Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, modern life on a heathen path, community interaction, and general heathenry.

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Asatru FAQ: Why Do Some Heathens Hate Loki?

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Frequently Asked Question: Why do some American heathens hate Loki?

My Answer: Most Loki-haters hate him because other people taught them to. Of course that begs the question, how did the original teachers of Loki-hate decide to hate Loki? Some of them had bad experiences with Loki or Lokeans, some of them based their opinions of Loki on lore, some of them based their opinions of Loki on a mistaken impression that every pantheon has a Satan figure in it, and some have other reasons. Recently at least some hatred toward Loki and his followers is because of a perception that they are Marvel fangirls and therefore are not serious about heathenry.

1. Because of bad experiences with Lokeans

Unfortunately, some followers of Loki really are toxic people. There is a stereotype of Loki's people that they are strife-stirrers, frith-breakers, liars, cheats, and manipulators. The various stereotypes about the people who follow specific gods exist for a reason. There really are men who follow Freya or Freyr to get women, Thor's people who are in it for the beer, people who follow Baldr who are white supremacists, and Lokeans who introduce chaos into orderly systems. 

None of that should be considered a reflection on the god they follow. There are people who follow each of those gods who are like the stereotype, and also some who are not like the stereotype at all. And with the exception of the white supremacists, because down with them, not all of that is necessarily bad. 

In a previous generation, a stereotype about men who followed Loki was that they were gay. Some of them really were, and there's nothing wrong with that. The first follower of Loki I ever met, back in the 1990s, was a young gay man who was briefly my housemate at my apartment. The entire time I knew him, he was actively hiding from his patron god, terrified of attracting his attention. It was only after he moved out and I cleaned his room out and found drug paraphernalia that I realized he had a drug problem, and might have been hiding from his patron because he knew Loki would not approve. Perhaps he had promised to quit or something and was afraid to admit he hadn't, or something like that. It is really too bad because from what I now know of Loki, Loki would have helped him overcome his addiction if he had turned it over to his god. And this is one of the main lessons to learn about a god and his followers: sometimes a person attracts the patronage of the god he needs, not the god he wants. Sometimes a god chooses a person to help because he is weak in the god's qualities, not because he in strong in them and has an affinity for his spheres of influence. It would be a mistake to consider the fellow I knew to be representative of what Loki is all about. 

The first Freyr's man I knew was the subject of my blog series Good Knowledge, Bad Teacher. He was a leader who leveraged his position and knowledge to extract sex from young women students. That's certainly not a good representation of what Freyr is all about, nor a reason to reject friendship with other Freyr's men. The same goes for knowing some bad apples among Loki's people. Like any other humans, they have both good and bad qualities, and the percentage of good to bad varies. 

2. Because of needing a Satan figure

Unfortunately, some Americans who wanted to be heathen but could not let go of their xian* attitudes decided that heathenry needed a Satan figure. For some reason, they chose the most beloved friend and traveling companion of both Odin and Thor. I don't understand why they didn't choose Surtr for Norse Satan. Perhaps he did not enter the contest. Perhaps Surtr looked awful in his bathing suit during the bathing suit phase of the competition? So the crown went to... heeeere she is, Miss Norse Satan.... (ehehe) 

Of course Surtr isn't Satan either, I was just being silly. There is no Satan in heathenry, nor do we need one. I was just thinking that if they were trying to choose one based on that prophecy that lifts whole passages from the Book of Revelations, it's Surtr who is actually supposed to destroy everything at Ragnarok, not Loki. Destruction does not equal evil. When the universe runs down, it either ends in fire (death, which can lead to rebirth) or ice (all the heat goes out of the universe and there is eternal darkness with no renewal) -- and that's physics, so, anything religion says similarly is a metaphor for nature.

It makes some sense to cast Loki in the role of main antagonist in Ragnarok rather than Surtr because Loki is a well known figure in the mythology, and because he has a revenge motive based on stories in the mythology.  Stories need conflict to have drama, and mythology is stories. Mythology is related to but distinct from religion. Some heathens take the story of Ragnarok literally, especially in the United States, where the wider culture has a strong tradition of religious literalism. Some heathens don't believe in Ragnarok at all, some believe it has already happened, and some believe it is metaphorical, but there are some who believe that someday the followers of Loki and the followers of the other gods are going to literally fight each other, and that this is bad, and therefore one side is bad. Rather than seeing Ragnarok as the necessary destruction that brings about rebirth, they see destruction and death as inherently evil. Some Asatruars who view Ragnarok that way hope that they will go to Valhalla as a chosen warrior of the war god Odin, and that they will get to fight on the good side in the war. They see Loki as the leader of the side they themselves will be fighting against, and that therefore he must be evil.

3. Because of bad experiences with Loki 

There are also people who have had bad experiences with various gods and / or their followers, including Loki and some Lokeans. Some of them then passed their personal gnosis about their bad experiences on to their own followers and students, thus creating entire sects and subsects that want nothing to do with Loki. There are people who fear Odin for the same reasons people fear or hate Loki, as both can be tricksters and are known to do various things some people don't approve of, such as temporarily adopting a female form. But at least part of the time, when one has a bad experience with Loki, it's because of expectations influenced by other people who are influenced by xianity, or by the xian influence in the wider culture in which we all live, which includes xian influence in Snorri's Edda, since Snorri was a xian. 

