malformalady:

La Diablesse" at the underwater sculpture park in Molinere Bay off the west coast of Grenada. These sculptures are not housed in an art gallery but are on the actual sea bed. These sculptures help the coral reefs, acting like a nursery for its renewed growth and development. La Diablesse is a sinister figure from Grenadian folklore

Top photo can be found here and bottom photo credit: Jason De Caires Taylor

Isn’t Loki the Enemy?

heathenways:

I received a message from someone claiming that a) Snorri was a Heathen, not a Christian, and that b) Loki is really dishonest, malicious, and downright evil. After all, he’s the killer of Baldr and harbinger of Ragnarök, right? Not so fast. Below, I’ll deal with these claims as he sent them, and we’ll see if Loki is really as evil as so many modern Heathens want him to be.

Snorri wasn’t Christian. He only pretended to be for political reasons. He tried his best to preserve the beliefs of ancient Heathens without being revealed as a Heathen himself. 

Source? Surely, you have a source, even a poor one, for making this absolutely ahistorical (really, asinine) comment. Snorri was not a heathen. The chances of his being a heathen to any degree are extremely reduced by the fact that Iceland was converted around 1000 CE, almost two centuries before Snorri’s birth. Go on Google and search for the exact phrases: "snorri was a pagan" and "snorri was a heathen." There are three results for both. Now, go type in “snorri was a christian.” 18,700 results. It’s common knowledge. Scholars and not-so-scholars both regard him as a Christian. The only people who pretend otherwise are people who want some romantic version of history to cling to, some idea that our lore was passed to us by one of our own rather than a man who served the coward-god and worked to end our ways. Until you have evidence, your claim is meaningless.

His description of Loki has nothing to do with “Satan,” but with who Loki really is. Loki is dishonest and malicious, a bringer of evil. I don’t like how people keep Loki in high regard.

I didn’t blame Snorri, specifically, for depicting Loki as the “Norse Satan,” bound in an underworld by the Æsir, awaiting the day he is freed so he can bring about the end of the world through a final battle challenging the Gods. That was in the Völuspa, which Snorri didn’t write (but quoted heavily). But if you don’t think that story is patently Christian, you’ve clearly never read Revelations. Here’s a peek:

"Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain. He seized the dragon – the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan – and bound him for a thousand years. The angel then threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things he must be released for a brief period of time.) … Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle.” (Revelations 20:1-3, 7-8)

I’ve already dealt briefly with Ragnarök as recorded in the Völuspa being heavily influenced by Christian eschatological literature. You can read that in more detail here, if you’d like.

As for Loki being “dishonest,” “malicious,” and “a bringer of evil,” have you ever met him? Have you verified these things personally? Or is this more conjecture from a keyboard-scholar who doesn’t hold the Eddaic literature up to the light of reason?

People like to excuse Loki by saying, “It’s thanks to him that Valhalla has walls,” or, “It’s thanks to him that Sleipnir was born,” or, “It’s thanks to him that Mjölnir was crafted.” But all of his “good deeds” were due to him making up for something even worse.

So, we shouldn’t appreciate good things when Loki does them? Pretty sure Odin appreciates Sleipnir, and we all know Thor loves Mjölnir—he pretty much never goes anywhere without it (except, for instance, that time when it was stolen from him and Loki helped get it back). But I never claimed that Loki wasn’t deceitful and often dishonorable. But then, so is every sentient being, including the Gods. As Dr. House would put it, “everybody lies.” He has created a lot of big problems for the Gods. He also got them out of most of them, and sometimes even out of their own. When he does fix his missteps, he makes things a bit better than they were before. Loki-as-harbinger-of-malice doesn’t ring true.

He tricked a blind God into killing his own brother, the most beloved of the Æsir. The Æsir killed that blind God as revenge for the murder, while Loki tried to slip away in the form of a fish. How can you justify that? How can you hold Loki in such high regard? 

Baldr’s Draumar isn’t the only account of this story, you know. Saxo Grammaticus also recorded it in Gesta Danorum, Book III. Only, in this account, Hodr (Hotherus) was a mortal warrior of renown and Baldr (Balderus) was a demigod son of Odin. They fought over the love of a woman, Nanna. While Baldr was otherwise invulnerable to every other object on earth, there was one weapon, a magical sword named Mistilteinn (“Mistletoe”), which could kill him. Hodr collected this sword, and some other things, and killed Baldr with his own skill, without any help from Loki. In other words, with regard to the count of murder in the first degree, Saxo’s jury finds Loki innocent. 

