I’m under no obligation to believe my own UPG

I’m under no obligation to believe my own UPG. Seems strange to say, but just because it pops into my head doesn’t mean I have to or even should believe whatever it is.

I’ve been a pagan for a long time, and over the years I’ve accrued some measure of UPG. Lots of little events, a couple sanity shattering events. However, just because it comes to me doesn’t make it the truth. A god could beam the whole story of the universe into my brain and tell me it was the gospel truth and I would maintain a measure of skepticism. Why? Because the gods are not infallible.

Our stories and myths are filled with instances where the gods don’t know something; they don’t know something so they go searching for answers. Furthermore, their understanding of whatever it is is only as good as the source of their information. Our stories and myths also have beings that lie to our gods or the stories even have our gods lie. The gods can and do lie. Also the gods can and do make mistakes. If the gods can make mistakes, can be mistaken, can be lied to, and can lie in turn then why would we trust divine communication wholesale?

And here is why the lore is important to me. The lore is the accumulated stories and myths of the ancient heathen peoples. They lived and worshipped and practiced their religion for thousands of years, it was engrained into their culture and even left indelible signs that have persisted to today. Those people, over hundreds of generations and across numerous cultures and subcultures, developed and evolved their beliefs as time progressed. That came to a halt at conversion, those beliefs were distilled and sometimes interpreted by Christians before being written down. That snapshot of the lore represents a moment in time right at the end of the cultural and religious development of pagan beliefs in the ancient times. But also it represents the combined collaborative effort of untold hundreds of thousands or even millions of ancient heathens over thousands of years who had experienced the gods, understood their nature, and lived a life connected with them who had then transmitted the stories of the gods to the next generation who each added new confirmation with every new person those stories interacted with. And the high level of agreement across different Indo-European groups for certain myths shows further confirmation. The names shifted with linguistics, but the stories, well, the details would morph depending but not the core truths of it. The undedstandings of Thor and Thunor and Donner remained very much in line with each other across the centuries and across a vast region filled with many different tribes that were very diverse. That overall continuity in belief shows the value in the lore. It’s tried and tested by those ancient peoples, and yeah it got a tiny bit touched by some Christians but their hands are usually very obvious and can be looked around as needed.

But here is the rub. Sometimes we try to put our UPG as tantamount to gospel even if only to ourselves. However to assume that the gods who are fallible and who do lie somehow cannot or will not or do not lie to you alone just doesn’t fly in my book. And if my UPG goes against the lore directly, am I to assume that somehow those many thousands of people over thousands of years were all somehow misled or mistaken and yet I alone have the right of it? It seems kind of hubristic. No, for me, I choose to be skeptical of my own UPG. I choose to research it and weigh it out and see where it could fit and see if it’s true, partly true, or a misunderstanding by me or a lie by divinity and in those cases false. Not only do I not hold my own UPG as gospel, I don’t carry any illusion that I should misconstrue my own UPG as anything close to fact towards others. I am under no obligation to believe my own UPG and you’re under no obligation to believe it either.

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Modraniht, Mother’s Night (Ritual)

This is a personal ceremony I designed for my Modraniht observances. It requires some sort of offering and three candles. (The three candles should ideally be: a well-used stub, a partially used candle, and an unlit candle. For best use, use the mother’s candle this year for fore-mother’s next year and the daughter candle from this year for the mother’s candle next year.)

(Start with the most well used candle already lit.)

Tonight I call out to you to join me in celebration. I call you this night to join me in remembrance.

(You should call out to your individual matronae now.)

We have all lost loved ones, mothers and grandmothers in our years.
Their hands guided the strands of our wyrd; they shaped our Orlæg (Orlog).
The goddesses too have their place with us tonight as they guide us all.

Tonight is Mother’s night, tonight we remember
Our mothers, grandmothers, who to sheltered us here
Listening to them spin tales next to dying ember’
Tonight, we once again lend them our ear

Four rounds we take, with the flame
We pass the fire like stories and knowledge
We pass the fire from generation to the next

Once round first for the old ones with the burnt stub
So well used tis only a small nub
For our foremothers, we give thanks

(Circle around with the first lit candle.)

Second, for the mothers who here or not,
Have us so much given and taught
For our mothers, tonight we give thanks

(Use first candle to light the second. Circle around with the second lit candle.)

Third, one candle brand new, never lit
For daughters who one day beside a hearth will sit
For our daughters, now and future, we give thanks

(Use second candle to light the third. Circle around with the third candle.)

Remember the goddesses, for candles three
Weaving and spinning together your family tree
Tonight, give thanks to all mothers come and gone
as we await the rising of the new dawn.

(Put out an offering for your matronae. I use small cakes I baked for the occasion but some grain would do nicely.)

* Take some time to quietly remember your mother(s), grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and any matronae you have in your family, all your fore-mothers. When you are done, thank them once more and snuff the candles out. Leave the offering out over night and dispose of it in the morning.

Arguments with Lokeans

“He does more good than bad.”

To examine this claim, I will use the following list to examine some of the deeds of Loki.

