Loki, bring me to change
Loki, teach me innovation
Loki, be the cleansing fire
The source of my liberation.
There are a few particular things that have cropped up again and again in my devotional practice with Loki over the years, and I thought I’d write about one of these today, involving mirrors.
Almost from the beginning, whether it be in meditations, dreams or visuals, Loki has always directed me to consider mirrors, and the concept of mirrors.
At first, I was confused, wracking my brain for what it could mean – these visuals of mirrors, references to mirrors and all these literal and metaphorical meanings associated with mirrors.
And it got me to thinking about posts I’ve made in the past regarding the various angles I’ve considered when faced with a visual or a reference to mirrors…and it amazes me now to think of all of the layered paths that this one thing has led me to.
In the beginning, I thought Loki was making some sort of commentary about appearances, and perhaps, self-love…maybe even conceit.
But then as time went on, I began to wonder if the reference to mirrors was Loki indicating the importance of self-work.
And then, there’s the term, mirroring – which can be understood as a form of body language – born of the human desire to ‘cognitively sync’ with others – on an unconscious level. (But there’s another layer to mirroring which is done on a conscious level by those seek to engage/teach/engender desired behavior while generating empathy and connection, by therapists, teachers, and salespeople.)
And then, I came across this concept – of what you expect is what you will receive – by way of the Bhagavad Gita. A helpful tidbit of information to be sure, but even more so on another level, as this particular bit can be found in the fourth chapter, eleventh verse – an amusing coincidence that I came across the 411 (information!) quite by chance in a religious text that was unfamiliar to me at that time, and suddenly I was making the connection to how the Gods can act as mirrors.
With that reference, and what followed was to discover myself being re-directed to a mystic path, complete with nudges toward Rumi
and Pema Chödrön:
which re-iterated the message that we are reflections of the Gods, as well as the Gods can be reflections of us, and sometimes how we are caught gazing into each others’ eyes, or perhaps dancing, but more often than not, caught up in the illusion of separation from Them, if not downright rejection of Their messages to us.
But what do I know? Loki has a thing with mirrors, I suppose.
But I’m not the only one who sees this connection, as a fellow member of a Lokean group shared this observation:
“I wanted to understand why so many saw hatred, rage, evil in Loki. I didn’t understand how His reputation could be so different from what I personally experienced. The message I received back is that Loki is a mirror. Many of the gods are, but Him especially. The reason some get back hatred and fear is because they give Him hatred and fear.
But when you give Him love and laughter, He sends it back and magnifies it. So the love that you feel coming from Him, the kind that brings tears to the eyes, is a reflection of the beauty of your own heart.”
And finally, the surprise (which should not surprise me now) that I came across the other day…while searching for something else entirely.
I was looking for the references to the Spegilmynd – as it is the basis for a powerful runic sigil that mirrors negative energy sent against oneself and reflects it back to the sender:
And I stumbled upon this definition on Glosbe, an online Icelandic dictionary service:
Spegilmynd (Icelandic) noun – “mirror, reflection, echo”
and the provided contextual example was a portion of an Icelandic prayer:
(Icelandic) “Það er bæn mín og blessun að þegar þið virðið fyrir ykkur eigin spegilmynd, munuð þið sjá handan ófullkomleikans og sjálfsefans og greina hver þið sannlega eruð: Dýrðlegir synir og dætur almáttugs Guðs.“
(Trans. English) “It is my prayer and blessing that when you look at your reflection, you will be able to see beyond imperfections and self-doubts and recognize who you truly are: glorious sons and daughters of the Almighty Gods.”
It’s funny how these concepts circle around again and again.
In the form of a mare, Loki gave birth to Sleipnir, as attested in the Hyndluljóð, a portion of theVöluspá in the Poetic Edda. This story is also mentioned in the Gylfaginning of the Prose Edda
After leaving Aegir’s hall in the Lokasenna, in the Poetic Edda, Loki takes the form of a salmon to escape capture from the Gods who seek to punish Him
In the Skáldskaparmál, as Loki has cut off the hair of Sif, and under threat of injury from an angry Thor, He visits two dwarves of Svartelheim who create three gifts – a wig of golden hair for Sif, the spear Gungnir, and the ship Skíðblaðnir. Loki then goes to another pair of dwarves and bets them His head that they can’t make three things as fine as the three treasures created by that first pair. While the dwarves are working, Loki takes the form of a biting fly in order to sabotage their work – which produces Thor’s hammer Mjölnir, the golden boar Gullinbursti, and the ring-giver Draupnir.
As well, Loki takes the form of a biting flea as told in the skaldic poem Húsdrápa, in the Prose Edda. Loki takes on this form to gain access to Freyja’s bed-chamber so that He may steal Freyja’s necklace, the Brísingamen. As well this same story is referenced in the Sörla þáttr, a short story from the Flateyjarbók, a 14th-century Icelandic manuscript.
As described in the Húsdrápa, when Freyja awakens to find Her necklace, the Brísingamen, missing, she asks Heimdallr to help her search for it. Eventually, they realize that Loki has taken it and has transformed himself into a seal. Heimdallr turns into a seal as well and fights Loki. After a lengthy battle, Heimdallr wins and returns Brísingamen to Freyja.
