Tag Archives: lore

30-Day Devotional for Loki: Day Four

Question: What is your favorite myth/s concerning Loki?

Honestly, this is an incredibly difficult question to answer because there are no myths where Loki features that I do not enjoy. I love reading the myths and trying to imagine myself in his shoes, trying to discern the why of the actions he takes – as far as I am able to do so, of course!

I’ve talked before about how one of my all-time favorite myths is the kidnapping of Idun because it really shows how Loki turns even the worst situations to his advantage. After a forced oath to kidnap Idun, he is also tasked to retrieve her. Once he does so, he manages to force Thiazi to fly near the walls of Asgard where he falls to the ground and is forced to deal with Thor, who kills the giant.

I particularly enjoy the ending of this myth because there are elements in it that suggest the plan was one that the gods had already worked out – Thor is lying in wait, ready for Loki to appear with Idun. Gronbech argues in Culture of the Teutons that this particular myth is really an elaborate demonstration of ritual sacrifice and how it re-empowers the gods.

Kidnapped, Idun loses the ability to provide the gods with the sustenance they need, and their prowess diminishes. Once Loki retrieves her and forces Thiazi to contend with Thor, who kills him – thus creating a ritual sacrifice – Idun is then safely back beyond the walls of Asgard and the vitality of the gods is restored.

This actually demonstrates how vital a part Loki plays in the world of the gods. Sure, he is the one that originally kidnaps Idun – because he is forced to by the oath Thiazi made him swear, and his honor will not allow him to break his word – but he is also the only god that can rescue Idun and restore the natural order.

There are also hints here of a seasonal myth – Idun’s kidnapping may represent a seasonal transition from summer to winter and then back to summer with her return – and that indicates that Loki himself may have something to do with the changing seasons. He ushers out the old and brings in the new. He drives away summer to bring winter to bear, and then he takes away the winter by catalyzing the return of the summer.

The depth of this myth is the reason it continues to remain one of my all-time favorites, although the myth of Baldr’s death is a close second. The complexity of the myths engages and fascinates me, and it is difficult to choose a favorite among the numerous ones that we have concerning Loki.

Favor of the Gods and/or Divine Entitlement

I read a Facebook post today – which, to be fair, is almost always enough to make a person question their sanity, considering how much sheer stupidity is displayed on Facebook every day. Just today, I’ve read about people who pretend to be incarnations of deities, people who claim to channel deities to advance their own agendas, and, of course, the comment that has led me to write this post.

(Note: For ethical reasons, I’m not providing the name of the group or the names of the members who made these comments).

In one of the Facebook groups I’m part of, someone mentioned how he was walking home when it started hailing, and he decided to go to a shop that was past his house. As he started towards the shop, however, 3-4 bolts of lightning laced through the sky and thunder roared overhead. This continued for a solid minute before he decided to turn around, and thirty seconds after he decided to turn around, the hailing stopped completely. He said it made him feel like Thor was watching over him, like Thor had struck his hammer as hard as he could to get the guy to turn back from the shop.

Now, this story? This is amazing, and I have no problems with stories like this. In fact, it is very possible that Thor has taken an interest in this guy and was warning him about the storm. Sometimes, when the gods try to get our attention, they yell – and sometimes we listen, and we reap the benefits from paying attention.

In the comments was where I found the problem. One guy said: “If one believes that metaphysical forces and beings have a particular and personal interest in one’s welfare and fortunes, it can lead to narcissism and a tendency towards magical thinking and ‘divine entitlement.’ The Aesir, from my study of the texts, don’t operate that way. They don’t give gifts and personal protection. They provide examples for us to follow.”

There are so many things wrong with this comment that it’s hard to know where to start. The whole “but the books don’t say that” mentality – well, that smacks of monotheistic thinking that hasn’t been shaken. The gods can’t be confined to the books they are found within – the description of a god is a description, not the god in full.

And the whole thing about the gods not giving gifts and personal protection? Uh, I think this person may want to take another look at the lore – the gods gave humans the first gifts. For someone who is sticking to the lore, he sure missed the part where Odin and co. gave humans “soul, sense, and heat/goodly hue” according to the Bellows translation of the Poetic Edda. There are stories within the Sagas about gods who grant personal protection to particular people – so this person contradicts himself by first mentioning the texts and then stating the gods don’t do something they can be seen to be doing throughout the lore.

He salvages a little bit when he says “They [the gods] provide examples for us to follow” because that stands on its own. Our gods don’t give us edicts, but we honor them the best when we mimic them. Mimicry is truly the highest form of flattery, so acting as we believe the gods would act in certain situations can help us figure ways out of situations – it allows us to retain our independence from the gods, which is an irony that bears further consideration.

However, the other thing that this guy said is also not quite wrong – believing in the personal protection of metaphysical forces and gods can lend itself to narcissism, and, in extreme cases, what he calls ‘divine entitlement.’ I touched on this concept a bit, in my post about action and gratitude. The gods can be our friends, they can be close companions, and they can be our benefactors. But they are never beholden to us. We make offerings so that they may grant us their favor in return – may does not imply must.

Entitlement is entitlement, whether there is a human on the other end of your expectations or a god. For the most part, we all possess (gods and humans alike) agency and autonomy. Because autonomy plays a role in every agreement we make (gods and humans both), there is no external force applied to ensure that every agreement is kept in truth. If a friend asks me to help him clear out his garage and I agree to do so, I can decide that it is no longer in my best interest to help him clear out his garage and back out of the agreement. This might make him angry, and it might impact our relationship to some degree, but he is not entitled to my help. No one is entitled to another person’s autonomy, and, as I mentioned recently, the gods are a people of their own – we aren’t entitled to their help, either.

But we’ve all met those people who tend to assume that the first time you help them means that you’ll always be available to help them, and pretty soon, the only time that person is contacting you is when they need something from you. None of us likes this – we hate being treated like tools, and it makes us feel like we’re being taken advantage of. I can’t imagine that the gods feel much different when the only time someone calls on them is to help them with a problem. That’d annoy all of us – why do people think it wouldn’t annoy the gods?

In some ways, then, the comment actually has some good advice – it’s just been twisted in a way that makes it hard to glean that advice. The gods do offer friendship, personal protection, and gifts to humans – when those humans are respectful and treat the relationships like relationships and treat the gods like they are more than just a tool for human convenience. Relationships aren’t built out of a sense of the way you can use the other person, but out of a sense of mutual trust and respect. If you’re using a god…well, I’m just going to err on the side of caution here and say the outcome will probably end in the god’s favor.