Month for Loki, Twenty-Third: Kenning.
Inspired by Lokean Welcoming Committee’s outline of topics for Month for Loki, today’s post:
Find out some of Loki’s kennings, or other names, and what they mean. Which one(s) resonate with you the most?
Since many of Loki’s kennings resonate with me, it was difficult to choose one that resonated with me the most…but I think that there is one in particular that actually took me by surprise, and so, I am going to write about Gammleid today:
In July 2014, I took a course from Cherry Hill Seminary. This course dealt exclusively with studying the role of shapeshifting in the lore of several cultures. Though the course mainly focused on shapeshifting lore in South and Central America, the final project was to present how shapeshifting might feature in our personal spiritual practices.
Thus, I performed a personal meditation ritual in mid-July 2014 that was meant to introduce me to my ‘spirit animal guide.’
And much to my surprise, Loki showed up and suggested the vulture as the ‘spirit animal guide’ in that first meditation, and again, vultures featured in a few more interactions thereafter.
I was baffled, but like a good student, I resolved to research the connections between Loki and vultures.
Soon enough, I came upon a list of Loki’s kennings, and even more surprisingly, the kenning, ‘vulture’s path’ came up.
But oddly enough, I wasn’t able to find much scholarship that even speculated as to what this kenning might represent, until I found this:
This Old Norse word is commonly translated as “vulture’s path“, i.e. Lopt “the air”
-from ÞÓRSDRÁPA Stanza 2, verses 1-4, The Codex Regius from this site
Meanwhile, I’d begun amassing quite a collection of vulture feathers:
– from both turkey vultures and black vultures as I began to notice quite a lot of them in my neck of the woods from late March to June of that year (2015)
And then, shortly thereafter, I read this in Dagulf Loptson’s ePub, Playing with Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson :
“The name “vulture’s path” is possibly a kenning for air, which connects with another of Loki’s kennings, Loptr. However, we are left with no explanation as to why the vulture, as opposed to any other kind of aerial creature, is used to illustrate flight through the air, especially since Loki typically takes the form of a fly or a falcon. I personally feel that vulture might be associated with Loki for the following reasons.
Both vultures and ravens are well known scavengers, making them both symbols for death. It isn’t unreasonable to assume that our ancestors often saw vultures and ravens together while the birds were eating bodily remains. As Odinn is always with ravens, perhaps his blood-brother and traveling companion Loki was associated with vultures.
The vulture could also be linked to Loki…in his aspect as a god of death and cremation, as a traveler to the underworld, or as a dissolver of illusions.” *
**Cue the sound of my mind being blown**
But what did working with Vulture teach me?
On the surface, a lot of folks (including myself, at one time) see vultures as birds of the dead, and they are. But, much like crows – another creature I associate with Loki – Vulture’s work is one of transformation, as vultures, like crows, are carrion eaters. Ancient cultures, such as the Greeks, Assyrians and Egyptians saw the vulture as a purifying, transforming force — a creature who purifies the landscape and environment through its consumption of the dead and decaying remains. Symbolically, carrion eaters make use what others have abandoned or cannot use, and through that process, the carrion eater ensures the continued health and life of other living things. Vulture symbolizes that process – of turning poison into medicine, death into life – and therefore, the vulture represents transformation and regeneration. Connected to that transformative aspect, vultures can teach us that our difficulties and struggles are temporary, and that what seems like an end (death) or a loss (sacrifice) is simply a phase in the process of growth and change.
Hail Loki, Gammleid ❤
And of course, Hail Vulture, Resourceful One, Patient Teacher, and Master of the Skies ❤
*Loptson, Dagulf, Playing with Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson, Asphodel Press, Hubbardston, MA, published July 7, 2015; pp 57-9.
Great entry, and interesting. I share with you many views and similar experiences, not in the ‘surface’ of the view, but in their nature and meaning. However, the Vulture’s Path is not one of them. As much as I like Dagulf Loptson’s writings about Loki, Loki as the Sacramental Fire, to see Loki as aspect of the fire of cremation, or the Vulture’s path doesn’t click with me. The explanation why would be more than arm long. And so, therefore I find very interesting you do, and have your own experience why. I don’t think it will change my view, but it is, for me, something to think about. As I said, great entry!
My favorite Loki’s kenning is “sagna hrærir” mover of the stories.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your thoughtful note.
I agree with you – there are a lot that disagree on the connection between Loki and fire and even Loki with vultures – as I said in the entry, there’s not a lot of scholarship or discussion on the meaning of ‘vultures path’ – just a lot of speculation/guessing.
Heck, it is likely I never would’ve even considered that kenning much less explored its meaning had I not stumbled upon it *after* having had a lot of experiences that I had struggled to connect in my head, much less explain to myself. So, as I said in my post, Gammleid was definitely a unexpected connection for me, and that’s why I wanted to write about it.
My intent was to show my personal connection; I wasn’t seeking to convince anyone of my view which is based upon my experiences and my opinion. If you connect with similar things, great – if not, I can respect that too. We are all having fascinating and legitimate experiences; and whether or not I am having the same experiences, I can appreciate when others feel comfortable enough to say what you did: My experience is different, this didn’t click with me personally, but that’s OK.
Thank you for saying that; I appreciate our differences as much as our similarities.
Oh…and I agree that ‘Mover of Stories’ is a great kenning for Loki! He surely knows how to keep things moving in a story, by keeping things interesting – usually!
Thank you for your reply, I didn’t see it until now. You said better than I tried to. 🙂
I will be damned, a turkey vulture crossed my path today, in unexpected place and time, when strangely, or not so strangely my thoughts were about Loki.
The internet search took me back here, googling the word Gammleið…..
Oh, trust me, It’s a thing.
Hail Loki, indeed. 😌
[…] many long-time followers of this blog may recall that I have written of my mundane (and spiritual) experiences with vultures, I don’t think I have ever written about my interactions with […]
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