THE QUINTESSENTIAL (ARCHETYPICAL) REDHEAD
As a self-identified Lokean going on seven years now, I’ve noticed a specific detail about Loki’s appearance that seems to be a rather common assumption that I’ve seen spread throughout the present-day Lokean community; and that is the ‘fact’ that Loki has red hair.
While I do not know if this ‘fact’ began as a bit of someone’s unverified personal gnosis or if there is something more to the story, I do know I have been involved in many heated discussions concerning that supposed ‘fact.’ I’ve noticed that the prevalence of belief that Loki is a redhead has become so widespread that I have seen this single characteristic used as means to clarify many a curious newbie’s spiritual interactions: if that God you dreamed of had red hair – it was definitely Loki.
While there is nothing in the lore which describes Loki as having red hair (though the Eddas clearly state that Thor does(1)), many modern Lokeans claim to have experienced Him as such, to the extent that one of His more modern heiti references this – Flame-Hair. Though the idea that Loki is ‘flame-haired’ has some detractors, as several Internet Heathen scholars are quick to point out that the basis for Loki having red hair has arisen entirely in conjunction with the mistaken belief that Loki is a God associated with fire. These ‘scholars’ will aggressively maintain that Loki has no connection to fire – claiming that that association was born out from Richard Wagner’s mistakenly conflating the Norse God Loki with the Norse God of Wildfire, Logi in Rheingold, an immensely popular 19th century opera.(2)
But operas and conflations aside (you may read my discussion of one of Loki’s connections to fire here) I believe that Loki may choose to appear as a redhead for a particular reason.
It all began with a discussion in response to a post in an online group for seid-workers. The original discussion regarded racism in Heathenry and how seid-work is seen as work that is performed by those who are marked by ‘otherness.’ With that, the discussion began to lean toward concepts that certain outward characteristics have always been considered ‘marks of otherness’, and as a result, human beings have developed particular superstitions. One interesting point caught my attention was the OP’s assertion that Jews were often depicted as redheads in Nazi propaganda.(3) Following that assertion, the OP then equated Loki’s red hair in terms of an argument for ‘otherness’ – leading hir to wonder if His red hair was the reason He came to be equated with evil intent, and then later, be cast as a ‘Norse Satan.’ What intrigued me was not only the unchallenged assumption that Loki has red hair, but that the discussion had so suddenly veered away from seidr and toward prejudice and superstitions about those with red hair.
As a person who is part Irish/Scottish, I am well aware of the superstitions surrounding redheads. I grew up hearing some of them – redheads are believed to be passionate, promiscuous, ill-tempered, untrustworthy, even cruel and/or soul-less.(4)
As a devotee, I agree that Loki would gladly take on the role as a Sovereign of Other-ness, but it occurred to me that Loki is also a Being often accused of possessing some of the above traits as well – by His haters and devotees alike.
I mean – REALLY.
Perhaps Loki would choose to be a redhead just to mess with everyone’s heads – to take upon Himself the mantle of all that has been feared, misunderstood, or despised about those with red hair – just to work the damned stereotypes, just to mindfuck with everyone.
Just because He can.
Now that sounds like that would be such a Loki thing to do.
Even if Loki isn’t a redhead – I mean, He doesn’t have to be; there’s nothing in the lore that says so – Loki is the quintessential redhead in that He can be the most passionate, temperamental, flirtatious, moody bastard God that you could ever hope to meet. He’s capable of being charmingly sweet and incredibly kind but He’s also just as capable of being relentlessly impatient and disarmingly cruel.
But then again, perhaps Loki is a mirror of us all, isn’t He?
You’ll often get the face of Loki that you think that you will see, and He’ll use that aspect to His advantage.
Hail Loki! ❤
(1) Jacqueline Simpson, Prose Edda, Þrymskviða (The Lay of Thrym), New Horizons, 1965; p.67
(2) Dr. Karl H. E. Seigfried, feature ‘Ask a Norse Mythologist’ at webpage http://www.norsemyth.org/2013/01/questioning-loki-part-one.html. Dr. Seigfried attempts to put the Loki as God of Fire association to rest.
(3) I had never heard of this superstition, though several websites have much to say about the ‘myth of the ginger Jew’:
Again, while there is much discussion of the attempt by non-Jews to portray the Jew as a ‘threat’ and an ‘other’ in various cultures, it says more about the superstitions surrounding redheads than it does about whether or not Jews were actually redheads – as often superstitions are applied retroactively to the ones being ‘othered’ rather than to depict reality. Such as it is, one of these websites makes the error of believing that when an archeologist discovered a preserved skeleton with ‘reddish’ hair – in a Jerusalem tomb from the 1st century AD – that that may prove that Jews did have red hair. [Honestly, most mummies have red hair – not because it was red in life, but because the breakdown of melanin (the proteins that make dark hair appear dark) often appears as red in hair that hasn’t entirely decomposed.]
(4) C.J.S Thompson, The Hand of Destiny: Folklore and Superstition for Everyday Life, (chapter 7) Folklore of the Hair Nails and Teeth, Bell Publishing Co., New York., p. 97-8