talk Þórr into visiting unweaponed (SnE, Skáldskáparmál ch. 18, pp. 284-86). Haustlöng first describes Loki being magically bound to the staff with which he strikes Thjazi even as the staff also sticks to the etin-eagle (7); by the time Thjazi considers unloosing him, he is “mad with pain” (9). When Iðunn's absence is felt, the Æsir use a similar technique to force Loki to reclaim her. They “bound the servant who had led her with a spear of the tree of venoms (a magic wand); 'you shall be deceived to madness', the wrathful one[8] said, 'with trickery, unless also with trickery you lead the glorious, joy-increasing maiden of the gods back here'” (11). This sheds a different light on the threats made by Freyr and Skaði in Locasenna 41 and 49, especially if Freyr is, indeed, the “wrathful one” who oversees the process in Haustlöng. Giving that binding and tormenting or threatening to torment Loki seems to be the way in which both gods and giants try to compel him, while they could be referring to Loki's binding until Ragnarök, they need not be; only trying to force him to shut up by means that have worked on him before, with the late fourteenth-century final prose making the eventual connection between these staves and his final binding and torture.
Taking these sequentially-earlier occasions into account, the need to pin Loki's final binding to a specific cause fades considerably. The image seems rather to be one that is repeated and reflected, a constant element of Loki's being. Indeed, there is almost a mirroring of Ragnarök in Thjazi's fate, as Loki achieves his revenge on the etin responsible for his twofold binding and torment by means of another's flames, just as it is Surtr and not Loki who burns the world at Ragnarök; and after Thjazi's burning the gods have Iðunn back and are renewed, just as in Völuspá 59 the earth is renewed “iðiagroenn” (renewed-green; the first element is the same as the root-word of Iðunn's name - de Vries, Wörterbuch, pp. 282-83).
Loki at Ragnarök

What, then, of Loki at Ragnarök? His unbinding, like that of Fenrir, is one of the strongest late Viking Age images of the end of the worlds, as is the image of Loki steering a ship of doom back to the battle. The Völuspá account of this is both powerful and ominous: “A ship fares from the east, the folk of Muspell shall come over the sea, yet Loki steers; the monster's kinsmen fare with fierce ones all, whom Býleist's brother leads” (51).
Snorri's version (SnE, Gylfaginning 51, pp. 189-90) is rather different: Surtr leads the sons and kin of Muspell, Hrymr the rime-thurses, and “all of Hel's company follow Loki”. This is an odd phrase, as Hel (the goddess) seems to have no personal stake in the battle. Indeed, one would think from the earlier materials which show her as receiving Baldr (Baldrs draumar), choosing the death of the Yngling king Dyggvi (Ynglingatal 7), and appearing (at least metaphorically) to Egill Skalla-Grímsson as a foreboding of death (Sonatorrek 25), that her company would have been notable folk while living, more inclined to be on the side of the Æsir than their foes. I suspect that, as with Snorri's description of Hel's realm as a place of torment (as opposed to the rather pleasant hall described in Baldrs draumar and the generic Otherworldly descriptions of it in Saxo, with green herbs growing in winter, the same Everlasting Battle theme as Valhöll, u.s.w. - I, viii, 14, p. 30), this represents a contamination of Heathen beliefs with the Christian version of Hell, and Snorri meant it specifically to evoke and reflect the christian apocalypse with its “hosts of Hell”.
On the other hand, the name “Naglfar” (despite Snorri's description of its name being based on its construction from dead men's nails and possibly the folk-belief regarding the cutting of corpse's nails - SnE, Gylfaginning, ch. 51, p. 188) is more likely to actually mean “corpse-ship” (de Vries, Wörterbuch, p. 404), and the fear that the dead might come sailing back was certainly shown in Old Norse burial customs where the funeral ship is carefully made fast by or moored to a great stone (Gísla saga Súrssonar, ch. XVIII; the Oseberg ship). Curiously, although Snorri knew Völuspá, he has the etin Hrymr, rather than Loki, as Naglfar's steersman: either something got confused in transmission, or the Norse view of what would happen at Ragnarök outside of the single-combats of Óðinn, Thórr, and Freyr and the swallowing of Sun and Moon was a very long way from monolithic. The common theme, however, seems to be that that which was bound would be loosed; the barriers separating the worlds of etins and humans, the dead and the living, would be broken; and Loki's release and return was one of the significant images embodying this process.
And yet Loki seems far less present on the field than one might expect with such an impressive buildup. Neither the völva of Völuspá nor Vafþrúðnir mentions his deeds in the last battle. That is left to Snorri, who simply remarks in one brief sentence that Loki and Heimdallr fight and slay each other - a fitting match, very obvious given their previous rivalry over the “sea-kidney” at Singasteinn, of which Snorri was very much aware (as in, we know of it only because he mentions it and quotes Úlfr's Húsdrápa to verify his account) - but anticlimactic and curiously lacking in earlier poetic support, at least so far as our sources can show us. Is this, like the mutual slaying of Týr and Garmr, a faint last remainder of an earlier belief in which Loki had a greater role - could Surtr's world-eating fires originally have belonged to Loki, just as the battle of Sky-Father and Death-Wolf is thought to have originally belonged to Týr, reflected secondarily in his comparatively sidelined fight with Garmr? Did an earlier tale go in an different direction, where Loki was harbinger of doom but not necessarily one of its enactors? Or was his binding and release, as Turville-Petre suggests (p. 145), a late Heathen adoption of the bound Antichrist of christian eschatology? We have no way of knowing.
It is my guess, however, that the chief imagery of Ragnarök - the Wyrm, the Wolf, and the flame - show, among other things, the essential imagery of human death. If Loki is to be taken as a fire-wight, particularly if Fraser's theory regarding Loki as specifically cremation-fire (spoken of further below) is valid, then he would fit well into this pattern.
And does that mean that the Heathen Norse would have refused to honour Loki on those grounds, if that were how they saw the matter? Rather less likely. Wyrm and wolf were both strongly two-sided in Norse thought - rather more than two-sided, in the case of the wyrm. As Näsman remarks regarding the Mammen harness-bow with two intertwined wyrms, “The interlaced a ring cannot be explained, being either a symbol of evil or fertility, or they have an apotropaic function” (“Mammen 1871”, p. 259) - a sort of all-purpose emblem of might. Certainly both wyrm and wolf are holy in Norse thought as well as harmful. The same is true for fire, not only in Northern thought, but in all human cultures. Its terror - the ultimate destruction of Ragnarök - comes when it springs free of all restraints; but until then, we cannot live without it.
The chief problem with seeing Loki at Ragnarök as the source of the world-eating flames is that all the historical sources make it very clear that the world-destroying fire is that of Surtr, not Loki. One might suggest that “Surtr” was a taboo-name for Loki - I think it is very plausible that “Surtr”, which not only means “the black/swarthy one”, but also appears as a normal man's name, was indeed either a taboo-name or a very late discovery for the personified leader of the sons of Muspell (a name of difficult etymology, but which itself probably means “world-destruction”, and is likely to be ancient in Germanic belief, as it even survived as a description of mostly-Christian eschatology in the Old High German poem Muspilli). But the key thing about taboo-names is that the actual name of the being in question is taboo, not used repeatedly beside the taboo-name evolved to keep from calling the untoward wight's attention by saying its actual name, as is the case with Loki and Surtr.
There are many elements of Ragnarök that are yet unknown to us. We know that Njörðr will go home to Vanaheimr when the call for battle sounds (Vafþrúðnismál 39), while Freyr stays to fight with his stag's antler - but what of Vanaheimr when the worlds are destroyed? Frigg, apparently, remains to mourn Óðinn (Völuspá 53) - where and how? We hear nothing more of the goddesses (perhaps even the gods' greatest foes share the Northern distaste for violence against women?), but Hoenir survives as well, and “the Æsir” gather again on Iðavellir before Baldr and Höðr return (Völuspá 60-63). Even in regards to the battle itself, there are mysteries. Grímnismál 23 describes, very precisely by number and battle-arrangement (eight hundred out of each of Valhöll's five hundred doors), how the einherjar will fare to battle Fenrir; and Eiríksmál 7 makes it very clear that Óðinn is collecting heroes against the day of Ragnarök, because “the gray wolf gazes ever at the dwellings of the gods”; but no source actually describes their part in the fighting - what do they do, against Fenrir or any other foe? The detailed accounts of Ragnarök focus almost entirely on the main single combats: Thórr and Jörmungandr, Óðinn and Fenrir, Víðarr and Fenrir, Freyr and Surtr.
We cannot answer these questions, nor determine the age of Loki's role at Ragnarök; but there is no question that by the latter part of the tenth century, when pre-millennial fever was sweeping the christian world and probably spilling over to the Heathen Norse (given that this was also coming to the peak of the missionary period), Loki's eschatological role was certainly ominous.
The question which that knowledge raises in turn is: to what degree did the foretellings of Ragnarök affect Norse belief, worship, or view of the gods? Njörðr was, to our knowledge, never criticized for bugging out on the battle altogether, nor Freyr any less honoured because he made the original and crucial strategic error allowing the sons of Muspell to win the battle (giving up his sword to win Gerðr as wife). Did the Heathen Norse view Loki as a dark wight, unfit for worship, because of his final appearance as harbinger of doom and foe of the gods (or for any other reason, for that matter)? On to the next section...

