There’s a (thoughtful, well-mannered) kerfluffle going on in the Troth about whether or not Loki should be hailed in official Troth sumbels. As I’ve said before, my husband Sven is a Lokisman, so we’re supporting any effort to include the Red-Haired Stepchild. We’ve been called on this, once with outright hostility, so it’s time for me to put words to digits as to what Loki means to us and why we hail him.
At the Ragnarok, Loki is going to lead the forces of chaos against the Gods, riding in on his ship built of drowned men’s nails. (N.B. It will sail from the cruise ship terminal in San Diego Bay. Full bar.) He and Heimdall will kill each other, Loki’s son Fenrir will kill and be killed by Odin and Loki’s child Jormungandr will kill and be killed by Thor.
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the Ragnarok. I was raised Catholic, but in the southern United States, so anything that smells like the Book of Revelations gets my hackles up. Sven has no problems with the idea of Ragnarok except that he and I would be on opposite sides since my Norse deities are Thor and Frigga. Be that as it may, I prefer to see Ragnarok as a “worst case scenario” which will occur if Odin does not reason out a way to prevent it.
Sven disagrees, saying, “The way I feel about Ragnarok is that it is going to happen, as it is wyrd for all of us. Whether I *want* it to happen or not is irrelevant. It will happen, and we know how it is going to play out. As such, there necessarily has to be at least two sides to the war. Knowing this, this removes the whole "battle of good and evil" that is portrayed out in Revelation and the Christian faith.” The phrase “battle of good and evil” is rather key. There seems to be an inadvertent tendency in some heathens to frame Ragnarok this way. If Baldr is good and Loki kills him, Loki must be evil. These are things that need to be carefully considered. Sven’s solution is to hand out Bibles and tell such heathens to go to church, but he’s a Lokean through and through.
Anyway, assuming Ragnarok as “worst case scenario”, the death of Baldr, if caused by Loki, is going to be necessary for the new world to come. Baldr is in the one place that is safe for a god during Ragnarok, and ironically it’s with Loki’s daughter Hel. Furthermore, as cold and frightening as Hel’s domain is, she has decorated her hall and brewed the mead for Baldr, making it as pleasant as she can.
In his thought-provoking novel American Gods, Neil Gaiman reveals Ragnarok as being the result of Odin and Loki perpetrating a two-man con on the world. This scenario feels so “right” to me it gives me chills. Baldr must be kept safe, and the only way to do that is to entrust him to Hel. Frigga won’t hear of it; even the queen of the gods is a mother, loathe to see harm come to her boy. Odin and Loki work out the scheme: Frigga will do her best to avoid the inevitable and Loki will make sure that Baldr meets his wyrd.
There are two further things to point out about the “Loki kills Baldr” story. First, in the Elder Eddas Loki isn’t punished for killing Baldr. He is chained to the rocks for airing the gods’ dirty laundry and embarrassing them, as recounted in Lokasenna. Second, the one who is actually punished is the blind god Hodr. This seems off until one notices that there is a second version of the story, only hinted at in Snorri but developed by Saxo Grammaticus in which Loki isn’t involved in Baldr’s death at all. It’s all Hodr, who may not have originated as the blind god he’s usually described as. In Saxo’s story, Baldr and Hodr are rivals for Nanna, and Hodr kills Baldr for her. Nanna then kills herself. The punishment of Loki may be a later gloss, although no one knows for sure. There is reasonable doubt, as the trial lawyers say.
Loki causes crises, fixes them, and often has to live with the aftermath. Who got the walls of Asgard built at no cost to the Gods? Sure, he ended up giving birth to Sleipnir afterwards. Who obtained Mjolnir, Gungnir, and the other gifts for the Gods? Sure, he ended up with his lips sewn shut. Who invented the fishing net? Sure, he was captured because Kvasir saw that only Loki was clever enough to have created such a thing. And so on.
Loki is the god of comedy. I’m of the opinion that Loki has it in for Heimdall because Heimdall, who otherwise has no sense of humour whatsoever, came up with the idea of dressing up Thor as a bride. Or perhaps he stole the idea. Usually he’s out there making the gods laugh, often at his own expense. When it was essential that Skadhi laugh, Loki was there to tie his balls to the beard of a goat and have a tug of war. I’m sure he was the first one to say the line, “Comedy is playful pain.” It’s hard to hate the protagonist of so many funny stories.
Sven likes to point out that Loki should be patron of attorneys. He invented the legal loophole. He saw to it that the gods got the better out of their contract with the giant who built the walls of Asgard. He saved himself from decapitation with the observation that sure, they could have his head—but not his neck. Loki adhered to a weregild judgement while ridding himself of the cursed ring Andvaranaut. He fulfills his contracts and oaths while his blood-brother Odin often does not. Still, he’s Odin’s blood-brother, and being Asgard’s Attorney (as opposed to Asgard’s judge, who is Forseti) is possibly why.
Loki is the “trusted traveling companion” of Thor. Thor is a forthright guy, a working-class god who is as direct and blunt as the hammer he wields. Together, he and Loki fight giants. I’ve heard it said that if you have a Lokean and a Thorean, put them together and they’ll be best friends. This does seem to work for me and Sven. Loki does seem to have had an effect on Thor; Thor’s resolution of the battle of wits in Alvissmol is something Loki would have come up with.
Loki is a difficult god. He’s not easy to understand and encounters with him are often painful. This isn’t surprising when you consider that comedies are usually about themes that are decidedly unfunny. Further to this, Loki is more often than not the catalyst for making sure things happen. He is the crisis that forces us take action, whether we want to or not. He’s the blessing in disguise.