Deeds of Loki

Deeds which break Frith (Familial bonds or peace)

  • Murder of oathed bloodbrother’s son
    • Voluspa (Implied)
    • Lokasenna (Confession)
    • Gylfaginning XLIX
    • Skáldskaparmal XVI
  • Leading Thor into danger knowingly
    • Thrymskvitha (Possible)
    • Skáldskaparmal XVIII

Deeds which break Grith (Bonds of temporary and/or sacred truce or community peace)

  • Lokasenna (various offenses against hospitality including murder)
  • Gylfaginning XLIX (Baldr murdered at the Thing)
  • Kidnapping Iðunn and endangering the immortality of the gods
    • Skáldskaparmal I
    • Skáldskaparmal XXII

 

Deed listing

Murder of Baldr

  • Voluspa (Implied)
  • Lokasenna (Confession)
  • Gylfaginning XLIX
  • Skáldskaparmal XVI

Murder of other

  • Lokasenna (Femafeng)
  • Lokasenna (Threat to kill Eldir)
  • Otr/Ottar
    • Reginsmol (Otr – accidental)
    • Skáldskaparmal XXXIX (Ottar – accidental)
  • Gesta Danorum (Several men)
  • Hyndluljoth (Possible, unclear of the source of the heart)
  • Ragnarok (Untold billions)
    • Voluspa
    • Baldrs Draumar
    • Gylfaginning L
    • Gylfaginning LI

Participation in Ragnarok

  • Voluspa
  • Baldrs Draumar
  • Gylfaginning L
  • Gylfaginning LI

Disarms Thor and Leads him to danger

  • Thrymskvitha (Possible)
  • Skáldskaparmal XVIII

Eats a Human Heart

  • Hyndluljoth

Breaks oath or lies

  • Skáldskaparmal XXXV
  • Skáldskaparmal I
  • Skáldskaparmal XXII
  • Killing Baldr (as an oath of brotherhood to his father made him kin)
    • Voluspa (Implied)
    • Lokasenna (Confession)
    • Gylfaginning XLIX
    • Skáldskaparmal XVI
  • Deliberately withholds information from Thor
    • Skáldskaparmal XVIII

Kidnapping Iðunn

  • Skáldskaparmal I
  • Skáldskaparmal XXII

Assault of Sif

  • Skáldskaparmal XVI
  • Skáldskaparmal XXXV

 

I believe his deeds speak for themselves on this matter.

 

“He doesn’t kill people in the myths.”

I believe this statement forgets his involvement in Ragnarok attested in the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. In Ragnarok it is said that two people survive:

Othin spake:

  1. “Much have I fared, | much have I found,

Much have I got of the gods:

What shall live of mankind | when at last there comes

The mighty winter to men?”

 

Vafthruthnir spake:

  1. “In Hoddmimir’s wood | shall hide themselves

Lif and Lifthrasir then;

The morning dews | for meat shall they have,

Such food shall men then find.”

 

The Poetic Edda (Vafthruthnismol) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

In the attested myths everyone else dies, all of humanity, as a direct result of Ragnarok. Furthermore, there are lingering questions as to why he chose to eat a human heart in the Hyndluljoth and where it came from. There are also issues with this statement as in the Gesta Danorum, that Loki is responsible for the deaths of several people.

 

 

“His words and not his deeds got him punished.”

 

“Then said Gangleri: ‘Exceeding much Loki had brought to pass, when he had first been cause that Baldr was slain, and then that he was not redeemed out of Hel. Was any vengeance taken on him for this?’ Hárr answered: ‘This thing was repaid him in such wise that he shall remember it long…’”

 

His punishment and the nature of his punishment mimic his crimes. His tongue isn’t removed as you might expect for someone punished for their words, instead his crime was using trickery to have one of Odin’s children kill the other so Loki’s children are made to kill each other through magic. The punishment is a mirror of the crimes.

 

 

“If you don’t call the Loki you want, he’ll show up as the Loki you don’t want.”

 

That is not really the kind of god I want around, bidden or unbidden. Furthermore, the myths show through their use of traveling that the gods are not omnipresent, they have to travel quite often. The gods have to look for things and things can be misplaced and information has to be sought; this means the gods are not omniscient, they don’t know everything automatically. There are many things that the gods cannot do, this means that while they are powerful they are not omnipotent. If the gods are not omnipotent, not omniscient, and not omnipresent then you really do have to call to them in ritual in some form. If you do not call to them you should have every assumption that they will not be there. If indeed Loki does show up unbidden, the gods have a fair track record of being able to deal with him. They caught him and bound him to a rock for instance on that one occasion and Thor caught him in another occasion when he ran from the dwarf he wagered his head to.

 

 

“Odin demanded that Loki be given offerings too when Odin was offered to.”

 

For this one, let’s look at the source material.

 

Loki spake:

  1. “Remember, Othin, | in olden days

That we both our blood have mixed;

Then didst thou promise | no ale to pour,

Unless it were brought for us both.”

 

Othin spake:

  1. “Stand forth then, Vithar, | and let the wolf’s father

Find a seat at our feast;

Lest evil should Loki | speak aloud

Here within Ægir’s hall.”

 

Here we see that Odin does not remind the gods of it, it is instead a demand by Loki. Next we see that the oath applies to Odin, it is not an oath which really applies to people worshipping Odin. Then we also should remember that this was part of an oath of brotherhood, a brotherhood which Loki broke by murdering and confessing to the murder of the son of his blood-brother. Therefore, it should not be considered by us here as an obligation at all and it could even be detrimental to our relationship with Odin to pour out offerings to the murderer of his son.

 

“Chaos is part of change; you should embrace it.”

Change can exist perfectly fine without chaos. All time is change, but that doesn’t mean we should embrace chaos because change can occur within order just fine. Furthermore, if we’re talking about gods that are not omnipresent and not omniscient then it is probably best not to call attention to yourself of chaos.

 

“But what about…”

It boils down to this, Loki does these deeds to those closest to him, his avowed kinfolk. He repeatedly breaks frith and grith in the myths. He lies and breaks oaths. He murders. He doesn’t do these things to enemies, he does them to those close to him and that is far worse. If the bond of blood-brotherhood is not sacred to him, if the bounds of hospitality are not sacred to him, if oaths mean nothing to him, then he cannot be trusted to hold any bond.

 

* The featured image is from the Gosforth Cross.

A Reconstructionist’s Lore Guide to Loki

This post is intended on being a kind of shorthand guide for reconstructionist heathens to historical sources which mention Loki. These are the oldest sources that mention Loki and are compromised of the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and Gesta Danorum. Some attempt has been made here to give corroboration to certain events within the different sources.

 

Poetic Edda

Voluspo:

  1. I saw for Baldr, | the bleeding god,

The son of Othin, | his destiny set:

Famous and fair | in the lofty fields,

Full grown in strength | the mistletoe stood.