II. Loki's Place in Early Scandinavian Religion and Folk-Practice 
One of the great difficulties of studying Norse religion is to sort out the relationships between the god-tales and the worship customs of humans. There are clearly a number of overlaps, or points where one reflects the other: for instance, the custom of hanging/spearing offerings to Óðinn and the god's self-offering in Hávamál; the use of the Hammer as a hallowing-sign and the blessing of the bride with the Hammer in Þrymskviða (possibly the known point on which Heimdallr's plan turns); Baldr's burning ship-funeral, which may show a real custom which was, by definition, archaeologically almost impossible to verify, or may conflate several practices (the common ship-burials, cremation, the Volga Rus funeral described by ibn Fadlan in which the ship was burned, but not pushed off).
However, we are left wholly clueless in many other regards. A number of the deities listed in the literary sources dealing with the gods themselves are altogether unattested in written accounts of religious practice, place-names, or other materials directly relating to cultic practice. Others, such as Ullr, are scanted in the god-tales, but appear from place-names and the occasional tantalizing reference to have held a much more important place in the religion itself than the tales would suggest; while Týr seems to have stepped back from a likely early place as Sky-Father and chief god, leaving the main aspects of his role to Thórr (always translated as “Jupiter” in external accounts) and some others to Óðinn. Snorri attempts to force Óðinn into the “Jupiter” role in his tidy Classical-inspired model, but the strong evidence from most other Viking Age and subsequent accounts is that Thórr was the closest thing to a primary deity that the Scandinavians, overall, had, though regional opinions varied. Fulla is barely touched on as Frigg's handmaiden in the Prose Edda and her messenger in the introductory prose to Grímnismál, but she is mentioned as Frigg's sister in the Zweite Merseburger Zauberspruch, which suggests that she was of very significant importance in the religion when the West Germanic folks separated from the parent stock; Eostre/Ostara was clearly important to the Anglo-Saxons and possibly the continental Germans (although this has been disputed), but does not appear at all in Scandinavia; it has been very strongly questioned whether or not the Goths actually knew *Woðanaz (Helm, Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte II, pp. 31 ff.; Wolfram, History of the Goths, pp. 110-12).
What, then, of Loki? No mention of him has survived in Anglo-Saxon materials, but that is true of most of the Scandinavian deities: the remaining traces of the elder troth as practiced in England are so scanty that it is hard to say much of anything too surely. The same is true of the East Germanic folks, only more so - we would not even be certain that they had known Ing/Freyr if it were not for the survival of the stave that bears his name in the Gothic alphabet. In Continental Germany, the only evidence for Loki's presence is the debatable runic inscription on the Nordendorf fibula (ca. 600 C.E.) - “Wodan - Wigiþonar - Logathore”. Loki is only one of the identities that has been suggested for “Logathore”; but even if this inscription does call on him, it tells us little more than that he may have been known on the Continent.[9] Like Freyja (unknown outside Scandinavia, though we cannot be sure until we find her personal name rather than just her title), and many other deities, Loki is known to us almost wholly through the Scandinavian sources.
The same vexed uncertainty regarding the written accounts of worship of gods and goddesses beyond the best-known handful also plagues us with Loki. On the one hand, we can say that there are no surviving accounts of him being hailed at collective rituals; on the other, the same is even true of Frigg and Freyja, let alone anyone less written of. Thanks to the author of Brennu-Njáls saga, we know a great deal more about the Old Norse worship of the Háleygjar ancestral goddesses, Thórgerðr and Yrpa (ch. LXXXVIII, pp. 214-15), than we do about that of Frigg! Loki lacks any definite surviving place-names; but the same is also true of Iðunn (no place-names, no evidence of cultic worship) and almost all of Frigg's “handmaidens”, at least one of whom, Fulla, as noted above, was clearly at one time a significant goddess in her own right. Even Frigg herself only has two likely place-names in Scandinavia to her account (Turville-Petre, p. 189); there are three that have been suggested for her in England, but it is highly uncertain whether the first element really is Frige's name or not (Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Paganism, p. 21). And no Óðinn-based place-names have been found in southwestern Norway or Iceland: while Turville-Petre may well have been correct in offering this as support for the theory that Thórr was far preferred in both regions (p. 66), we know that some Icelanders, such as Egill Skalla-Grímsson and his family and Víga-Glúmr, most certainly did worship Óðinn - and it is highly unlikely that he was altogether unworshipped in southwestern Norway.
Place-names, in short, offer a reasonable positive proof for worship; the most popular ones may suggest the strength of a particular god's cult in a specific area (as with Skaði in eastern Sweden and southeastern Norway - de Vries, Religionsgeschichte II, p. 339). But, while an argument that Iðunn was a purely literary figure and never worshipped could be evolved in the same way as this argument has been offered for Loki, we also have the shortage of Frigg-based place-names to demonstrate unequivocally that the absence of place-names does not necessarily correspond to the honour in which a deity was held, and the lack of accounts of Frigg's worship to likewise show how scanty our written descriptions of Norse ritual are in regards to deities that we know were widely honoured. In this regard, therefore, we are looking at a problem that can neither be proven nor disproven with the accounts we have. The same is true for god-compounded personal names: Frigg does not appear as a name-element; there is only one certain Óðinn-based name surviving, in an individual example (Óðindís, on a 10th century runestone from Vestmanland, Sweden) and one debatable one used rarely (Óðinkaur - Moltke observes that the name has been read as "the one with hair dedicated to Óðinn", but prefers the argument that the name is an independent formation from the root fury-word, the whole meaning "inclined to fury" - p. 166). “Loki” does not appear as a recorded name-element, but does appear as a by-name in the mid-ninth century for Thórbjörn loki Böðmóðsson in Landnámabók (S124, H96, p. 165). How Thórbjörn acquired this name is unknown. No account survives suggesting that he was particularly clever, obnoxious, or any other characteristic that could be reasonably linked with his by-name, nor whether the name was seen as insulting, complimentary, or neutral.
That leaves us, then, to see if any positive proof can be found for the presence of Loki in early Scandinavian practice - or whether we are left with a perhaps vague, but persistent and probably overall telling, negative.
The first, and most definite, thing to look at here is the question of ritual drama in Old Norse religion. In the early twentieth century, Dame Bertha Philpotts proposed the theory that the Eddic dramas were, in fact, scripts for rituals. Almost eighty years later, Terry Gunnell expanded on her theory and investigated it a great deal further in The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia. It is now generally accepted that ritual drama was a significant part of Heathen Norse religious practice, and probably of Heathen Germanic practice in general.
In this regard, the figure of Loki is quite central. He is most often responsible for creating the initial dramatic tension; and then he is responsible for relieving it. As Grønbech suggests, Loki seems to have been “the sacral actor whose business was to draw out the demon, to bring the antagonism to the head and thus to prepare for victory” (II, p. 331). Even when he is not the central figure of the drama, as in Þrymskviða, he is a crucial supporting/character role. To deny his importance to the practice of Norse religion in this regard, in fact, one would have to successfully present a counter-argument to Gunnell's work on Norse ritual drama. I myself find that highly unlikely, given the huge quantity of evidence in its favour Gunnell offers.
It is important, even crucial, here to consider the ritual intentions and effects of ritual dramas on those who performed and watched them. These dramas were almost certainly thought to embody, for a time, the doings of the gods: they were not mere pageants, but the actual things themselves. This is an aspect of traditional religions which it is often hard for modern Westerners to really understand at a gut-level: the players were the gods, the tale really happening anew, for the ritual time and space in which the drama lasted. And, unless a being were slain, bound, or in some manner cast out in the process of the tale, those Who were called stayed called, their presence working its weal among the folk after the drama was done. Therefore, ritual dramas in which Loki was the hero or a significant supporting character most definitely included the call to, and were inspired by the desire to have, Loki in the weal-working form that appeared in the drama. To our forebears, this was not merely an artistic endeavour or entertainment: this was reality, effective in this world and the Otherworlds. And Loki was a crucial part of it, called and appearing, by and large, in his most desired forms. We can therefore say without question that he was worshipped at least in this manner.
