There is a particular type of Heathen, call them Nokeans, who have deep philosophical objections to honouring Loki Laufeyson as part of Heathen ritual. This is something that I discovered when I began having more dealings with American Heathenry, and it is almost purely an American issue. I get how those who are part of American Heathenry can have trouble seeing that it exists beyond their shores and experiences, but for those of us far from their own journey, some of their communities deep and bitter battles are just hard to understand at all. The Lokean/Nokean feud is one of the bitterest and strangest for outsiders to grasp.
Lets acknowledge the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room and admit that American Christianity is different that most of the rest of the worlds, and its baggage was not left at the door when conversion to Heathenism was embraced by many, and two bits of baggage that linger like a bad smell are the Loki as Lucifer, and the almost as irritating attempt to fit our goddesses into the poor submissive virginal Madonna. I will deal with the Freya slut-shaming at another time and devote ourselves to the simple truth that Loki isn’t and never was a close cognate of Lucifer, not our devil. We didn’t need a devil, our gods have deeds black with blood and infamy all on their own, of their own will and choosing; their lessons are important to us because their potentials are all within us, bright and terrible dark.
Our community has a terrible record with Loki in one sense. Many of the loudest voices of the Nokean side are currently serving their sentences for the crimes that taint their names, and soil the legacy of the bright kindreds they gathered to their name. From the pulpit they hammered all of those who followed Loki for their immorality and for the bringing of discord, even as they laid the foundation for the destruction of their own kindreds, communities, families and personal lives. I have had the sad task of doing the Public Relations cleanup on some of these loud Loki-haters, and I have to say for all their talk of how destructive Loki is, it was the deeds of Tyrsmen, Odinsmen, and Thorsmen I have been tasked to clean up, and a strong Lokiswoman who for the better part of a decade has laboured without fail to do the same. The deeds of the Nokeans and Lokeans certainly seem to imply the discord-sowers are more common among the Nokeans than Lokeans, but lets take a second to look at the lore so beloved by the Nokean camp.
It is a sad truth that no group save the Nokeans has such a terrible record of cherry picking the lore to the point that it is hard to credit they can be doing anything less than deliberate (or I grant you unconscious) misrepresentation of what the lore actually says.
Loki’s crimes are largely not his deeds, but his methods. We love Odin for seduction, Thor for murder, but its hard to pound your chest and scratch your balls manfully when describing trickery and subterfuge as the heroes tools. Loki is the one the gods turn to when you can’t fight or futter your way out of a problem.
The Walls of Asgard: In this myth we see the gods attempt to cheat a craftsman into rebuilding the fallen walls of Asgard in return for the sun, the moon, and the goddess Freya. They “know” the job cannot be completed in time, and have zero intention of honouring their pledge. The craftsman is equally deceptive, and his horse is actually a dragon in disguise, dragging stones the size of houses as swiftly as a common horse could drag a hay bale. In order to get out of their bargain, the gods send Loki to distract the horse, which he does by transforming into a mare and luring the stallion off for some sweet recreation rather than completing the job. The walls are left almost done, the bill unpaid, the craftsman loses his mind and then skull as he unmasks as an angry giant to rage at the gods, who then have Thor execute him. Loki comes back some time later with the fruit of this labour, his son Sleipnir. That is right, Odin’s faithful steed is Loki’s son.
Loki’s monstrous children are numbered four. Like his presence in the lore, they net out to zero on the friend/foe good/evil spectrum. Fenris and Jörmungandr are monstrous foes of the Aesir and man, yet Hel is the guardian of our dead, and Sleipnir is Odin’s world striding steed. Two foe, two friend, net zero.
Hellenic lore also boasts such a net zero figure, the demigod Hercules. For each of the bright deeds he is remembered for are atonement for great misdeeds on his part. In a fit of rage he killed his first wife, and was forced to do his twelve labours as atonement. For violations of hospitality and outright insult to his noble host in mourning for the death of his own wife, Hercules went into the underworld and brought her back from the dead. Like Loki, he does a bad thing, then a heroic thing to balance it, and in the process brings change into being. Hercules did so using brute force and violence, and is remembered fondly and selectively (Disney and most pagans tend to gloss over his misdeeds) while Loki used less masculine methods, and is demonized for it in modern heathenry.
Loki in the kidnapping of Idunna, well Loki gets caught by Thiazi and in return for his life bargains to exchange for Idunna and her apples of immortality. When the gods demand he get her back, he not only rescues her, but lead Thiazi into a trap which destroys this great foe of the gods. When Skadhi Thiazidottir comes to claim her suffering price, Loki it is who makes her laugh and secures for mankind the end of winter which she would have punished us with for the loss of her father. Skadhi now stands among the Aesir as the White Huntress a strong power to our defense and guide to the high wild places. It is hard to see this as a net zero, for in fact Loki’s actions leave both the Aesir and mankind far stronger than before his crime.
Loki shamed Sif by cutting her hair and stealing it. To make up for this crime Loki had hair of living gold fashioned by the dwarves to replace what he stole, and as part of that suffering price gained for Odin his never missing spear Gungnir, Frey’s land/sky/sea faring ship Skíðblaðnir. Not content to let that rest, Loki makes a bad bet with another dwarf and before it is done has won for Frey his boar-of-battle Gullinbursti, and Odin’s ever replicating ring Draupnir. It is hard to see this as a net zero either, as when Loki’s actions are tallied, the gods end up far stronger than before.