 

  1. From the branch which seemed | so slender and fair

Came a harmful shaft | that Hoth should hurl;

But the brother of Baldr | was born ere long,

And one night old | fought Othin’s son.

 

  1. His hands he washed not, | his hair he combed not,

Till he bore to the bale-blaze | Baldr’s foe.

But in Fensalir | did Frigg weep sore

For Valhall’s need: | would you know yet more?

 

  1. One did I see | in the wet woods bound,

A lover of ill, | and to Loki like;

By his side does Sigyn | sit, nor is glad

To see her mate: | would you know yet more?

 

In the Voluspa we see Loki bound and referenced directly after the recounting of Baldr’s death by mistletoe hurled by Hoth. We later get a retelling of Ragnarok in which Loki leads the forces of the dead against the gods. For brevity, I will include only the section which shows Loki.

 

  1. O’er the sea from the north | there sails a ship

With the people of Hel, | at the helm stands Loki;

After the wolf | do wild men follow,

And with them the brother | of Byleist goes.

 

The Poetic Edda (Voluspo) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

Hymiskvitha:

  1. Not long had they fared | ere one there lay

Of Hlorrithi’s goats | half-dead on the ground;

In his leg the pole-horse | there was lame;

The deed the evil | Loki had done.

 

This is the only reference to Loki in Hymiskvitha and is at odds with the more comprehensive story told in the Prose Edda. For one, the travelling companion of Thor in the Prose Edda is Loki and not Tyr as it is in this version. Also it was a human and not Loki who broke the goat in the Prose version. Yet it still remains that there is an evil deed apparently attributed in this book to Loki.

 

The Poetic Edda (Hymiskvitha) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

Lokasenna:

“Ægir had two serving-men, Fimafeng and Eldir. Glittering gold they had in place of firelight; the ale came in of itself; and great was the peace. The guests praised much the ability of Ægir’s serving-men. Loki might not endure that, and he slew Fimafeng.”

 

“Loki turned back, and outside he met Eldir. Loki spoke to him:

 

  1. “Speak now, Eldir, | for not one step

Farther shalt thou fare;

What ale-talk here | do they have within,

The sons of the glorious gods?””

 

Loki here kills Femafeng in Ægir’s halls out of jealousy and then returns to threaten the life of the remaining servant of Ægir, Eldir.

 

When he comes back, he lists this as his reason for returning (here in two translations):

 

“In shall I go | into Ægir’s hall,

For the feast I fain would see;

Bale and hatred | I bring to the gods,

And their mead with venom I mix.”

Lokasenna (3) trans. By Bellows

 

“In I shall, though, into Ægir’s hall –

fain would I see that feast;

brawls and bickering I bring the gods,

their ale I shall mix with evil.”

Lokasenna (3) trans. by Hollander

 

Later in the Lokasenna he freely admits to killing Baldr, giving corroboration to the event in both the Prose and Poetic Eddas.

 

Frigg spake:

“If a son like Baldr | were by me now,

Here within Ægir’s hall,

From the sons of the gods | thou shouldst go not forth

Till thy fierceness in fight were tried.” (27)

 

Loki spake:

“Thou wilt then, Frigg, | that further I tell

Of the ill that now I know;

Mine is the blame | that Baldr no more

Thou seest ride home to the hall.” (28)

Lokasenna (27-28) trans. By Bellows

 

“Mine is the blame” says Loki. He says this straight to the victim’s mother, not hours after killing Femafeng. So if you want reason for him being bound, it is not just in his words alone but in his deeds.

 

On his binding the Poetic and Prose Eddas disagree on which of his sons became the wolf and which was torn asunder; the names are reversed in each.

Within the Lokasenna though we see Loki in not just these cases but he takes on most all of the gods within this source. He accuses many of the male gods of being unmanly and accuses many of the goddesses of being unchaste or of having affairs. In essence he slut-shames the goddesses to silence them and calls the gods unmanly to shame them.

 

The Poetic Edda (Lokasenna) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

The Poetic Edda (Lokasenna) (Translated by Lee M. Hollander)

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Thrymskvitha

This story includes Loki and Thor and a brief synopsis would be Thor’s hammer goes missing and the gods send Loki to retrieve it. They both attend a wedding where Thor is in drag. There are many unanswered questions about this book of the Poetic Edda as it is unattested in any other source and does not overlap with other material. It is undoubtedly one of the most interesting stories though in the Poetic Edda. However a parallel to the missing hammer can be found in the Prose Edda when Loki makes sure Thor doesn’t have his hammer to face Geirrödr.

 

The Poetic Edda (Thrymskvitha) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

 

Baldrs Draumar
The witch that Odin seeks to raise from the dead to tell him why Baldr is having dreams of his doom clams up before she shares with him the manner in which Baldr would die except that it came from a branch and involved Hoth. When the witch figures out that it is Odin she refuses to go any farther and instead tells him:

 

  1. “Home ride, Othin, | be ever proud;

For no one of men | shall seek me more

Till Loki wanders | loose from his bonds,

And to the last strife | the destroyers come.”

This source provides corroboration for Loki’s involvement in Ragnarok.

 

The Poetic Edda (Baldrs Draumar) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

 

Hyndluljoth

  1. The wolf did Loki | with Angrbotha win,

And Sleipnir bore he | to Svathilfari;

The worst of marvels | seemed the one

That sprang from the brother | of Byleist then.

 

  1. A heart ate Loki,– | in the embers it lay,

And half-cooked found he | the woman’s heart;–

With child from the woman | Lopt soon was,

And thence among men | came the monsters all.

 

The Poetic Edda (Hyndluljoth) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

Svipdagsmol

Svipdag spake:

  1. “Now answer me, Fjolsvith, | the question I ask,

For now the truth would I know:

What weapon can send | Vithofnir to seek

The house of Hel below?”