In terms of identifying the worship of a single deity, archaeology is of relatively little help. One frame of the Lärbro St. Hammars III picture stone shows a very large bird of prey facing a woman with a drinking horn; behind her a man stretches out his hand. This is often read as Óðinn stealing the mead of poetry from Gunnlöð, with Suttungr behind her. However, since Óðinn took the eagle-hame only to flee, not to approach, that reading does not really fit the picture. It could, rather more easily, show Loki bringing Iðunn home...or Óðinn flying back with the mead of poetry; and there is no way to distinguish between the two from the single scene. A like ambiguity can be seen with the Skørping brooch, which shows a raptor with a man's mask on its leg. This could be any of the shapeshifters who take raptor-form: Óðinn, Suttungr, Thjazi, or Loki. If the brooch had been meant to be amuletic, it would be most likely to either represent Óðinn (as either a god of battle-death or the winner of Óðroerir) or Loki (specifically as a helper of the gods, which is the chief situation in which Frigg and Freyja lend him their falcon-hides). Or it could represent either without necessarily having an amuletic function. Unfortunately, clearly defined amulets and amulet-types are comparatively rare, so that we can no more identify a Loki-amulet than a Frigg-amulet with any certainty. It is possible, for instance, that the common fire-steel amulet (fairly certainly an amulet; silver miniature versions are found, and iron miniatures often appear on offering/burial rings together with Thórr's Hammers) could be linked with Loki as a fire-tending god, if indeed he was. But it is at least as possible that this amulet-type could have been linked with Thórr (in regards to the striking of sparks from stone - the reading most commonly favoured) or Frigg (as the goddess most linked with home and hearth): as with most symbolic items used as amulets, there is really no way to tell for sure which, if any, god was called by the use of the fire-steel.
Where archaeology is ambiguous and the sagas fail to help us regarding the calling of the many god/esses who are not mentioned in them as the objects of ritual, we must turn to the question of survival in folklore. The problem of how accurate such lore, generally recorded sometime between the seventeenth and early twentieth century, may be in regards to Heathen Norse belief and practice is a knotty one. Some practices, particularly local or household offerings, seem to be surprisingly conservative - pouring offerings into the “alf-cup” stones may go back to the Bronze Age when these hollows were first ground into the rocks (Ellis, Road to Hel, p. 114) - but all call for very careful consideration. However, in many cases, we have no other guide to go on - and, particularly outside antiquarian Iceland, it seems unlikely that new customs of honouring a god would be created if that god had not already been receiving worship of some sort.
Folk-practices relating to Loki appear to be primarily Swedish and southern Norwegian, and deal with him as a wight of the hearth-fire. In “Loke i nyere folkeoverlevering”, Olrik details several of these (such as offerings to the hearth-fire of baby-teeth and the skin from heated milk), as well as folk-sayings suggesting that this god may have been seen as linked to weather in some way, as well as fire. One of the most telling, the saying that “Loki is driving his goats” in relationship to odd phenomena (such as the mist that rises from the ground after rain on a hot day), is certainly suggestive of his relationship to Thórr, if not certain; we may also think of the goat with which he makes Skaði laugh. The weather-phenomena references, however, cannot be taken as signs of worship; we may compare the many christian-cultural sayings along the lines of “when it's raining while the sun shines, the Devil is setting his table”. Paradoxical phenomena may suggest the supernatural, but by no means necessarily imply the religious! Other Loki-based folk-sayings and folk-names (associated with knots in knitting, weeds, fleas, etc.) suggest an irritating, but possibly ambiguous wight; similar uses are found for alfs and “trolls”, both of which may be either helpful or harmful and both of which received various honours at various times. These uses neither uphold nor stand against the matter of Loki's worship.
The hearth-fire offering customs appear far more likely to be meaningful in terms of the question of worship. It seems highly unlikely that a Norse wight generally seen as “evil” in the Heathen period would begin to receive offerings, even - perhaps especially! - simple household offerings, after the conversion. Native gods are commonly demonized and/or diminished in the conversion process, but native “demons” are not usually rehabilitated into helpful wights. Nor does it seem likely that a chiefly “literary” figure would be introduced so deeply into practice after the conversion that his offerings would endure as a common and reasonably widespread custom. While it is possible, indeed likely, that these hearth-offerings bore an element of buying off a dangerous being (propitiation), it is equally likely that they were blessings and thanks for the good given by the hearth-fire and the god linked with it, now diminished into a household wight with the general loss of the Ása-troth. One of the most interesting customs in this regard is the practice of casting baby-teeth into the hearthfire with a little verse asking Loki to receive the tooth and grow a new one in its place. It is uncertain, and unprovable, whether this might be related to Loki's role as problem-solver/situation-improver of the gods. It does, however, suggest strongly that the fundamental and lingering cultural view of Loki was not as a wight of ill-luck or malice; I know of no culture where such beings are called on to aid children's health.
In my opinion, it is most likely that the Loki hearth-customs included both aspects of buying-off and of blessings/thanks. We may compare these customs with the role of Wodan and the Wod-Host in folk traditions throughout the Germanic world: Wodan has diminished from god to spook, but offerings are still left for him and his host of the dead, both to ask them not to do harm and to seek their blessing. And it seems particularly unlikely, if Loki were viewed chiefly as an evil wight to be avoided in the Heathen period, that he would have been bidden to the hearth-fire - the heart of home and family - so persistently afterwards.
The view of Loki as a fire-wight is not proven by, but may be supported by the Snaptun bellows-stone, which bears one of our few definite images of this god. We know it is Loki because he bears the scars on his lips left there by the dwarf Brokkr after Loki wiggled out of his head-bet. Whether this stone, a soapstone piece meant to protect the leather bellows from the heat of the fire, was meant to call Loki, to warn him not to mess with a smith again, or both, is unknown. My best guess is that it is both. If Loki was seen as a wight of fire-handling, which the collection of evidence tends to support fairly strongly (though not confirming it absolutely), his fire was as crucial to the smith as to the house-frowe. In fact, we see Loki directly as tender of the fire by means of blowing in Haustlöng 4 (“hlaut...hrafnásar vinr blása”; “it was the lot of the raven-god's friend to blow”)! Likewise, when he attempts to interfere with Brokkr and Eitri fashioning the bet-winning treasures, his provenance is not that of affecting the smith directly, but interfering with the tending of the forge-fire. Loki as a god specifically linked with the tending of the fire fits reasonably well with this tale, and perfectly with his role in Haustlöng, where he is not only responsible for the cooking-fire in the first place, but loses his temper with the etin who interferes with it - again, no kind of solid proof on its own, but matching very neatly with the other available materials. This view of him could also explain a great deal of his character: the hearth-fire was both the heart of the home - the source of warmth, light, and cooked food - and the greatest single everyday danger in the house. Indeed, the threat with which Loki takes his leave in Locasenna could well be read as suggesting the anger of the hall-fire's keeper: “You have readied ale, Ægir, but you shall never ready symbel again; over all that you have here within shall play the flickering flames (logi), and your back be burnt” (65). If Lóðurr is, indeed, identical with Loki, his role in the creation of humankind also fits with this: he gives “lá...ok lito góða” - life-warmth and good looks/colour (Völuspá 18), qualities that fit with the warming home-fire.
