For the better part of twenty-five years now, I and many other devotees of Loki have celebrated April 1 as one of His feast-days. I always forget to write anything for Him on that day, so I wanted to be sure to do so well in advance this year. I don’t usually do much more than clean His shrine (in my house, Loki and Sigyn share a shrine) and make more copious offerings than usual, but still, I like to note the day.
Loki has many by-names (epithets or heiti). Many of them refer to His relationships like Verr Sigynjar (Sigyn’s husband) or Hoenis vinr (Hoenir’s friend). Some refer to His reputed cleverness like Bölvasmiðr (Mischief maker—this one reminds me of Bölverkr…Odin’s by name that means Bale-worker), Inn Slaegi Áss (The Sly God), or Laevisi Loki(Cunning Loki). Some have a strong connection to the sky…Loptr – Skytreader, Meinkráka (Harmful Crow), and one that I haven’t explored at all but that perplexes me every time I think of it: Gammleið (Vulture). Some names focus on His position as goad and even perceived adversary to the Gods like Goða dòlgr (Adversary of Gods). Then of course there is Inn bundni Áss (the bound God) and there are dozens more. I particularly like Farmr arma Sigynjar (Burden of Sigyn’s arms). Then there’s Dumezil who referred to Him (in his monograph titled ‘Loki’) as “the unquiet thought.” It’s a very fitting by-name for a God Who never ceased to challenge. There’s a very good article by Dagulfr L. elaborating on many of these names here. I highly recommend it. Of course those who honor Loki today have given Him new by-names too. The list is probably never-ending.
Heiti are important. They highlight unique aspects of a God, doorways into deeper devotion, some facet of the God’s power or kinship or nature. They are words of power. They tell us our Gods are multi-faceted, loving but also dangerous, as everything sacred is dangerous. Their mindful utterance draws us closer into Their sphere of Being and power. I meditate on them frequently.
I like the by-names of Loki that emphasize how dangerous He can be. It’s a register shift for me that demands my full attention, my full respect, and all the protocol due a Holy Power….which is a good reminder in a relationship that has been long and emotionally intimate, that Gods remain Gods, no matter how deeply we love Them and that is a good, joyous, and holy thing.
So for those of you who honor Loki, what are your favorites of His heiti?
In the beginning, when materiality had been ground into existence by the conflicting forces of Niflheim and Helheim, when the great cow, born from that primal ooze had nourished the proto-giant Ymir and the first race of what would eventually evolve into our holy Beings was crawling from out of His mass, there arose three Brothers: Odin, Hoenir, and Lóðurr (or to use Their other heiti, Odin, Vili, and Vé). These three Brothers slaughtered Ymir, Their eldest ancestor and set the worlds and the cosmological order that binds us all into being. It was a defining moment in our theogony, the moment when those proto-beings, from Whom our Gods evolve, stepped up, looked far ahead, made choices that shaped and defined Their existence and everything that would come after it, and took necessary, decisive action. It was at that moment that existence truly began.
Of course, we know Who Odin and Hoenir are from the surviving lore, but the identity of that third brother, the one that gave us our rushing blood, and goodness of hue (healthy, living color i.e. vitality and life force), has been a bone of contention for years. Yet it shouldn’t be. It’s quite clear from [albeit later] sources that Lóðurr is in fact Loki.
Dagulf Loptson discusses the relevant passages in his article here and I encourage everyone to read this marvelous piece. He notes that the Eddic reference to Lóðurr helping to forge the worlds occurs in Völuspá 18. There is, however, a later c. 14th century ballad, Þrymlur, most likely drawn from earlier oral sources, that have Loki clearly addressed as Lóðurr (the relevant sections are Þrymlur I-III 21). We know that our Gods have many heiti. Odin, for instance, has hundreds. He may be called Yggr, Hangagod, Runatyr, Sigtyr, Oski, Gangleri, and so on and so forth (pun probably intended lol). Freya may be called Syr, Mardoll, Vanadis, etc. Likewise Loki has His bynames too. With regard to the name Lóðurr, one thing that we do know is that He is a figure strongly associated, as Hoenir is, with Odin. That in itself is telling, given that of all the Gods with Whom He dallies (take that word as you will), it is Loki that is recognized as Odin’s blood brother. Perhaps there is more to that tale than has come down to us.(1) What we take as ‘lore’ after all, is hardly a complete record of what our ancestors believed and the stories they told about our Gods. It’s reflection of their worldview is partial at best and while a good starting point, it is not a complete map.
As Loptson suggests in his article, Loki as Lóðurr is Loki as a creator God, but as with His brothers, that moment of creation is born of blood and violence a theme which recurs throughout our cosmology. It is through these Gods, Loki included that such conflict is transformed into something fruitful.
Our Gods have so many different facets. It is easy to say, when one has only known a playful or gentle aspect of Loki, that the hungry, violent, driven nature that shows forth in Lóðurr could not possibly be Loki, just as one might opine that the kindly gift giving Oski could not possibly be Odin, but we should be cautious in doing so. The Gods have histories of which we cannot conceive and are far, far greater than anything we can imagine. My mother used to say a prayer to Loki almost daily, one that sums up how to approach the Gods without attempting to bind them to the limitations of either our experience or awareness. I’ll end with that prayer now:
“For the life that brought me to You, I thank You.
For the rapture of knowing You, I thank You.
For the heartbreaks that open me to You, I thank You.
For the hunger that goads me to You, I thank You.
For Your kindness and Your harshness,
For all You give and all You take away from me,
I thank You.
For the death that will legitimate my life, I thank You.
For all You were, are, and shall be, I thank you.
My beloved God.”
- See here for an article by Þorgeirsson that discusses the debate around this name and Loki, as well as the reasons for giving credence to the attribution.
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