 

Fjolsvith spake:

  1. “Lævatein is there, | that Lopt with runes

Once made by the doors of death;

In Lægjarn’s chest | by Sinmora lies it,

And nine locks fasten it firm.”

 

Loki here shows up as Lopt as he is elsewise referenced.

 

Fjolsvith spake:

  1. “Uni and Iri, | Bari and Jari,

Var and Vegdrasil,

Dori and Ori, | Delling, and there

Was Loki, the fear of the folk.”

 

Loki is referenced here as being the “fear of the folk”.

 

The Poetic Edda (Svipdagsmol) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

Reginsmol

Loki accidentally kills Otr and is made to go through a process to make amends for it through wergeld but ends up stealing the gold from a dwarf who curses the gold. That curse gets passed on to others with the finishing of the Wergeld. This is retold in the Prose Edda.

 

The Poetic Edda (Reginsmol) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

 

Prose Edda (Gylfaginning)

 

Is Loki Æsir (XXXIII & XXXIV)

XXXIII. “Also numbered among the Æsir is he whom some call the mischief-monger of the Æsir, and the first father of falsehoods, and blemish of all gods and men: he is named Loki or Loptr, son of Fárbauti the giant; his mother was Laufey or Nál; his brothers are Býleistr and Helblindi. Loki is beautiful and comely to look upon, evil in spirit., very fickle in habit. He surpassed other men in that wisdom which is called ‘sleight,’ and had artifices for all occasions; he would ever bring the Æsir into great hardships, and then get them out with crafty counsel. His wife was called Sigyn, their son Nari or Narfi.

 

XXXIV. Yet more children had Loki. Angrboda was the name of a certain giantess in Jötunheim, with whom Loki gat three children: one was Fenris-Wolf, the second Jörmungandr–that is the Midgard Serpent,–the third is Hel. But when the gods learned that this kindred was nourished in Jötunheim, and when the gods perceived by prophecy that from this kindred great misfortune should befall them; and since it seemed to all that there was great prospect of ill–(first from the mother’s blood, and yet worse from the father’s)-then Allfather sent gods thither to take the children and bring them to him. When they came to him, straightway he cast the serpent into the deep sea, where he lies about all the land; and this serpent grew so greatly that he lies in the midst of the ocean encompassing all the land, and bites upon his own tail. Hel he cast into Niflheim, and gave to her power over nine worlds, to apportion all abodes among those that were sent to her: that is, men dead of sickness or of old age. She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great. Her hall is called Sleet-Cold; her dish, Hunger; Famine is her knife; Idler, her thrall; Sloven, her maidservant; Pit of Stumbling, her threshold, by which one enters; Disease, her bed; Gleaming Bale, her bed-hangings. She is half blue-black and half flesh-color (by which she is easily recognized), and very lowering and fierce.

 

The Wolf the Æsir brought up at home, and Týr alone dared go to him to give him meat. But when the gods saw. how much he grew every day, and when all prophecies declared that he was fated to be their destruction, then the Æsir seized upon this way of escape: they made a very strong fetter… [Tyr and Fenris story] Then said Gangleri: ‘Marvellous ill children did Loki beget, but all these brethren are of great might. Yet why did not the Æsir kill the Wolf, seeing they had expectation of evil from him?” Hárr answered: “So greatly did the gods esteem their holy place and sanctuary, that they would not stain it with the Wolf’s blood; though (so say the prophecies) he shall be the slayer of Odin.”

 

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

The gods explain the origins of Sleipnir (XLII)

The gods were approached by a stonewright who struck a bargain that he could build the gods an impenetrable fortress in one seasons time for the hand of Freya and the Sun and the Moon, “he asked that they would give him leave to have the help of his stallion, which was called Svadilfari; and Loki advised it, so that the wright’s petition was granted.” They knew he was a giant and so Thor was away so that the truce could hold. It was also part of the bargain that “if any part of the citadel were left unfinished, he should lose his reward”. He was about to when the bargain though so “[t]he gods agreed that he must have counselled this who is wont to give evil advice, Loki Laufeyarson, and they declared him deserving of an ill death, if he could not hit upon a way of losing the wright his wages”. Loki transforms into a mare and distracts the giant’s horse long enough that he loses the bet. Loki comes back sometime later with Sleipnir.

 

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Thor and Loki with Utgard Loki (XLIV – XLVII)

Thor and Loki have a trip in which Loki has no role of mischief or really anything else to play. His main purpose in this trip is to face off against Logi, the incarnation of fire. The mischief in this piece is wrought by Utgard Loki who uses shapeshifting, magic, and cunning in order to make fools of Thor and Loki and Thor’s new human servant Thjálfi. It is interesting to note though that the Poetic Edda disagrees on aspects of this story and casts some doubt on that aspect of it; in the Poetic Edda it is listed that Loki and not Thjálfi broke the thighbone of Thor’s goat and lists Tyr as the traveling companion (in the Hymiskvitha).

 

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Baldr’s Death (XLIX)

Baldr began to have bad dreams foretelling his own death. The Æsir decided that the best way to protect Baldr would be to seek oaths from things that could harm him.  “And Frigg took oaths to this purport, that fire and water should spare Baldr, likewise iron and metal of all kinds, stones, earth, trees, sicknesses, beasts, birds, venom, serpents.” After that it became a kind of game to throw stuff at him at the Thing and watch it miss. Loki wanted to know more about this so he shapeshifted into an old woman and asked Frigg about how it was possible. “Then said Frigg: ‘Neither weapons nor trees may hurt Baldr: I have taken oaths of them all.’” To which Loki probed further asking “’Have all things taken oaths to spare Baldr?’ and Frigg answered: ‘There grows a tree-sprout alone westward of Valhall: it is called Mistletoe; I thought it too young to ask the oath of.’” Immediately after this,“Loki took Mistletoe and pulled it up and went to the Thing.”