At least one person I can think of who teaches others to fear Loki is clearly being called by Loki but just can't seem to either say yes, or permanently say no and forever walk away. If one genuinely wants a god to leave one alone, continuing to poke the god works about as well as continually poking a bear. 

 *xian: Many heathens write xian for Christian on the principle that a being one does not want to invoke should not be named. The practice of not writing the name of God or Christ began as a sign of respect for the divine. In Judaism they write G-d to keep the paper it's written on from becoming holy. Early xians wrote X for Christ because it is the Greek letter Chi, and some xians today still write xmas for Christmas and so forth.

4. Because of lore

There are also sects of heathenry in which Loki is not part of their culture. Loki is a big figure in Icelandic mythology, and appears in mythology and folklore in Scandinavian countries, but does not appear in the mythology of heathen England or the Germanic countries south of the Scandinavian area. Some heathens from these cultures clash with the more northerly heathens over whether Loki is a god or not. 

The heathen sect Theod does not include Loki among their gods. Although many scholars consider the Kirkby stone in England to depict Loki, Theod is not based broadly on all English and British culture, but specifically on the Anglo-Saxon, whose mythology did not include Loki as a character in their stories. The Theodish avoid Loki by writing his name "the L-God." 

There are some heathens who do not belong to sects that exclude Loki who still base their hatred of Loki on their interpretation of lore. In those cases, they are not arguing that he is not one of their gods because their culture doesn't have lore about him, but rather that their culture does have lore about him and they interpret it as saying Loki is evil. See the entry on Satan figures, above.

5. Because of Marvel fans

Popular culture has always gated some people in to heathenry. In previous generations, Tolkien's portrayal of Gandalf and runes and elves and dwarves in Lord of the Rings sparked an interest in heathen lore among some Tolkien fans. That was where I first encountered the idea of runes, so that when I later read a book on rune magic, it resonated with me, drawing me to the heathen path. 

In recent years, a lot of Marvel fans have started reading actual Norse mythology and some of them have found heathenry. There is a new stereotype about Loki's people, and that is that they are teenage girls who found Asatru or paganism because they love Marvel-Loki. The wider culture in which we live is often dismissive of the interests of girls, and that attitude can influence everyone living in our culture, including some heathens. 

 Image: the Loki stone in Kirkby, England 

Last modified on
Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners and other books. She was sworn to Freya as Priestess in 1989, given to Sigyn, and is a Bride of Odin and his brothers (Honir, Lodhur, Loki.). She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is gythia of American Celebration Kindred. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office.

Comments

  • James H. McCoy
    James H. McCoy Friday, 10 November 2017

    Do not exclude Loki himself causing hatred by being a active hand in Balder's death and preventing his release from Hel, the kidnapping of Idunna and the golden apples - putting at risk all the Gods & Goddess with old age and death, the cutting of Sif's hair, creating offspring Fernis wolf which kills Odin as well as the Midgard serpent that kills Thor! The list goes on and on. Loki has only Loki to blame for the hatred.

    Loki needs no one to help leave bad taste in the mouths of Heathens such as myself. I know first-hand several Kindred that forbid mention of his name and his kin at rituals.

  • Kevin Kromminga
    Kevin Kromminga Friday, 17 November 2017

    Again the only source for everything you have mentioned about Loki is in Icelandic Lore, which is not the only Lore. The Death of Baldr was according to the Danes brought about by that God lusting after Nanna a woman who didn't want him, and fighting and dying by the hand of Hodur a hero of the Danes and Nanna's beloved. Nowhere in Danish Lore does it ever mention Loki, Lodur, Loptr, or Lokur as being involved in this story at all. Why would it, if the Dane's did indeed worship Loki, as is indicated in some Lore, why would their tribal God be involved in a petty lover's squabble?

  • Rose
    Rose Saturday, 11 November 2017

    Thank you Erin, for writing this, and naming it correctly, 'Why Do Some Heathens Hate Loki?’. 
It silently says it is not the gods who object Loki. It is people, obnoxious enough to think they can decide who to exclude from worship. Sadly enough, Heathens in America show less tolerance than any other.
    As for the gods, not Odin or Thor, nor Sif or Idunn hate Loki.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Sunday, 12 November 2017

    Thanks for your comment! :)

  • James H. McCoy
    James H. McCoy Monday, 13 November 2017

    About the comment "As for the gods, not Odin or Thor, nor Sif or Idunn hate Loki" - incorrect. The Gods & Goddess gathered together and hunted Loki down. After Balder’s death, not one of the gods would stain Gladsheim by spilling Loki’s blood. But there was nothing holy about the barren ground of Midgard, and they were all eager to take vengeance on him.