One of the chief arguments that has been raised against Loki as a fire-wight is his eating-contest with Logi in the visit to Utgarð-Loki's hall, in which Loki devours the meat only, but Logi (fire) devours bone and platter as well. However, Fraser offers an alternate reading: that Logi is the wildfire, whereas Loki's eating the meat but leaving the bones matches the role of the cremation fire. This would also fit with Loki as a god of the ritual cooking-fire: the bones remaining from a holy feast seem to have borne a considerable holiness themselves, as suggested by, for instance, the deposits at Borg (Norway, Viking Age). There, the bones of male and female swine were generally separated, the sow-bones by the large deposit of fire-steel "offering rings" (see section 1.4.4 for further discussion) and the boar-bones largely laid around the smithy's furnaces (Ann-Lili Nielsen, p. 245). We may also compare the use of cremated human bones at the thresholds of longhouses in Halland (Sweden), suggesting that bones played both a transitional and a regenerative role in Northern thought (Back Danielsson, pp. 245 ff.). The burnt human bones and teeth laid into the Ranheim hof's central “hörg” of heaped stones (Preben, p. 6) were undoubtedly part of its holiness, though their exact purpose is unknown. This tale, therefore, could well be read as Fraser suggests: showing the cremation and ritual cooking-fire, which leaves the hallowed bones,[10] and the wildfire which devours everything. In fact, for a cremation fire to achieve any significant level of success, “people who cremate inevitably learn to provide the fire with good circulation” (Barber, p. 76). This crucial necessity of blowing up and tending the fire brings us back, again, to Loki's cooking of the contents of the “holy trencher” in Haustlöng 4 (discussed further below) and his relationship to the smith's bellows. Fraser also makes the interesting suggestion that the Lokaheiti Hveðrungr (“Roarer” - Völuspá 55) might be likened to “the Vedic fire-god Agni (who) is also referred to as a “roarer”, in Book I, hymn CXXVII of the Rig-Veda: '6. He, roaring very loudly like the Maruts’ host, in fertile cultivated fields adorable, in desert spots adorable, accepts and eats our offered gifts…'[11] In Agni’s case, this “roaring” is in reference to the roaring flames that Agni represents; I have therefore attributed the same interpretation to this kenning for Loki”. While hard to prove, this reading makes a good deal of sense, especially since Loki's role seems to be especially linked to blowing the fire into strength.
It seems likeliest to me, therefore, that the Snaptun stone and the later folk-offerings to Loki as a wight of the hearth-fire reflect the view of Loki seen in the god-tales: useful, necessary, and wanted, most likely in relation to fire; but also a being who must be dealt with carefully and kept from acting altogether without restraint, and who will certainly arrange his vengeance when ill-treated (which gives the Loki we see cursing Ægir's hall to flames at the end of Locasenna, and breaking his bonds at Ragnarök).
It should also be asked whether, if Loki were indeed seen as a god of hearth- and forge-fire in the Viking Age, he might have played a role in communal rituals where fires were lit. Fire does seem to have played a significant role in Norse religious practices - Kjálnesinga saga mentions the never-quenched, hallowed fire on the harrow (ch. II); in Grímnismál, the act of binding the disguised Óðinn between two fires seems to be a means of keeping him from working untoward wizardry as well as tormenting him. No specific godly attribution is ever given for any of these fires, nor is the process of their lighting ever described, so the question of Loki's involvement cannot be answered. I have speculated that the “god-nails” described in the hof's high-seat pillars in Eyrbyggja saga (ch. IV, p. 8) might have been used for striking sparks to start a ritual fire, most likely in the context of the cult of Thórr; in that case, it would match the roles of these gods in the tales for the sparks to have been struck by Thórr, and the tinder blown up into flame and tended by Loki. While this specific suggestion is no more than speculation, it seems fairly likely to me that, at least in some areas, Loki may have taken the same role in large communal rituals as in family practice. There was, after all, no clear dividing line between “home practice” and “large group practice” - the family stretched out to the larger kin-group and eventually the kingdom - and we do see Loki managing and defending the fire for other gods in Haustlöng.
In fact, the language of Haustlöng 4 uses the imagery of a holy offering for the godly meal: “The wolf of the fells (Thjazi) - it fell to the lot (hlaut, from hluta) of the raven-god's friend (Loki) to blow - bade quickstep-Meili (probably Hoenir) deal him his fill from the holy trencher (af helgum skutli)”. The word hluta (to draw lots) presents, in this context, a double image. On one level, we can see Óðinn, Hoenir, and Loki drawing sticks for the cooking-chores as any three men on a journey might do; but hluta and its related words hlutr[12] and hlaut[13] carry an extremely strong sense of offering and might. The use of hluta here suggests that tending the fire for the meat of the gods' “holy trencher” is Loki's wyrd, but also his portion of the ritual and linked to his power. In fact, Thjóðólfr may have been making a deliberate pun when he said, “hlaut hrafnásar vinr blása”, playing “it fell to Loki's lot to blow” with the similar-sounding “Loki's offering, to blow” (“hlaut hrafnásar vinar at blása”). It seems quite likely that Loki's function regarding the preparation of the contents of the “holy trencher” among the gods could well have reflected an aspect of human religious practice, in much the same way as the valkyrjur bearing drink to the dead in Valhöll reflected the atheling-maidens bearing drink to the living in the Middle-Garth's halls, or the Hammer set in the lap of the “bride” to hallow “her” in Þrymskviða 30 is believed to have reflected human wedding-customs.
In terms of the general Scandinavian Heathen view of Loki, we may also consider how (or if) the cultural understanding of the late Viking Age could have changed to produce a work such as Lokka táttur some three hundred years or so after the conversion. If there were a real antipathy towards Loki in the Heathen era, it would have to have been quite readily lost in the Faroes - which, in turn, suggests that it could not have been terribly widespread or strong. We do not see christians, even in relatively isolated areas, telling tales where Satan is the hero, nor Americans in relatively isolated areas recounting tales of Benedict Arnold's heroism prior to his treason. It could be argued quite reasonably that Lokka táttur represents an effort at telling a story with elements and characteristics of older materials (the triad of Óðinn, Hoenir, and Loki; the role of Loki as trickster/rescuer), but without any real understanding of Heathen Scandinavian thought. Still, if Loki had been generally seen as a wight of ill-luck and disaster, chiefly a foe of the gods, such a complete transformation of understanding would be difficult - if not impossible - to account for. Indeed, it is ironic that the fourteenth-century Loka táttur shows Loki in a wholly bright light as a child-rescuer, while the contemporary Norwegian poem Draumkvæde makes Óðinn, as “Grutte Graybeard”, into the Satan-figure leading the hosts of Hell at the world's end (Liestøl, pp. 70-71).
It seems clear enough, in any case, that Loki was extremely likely to have been called on by our forebears in some manner, though probably the details of his worship beyond ritual drama and the likelihood that he had some connection with the rites of hearth-, forge-, and quite possibly cremation and ritual fire-kindling will remain as generally unclear as that of Frigg, Heimdallr, Eir, Ullr, or Týr until and unless more knowledge surfaces.
One of the most interesting aspects of looking at our forebears' view of Loki, however, is another negative. Like most of the gods other than Óðinn, Thórr, and Freyr, Loki is seldom if ever seen interacting with humans in the sagas. What is interesting about this is: at no point do even christian authors ever seem to have tried to slot him in directly as a Satan-substitute in regards to the human realm, either when writing with antiquarian charm about their big bad Viking ancestors (as for instance in Brennu-Njáls saga ch. LXXXVIII, p. 215, where Jarl Hákon says, regarding the burning of his god-house, words to the effect that “The man who did this won't go to Valhöll” - a fairly obvious and simplistic antiquarian's subsitution of “Valhöll” for the christian Heaven) or when putting the Heathen troth in a questionable light, as when Óðinn appears to “St.” Óláfr as a tempter/antagonist (Óláfs saga helga; Flateyjarbók II, ch. 106, p. 134). “St.” Óláfr, in various accounts, has hostile dealings with Óðinn, Thórr, and troll-women,[14] but never Loki - whom, if he had indeed been seen as the “Heathen Devil”, would surely have been expected to appear among the indiscriminately-identified “powers of darkness” standing as antagonists to the “saint” in Óláfr's various sagas. In Heathen and mediaeval literary sources, runic inscriptions, and surviving “charm-spells”, ill luck and like troubles are variously blamed on witches, “trolls”, dwarves, alfs, thurses, ill-dísir, ill-norns, and the ill-willing dead. Never Loki. He is blamed for producing Otherworldly monsters of various sorts, from Sleipnir to Fenrir, but never directly for harm to humans. If it were not for the fairly widespread folk-customs and folk-sayings involving him, this might, indeed, lead us to suspect that Loki might indeed have been a wholly “literary” figure, appearing only in god-tales and ritual dramas. But he obviously had a firm place in the Scandinavian culture, and very likely in the practice of Scandinavian worship.

