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.

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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/

Propitiation

Propitiation is a concept in paganism that does not receive the discussion it deserves. You see we do a fairly alright job of describing the gifting cycle and those concepts regarding offering. We know that as we gift a friendly god we build a relationship of reciprocal gifting with them that increases over time. But we fall short when describing offering to chaotic forces.

While I have taken issue with the concept that the gods universally represent order, they do on a whole represent order a majority of the time. That is not to say they are not on occasion fickle; they do have their destructive or chaotic moments. That said, there are forces which are much the inverse of the gods in that where the gods represent order, those other forces represent chaos. In terms of sheer power the chaotic forces are often on par with the gods. But whether you call these things Ettins or baneful wights the end result is the same, these beings are chaotic and can cause destruction and devastation and unrest and suffering. Are they gods? I would argue that the only thing truly separating them in might and being from the gods is their attitudes and bearing towards men. But hesitate to call them gods in the same respect. Yet It Is here that the difference between propitiation and the gifting cycle comes into play.

Propitiation implies appeasement. It implies that it is to lessen the negatives of something. Chaotic forces can be offered propitiation to appease them and keep them from killing you today or tomorrow or from wrecking your day. I have seen rituals where people offered propitiation beforehand so that outside forces would not impede the ritual. But that doesn’t make them benevolent, it means you can pay them off. They will drop you like a hot rock the second they see fit. It isn’t the gifting cycle. The gifting cycle builds a relationship. You cannot build a relationship with chaos.

The wild places. The rivers. The untamed places. The mountains. The Glaciers. The thorny places. The Ettins. Chaotic deities. They’re all like the gods in their might but not all deities are benevolent and not all are kind and not all have equal disposition towards humans and not all enter gifting cycles that benefit humans.

The wilds will send forth beasts. The rivers will flood or even on the best of times dash your head on the rocks. The untamed places will make you lose your way. The mountains will drop rocks onto you or make you lose your footing. The Glaciers will send forth icebergs and sink your boat. The Ettins and chaotic deities will devour you and your sacrifices with equal glee.

If we work with the forces of chaos we should understand this, it is practicing propitiation. All those sacrifices do not build a truly lasting relationship as relationships are a function of order. It’s not a gifting cycle, its paying the chaotic forces off. It’s like the Danegeld, don’t be surprised if the chaotic forces decide to turn on you eventually; they are chaotic after all. Your offerings of propitiation are great until they aren’t and then the amount you gave before or the time and energy spent on it before don’t matter.

Yule – Tis the Season

Yule falls this year on December 21st. The evening of the 20th would technically begin Yule as time was reckoned differently on the evenings and not on the mornings as can be seen on holdovers like “Christmas eve”. Yule proper would then encompass the entire night before and day of the 21st. While this is the official beginning to the celebration, it could last as long as you can manage (12 days according to the laws of Alfred and 3 days according to the Saga of Hákon the Good). There are no real hard rules on this but you can celebrate as little or as much as you care to. (In my house we’ll be celebrating the nine nights before and three nights after to more or less accommodate both.)

As for hard evidence about the ancient traeditions of Yule? We have very little primary source material. We know that Yule fell on the Winter Solstice (Thank you Venerable Bede for your Reckoning of Time) and that it was a multi-day affair. Yet the verdict is out as to if the celebrations should have been before or after as Alfred doesn’t give that direction and Hakon has his days off such that it makes it difficult to reckon properly. Generally we know just enough to know it was a very important holiday.

So are we left out in the cold with no information then? No, not at all. The Christians did a very good job of preserving our holidays and celebrations. They passed these traditions down, stripped of their religious significance to the modern times. Those folk traditions are many and varied. I’ll touch on a few.

What about Santa? Well we all know he’s definitely a heathen holdover, but who is he? Which god is most involved in Yule? Most will tell you that the answer to that is obviously Woden but in reality it is not so cut and dried. Different Yule customs point to the possibility of Woden, Thunor, or Ing being involved in the Yule season.