Loki convinces Hödr to take part in the affair and guides his hand and provides a mistletoe weapon. “Hödr took Mistletoe and shot at Baldr, being guided by Loki: the shaft flew through Baldr, and he fell dead to the earth; and that was the greatest mischance that has ever befallen among gods and men.”All the Æsir “were of one mind as to him who had wrought the work, but none might take vengeance, so great a sanctuary was in that place.”

Hermódr is sent to Hel to see if Baldr could be sent back from Hel. Hel made the deal that “’If all things in the world, quick and dead, weep for him, then he shall go back to the Æsir; but he shall remain with Hel if any gainsay it or will not weep.’” Loki again takes the form of another being and then refuses to weep for Baldr, saying “Let Hel hold to that she hath”, which keeps him in Hel and prevents his return.

 

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Punishing Loki (L)

“Then said Gangleri: ‘Exceeding much Loki had brought to pass, when he had first been cause that Baldr was slain, and then that he was not redeemed out of Hel. Was any vengeance taken on him for this?’ Hárr answered: ‘This thing was repaid him in such wise that he shall remember it long…’” Loki ran and hid and eventually the Æsir caught up to him and he tried to shapeshift his way out of it but was caught. “Loki was taken truceless” and bound to a set of rocks. The bindings were made from the entrails of his son who was killed by his other son who the Æsir had turned into a wolf. Skadi took a venomous serpent and placed it over Loki’s head. He remains in bondage until Ragnarok.

 

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Loki in Ragnarok (LI)

“Loki and Hrymr shall come there also, and with him all the Rime-Giants. All the champions of Hel follow Loki” “Loki shall have battle with Heimdallr, and each be the slayer of the other.”

 

Here you have similar corroboration as is found in other references to Ragnarok.

 

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

 

Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal)

 

On the kidnapping of Iðunn (I and repeated in poetic from in XXII)
In this story, the eagle formed Thjazi strikes a bargain with the gods Odin, Hœnir, and Loki that he will be allowed to eat his fill of the ox they caught in bargain for allowing them to cook the remainder. “They assented to this.” Then Thjazi “forthwith at the very first took unto himself the two hams of the ox, and both shoulders. Then Loki was angered, snatched up a great pole, brandished it with all his strength, and drove it at the eagle’s body.” Odin and Hœnir did not break their oath with Thjazi, Loki broke his oath. Loki had first assented and then broke his oath to the giant for which the giant swooped him up and flew about until Loki “cried aloud, entreating the eagle urgently for peace”. Loki bargains with the giant and Thjazi asks that  Loki would give “him his oath to induce Idunn to come out of Ásgard with her apples. Loki assented”.  To do this Loki lies to her and convinces her to follow him, saying that he had found some really awesome apples. Iðunn is swooped up by Thjazi. Loki only agrees to save her because he is “threatened with death, or tortures”. Iðunn is saved and Thjazi killed. Loki later ties his genitals to a goat in order to make Skadi laugh as she was Thjazi’s daughter and had sought recompense for his death from the Æsir.

 

The Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Heimdallr’s Kennings (VIII)

Heimdallr is known as the “Foe of Loki” in his kennings and is listed as having “contended with Loki for the Necklace Brísinga-men”.

 

The Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Loki Kennings (XVI)

“How should one periphrase Loki? Thus: call him Son of Fárbauti and Laufey, or of Nil, Brother of Býleistr and of Helblindi, Father of the Monster of Ván (that is, Fenris-Wolf), and of the Vast Monster (that is, the Midgard Serpent), and of Hel, and Nari, and Áli; Kinsman and Uncle, Evil Companion and Bench-Mate of Odin and the Æsir, Visitor and Chest-Trapping of Geirrödr, Thief of the Giants, of the Goat, of Brísinga-men, and of Idunn’s Apples, Kinsman of Sleipnir, Husband of Sigyn, Foe of the Gods, Harmer of Sif’s Hair, Forger of Evil, the Sly God, Slanderer and Cheat of the Gods, Contriver of Baldr’s Death, the Bound God, Wrangling Foe of Heimdallr and of Skadi.”

 

The Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Thor is unarmed (XVIII)

“Thor went to Geirrödr’s dwelling. At that time he had not the hammer Mjöllnir with him, nor his Girdle of Might, nor the iron gauntlets: and that was the fault of Loki, who went with him.”

Loki went for a fly in the hawk feathered cloak of Frigg but was caught by Geirrödr. Loki “by way of ransom for his life he swore to Geirrödr with oaths that he would get Thor to come into Geirrödr’s dwelling in such a fashion that he should have neither hammer nor Girdle of Might with him.” Thor only succeeds against the giants because he is warned by “Grídr, mother of Vídarr” who also lent to Thor her staff, iron gauntlets, and girdle of might since he was without his own because of Loki.

 

The Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Loki is listed as attending Ægir’s party (XXXIII)

Loki is listed as attending Ægir’s party, a party which Thor was absent from. (This detail perfectly matches it to the Lokasenna)
The Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Sif’s Hair (XXXV)
Thor “seized Loki, and would have broken every bone in him, had he not sworn to get the Black Elves to make Sif hair of gold, such that it would grow like other hair”.

Loki convinces the dwarves to make several treasures but after this Loki bargained his head to the dwarves Brokkr and Sindri that they could not make something equally as nice as what was already made. He tries to distract the dwarves through the making in shapeshifted form. Loki returns with golden hair and other treasures. He loses the bet with the dwarves but refuses to honor the terms as he first runs and then when Thor catches him and “Loki said that he might have the head, but not the neck.” So the Dwarf sews his mouth up instead.

 

The Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

A retelling of Otter’s Wergeld (XXXIX)
The story is consistent with the other telling.