III. Loki's Place in Heathenry Today

In Heathenry today, Loki appears to have entirely displaced Óðinn's Viking Age position as “Most Controversial of the Æsir”. My guess as to the reason for this, which I have been considering for over twenty years, is that Loki is the most difficult of all our gods for modern Westerners to get their heads around - not just his personality, but his whole role in regards to the gods and religion of the North. While it is perfectly possible for someone raised in a fundamentally dualistic, monotheistic culture (and even totally non-religious families still transmit the overall cultural paradigm to their children) to understand a fundamentally non-dualistic, polytheistic religion, it does take work. More specifically, it takes the understanding that such work is needed; that the Norse religion is not religion as you were raised to know it, just with different names and a warrior attitude; and that getting to know our god/esses and how they work now means getting to understand the world from which they sprang and how they worked then. Because Westerners are raised with the essential concept that Deity is meant to be unchanging and perfect, the idea of the occasionally fallible, sometimes thoughtless and even sometimes ill-meaning, Trickster who is nonetheless needed to bring about change for the better by means of breaking down divine order is very, very difficult for many of us to reconcile with the ideas almost all of us absorbed from birth about what a god should be. It is easy enough to slot thunderbolt-wielding Thórr, Snorri's dignified All-Father Óðinn, and maternal Frigg weeping for her slain son into the christian-Western paradigm, and most folk can deal with the basic concept of a well-endowed god of fruitfulness and a goddesss of sexual love. But Loki represents concepts of godhood that are alien to the modern Western worldview.
On top of this, a lot of folk are drawn to Ásatrú because it is a good troth for warriors. And warriors like to fight. And good warriors like to fight evil enemies.
But Ásatrú is short on clearly- defined evil enemies. There is no single wight who constantly works ill towards the god/esses from beginning to end, and the rival etin-tribe is not only so varied in attitudes towards Ásgarðr that only the individual position of any etin seems to matter, but so intermarried with the folk of Ásgarðr that even a chromosome check could hardly tell gods from etins.
The closest thing to an overall foe is Surtr, but he seems content to smoulder in Muspellheimr (or Iceland) until Ragnarök. Only the Icelanders have much of a need to worry about him before that, and then, it seems, more as the very dangerous land-wight who dwells in the boiling lava under their island than as a Great Adversary to the god/esses.
The only wight who fulfills the needs of being consistently personified and present, not matching the Western concept of what a deity should be, being involved with the death of the (in Snorri's version) Nordic Christ-subsitute; and indeed coming against the Æsir at the end of time is...Loki. Therefore, it seems that many people today have evolved a view of him that is generally inconsistent with his role in the understanding of our forebears; and that this view has become both self-perpetuating and self-strengthening - the more so as, the stronger it grows, the less challenge it offers to modern Western cultural preconceptions. And, in the months leading up to Trothmoot 2012 and even more thereafter, I have heard Loki (and his human friends, who have been subjected fairly regularly to verbal violence and intimidation, and even threats of actual violence from some elements of the Ásatrú community) reviled in a manner which, so far as anyone can tell, would have been inconceivable to our forebears, and smacks a good deal more of modern fundamentalists talking about their Devil and those who might worship him than of anything pre-conversion Norse Heathens (or even Icelanders of the saga-writing period) would have recognised.
The dualistic understanding (good gods/evil giants) which most people see as their first view of Ásatrú can, in fact, largely be traced back to Snorri. In his discussion of Haustlöng, Richard North astutely notes, “In place of Þjóðólfr's conceits and fond characterization of Loki and Þórr, Snorri portrays the Æsir collectively and presents their dealings with the giants as part of a larger conflict involving men and the forces of evil. The diversity of giants and their qualities in Haustlöng (hunger, ancient cunning, infertility, and the vastness of landscape) becomes simplified in Snorri's text into a general posture of enmity and morose jealousy against gods and men” (p. lxiii).
This appears to be a constant with Snorri. Did he deliberately alter the views of his forebears in order to make the god-based art of skaldic poetry more acceptable to a christian society? Quite possible: his sole purpose in writing the Prose Edda was to save and revive the fading lore and skills of the skaldic poet. Or, being born and raised in a largely christian culture himself (almost two hundred years - say, five or six generations, at least two very long lifetimes from living memory of Heathenry - after the conversion of Iceland), was he unable to interpret the god-tales and the Northern religion in any light other than that of christianity? Whichever is true, there seems to be no question - particularly when Snorri's tales can be compared directly with the sources he took them from, given that he often did us the huge favour of quoting the original poems directly - that he did recast the Ása-troth's worldview in the mould of christianity, particularly in regards to Loki and the etin-kind as an overall group.
Unfortunately, to Satanize Loki and/or to attempt to delete him from the practice and good understanding of Heathenry is to cripple our troth as a whole, both on a group level and regarding the individual. The most perfect example of this is a remark made on a Troth e-mail list a number of years ago: “As a good Thór's-man, I would never have anything to do with Loki.” The man who said that meant to declare his virtue and love for his god. Instead he identified himself as someone who was unable to even try to understand some very important things about his god; and who was either wilfully ignorant of his friend-god's tales to a spectacular degree, or who, in his heart, thought that his fulltrúi was an idiot. Lately I have seen a much more thoughtful person defend the statement on the grounds that Loki's good deeds were all in the “past”, and negated thereafter by his role as Baldr's slayer, even as Benedict Arnold is remembered not for his heroic deeds, but for his subsequent treason - a logical argument from the point of view of Snorri's apparently rewritten version of Baldr's death, but one which leaves out both the theological problem of godly and human time-binding and the vast bulk of our historical knowledge about Baldr's death and our forebears' understanding of it. One of the best ways in which we can come to know our god/esses is to study and think on their relationships with each other. And if one of the most significant links in that web of understanding is deformed by modern demonization, then the others will be pulled out of true.
Among other things, the Satanization of Loki from Snorri to the modern period also starkly marks out one of the biggest problems for folk newly come to Ásatrú. I would wager that almost every one of us first found the tales of our gods, whether as a child or as an adult, in a modern retelling of the tales from Snorri's Prose Edda (I will personally buy a beer for anyone who can honestly tell me that they read a rendition of Saxo's Gesta Danorum first of all!). Unfortunately, while Snorri, as our first comprehensive secondary source, is one of our greatest resources, this makes the many points where he is unreliable all the more devastating when it comes to reaching a fuller understanding of Heathen-era belief. In this case, I think it is not unfair to lay the largest part of our warping of our forebears' understanding of Loki, especially regarding his role and degree of accountability for the death of Baldr, directly at the door of Snorri as first cause.