The case for Woden:

The eight legged horse and the eight reindeer… the stockings and the old custom of leaving boots outside with hay… the black helpers (Sinterklaas version) and Hyge and Myne (Hugin and Munin)… the evidence piles up. The beardy guy who transverses the world through magical means is in all likelihood a holdover from beliefs about Woden. They just modernly neglect to remember the reason why he’s flying around, the Wild Hunt; which completely legitimizes the fear all those children have of the man in the red suit.

The case for Thunor:

The Yule goat is a thing. A pretty ancient thing that remains popular even today in certain places. Yet its pagan origins likely link back to the god riding the goat-chariot, Thunor. The Yule goat brings presents or demands presents depending on the tradition. This even shows up in the Slavic heathen version of Yule, Koliada. Chances are that most demonized portrayals of goat things during this season are also related somehow.

The case for Ing:

That holiday ham you’re so fond of? It has its roots in pagan rituals because of the Sonargöltr which was basically a boar upon whose bristles Yule oaths were sworn. The boar in this case links back directly to Ing.

So which of these guys had a role in Yule? All of them, depending on local beliefs. Heathenry is regional and not at all standardized in this regard. That means it’s up to you which one you use in your celebrations.

Even something as Christian as Advent. How Christian is it? Jesus was not even born near the 25th. Also Advent picked up a lot of local practices and is not something that goes back to Christianity’s origins. The oldest Christian tradition was to fast, and this was the local Roman response, but as Advent spead outward it picked up strange other traditions like some involving burning bales of straw in the fields or toting around effigies and panhandling. These certainly were not Christian practices, so why do they do it? There’s no real telling for certain but it was probably pagan practices that were morphed into a form tolerable under Christianity.

This is not uncommon. Think of it like this – if the Christians weren’t doing it before they moved into an area and suddenly start doing something then it’s probably a pagan practice. This means that the entire Christmas season with the exception of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and all that jazz is lifted from paganism. Santa, the tree, the Yule log, the Christmas ham, and all the rest of it – those are pagan.

In all honesty, Yule is so intermingled with the western idea of Christmas that if you celebrate Yule it will seem very familiar to anyone you might invite over. Yule was appropriated by Christianity ages ago and they do a good job of celebrating it in pretty pagan ways.

One thing of note worth elaborating on though: the night of the 20th is Mother’s Night (Modraniht). This night is sacred and should be devoted to the honoring of your female ancestors and motherly goddesses. This was the night before the day of Yule, in this case the evening of Yule before the proper day of Yule. Take the time to honor your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother (collectively, your Modru) as well as known and unknown female Ides (Disir) from ages past. Devote time to be spent in reflection and prayer that night toward your female ancestors and to the goddesses. Maybe even take the opportunity to do some fibercrafts as the Wyrde (Norns) would be of great importance in the night’s feeling. It is a subdued night, not boisterous like Yule, but instead reverent and contemplative.

So, what can we do to celebrate Yule?

– leading up to Yule, the night before you could celebrate Modraniht (Mother’s night)

– give small presents on each of the days you celebrate Yule (12? 3? You choose)

– drink mulled cider, mulled wine, or mead

– find an apple tree and actually go wassailing

– throw a party for your friends on the 21st and introduce them to Yule

– offer in a ritual

– have a bonfire shaped like a goat if you care to, or just a bonfire, or burn hay in the field to get rid of evil wights that destroy harvest

– have a Yule log or a tree for inside

– enjoy your friends and family

– some folks do sunwait, it’s like advent candles but pagan.

– sing, be merry, eat, offer, pray, fill your day and night with joy

– If you have kids and were considering stockings you could leave boots filled with hay outside for Woden to feed his steed and fill them up afterwards with doodads. (This is an old equivalent to stockings but more pagan feeling, although there’s no proof it’s actually any more pagan.)

– It’s also a wonderful time for story telling about the gods and goddesses.