 

 

Gesta Danorum “The Danish History” (Book Eight)

King Gorm was in trouble, storms and bad weather had him trapped, he “fell to making vows to heaven, thinking the gods alone could help him in his extreme need.” The people offered to many gods; “but the king, offering both vows and peace-offerings to Utgarda-Loki, obtained that fair season of weather for which he prayed.” He went home and enjoyed peace and prosperity for a long time; “but when he had almost come to the end of his days, certain men persuaded him by likely arguments that souls were immortal; so that he was constantly turning over in his mind the questions, to what abode he was to fare when the breath left his limbs, or what reward was earned by zealous adoration of the gods.” In essence, King Gorm wanted to know where it was that he would be going to once he died. The king was told to send Thorkill to figure this all out and to send him to Utgarda-Loki to appease him. Thorkill demanded that those who volunteered him for this mission would go with him and the king agreed despite their reluctance and put them “under the command of Thorkill, and even upbraided them with cowardice.” They set out with an oxhide reinforced ship and an “abundant store of provision.”

“In this ship they sailed away, and came to a sunless land, which knew not the stars, was void of daylight, and seemed to overshadow them with eternal night.” They sailed on into the dark land until their wood and fuel ran out and they were left eating raw food. They were growing sick from starvation and uncooked food when finally they saw fire in the distance.

Thorkill marked his boat with a jewel to reflect the light and set off to find the source of the fire. Inside a snake-infested rotting hovel were “two men, swart and very huge, with horny noses” keeping their fire alive in any way possible. When the giants spoke to Thorkill he described his “desire to visit a strange god” and they inclined to help Thorkill if he spoke truthfully to them. Thorkill insulted them by saying “’In good truth, I do not remember ever to have seen a household with more uncomely noses; nor have I ever come to a spot where I had less mind to live.’” The giants deemed it true and they told him where to find Utgarda-Loki “who had chosen hideous and grisly caves for his filthy dwelling.” He bargains more wisdom for fire and returns to his men.

They sail on and eventually see a huge rock and go exploring. They held the light and squeezed into the wet, snake infested caverns. And then “they saw Utgarda-Loki, laden hand and foot with enormous chains. Each of his reeking hairs was as large and stiff as a spear of cornel. Thorkill (his companions lending a hand), in order that his deeds might gain more credit, plucked one of these from the chin of Utgarda-Loki, who suffered it. Straightway such a noisome smell reached the bystanders, that they could not breathe without stopping their noses with their mantles. They could scarcely make their way out, and were bespattered by the snakes which darted at them on every side.” Only five of Thorkill’s men didn’t die from the poison. Venom and poison dripped onto Thorkill’s men “But the sailors sheltered themselves with their hides, and cast back the venom that fell upon them.” Thorkill offered to the highest god he knew and after that was able to sail away. Thorkill returned to “his country accompanied by two men only, who had escaped the worst.”

“The king desired to learn everything from Thorkill’s own lips; and, thinking it hard to escape destiny, bade him relate what had happened in due order. He listened eagerly to his recital of everything, till at last, when his own god was named, he could not endure him to be unfavourably judged. For he could not bear to hear Utgarda-Loki reproached with filthiness, and so resented his shameful misfortunes, that his very life could not brook such words, and he yielded it up in the midst of Thorkill’s narrative. Thus, whilst he was so zealous in the worship of a false god, he came to find where the true prison of sorrows really was. Moreover, the reek of the hair, which Thorkill plucked from the locks of the giant to testify to the greatness of his own deeds, was exhaled upon the bystanders, so that many perished of it.”

 

Utgarda-Loki being bound in this way along with his name makes it too similar to Loki to ignore. Furthermore, the source shows unpleasant undertones and implications about gods controlling where one ends up for an afterlife when one is bound to a god by oaths as King Gorm is.

 

Gesta Danorum “The Danish History” (Book Eight) by Saxo Grammaticus (Translated by Oliver Elton)

*The featured image is the Kirkby Stephen Stone which likely depicts Satan but local folklore says it is an image of Loki.

Loki, a Redesman, and “Weak Lore”

John T. Mainer, member of the Troth Rede, recently made a very public post bearing the title “Loki, Discord, and Weak Lore”. In this Mainer alleges the use of weak lore or the weak use of lore by others and makes what is intended to be a lore-based argument for Loki. He also alleges that many are “cherry picking” the lore. Yet throughout his piece there are numerous lore errors, absences, and misinterpretations, as well as several instances where statements are given with no basis in the lore whatsoever but are passed off as fact. In my opinion, it is not befitting of an officer of the Troth’s Rede to make these kinds of lore errors, much less with the Troth seeming to endorse them with the Troth logo on his page as well as featuring the article on their public page as the “POV [point of view] of a Redesman” thereby seeming to give it official weight and standing as the Troth view.

 

What follows are lore corrections to his piece.

On Hercules: “In a fit of rage he killed his first wife, and was forced to do his twelve labours as atonement.”
Hercules is regarded to have been inflicted with madness (mental illness), not rage, by Hera. He kills his family in this state and when he has recovered he is so overcome with grief and sadness that on his own volition he seeks a way to atone at the Delphic Oracle. He is told that in order to atone he should put himself in service to king Eurystheus who then assigns to Hercules the twelve labors, originally ten but with two added.

 

On the kidnapping of Iðunn:
In this story, the eagle formed Thjazi strikes a bargain with the gods Odin, Hœnir, and Loki that he will be allowed to eat his fill of the ox they caught in bargain for allowing them to cook the remainder. “They assented to this.” Then Thjazi “forthwith at the very first took unto himself the two hams of the ox, and both shoulders. Then Loki was angered, snatched up a great pole, brandished it with all his strength, and drove it at the eagle’s body.” Odin and Hœnir did not break their oath with Thjazi, Loki did. Loki assented and then broke his oath to the giant for which the giant swooped him up and flew about until Loki “cried aloud, entreating the eagle urgently for peace”. Loki bargains with the giant and Thjazi asks that  Loki would give “him his oath to induce Idunn to come out of Ásgard with her apples. Loki assented”.  To do this Loki lies to her and convinces her to follow him, saying that he had found some really awesome apples. Iðunn is swooped up by Thjazi. Loki only agrees to save her because he is “threatened with death, or tortures”.