Allowing Loki to be “Satanized” also leads us back to the huge problem of setting criteria for “judging” our god/esses. As mentioned above, it is hard to find criteria for demonizing Loki that do not also reflect badly on other deities. Even his role at Ragnarök presents a problem in that regard. If a god's role in that battle is to be the final determination of fitness for worship, then what can be said of Njörðr for going back home rather than fighting beside his friends; or Freyr for giving up the chance of the gods' victory for the sake of winning the etin-maid he desires? Really: what would any good soldier say about the man who gave up a weapon seriously needed in the most crucial of battles so he could get the girl he wanted? Yes, the understanding of Freyr and his role in our world and the others makes this deed part and parcel of his being - if he had not made that choice, he might not be able to bring us new life and strength as he does - but nonetheless, it is a sharp lesson regarding the judgement of deities by human criteria.
Loki is a liar and a troublemaker, no doubt about it. So is Óðinn, and rather more destructively in any view short of the very longest. And, if the prologue of Grímnismál shows truth, Frigg is no slouch either when it comes to doing the dirty to both her husband and his human favourite - in fact, manipulating her husband to actually do the dirty to his own favourite himself. If we follow the Loki-involved version of Baldr's death, it leads us back to Óðinn as the chief chooser of that as well as well (if we don't, then Loki is completely free of responsibility there). If our forebears had issues with Loki's gender-bending, again, the same basic criticism could be applied to Óðinn, who was quick enough to put on a female likeness when he could gain something from it (as in Saxo's account of his magically-assisted rape of Rindr, and Locasenna 24), and consistently acted in a normally-womanly role as a battle-god (hovering over the field to magically affect the fighters). If there is anything definite we can get from Locasenna, regardless of its author's perpective and intention, it is a warning about applying a specific set of social criteria to one god and not the others: either they all deserve criticism, or their actions all call for the same degree of spiritual understanding.
In addition, the movement to cast Loki out of Ásatrú worship - even to the point of trying to forbid others to honour him in group rites - is something that, in itself and regardless of the god in question, would have been literally inconceivable to our forebears. The Germanic peoples had no problem with folk worshipping the White Christ right alongside the Æsir and Vanir: men of mixed faith were common in the later Viking Age, and it was not the Anglo-Saxon Heathens who objected when King Rædwald of East Anglia set up an altar to Christ in the same temple where he had a harrow for offering to the English gods (Bede, ii, ch. XV, pp. 190-91). Even Egill Skalla-Grímsson, as true an Óðinn's-man as ever walked the Middle-Garth, had no problem with being “prime-signed” (a sort of provisional baptism which made Heathens acceptable for christians to deal with - Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar, ch. L, pp. 128-29).
In fact, religious strife seems to have been largely inconceivable to our forebears. The closest we see to religious exclusivity is the episode from the Vita S. Anskarii in which, when St. Ansgar comes to preach in Birka, the gods politely point out that if the Swedes don't feel they have enough gods already, they'd rather elevate the late King Eiríkr than have this strange foreign guy join them.
While even the best-known god/esses occasionally worked against each other on the behalf of their favourites, humans did not tend to bring these rivalries into general “theology”. Óðinn and Frigg show such a rivalry at least twice (introductory prose of Grímnismál, the name-origin tale of the Langobards in Origio gentis Langobardorum); Starkaðr's wyrd is determined by the conflict between Thórr, who holds a grudge because Starkaðr's grandmother chose to sleep with the etin Starkaðr the Elder rather than himself, and Óðinn, who has taken a liking to the youth (slightly different versions of the tale appear in Gautreks saga and Saxo's Gesta Danorum, but Thórr's enmity towards him is a constant); in Víga-Glúms saga, a Freysman asks and gets his god's help against the hereditary Óðinsman Víga-Glúmr. Yet, so far as we can tell, there was no established cultic conflict, only individual issues. Turville-Petre has argued convincingly that the worship of Óðinn was little-practiced in Iceland, and that there may have been a conscious grudge against the Óðinnic kings of Norway by the largely Thórr- and Freyr-worshipping farmers (many from southwestern Norway, where no Óðinn-based place-names have been found) who fled to Iceland to avoid them (p. 67). But no effort, so far as we can tell, was made to suppress or cast out the worship of Óðinn on that island either.
In terms of practice, the best-known account of anything that could be called a Heathen religious conflict is the strife over Dritsker in Eyrbyggja saga. Thórólfr Mostrar-skeggi lays down, and his sons attempt to enforce, potty-rules in the holy field around their hof, insisting that everyone must row out to a little island (Dritsker - “dirt-skerry”) to relieve themselves. Others eventually object strenuously - a fight occurs, marring the field with man-slaying blood, so that the issue comes to nothing (chs. IX-X, pp. 14-18). This could perhaps be taken as a cautionary tale warning against efforts to bind Ásatrú practice with excessive rules; but even here, the issue is not one of who should or should not be worshipped.
Perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses of Germanic culture was that our forebears were so fundamentally religiously tolerant themselves, they failed to realize the danger posed by a fundamentally intolerant foe - they might have done better to adjust their position to tolerate anything except intolerance. But violent hostility on spiritual grounds was reserved for those who had done specific harms: on the christian part, the defilement of shrines and direct insults to gods and forebears; on the Heathen part, the practice of ill-willing, usually murderous seiðr. It is probably telling that Landnámabók mentions a man composing a poem for Surtr and taking it down to his cave (ch. 175, p. 241). The fact that this was recorded suggests that the occurrence was well-known, but there is no suggestion that his neighbors so much as looked askance at him. While this event was far more likely a case of propitiating a dangerous local wight than “worship” in the usual sense (common enough among traditional folks in harsh environments - makes sense for an Icelander to keep on polite and respectful terms with Surtr, but I bet the guy didn't call Surtr into his house with the gods and ghosts at Winternights or Yule!), it does support the view that our forebears - lacking the christian view of the Otherworld as a two-party spiritual battleground - were disinclined to be too judgemental about which beings their neighbors dealt with, so long as said neighbors weren't calling the beings in question for the purpose of doing harm.

