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Loki the Horned God

Today I'd like to present some meta thoughts on Loki’s depiction, spurred by an interesting conversation on my FB about Loki being likened to a Satanic figure in the Norse pantheon, and me mulling over how this is actually a backhanded compliment. I could rant on how Lu/Satan is unjustly vilified, but that’s a rant that is probably better handled by an actual Luciferian. I am not an expert on Lucifer, but the vilification of horned depictions of Gods is relevant to my interests.


Horned!Loki on the Kirkby Stone.

The town of Kirkby Stephen was once part of the Danelaw, and the stone is dated to 850 AD. So…we have an actual depiction of Loki with horns, from ye olde days. But what does that mean? Well, horned deities are a Big Deal, and are seen in multiple ancient traditions. A little scholarship on them, from the book Horns of Honor:


The screenshot is from Google Books, if you’d like to look around in it. So horns were a common symbol of the Divine Masculine, and a representation of the God’s power, strength, and fertility. If you’d like more scholastic corroboration on the horn as a symbol of nobility and leadership, consider this image:


Image source is from Lady with a Mead Cup by Michael J. Enright. The book discusses drinking rituals and kingship at great length. It’s primary concern is human kingship, but the obvious inference is that the reason a human king would use horns to associate himself with the power of the horned god, and then after Christian conversion, the horned animal from which its power and virility is derived. But it’s still a signifier of nobility.  I love the fact that a depiction of Loki with horns is usually ignored when people are discussing whether or not He’s a “real god.” It’s a whole ‘nother “hmm” that even this depiction of Him bound has the horns intact, and I’d argue that this suggests that even bound, Loki has not lost His kinship or divinity, contrary to arguments bandied about by Nokeans. But now, let us consider Loki’s most popular modern-day depiction:


It’s fascinating to me that Marvel went out of their way to put Loki’s horned headdress into the films. Loki wears His horns far more often than Thor or Odin are depicted with their own mantles. One could make the argument that it’s supposed to be a visual subtext for His malice, but I’d make the argument for Loki’s nobility and potential for redemption because the helm is featured prominently in Thorthe Avengers, and is noticeably missing in the Dark World, where He is jailed and essentially stripped of his royalty until the end of the film. I will be curious to see whether it reappears in His next cinematic appearance, because if the helm signifies His ability to be redeemed, perhaps He has redeemed Himself, but since the end of the film is ambiguous as to why Loki’s on the throne (is it permanent? if so, WTF happened to Odin??), we don’t really know whether this is redemption or murder, which seems very appropriate for the character as depicted in the Marvel Universe. Considering what a BFD Kingship is to Marvel!Loki, the fact that He frequently sports horns on screen is an interesting bit of visual subtext indeed. This has been your meta on How Ancient Pagan Symbols Affect Our Brains Meets Pop Culture Paganism. YMMV, disclaimer blah blah the fun of meta theory is that different people see different things in the same text etc.

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Tagged in: Horned God Lokean loki
Lokean nun, writer, swamp witch. Heather is a Pagan monastic, writer, editor, and mother. She has written and edited for a variety of publications and social media, including science journals, romance novels, and technology blogs. She also holds degrees in education and speech-language pathology, and has a passion for historical linguistics.


  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener Saturday, 29 March 2014

    Aside from the problematical identification of those images to either side of his head on the stone as horns (they are both too low on the head and asymmetrical; it could just as well be a representation of the serpent that drips venom on the bound Loki as punishment for his heinous crimes), can you point to any other examples in Norse iconography where placing horns on a figure denoted nobility?

    The first book you quote is hardly a scholarly work, and seems to buy into outmoded antiquarian notions about "the horned god" from the 19th century, which haven't stood the test of time (despite what some modern neopagan authors like Raven Grimassi might hope). The quote from Lady with a Mead Cup is talking about drinking horns (the titular "mead cup"), not the iconography of animal horns on deity heads, so the relevance seems problematical.

    And the inclusion of horns on Loki's headdress in the Marvel films (inasmuch as it has any relevance at all to a discussion of actual historical iconography) has nothing to do with the films. Many of the Marvel Asgardians from the comic books have horns, a look influenced by 19th century myths about Vikings with horned helmets. It's certainly not indicative of anything to do with historical practices or beliefs about the symbolism of horns on deity images.

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