Further, it may be true that Loki’s involvement in the myth as it is popularly understood came only later. Anatoly Liberman, citing Eugen Mogk, had this to say:

“In my analysis of Loki’s place in the Scandinavian pantheon, I found Mogk’s arguments irrefutable: Baldr was killed by Hoðr, while Loki, whatever his role in the most ancient version of the myth, became Hoðr’s accomplice only in the (Norwegian-) Icelandic tradition ( Mogk 1925).” (Some Controversial Aspects of the Myth of Baldr)

But what if—just to humor you—we take Baldr’s Draumar as authoritative, and say that Loki did, in fact, kill Baldr? Does this necessarily mean that Loki is evil, and acted only out of hatred or malice?

To answer that, I like this quote from John Lindow, arguing for a connection between the volva in Baldr’s Draumar and the giantess Angrboða:

"Just as Odin learns from the seeress Angrboða, Loki’s mate, the details of the death, killer, and avenger of Baldr, so Loki learns from Frigg, Odin’s mate, the details to be used for the slaying of Baldr. Indeed, the parallel runs even deeper, for just as Loki will depose Odin’s son by his interlocutor, Frigg, so Odin has deposed three of Loki’s offspring with his interlocutor, Angrboða, by binding the wolf, casting the Midgard serpent into the sea, and banishing Hel to preside over the realm of the dead. As the focus of these three, especially the sons, is on the end of the world, we may wonder whether Baldr’s focus, too, is there.” (Murder and Vengeance among the Gods: Baldr in Scandinavian Mythology)

And what if Baldr’s Draumar is really focused not on his death but on the climax of Ragnarök as well? To illustrate this point, let’s assume, as it seems you’d be ready to do (though please do feel free to correct me if I am wrong), that the Völuspa accurately depicts Ragnarök, as least as far as it extends to the death of the major Gods. Could it not be that Loki acted not in his own self-interest in killing Baldr, but did so to save Baldr’s life? After all, while the rest of the Æsir are battling to their deaths, Baldr is alive and well in Hel, awaiting his return after the earth rises once more from the sea.

I don’t subscribe to this theory, personally, believing rather informedly that the Völuspa reflects Christianized lore most likely written, in my opinion, by a newly-converted Christian. But it’s a useful point to show that things are almost never as black-and-white as you want them to be.

So, sure, he did a few things that ultimately ended up benefiting the Æsir. But that does not make up for the rest of his malevolent deeds. He still isn’t worthy of respect.

Subtracting the death of Baldr from Loki’s “malevolent” acts—and realizing that Ragnarök we we know it today depicts a Christianization rather than an authentically-heathen articulation of Ragnarök, if such an event will indeed take place—what is left among Loki’s supposedly “malevolent” acts? What, aside from these, is truly “evil” among his many deeds? Many of his actions can be seen as troublesome or inconvenient, or even just plain mean. But evil? I don’t think so.

Would you hold a rapist in high regard simply because he found some way he could benefit you? Evil actions outweigh good ones. You can’t simply do a few good deeds, benefit a few people, and then forget about all the evil you’ve wrought in the world. Loki isn’t stupid. He knows exactly how evil he is. He knows very well the destruction he causes. 

Would I hold a rapist in high regard? It depends on who he raped, frankly. An innocent woman walking home from work? Hell no. I’d kill the bastard myself. A White Nationalist murderer or a child-abuser? I wouldn’t bat an eye. And that’s kind of my point. “Evil” isn’t objective. Neither is “good.” What’s good for me might be bad for someone else. Certainly, killing Hitler would have been a moral good for most of the inhabitants of mid-20th century Europe, but it wouldn’t have been good for him. When someone does a wrong, is a wrong done to them as recompense truly wrong? These are ethical questions, matters of philosophy, not really matters of objective fact to be decided once and for all time.

But I can tell you that I absolutely reject the idea that evil outweighs good. Each is one point on a scale. Each one makes the scale tip one way or the other. But the fact that the scale merely tips to the side, rather than simply topples over, shows that Loki is far more complex than your simple-minded assessment that he is “untrustworthy,” “malicious,” and “evil.” He can be a liar, he can be malicious, and he can do things some might regard as evil. But he can also be a force for good, he can also benefit or comfort those in need, and he can also look after his own, be they among the Æsir or among mankind. And I have never seen a good argument to the contrary.

Hail the son of Laufey, the blood-brother to the Allfather!