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Odin, Loki, Frey (and Tyr): Different Roles, Same God

 

Please note that this is not a treatise on how all Gods are One God/dess— in Norse myth or otherwise. Norse myth contains distinct deified ancestors, locally-specific Gods and many other members of the pantheon such as Njordh, Mani, Baldr and Thor.


The Norse deities Odin, Loki, Frey and Tyr are the same God; their wife and sister Frigg, Sigyn, Gerd and Freyja are likewise the same being— in different roles, at different stages of their lives.

As we humans perceive them, these eight deities simultaneously exist as separate people, with separate histories and lives and so are portrayed in many ways as separate people in the myths. However, a closer look at the myths, surviving folklore, and scholarship will reveal remarkable similarities between them, a richness of moral complexity, fierce love for humanity, and a compelling depth of character and heroism worthy of our respect.

In my own experience as a seiðkona, a Norse seer, and that of many other modern worshipers, the hatred of Loki virulently present in Asatru is painful to him as the mourning father of two slain Gods, bound by his own intense grief— and damaging to all of us. Loki is ignored, denounced and maligned by Heathens who either have not met him, have not been exposed to enough recent scholarship, or who only work with a literal, dogmatic— and very Bible-like— understanding of the Icelandic Eddas, the largest corpus of Norse Lore available in modern times. Unfortunately, this viewpoint has been largely spread by Norse scholars themselves, influenced by Christianity, until very recently!

This will take awhile to unpack (probably a series of three or four blog posts, perhaps more), so I'll do it a point at a time and listen to responses along the way. I expect and welcome them, even if you vehemently disagree (and can state so in a respectful manner. If you cannot, expect no response.)

I will go by the lore in saying this, through his and her heiti (poetic use-names, describing a role), personality, objects of power, attributes, children and tales, using sources readily available in both the Icelandic Prose and Poetic Eddas. My analysis of available scholarship will include linguistic history, archaeology, art history, comparative mythology with three nearby cultures (continental Germanic, Celtic and Slavic— occasionally Classical) and folklore, with sources referenced. And, lastly, I will mention my own experience as a seiðkona and oracle, where applicable, which can be found woven throughout this blog.

Thank you.


Photos of the Stora Hammars Image Stone I from Wikipedia. It's one of many such picture-stones depicting Norse myth, scattered throughout northern Europe.

Last modified on
Shirl Sazynski was trained by the Gods and has been practicing the Norse shamanic art of seidhr for over a decade. A wife of Odin, oracle, icon painter and author, her work has appeared in several popular and pagan media outlets for the last fifteen years.

She teaches workshops in core spiritual practices and seidhr, and performs divination, consulting the Gods at staffandcup.com.

Comments

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    It's problematic that you chose not to present this "all are one" as your own personal belief. I think I need to say that.

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Ruadhán speaks for me on this matter. Scholarship will never be sufficient to fully understand the nature of the gods, and the mantle of expertise you throw over this post suggests otherwise.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Ruadhan, "This is not a treatise on how all Gods are One God/dess— and I am not and never have been Wiccan..."

    Is there a clearer way to state that All Are One is not my belief?

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    > The Norse deities Odin, Loki, Frey and Tyr are the same God; their
    > wife and sister Frigg, Sigyn, Gerd and Freyja are likewise the same
    > Goddess— in different roles, at different stages of their lives.
    > ...however, in my experience, some good deep digging into other
    > pantheons will readily reveal a similar pattern. For at least some
    > pantheons; I won't make this claim for Gods I've never met.)

    This was the relevant part of your article. Perhaps you don't extend this further than that, but you're certainly saying "X + Y + Z = 1 god; A + B + C = 1 Goddess", or "all [these figures you mention] are One". I mean, pardon my use of a shorthand, but I think the point is still relevant.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Thank you for clarifying. That's quite different than stating every deity in the pantheon-- or all pantheons-- are the same person.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    It's still a reductionism that stands at odds with the experiences of not only standard mythology/lore, but also many Heathens and other polytheists. That was my point. Even reducing three or four gods of a pantheon to One, even if twenty others are separate, is best presented as an opinion or personal experience than as an authoritative statement.

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    I didn't personally take this as a statement that "all are one" is your belief, but if it were, I would not have any problem with it. We each experience the world and the gods differently because they are infinitely complex and beyond full understanding by mortals, so I strive not to denigrate the beliefs of others in any way, particularly by suggesting that they are untrue.