In the Þrymskviða (Lay of Thrym) of the Poetic Edda, a Jotun king, Thrym steals Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. Freyja lends Loki Her falcon cloak to search for it.
As well, Loki borrows Freyja’s magic falcon cloak again, to rescue Idunn from Jötun Þjazi, in the Skáldskaparmál.
One of Loki’s kennings is Gammleið. This Old Norse phrase is commonly translated as “vulture’s path” associating Loki with Lopt (‘Air’) in the ÞÓRSDRÁPA, Stanza 2, verses 1-4, of the Codex Regius
Common Folklore/UPG attributed
The only academic source I have come across connecting Loki with spiders refers to a treatise written by Swedish folklorist Anna Birgitta Rooth in 1961, titled Loki in Scandinavian Mythology. Her treatise attempts to connect Loki within the context of Scandinavian folklore as a trickster figure, much like Anansi the Spider in African and African American folklore. Since the basis of her connections of Loki with spiders seems to rest mostly upon her speculations regarding the etymology of the word locke (a Swedish dialect word for“spider”), Rooth’s book on Loki has been met with more criticism than acceptance from other scholars. While Rooth’s conclusions are often referenced, I know of very few scholars who would agree with her conclusions.
Though from the standpoint of personal gnosis, I’ve found many Lokeans do associate Loki with spiders anyway, casting Loki in a metaphorical spider role – as a weaver of wyrd, a tier of knots, and maker of nets.
(On a related note, I recall that it been theorized somewhere that Sleipnir’s eight legs could be either a reference to spiders or symbolic of four pall-bearers at a funeral – but I cannot recall the source on that connection.)
Common UPG by Association
This is a complex one. Many may associate Loki with snakes, due to His association with one of His offspring with the giantess Angrboða, Jörmungandr. But snakes as a symbol of Loki could also be due to the association of snakes as symbols of intuitive wisdom, transformation, fertility and balance of energy as seen across several cultures. In Native American lore, snakes represent several forms of duality – the duality of gender (male and female), lunar and solar, and as well as creatures associated with the elements of fire and water. As a shapeshifting form in Celtic mythologies, snakes are regarded as creatures capable of cunning transformation, as they shed their skins. As well, it was believed by the Celts that snakes lived and moved within the shadow realms (underground) for half the year, and therefore, when emerging with the sun, snakes were considered creatures who possessed hidden knowledge of the Earth and its rhythms. As symbols in Hinduism, snakes are considered wise healers, possessing a balance of energies – dark and light.
In that regard of the larger picture of snakes as symbols, I can definitely see how Loki could be associated with snakes. Therefore, it is perhaps no wonder that the Urnes snakes seem to have become one of the most popular symbols that many Lokeans have come to associate with Loki in the past ten years.
As it is with Jormungandr, Loki as a wolf may simply be another association with another of His offspring with Angrboða, Fenrir. Many Lokeans claim UPG where Loki comes across as very much like a wolf – whether in actual guise or in manner/personality – whenever Loki is being sociable, loyal, protective or even aggressive at times.
Personally, I can see the correlation to wolves in terms of Loki’s seemingly insatiable appetites, but also in His attitudes towards whom He regards as His – whether they be family, friend or foe.
Foxes, Hares, Raccoons, Crows, and Ferrets
These associations are likely due to Loki’s role as a Trickster Deity, as these creatures are all forms associated with Tricksters throughout many cultures.
And in an interesting bit of Icelandic folk belief that I came across recently connects quite well with my previous entry:
From a mutual FB group member, Hrafnsunna Ross – a self-described person of Croation and Scottish descent who was raised in Iceland – has this to say about Loki’s appearance and His association with foxes:
“In Iceland, Loki is depicted with light to dark brown hair. It makes sense for Loki to have brownish-grey hair because He is associated with Bragðarefur (‘Trick Fox’)…. as most foxes in Iceland are either dark grey/brown all year….(or a) lightish colored that turns white by winter.”
Lesser known Associations:
I’ve known a few Lokeans who associate the axolotl lizard with Loki presumably due to the fact that these amphibians exist at maturity in an in-between stage of metamorphosis called neoteny – a state of liminality.
Axolotls retain their larval gills into adulthood and this retention allows axolotls to remain aquatic for the duration of their lives.
Another name for axolotl is Mexican salamander.
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
” In referring to Norse God Loki, Rutherford employs the term shaman-trickster….”
“The shaman is a magician in both senses of the term: one who can operate through tricks and deceit and one who can change consciousness at will. The shaman is a sorcerer but one who relates magical ability to the communal welfare as the primary objective. The shaman stocks-in-trade are the ability to fly and to become invisible. Sometimes the specialist is proficient in bi-location, the ability to appear in more than one place simultaneously. Other shamanic ‘virtues’ include a developed aptitude for heightened vigilance as well as the cultivation of multiple perspectives. But whereas sometimes these attributes are intended to be literal accomplishments, the line between the metaphorical and the actual is rarely clearly drawn.”
— Michael York
Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion, New York University Press, New York, p. 41.