It seems clear to me, therefore, that Loki's position in modern worship is, and most likely in historical worship was, similar to that of the other gods and goddesses: honoured for his help in the manners most fitting to his being; either feared or accepted for his dangers (which every deity has, from the obvious perils of Óðinn and Frigg's impressive capacity for dirty tricks, to the terrible glaring eyes that Thórr shares with the undead and the worst seiðr-workers, to the many unnatural/sacrificial deaths that Freyr and Freyja visited on the Yngling line); but not to be reviled.
Most Ásatrúar today have one or several deities to whom they are closest, whom they favour and vice versa; most have one or several deities whom they have trouble understanding or working with. This certainly seems to have been the case in the past - we may, for instance, think on the relative relationships of Óðinn and Freyr with Víga-Glúmr; Óðinn and Thórr with Starkaðr; and Starkaðr's scorn for the “effeminate” priests of Freyr (Gesta Danorum VI, x, p. 154 - assuming that there was more to this than Saxo running his pen on morality again). Óðinn was not, so far as we can tell, loved or even liked by a reasonable proportion of Viking Age Scandinavians; but no one objected to others worshipping him in their presence.
Thus with Loki. Those who cannot work with Loki need not call on him, any more than anyone who fears or dislikes Óðinn, Rán, or any other god or goddess should feel that they have to call on that deity (although, in my opinion, to deliberately refuse any of our forebears' deities is to cripple one's own understanding; but that is the individual's personal matter). In larger groups of diverse beliefs, courteous compromise on both sides is probably the optimal - perhaps the only - solution at this time, so that no one is either cast off or forced to personally hail a god with whom they have difficulties: the Troth's achievements in the realm of dealing with everyone in fairness and frith this past year have been remarkable, and should stand as a beacon of inspiration to all groups in a position of balancing diverse Heathen viewpoints and beliefs. But it is ill-done to seek to shut Loki away from others because one has personal problems with him; to speak ill of his worshippers, many of whom have done so much for Heathenry overall and the Troth in particular, as a group (the Marvel Loki fans on Tumblr, annoying as they may be, are hardly the threat to Heathenry that racists calling themselves "Odinists" or "Wotanists" are; yet few or no Heathens are dismissive or aggressive towards Óðinn's legitimate worshippers on account of the latter); or to deny Loki's due place in the practice of Heathen belief - especially on the grounds of inaccurate information and warped understanding.
Perhaps the best analogy for understanding Loki today is one that, though taken from modern medicine, would not have been by any means alien to our forebears' understanding if they had had the tools to win a fuller understanding of the body's processes. Loki may be likened to the inflammatory system, which produces the characteristic “rubour, tumour, calour, and dolour”: redness, swelling, heat, and pain; the downside, if one will, of “lá ok litr”. Inflammation is often irritating and distressing; often thought of as the “bad guy” (how often do you see a pro- inflammatory drug prescribed?); and, if it gets out of hand, can produce damage up to a veritable Ragnarök in the body, as seen in severe auto-immune disease. However, inflammation is also absolutely crucial to the recruitment of the immune system against pathogens: to suppress inflammation also means suppressing immunity. If one were to look at the immune cells which battle pathogens as representing the work of Thórr in the body - which, I think, it is fair to say that our forebears did to the best of their understanding, calling Thórr against the “thurse of wound-fever”[15] - then it is Loki's inflammation which recruits those immune cells to where they are needed, directing Thórr's might against infection and illness as he directs it against the woe-working etins in Þrymskviða and Þórsdrápa. The number of people who appreciate the inflammatory system is rather lower than the number of people who think of inflammation as a bad thing; but every single one of them are alive only because their inflammatory system and their immune system work together as indissoluble twins - as Loki provided Thórr with his Hammer twice over.


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Sveinbjörn Egilsson, Lexicon Poeticum: Antiquæ Linguæ Septentrionalis, 2nd edn, rev. by Finnur Jónsson (Copenhagen: Møller, 1931).
Turville-Petre, E.O.G. Myth and Religion of the North (New York: Greenwood, 1975, rep. from Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1964).
Víga-Glúms saga, ed. Jónas Kristjánsson. Íslenzk fornrit IX (Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1941).
de Vries, Jan. Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, 2 vols, 3rd edn. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1970).
- Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, 2nd edn. (Leiden: Brill, 1962).
- The Problem of Loki. Folklore Fellowship Communications 110 (1933).
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[1]. Snorri claims that Thórr was supposed to travel without Hammer or his own belt and iron gloves, but that the etin-frowe Gríðr lent him her mainstrength-belt and iron gloves as well as her staff Gríðarvölr (SnE, Skáldskáparmál ch. 18, p. 286). Þórsdrápa mentions that he had Gríðr's magical staff (völr - 9) and describes him as “enjoyer of the strength-belt” (7), but gives no detail of where or how he got these items. 