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

On Sif:
Yes the story is that he steals her hair and returns with treasures, but it doesn’t say why he stole her hair and violated her in that way, merely that it was bad enough that Thor “seized Loki, and would have broken every bone in him, had he not sworn to get the Black Elves to make Sif hair of gold, such that it would grow like other hair”. And so Loki returns with golden hair and other treasures. But there is one issue, a nagging problem in the Lokasenna when Loki chastises Sif for being unchaste.

Loki says:

“Alone thou wert | if truly thou wouldst

All men so shyly shun;

But one do I know | full well, methinks,

Who had thee from Hlorrithi’s arms”

Lokasenna (54)

The issue here is that Hlorrithi is a byname of Thor and Loki is here slutshaming Sif for having another man besides Thor. Yet this could also reference darker deeds if it is related to the event with the hair. I’ll be the first to say that this aspect is theory as it is not spelled out in the lore.

The Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)
The Poetic Edda (Lokasenna) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

The Lokasenna:
You say “His behaviour is poor guesting, rude and boorish beyond doubt” and this is true, but you neglected to mention that by poor guesting you must mean commits murder under the hospitality of another. “Ægir had two serving-men, Fimafeng and Eldir. Glittering gold they had in place of firelight; the ale came in of itself; and great was the peace. The guests praised much the ability of Ægir’s serving-men. Loki might not endure that, and he slew Fimafeng.” Yes, you read that right, Loki kills someone else in this story too. Then he comes back only to vow to give his reason for coming back as:

“In shall I go | into Ægir’s hall,

For the feast I fain would see;

Bale and hatred | I bring to the gods,

And their mead with venom I mix.”

Lokasenna (3) trans. By Bellows

 

“In I shall, though, into Ægir’s hall –

fain would I see that feast;

brawls and bickering I bring the gods,

their ale I shall mix with evil.”

Lokasenna (3) trans. by Hollander

 

Later in the Lokasenna he freely admits to killing Baldr, giving corroboration to the event in both the Prose and Poetic Eddas.

 

Frigg spake:

“If a son like Baldr | were by me now,

Here within Ægir’s hall,

From the sons of the gods | thou shouldst go not forth

Till thy fierceness in fight were tried.” (27)

 

Loki spake:

“Thou wilt then, Frigg, | that further I tell

Of the ill that now I know;

Mine is the blame | that Baldr no more

Thou seest ride home to the hall.” (28)

Lokasenna (27-28) trans. By Bellows

“Mine is the blame” says Loki. He says this straight to the victim’s mother, not hours after killing Femafeng. So if you want reason for him being bound, it is not just in his words alone but in his deeds.

 

Oh his binding the Poetic and Prose Eddas disagree on which of his sons became the wolf and which was torn asunder; the names are reversed in each.

The Poetic Edda (Lokasenna) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

The Poetic Edda (Lokasenna) (Translated by Lee M. Hollander)

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

On Rindr:
The account you reference is not found in the Poetic Edda, nor in the Prose Edda, Rindr is not raped in either of these accounts. Instead the account where Odin supposedly rapes Rindr is found in Saxo Grammticus’ Gesta Danorum where throughout the piece the gods do not really appear as gods as we know them but as warring kings of ancient time misconstrued as gods. In the tale Odin is Woden and Rindr is apparently Rhlda, but the child born is not Vali but Boe and he slays Hother not immediately but years later after long fought wars. In this way it is very difficult to say that Odin raped Rindr as what we have is Saxo’s work and in there the gods live in Byzantium which is fairly telling that it was not a piece which is suitable to be used without corroboration. In the Prose Edda, Rindr is mentioned only as Vali’s mother and that in one unexplained line “Odin wrought charms on Rindr” which in the old Norse was “Seið Yggr til Rindar” and with Seið as the form of magic in this case there is no other context to say what that may mean. In the Poetic Edda it says “Rind bears Vali | in Vestrsalir” and that is really the whole of her appearance.

Gesta Danorum (Book III) by Saxo Grammticus (Translated by Oliver Elton)

The Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmal) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

The Poetic Edda (Baldrs Draumar) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

Regarding Svaðilfari:
Nowhere in the attested lore is the horse, Svaðilfari, supposed to be a dragon. The story is relayed in the Prose Edda in Gylfaginning.

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Regarding Jörmungandr:

Nowhere in the lore, in either Edda, is it stated that Jörmungandr was the serpent bound above Loki, merely a serpent. The story is relayed in the Prose Edda in Gylfaginning and the Poetic Edda in the Lokasenna.

The Poetic Edda (Lokasenna) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

 

Other Points:

“Loki’s crimes are largely not his deeds, but his methods.”

I would contend otherwise, it is also not merely his deeds but who ends up being the target of his misdeeds that is important. How Loki gets things done is of little concern to me, but what he does and who he does it to is very much important.

“Lets be really clear about this, Loki is bound for his insults, not for the role that later lore ascribes to him as Baldur’s doom”
This is incorrect, first it is not just in later sources that Baldr’s death is assigned to him as he brags about it within the Lokasenna to Frigg before all the gods as has already been referenced. Second, the reason for his binding is then given in the Prose Edda: “Then said Gangleri: ‘Exceeding much Loki had brought to pass, when he had first been cause that Baldr was slain, and then that he was not redeemed out of Hel. Was any vengeance taken on him for this?’ Hárr answered: ‘This thing was repaid him in such wise that he shall remember it long.’” The key here being that Loki is bound specifically for the death of Baldr and the prevention of him being resurrected. Along with his bragging about it in the Lokasenna and both the Prose and Poetic Eddas describing his means of capture and binding, the stories provide each other corroboration. The end result is that his being bound is a direct result of Baldr’s death.

