I’ve found that the best way to comprehend Loki is to view him as the catalyst for change. He creates major upsets in people’s lives, leading them down new paths. And since few people adapt well to change, Loki’s reputation suffers. But every change that happens in someone’s life is for the better. Every change. No matter how negative or horrible it seems at first, all changes are beneficial ones. It’s learning to see the beneficial side of change that is hard for a large majority of people.
As for me, change is less something to be feared and more something to be sought. Perhaps it’s because I have an incredible amount of fire in my astrological chart (yes, I do believe in astrology), and fire is a catalyst for change in itself. And that may be why Loki is so often associated with fire, despite there being no “lore” to support the idea.
But think about fire – fire is comforting and terrifying, depending on the situation. On a cold winter’s night, curling up next to the fire to get warm is beneficial. Fire provides us with the means to stay alive during the hard frosts. But in a dry season, when a brush fire escalates quickly into a wildfire, fire is terrifying. In that situation, fire destroys life. So fire is both a creative force and destructive force, and it is one of the most intense elements (out of earth, air, fire, and water) that we face.
Earth, air, and water – all of these can be terrifyingly destructive as well, but we don’t immediately associate destruction with any of them. Most of us immediately view earth as nurturing and life-giving, and we often forget that mudslides, earthquakes, and cave-ins can cause an incredible amount of destruction. Air we view as life-giving – after all, we need oxygen to live. So we don’t immediately rush to think of the tornadoes or hurricanes that use air for incredible destruction. And then water, of course, we view as life-giving before destructive, because, like air, we can’t live without water. But floods, typhoons, and tsunamis are some of the most destructive storms we can face.
Yet it is fire that we always turn to as destructive first and beneficial second. Because fire is vibrantly alive with the force of life – the red-orange of the flame both bewitches us and terrifies us, so we often forget that it is fire that is the source of passion. When we say we have a flame inside us, or a spark of divinity, or anything else referring to light, we are talking about fire. But fire still terrifies us – after all, the sun is the biggest fire we face.
How often have we been warned about sunspots and solar flares and terrified into thinking that the sun is close to burning out? The sun, though we don’t think about it as much as the ancients did, is the center of our world. We need the light of the sun to live because without the light of the sun, nothing can grow. And if nothing can grow, then nothing can produce the air we need to breathe – to stay alive. There is a reason that sun gods were the central gods of most ancient faiths – the people then knew how vital the sun was to their existence. Today, we have all but forgotten this truth.
Fire, however, is often more constructive than it is destructive. Even if we don’t think of that being true immediately, it’s easy to see the creative force of fire when we examine it more closely. The most obvious example is that the sun generates the heat needed to warm the ground to a point that life becomes possible. Fire is an initiative element – it gets things started. But it becomes a catalyst as soon as the earth takes over because the earth does all the hard work of actually growing the plants – the earth pulls the heat of the fire into the ground and spreads it around so that plants can grow. And fire is a destroyer – when the sun stops providing the heat necessary for growth during the winter months, the earth cannot conduct the heat into the plants anymore, and so they wither.
To understand why fire is a catalyst, rather than a cause, you have to understand what catalyst means. In science, a catalyst is a substance that causes change without undergoing change itself. When it comes to life, a catalyst is a person or event that precedes a larger event – a herald, if you want to look at things in that light. And I’ve learned that catalysts always exist – you always have warnings ahead of time, if you know what to look for.
Here’s an example: About a week ago, I stopped at a gas station to get gas, and a woman approached me and told me that my back driver’s side tire looked low on air. It was a very odd thing for her to do, and when I examined my tires, there was no problem with the air in them. However, I kept the occurrence in my mind (I tend to keep such things in my mind, as I have learned they tend to be indicators of future events), and a couple of days ago, as I was coming home, I felt the tread on my car slip a little. I had my dad check my tires – sure enough, the back tire on the driver’s side was low – it had an astounding 10 lbs of pressure left in it.
In combination with that, I had an online friend who continuously insisted that I needed to stay away from orange shirts. I thought that was rather arbitrary, but her insistence on it was weird. Granted, I chose to ignore this advice, and, ironically enough, the day I felt my tire slip like that I was wearing an orange shirt. Coincidence is rarely ever coincidence, and if we listen to the world around us, we can see the patterns of events approaching us. We just have to be willing to open our minds.
Now, what does all of this have to do with Loki? Well, in a word, everything. Loki is change. Loki is fire. Loki is a catalyst. Of all the Gods, he is, perhaps, the most predictable – in that he will always act in an unpredictable way. Change is bound by the law of change. So getting upset with Loki when change happens in your life is the wrong way to approach change. Because Loki is also the God who is perhaps the most benevolent. He doesn’t go out of his way to cause disaster – it’s a natural consequence of who he is.
A lot of people like to point out that Loki is the one who caused Baldr’s death, but it is in that story that we see his catalytic nature most clearly. Loki does not kill Baldr. He does not make Hod throw the mistletoe at Baldr. Hod is the one who says he wishes he had something to throw at Baldr. Loki simply provides him with the tools to do what Hod has expressed a desire to do. Loki initiates Hod’s actions – he works as the catalyst. But Hod is the one who throws the mistletoe. Yes, Loki guides Hod’s throw – Hod is blind. But Loki does not force the throw.
There is a world of difference between forcing and guiding someone’s actions – Loki did the latter, not the first, so the responsibility for Baldr’s death should be laid squarely on Hod. Yes, Loki went out and found the mistletoe. He provided the artillery. But saying that the person who provides the weapon is the person who shoots the weapon is equivalent to blaming the man who sells a shotgun to an 18-year old who takes the gun home and kills his father for the death of the 18-year old’s father. A catalyst is not a cause.
And that is why Loki is so misunderstood, because he is a catalyst – and catalysts often bear the brunt of the blame. The shotgun seller I mentioned may not deserve the blame for the death of the kid’s father, but there are plenty of people in this world who will lay the blame squarely at his feet, whether doing so is reasonable or not. And that is why Loki is often considered the scapegoat of the gods.
Some Lokeans play this up far too much, however, and turn Loki into a pathetic, sniveling, whining figure, and that is beyond disrespectful. Loki is powerful, cunning, clever, honest (seriously, try to find one instance in a story where he ACTUALLY lies), adaptable, and funny. He is always aware of his purpose – the catalyst – and he embraces his identity without fear. He takes the path of least resistance because that is how change works. Whatever can change will change – and little changes occur more rapidly than large changes, unless a large change is easier to initialize.
When people get over their fear of change, they will get over their fear of Loki. And that is a hard sell for most people, because it is a rare individual who can handle the chaotic whirlwind of change that happens when Loki is around. For me, I love change. Maybe, like I said, it’s because I have so much fire in my chart (7 fire, 4 water, 2 earth, 1 air) that I can handle the whirlwind that Loki is, or maybe it’s because I have ADHD (which means I cannot tolerate boredom). Either way, Loki is a huge part of my life, and I have never experienced any change that has not ended up being a change for the better, in the end.