[2]. While Scandinavia is not notably prone to forest fires, those of us who live in Western states today are well-familiar with the lightning strike/fire linkage; and will also not have failed to notice that these fires become most destructive when they have been kept from burning naturally for too long. Whereas, in the normal course of things, they actually aid in keeping the earth fruitful and even helping some trees such as redwoods and certain pines to seed successfully - an important lesson in dealing with Loki, to my mind.

[3]. While this kenning could also be read to suggest Thórr slaying or harmfully striking Loki, that would require Thórr to have done so or for it to be known that he would do so - neither of which circumstance, to the best of our knowledge, exists - and would seem out of place in the context of the stanza, in which Thórr is actually physically saving Loki.

[4]. This is according to Snorri only - Völuspá has Viðarr using a sword - but Snorri does mention the folk-custom of saving leather scraps for Viðarr's boot (SnE, Gylfaginning ch. 51, p. 192), which apparently was still known in his time.

[5]. Karl Hauck, who died very recently, is considered the world's chief expert on Migration and Viking Age iconography - particularly the Migration Age bracteates, which he catalogued in full with commentary.

[6]. Outside of Snorri, who shows her as Baldr's deeply loving and faithful wife, and Saxo, who shows quite the opposite, little is known of Nanna. The Setre comb (Norway, 6th century) bears an inscription reading, Norway, late 6th/early 7th century. Inscription hal mar mauna alunalaunana – "Hail, maid of maids! ALU Nanna ALU Nanna" or "Halmar, Mauna, ALU Nanna ALU Nanna", which suggests that she was worshipped (maybe as a source of life-might, if the use of the inscription on a comb was significant to the runemaster?), but tells us little more. We cannot say whether Saxo or Snorri had the right of it in terms of her relationship with Baldr and/or Höðr; her loyal “suttee”-death with Baldr is not mentioned in Húsdrápa.

[7]. Beowulf is noted for its preservation-by-euhemerized-reference of several versions or portions of tales of the North, such as Heimdallr and the Brisingamen (1195 ff.); interestingly, it seems to have kept an older version of the Völsung dragon-slaying in which Sigemund, rather than Siegfried/Sigurðr, slew the Wyrm (884 ff.).

[8]. North makes a good argument for “the wrathful one” as likeliest to be Freyr, who has been referred to in the previous stanza. He suggests that the likeness between the threat levelled at Loki and the threat levelled at Gerðr, both by means of a magical wand or tine causing mental destruction, makes it appear likely “that Ingvi-freyr himself is intended to supervise the questioning of Loki in st. 11” (p. 50).

[9]. The name has been translated as “fire-bringer” and “magician”; it may be a form of Lóðurr, who is quite likely to be identical to Loki (Turville-Petre, pp. 143-44). The Nordendorf fibula cannot be taken as firm proof of Loki's presence in Continental Germany; but it offers a fair likelihood of it.

[10]. There is undoubtedly also a practical origin to this distinction: it is very, very difficult to burn a human body completely to ash (Barber, pp. 76-78), and of course if a cooking-fire has charred the bones, it doesn't do the edibility of the meat any good. The problems of cremation would have been seen often by our forebears; but though the grounding of the distinction between cremation- and wildfire in regards to bones is likely to have been practical, they clearly found an important source of spiritual might and holiness in it.

[11]. The Rig Veda: Complete. Tr. Griffith, Ralph T.H. (Forgotten Books, 2008), p. 87.

[12]. A word of complex uses, which could be applied to amulets, particularly god-images; means of divination (the word is derived from the “lot”-word – de Vries, Wörterbuch, p. 240); and occasionally living beings or, in general, things, as in the universal creation of “all hlutir that can be seen and cannot be seen” (Fóstbræðra saga XXIII, p. 247). It is sometimes used metaphorically to represent power or ability, as for Gríma's foreseeing sleep (ibid., ch. XXIII, p. 244). The divinatory god image/scale weights given to Einarr skálaglamm (Jómsvíkinga saga, Flateyjarbók I, pp. 188-89) are described as “hlutir such as ancient men were used to have”, and the silver Freyr-image of Ingimundr inn gamli is also called a hlutr (Landnámabók S179/H145, p. 218).

[13]. Eyrbyggja saga tells us that the offering-blood “was called hlaut, and hlaut-bollar that which the blood stood in, and hlaut-twigs were made up in bunches, with which the altars were reddened all together, and the walls of the hof inside and out, and thus sprinkled on people” (ch. IV, p. 8); in Völuspá 63, it is stated that Hoenir will “choose the hlaut-sticks” after Ragnarök; that is, act as goði and perhaps diviner to the gods.

[14]. In Oddr Snorrason's Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar, a troll tells its fellows how it had tried to attack Óláfr Tryggvason by taking on the form of a fair woman, “and had a horn of mead in my hand, in which I had blended many evil things, and I meant to entrap the king that evening as we feasted”; but Óláfr recognised that something was wrong and unchivalrously struck the apparent woman about the head and face with the horn (ch. 60, pp. 174-79).

[15]. Sigtuna copper plates 1 and 2, the Kvinneby plate, and the Canterbury charm ("Gyril wound-causer, fare thou now! You are found. Thórr hallow (vígi) thee, thurses' drighten! Gyril wound-causer! Against blood-vessel pus" - MacLeod and Mees, p. 120; probably first written down or composed by an East Norse speaker ca. 1000, ms. version ca. 1073-76), as well as the Norwegian Rune-Poem's stave, "(Thurse) causes women's illness)", all suggest that thurses (as well as dwarves, alfs, seið-workers, and sundry flying wights) were seen as a great cause/embodiment of sickness and infection; Alaric Hall suggests that Thórr's role in healing and some warding charms, as well as Adam of Bremen's claim that he was called on against plague, was related specifically to his battling against these wights (pp. 199, 201-05).



You may also find interesting the Sound of the Gjallarhorn podcast of February 9th, 2014 entitled, 'Loki's Role in our Faith'. The files are kept forever as long as they are being downloaded. If the files are not downloaded even once within 30 days consecutively they are removed.

Some brief comments on the Grundy article can be found here, with another positive perspective on Loki here, and another in 6 parts here.

You can download the article below, either in PDF, ODT or DOC format.


"Loki's Role in the Northern Religions PDF"

 When choosing between the below ODT or DOC file formats,  make sure when you click on the desired format link below and are taken to the file host website, you click the download button that looks like the image below. The 'alternative download for PDF' that is linked below is if you have any issue with the link above.

Other minor links of interest regarding Loki: Loki, A Lokean, Hail Loki; At Loki's Hands announcement, part 1, 2, 3; a month for Loki (another participant here), 99adoration's for Loki, Lokahal, Lokaheim, Loki, Loki's shrine, Lokitheology, ritual, Lokean Elder, Loki poems, Uppsala Loki.

1 comment:

  1. The download links go to File Dropper and there is nothing to download.