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Deity of the Month - Loki

Sam Stoker

Loki is a deity from the Norse pantheon and features heavily in Norse mythology. He is known as the trickster, and commonly referred to as a queer god, bringing ancient lore into modern-day fights for equality.

The son of Fárbauti, a jötunn (not quite a god but still an important mythological being), and Laufey, considered by some to be a goddess of the trees, Loki is a shapeshifter who throughout the written lore we have, appears amongst other things as an old woman, a horse, and a salmon. Loki is the parent of Fenrir, Sleipnir, the ouroboros Jörmungandr, and the goddess of the underworld, Hel. He is father to all but Sleipnir, to whom he is mother, having been impregnated while in horse form.

Loki appears in the Prose Edda, the extensive collection of lore written and gathered by Snorri Sturluson around 1220 CE. The Prose Edda includes the Poetic Edda, a volume of poetry, which contains various stories about Loki’s life. In some stories, Loki hurls insults at the gods (old Norse rap battle, anyone?), and in others, he helps the goddess Freyja to avoid an arranged marriage to someone she does not love by assisting Thor to dress up as her.

Loki again saves Freyja in the Prose Edda: she is promised to a builder, along with the sun and the moon, if he can complete the construction of a new building for the gods within three seasons. The builder is the owner of the horse Svaðilfari, who is very strong and helps a great deal with the work. This worries the gods as they don’t want to have to give up Freyja and the sun and moon, so they blame Loki and he is threatened with death if he doesn’t stop the builder from completing the task to the allotted timescale. Loki stalls the building by disguising himself as a mare, and distracting the horse Svaðilfari for an entire night, which disrupts the builder enough that he isn’t able to finish in time and is killed by Thor. Loki subsequently gives birth to Sleipnir, who, it transpires, was fathered by Svaðilfari while Loki was a horse. Sleipnir is the famous eight-legged horse, known as the best horse, and who becomes Odin’s steed.

In the mythology, Loki is fated to fight Heimdallr at Ragnarok, the end of days and the new beginning of the world, and be killed by him, but this hasn’t happened yet, so to those who follow the Norse path, Loki is very much alive and well.

Artistic depictions of Loki from the Viking era extend beyond Scandinavia - there is even a stone carving here in the north, in a small church in Kirkby Stephen!

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