    While Thor and one group of gods led Loki into a twilit cave, a dismal cavern belonging to bats and ticking with the drips of water from stalactites, the other party went off in pursuit of Loki’s two sons, Vali and Narvi. They changed Vali into a wolf and at once he leaped at his brother and sunk his teeth into his throat. He ripped Narvi’s body apart before bounding away, howling, toward Jotunheim.

    The gods took over where Vali had left off. They drew out Narvi’s entrails and made their way to the cave. Loki’s faithful wife, Sigyn, went with them, sorrowing over the fate of her two sons, the fate of her husband.

    the binding of lokiLoki was thrown to the ground. He lay still; he looked at nobody and said nothing. Then the gods took three slabs of rock, stood them on end and bored a hole through each of them. They stretched Loki over them, unwound Narvi’s entrails and bound him with the gut of his own son as no one had ever been bound before. They trussed Loki’s shoulders to one slab, twisting the gut round his body under his armpits; they strapped Loki’s loins to one slab, winding the gut round and round his hips; they clamped Loki’s kneecaps to one slab, tying the gut round his legs. And no sooner was Loki bound than the entrails of his son became as hard as iron.

    Then Skadi carried a vile snake into the cave. She fastened it to a stalactite high up in the darkness so that its venom would drip straight on to Loki’s face. For all his wiles and wit, there was nothing Loki could do. He lay still; he looked at nobody and said nothing. Then the gods left Loki there; no longer flushed but heavy-hearted and sorrowing they left him to his fate, and to faithful Sigyn.

    Sigyn and Loki wait in the damp twilit cave, listening to the eerie echoes of each drip, the sound of the silence, the sound of their own breathing. Sigyn holds a wooden bowl over Loki’s face and slowly it fills with the snake’s venom. When it is brimming, Sigyn carries the bowl away and empties it into a rock basin – a fermenting pool of poison.

    Loki is left unguarded; he screws up his eyes. The snake does not wait. Its venom splashes on to Loki’s face and in torment he shudders and writhes. He cannot escape and the whole earth quakes.

    Loki lies bound. That is how things are and how things will remain until Ragnarok.

    But then... do not take my word - it is writen in the Eddas for all to read.

  • Kevin Kromminga
    Kevin Kromminga Friday, 17 November 2017

    The only source of this story is Snorri's Prose Edda which is irrevocably tainted by the man himself, who was a Politician and interested in building up his own family, and thus denouncing the Gods of one of Iceland's most reviled enemies, the Danes. Yes the Danes are the only people that have mention in Lore of actively worshipping Lodur, Loptr, Lokur, that God who in Modern times because of Snorri and Wagner is the reviled and misunderstood one known as Loki. So the account of Loki's binding is tainted by bias, as are most of the other accounts that even mention him. Name a source for Loki lore and I can probably tell you something wrong with it.

  • Rose
    Rose Monday, 13 November 2017

    To the 'Why Do Some Heathens Hate Loki?' question I cannot resist to point a puzzling fact, that one of the major Heathen symbols worn as a necklace or a tattoo is Thor's Hammer. The Hammer given and brought to Thor by Loki. Twice.
    Hail Loki. :p

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Friday, 17 November 2017

    Thanks for the comments!

  • Katherine
    Katherine Friday, 17 November 2017

    Thank you Erin!
    I'd like to say that His wife Sigyn is almost completely ignored by modern Heathens, probably because it's' not cool nor exciting to be a compassioned, faithful and loyal wife, or live without sexual freedom and adventures. Sad, but it's just telling us about people - pop culture and comic book lovers - but not about Gods. I'm really a baby Heathen with only my Ancestors blood calling, but I noticed... I might be wrong.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Saturday, 18 November 2017

    Katherine, there is growing interest in Sigyn, and my paper on her will be published soon in an upcoming issue of Witches & Pagans Magazine (the magazine whose website this is.)

  • Katherine
    Katherine Monday, 20 November 2017

    She came to me twice in my dreams. She told me Her name - Victoria - in this form, because I never knew about Her before, and never herd Her name in Old Norse, so it took me some time to figure things out... now I'm lost cause not sure what to do next... just that I want to be accepted and follow Her.
    Sorry for being wordy, and it probably not the place for my story, I'm just trying to learn as much as possible (and me too - I'm half & half :) about Their voices. And I enjoy reading your posts.
    Thanks again,
    Kat

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Monday, 20 November 2017

    Kat, that's really cool. I can definitely see Victoria as a good English translation of her name. If you're looking for places to connect with other devotees of Sigyn, there are some Sigyn-specific pages and groups on Facebook that you could find via the internal search on the site, and there are several people in my group, the Asatru Facebook Forum, who could direct you to resources and share experiences with you.

    And thanks! Always happy to hear that people like my work.

  • Katherine
    Katherine Monday, 20 November 2017

    Great! thank you Erin.
    English is my second language actually, so She used internationally recognizable name, I guess - with such newbie.
    will go to find you on FB now :)
    I just can't be useful for any of you... YET

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Monday, 20 November 2017

    Kat, you're welcome! Well her name is in Old Norse.

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