Theft of Thor’s hammer, the hammer was not stolen by Loki, yet when force alone will not return this dread weapon to the defender of Asgard, it is Loki who the gods turn to for its restoration. The methods chosen were not traditionally masculine and heroic, they were indeed the opposite! Loki helped Thor to dress as Freya and wed the giant who stole the hammer, and when the hammer was laid in the blushing brides lap to bless her with fertility “she” repaid this blessing by painting the hall in the blood guts and brains of “her” new husband. Thor had his hammer back, and was dealing with his widowhood well. This nets zero, but Loki acted to right a wrong that wasn’t his, so Loki’s actions in this while not “manly” are totally in the service of the gods and mankind.
Lokessana paints the bleakest picture of Loki, for in it Loki goes to Agier’s hall with the intention of repaying every slight the gods have offered to his name with matching insult, or better. He mocks every god and goddess by name with misdeeds that honestly, we don’t retain enough of the lore to know the whole story behind half of them. His behaviour is poor guesting, rude and boorish beyond doubt. For this Loki is bound.
Lets be really clear about this, Loki is bound for his insults, not for the role that later lore ascribes to him as Baldur’s doom (for which Hod was killed). How was he bound?
Loki had four monstrous children, three by Angrboda (Hel, Fenris, and Jörmungandr) one he bore himself (Sleipnir). He also had an Aesir wife Sigyn, and two sons born into the holy tribe, Vali and Narvi. How did our holy gods, the shining Aesir defend these blameless children of their tribe? To bind Loki they transformed Loki’s son Vali into a wolf and caused him to tear Vali’s own brother Narvi apart limb from limb. Transformed into a mindless monster and forced to be kinslayer, Vali is then no longer of interest to the lore and not spoken of again. Narvi’s corpse is used to supply the entrails that bound him to the rock, where his monstrous son Jörmungandr is likewise bound to drip burning venom on him until Ragnarok, with only his long suffering wife Sigyn to use her cup to catch the venom as it falls, only letting it burn him when she must turn to empty the cup.
Loki was a bad dinner guest, for this our gods have him tortured by his son until the end of days, binding him with the corpse of his murdered godly son to be tortured by the venom of his monstrous son, while his blameless wife stands in eternal prison simply to reduce his suffering. Its hard to imagine why at Ragnarok he rode against the Aesir who murdered his two blameless Aesir sons and tortured him for centuries on end.
It shouldn’t surprise any student of the lore that such methods were used by the Aesir. Do we not honour Wayland/Volund whose tales of vengeance we tell so well and boldly, who fashioned the teeth and bones of his captor-king’s children into gifts to him and his queen, who bragged to him of murdering his boy children, and impregnating his daughter as part of his revenge. Such deeds were accepted, being black and foul as they are, they are acts of naked force, not subterfuge which is Loki’s true crime.
On the subject of subterfuge and black deeds, those who will not stand in Sumbel where Loki is honoured will lift the horn to Odin with both pride and joy. I share this, I do. I am Odin’s man in this life and beyond, but I know his crimes as I know the dark corners of my own soul.
The Rape of Rind is not Odin’s brightest deed, he required Vali to be sired to get the revenge of the gods, and for this he needed to sire a son on Rind. She refused him twice, so he drove her mad with his magics, then convinced her family to bind her to the bed for treatment. He then raped her as she lay bound to the bed. Odin, not Loki. It worked of course and Vali is born to do the Aesir’s killing where their own vows would prevent it.
In Baldur’s tale alone do we see Loki acting directly against the gods, bringing about the death of Baldur, and preventing his return. This is an ugly and brutal act, yet one of necessity too, for after Ragnarok, Baldur returns from Hel to rule where once his father did. Without Loki’s actions with Hod and mistletoe, Baldur would have taken the field and been lost at Ragnarok, rather than abiding in the netherworld awaiting his return in the world to come.
Those who wish to point to the Lore and say Loki is evil and must not be honoured for we would be shamed or tainted by his name and deeds must not be reading our lore at all. Odin Sigfather, Volund the Smith are honoured by us. Look at how Skirnir gained Gerd for Frey and ask me if that is other than kidnapping and rape? Yet Loki is evil, Loki must not be honoured.
It is time to be honest, Loki is important to the community as it exists in this generation. His followers, his children, our brothers and sisters must accept the scorn we heap upon their brightest guide as the price of standing in our community and that is a practice that shames us all.
The lore is like our ancestors, bright, dark, savage, terrible and beautiful in turn. Full of lessons and prices, and warnings, yet let us own that bright and dark are woven in us all, and none of our gods or goddesses are without dark and terrible places. As we honour them, and stand in sumbel with our community and raise a horn to praise those of the holy tribe who have stood beside us in our lives and guided us through our own dark times, how can we deny this same right to those whose greatest guide has been Loki Laufeyson.
The ban on Loki needs to end, or we are failures as Heathens, for we have not returned a gift for a gift, we have not judged by deeds but by fears and prejudice. It is time to tell the Nokeas to wake up, and the Lokeans to be welcome among us as equals. I am Odin’s man, let the cup not be brought to me that is not brought to Loki’s children in turn.