    Your opening line, however, to wit: "The Norse deities Odin, Loki, Frey and Tyr are the same God; their wife and sister Frigg, Sigyn, Gerd and Freyja are likewise the same Goddess" is presented as a declaration of fact, not a declaration of belief. It leaves no room for the perfectly valid beliefs of others, including others who might experience these gods very differently than you do.

    These are not my gods. I respect and honor that you have found a way to understand them that resonates with your spirit; may we all find that level of personal truth! I cannot but be frustrated, however, that you present your personal experience as a statement of fact despite the large number of heathens who have related to them in very different ways.

    This post would have an entirely different tone -- one that I would welcome and entirely agree with -- if you had preceded the first line with the words, "For me . . . "

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Hhmm, I have to agree with Shirl, here, that she is pretty clear that this is her argument/belief. (Though maybe move that paragraph to the top, or use an asterisk to direct peoples' attention to it?)

    Definite food for thought!

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Well, see, I’d have no problem with this if she was presenting this as her own, personal belief, but she’s not. She’s taken not only an authoritative tone, she’s presented this as absolute truth. Her blog is prefaced, and this is visible on every post, in a manner that makes this appear as not a mere personal belief, but as an authoritative statement on historical beliefs, and as a representative belief of Heathenry and Slavic polytheism. That’s where the problem with this post lies.

    If she was making it *just* about her beliefs, more power to her; she’s certainly as welcome to believe whatever Divine Reductionism she likes, as I am to believe that her beliefs are wrong. The difference is, I don't think it's worth telling people that their opinions and personal beliefs are problematic, cos, well, for starters, how does one dismantle an opinion? One cannot. Now, if a statement is presented as a fact, that opens it up to critique, including weighing it against the evidence. Yeah, in this instance, we'd be weighing the evidence of her experience/s against the evidence of literally hundreds of others' experience/s --in which case, Occam's razer seems an adequate probability model, because the easiest answer is that if most people experience separate entities, then the entities are separate.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Did so.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Thank you. That's an excellent suggestion.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Yes, creeping monotheism has become a force in pagan life. Its so hard to get away from a monotheist culture.

  • Star Foster
    Star Foster Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    So Loki is ok because Loki is also Odin, Freyr, and Tyr, anyone who thinks he isn't is either ignorant or Christian, and she has both spiritual and academic authority to make these calls even without presenting data and/or detailing UPG to back that declared authority up. Is this a troll post?

  • Amarfa
    Amarfa Thursday, 12 June 2014

    I look forward to seeing more on this. I am ashamed at my peers for pointing out so much to correct in what is only an introductory post. It is unfortunately par for the course for Heathenism/Norse-folk types.

    It is not okay that someone's first reaction to a post be "oh how dare you!" before the person is even finished with their series.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Friday, 13 June 2014

    > It is not okay that someone's first reaction to a post be "oh how dare you!"
    > before the person is even finished with their series.

    Citation needed.

    Also: Really, now? A "How dare you criticise anything!"? For disagreement on the Internet, this has been especially civil. I've seen academic rebuttals get nastier that what's happened in the comments here.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Friday, 18 July 2014

    Thank you, Amarfa. I look forward to continuing this with citations from scholarship and the lore.

  • Beth Wodandis
    Beth Wodandis Thursday, 12 June 2014

    While it is true that this is only an introductory post (and she stated as much), I think it might have gone over a little better if there had been more "meat" to the initial post: an anecdote, an initial line of reasoning, *something* beyond just a thesis statement and a list of the material that will be used in the argument. If the other posts have not been written yet, considering the controversial nature of the argument (and believe me, this is one that many people with at least equal credentials and experience, including myself, are going to have heated positions about) I think it might have been better to wait until there was a bit more to begin with.

  • Douglas Lange
    Douglas Lange Friday, 13 June 2014

    Can't wait to see more of this piece. This article is kinda like being invited to read someone's notes on their personal practices. Very excited to see this. I've seen correlations between Odin and Loki before but never with the other 6 deities and I'd like to know how that works. Keep it up. Something else I think should be considered: Since we're being invited into these insights the same way we would be invited into someone's home, it could be good form to just remember that we're in someone else's house and that our manners should reflect that.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Friday, 18 July 2014

    Thank you, Douglas. I'll be using primary sources from The Tain to the Eddas, and work from Hilda Ellis Davidson, Jan Puhvel, some fascinating essays by Lady of the Labyrinth and other scholars to point out correlations.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Friday, 18 July 2014

    And Simek's Dictionary of Norse Mythology, where relevant.

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