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) of Snorri Sturlson (Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur)

The Poetic Edda (Lokasenna) (Translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

 

Mainer’s piece may be found here: https://mainer74.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/loki-discord-and-weak-lore/

Do the gods need us?

Do the gods need us?

I have heard many opinions on this question, most fall to either extreme. There are many people who believe that the gods require sacrifice and worship, that it sustains them in some way. There are also many people who believe the opposite, that they do not need us at all. But what I would like to argue for is something in-between – our worship enriches the gods and affords to them the ability to act as gods on our behalf and on behalf of others.

When we sacrifice, we are passing some of our mægen (ON: magn, megin, megn), essentially our strength and power. That mægen goes to the gods in the form of whatever we sacrifice, be it votive or physical. We lose some of our might and strength by giving it up, and that strength passes to the gods. The thought then being that the gods share again with us in a reciprocal relationship of gifting. This shows that sacrifice is actually important, the gods do receive something from sacrifice. Yet I would argue that the continued existence of the gods despite humanity taking a great hiatus from their worship shows that they do not strictly need to receive sacrifice and prayer like some form of sustenance. Instead, I would argue that the gods are enriched by sacrifice and prayer.

Is a god not unlike a king? We treat them, or I hope we treat them with deference and respect as one would a king. But a king does not, strictly speaking, need to have subjects. A king could survive without subjects just fine as they are not necessary for life. Having subjects who pay taxes and tithe to the king however enriches the king and makes the king’s life far easier. The king in return provides his subjects with protection. Having subjects means that the king can act as a king; because is a king truly a king without subjects? Or are they merely a man making their own way in the world at that point? Without the taxes and tithes, could the king afford to protect the people?

I believe that gods are much the same. We sacrifice to the gods and gift to them and enrich them. In return, they guide and guard us as we go about our lives and they bless us in many capacities. It is my belief that they bless us in ways we cannot always see or know because their sight and vision is more far reaching. But I also do not believe they can do everything or protect from everything. In that way they are much like a king, doing what they can when they can, given the resources on hand. Gods do not, strictly speaking, need to have worshipers, but worshipers enrich the gods. Having worshipers means the god can act as a god; because is a god truly a god without worshipers? Or are they merely one of the many great entities inhabiting the spiritual world at that point? So instead, just as the king is a king because he acts as a king on behalf of his subjects, is not a god a god because they act as a god on behalf of their worshipers?

But this means that our sacrifices have meaning and importance; not to the survival or existence of our deities as they continued to exist perfectly fine without our recognition, but instead to enrich them and allow them the strength to act as a god to us and to others. Our mægen, our strength, becomes their mægen which they can then pass to us and to others as they see the needs arise. This is of course a topic with no definite answer, but perhaps this thought will be one which could add to the discourse on the subjects of why we sacrifice and whether or not the gods need us.

Eosturmonaþ

(For this ritual you will need grain and dirt from your home.)

 

Giddy are the hares in the field

Joyful songs are heard from birds in the trees

The land quickens,

Eostre has returned to us!

 

Hail to thee, Frumleoht, first light

Hail to thee, Blostmbærende, blossom bearer

Hail to thee, Beomoder, mother of bees

Hail to thee, radiant daughter of the Earth and Sky

Hail to thee, Eostre!

 

Hail to your sister, Sunne

She is glad for your return

And rides longer for your company

 

Hail to your mother, Eorþe

She is glad for your return

And ends her mourning

 

Hail to thee, Eostre

We rejoice for you have returned to us

And brought renewal and joy.

 

 

Eastwards I stand,

For blessings I pray,

I pray the Sky father, Tiw

I pray the Earth mother, Eorþe

I pray the joyous daughter, Eostre

That I may open this charm

Through teeth and voice

and through firm thought,

To fill this land with blessings,

To call forth, to wake these plants

For our worldly use,

And to beautify this green earth.

 

 

Erce, Erce, Erce,

Eorþan modor,

May you bless us here,

Our acres, lands, and fields

To growing and flourishing,

Propagating and strengthening.

Let shoots and shafts grow tall

Let roots grow deep

Both the rural crops

And the broad;

All in bright hues of green.

A bountiful harvest

For all earth’s crops.

May you grant to us,

The gift of growing,

That for us each grain might come to use.

May you grant us,

That this land be guarded;

Fortified against any and all fiends and foes,

And that it be safe against any harm at all,

From baleful blastings every one

Which may be sown around this land.

I bid that there be neither ill will,

Nor sharp tongue,

Nor galdor,

Nor cunning woman,

Nor crafty man,

That can overturn these words thus spoken.

 

(Over Dirt)

Hail to thee, Eorþe,

mother of men!

Be growing and fertile

Prosperous in Tiw’s embrace,

And bless this land for the needs of men.

 

Hail to thee, Tiw,

Over others you keep watch,

May your judgement be just,

And may words prevail over weapons.

 

Hail to thee, Eostre,

Bright-blooming,

May your stay with us this year be long and joyful.

 

(Over the grain in the bag:)

Land filled with fodder,

Mankind to feed

Brightly blooming

Let the earth take your gifts

And give you double in return

 

(Have given some grain to everyone in attendance before. On their turn let them “sow” their small amount of grain, let it fall to the ground on the earth as an offering.)

(As they drop the grain:)

Let the earth take your gifts

(As you give them a goodly handful of grain:)

And give you double in return

 

(with filled Horn)

Take this horn of mead and think on the green and growing earth, speak or give any offerings to the gods that you will.

 

(with filled Bowl)

Blessed become thou

Blessed become your land

May the gods and wights

grant to us their growing grace

That to us corn of each kind

May come to good

 

(Libation)

To Eostre, to Tiw, to Eorþe I give to you this Tiber.

From the gods, to the earth, to us

From us, to the earth, to the gods

A gift has been given.

 

The gods depart friends, blot is ended

Go forth with blessings strong and bright

Merriment awaits beyond the borders of this blessed weoh,

So drink, and feast, and laugh into the night

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