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The persons involved in this discussion are Seinngaoth and Jeff Burke:
Whew Jeff, you had me going there and I must admit, it took some time for me to see the angle, but now it's clear. You really do worship Loki, don't you. At first, I sat and looked at the rant and thought to myself, self: "Boy, this is sort of silly on a list about the Aesir and the Runes" And the more I thought about it the more I really wanted to just jump in there and say that you were wrong. But, having the desire to be thoughtful, even if not wise, I thought on this some more and began looking up information on Loki. Tracking down the sagas and parts of the Edda that applied.
Now, I must admit, and perhaps I'm not alone here, that Loki has never been the god to whom I "prayed" a great deal. In fact, more often than not, I have bloted to him as a preventative, to placate him and keep him out of my affairs. I could say that I feared the powerful force he represented, though that might come out sounding wrong. Nonetheless, the rampant and irrevocable change that he does bring, certainly can cause the unknown to rise up and grab you. The destruction of the stasis of our humdrum lives, the patterns we take for granted, the passing of complacency by forceful means. All these are the powers which Loki brings. In effect, I learned a number of things about Loki that I had not known and came away having a new respect for him. And of course, that's why you wrote what you did, isn't it. It's clear now that you were demonstrating Loki's powerful influence in your writing by breaking down this stasis as it appears perhaps in many people's views of Byleist's brother. And you did it in a way I think that Loki would be proud of, a tradition of the venerable art of sophistry, the assumption of the opposite. By assuming the opposite of the truth, by carrying the normal thoughts of Loki to the absurd extreme, his character is set apart more clearly than ever and the faults of this kind of thinking are made clear. Amusingly, in the work-a-day western world, this is called playing the devil's advocate, another salute I must give to you for the play on character that is so often ascribed to Loki by the unknowing and Christianized. Just to make sure that I have done my work, let's review a few of these basic points and make sure that I have gotten this and uncovered your insight.
>In reference to the question is Loki necessarily a coward because he
>flees, my answer is:
A nice touch this, it makes the whole thing look as if it flowed from an ongoing conversation. Of course, I wasn't sure which flight you were discussing, so it was hard to refer specifically to this.
>In 'Lokasenna', Loki begins by SLAYING a servant- slaying a thrall is
>hardly a herioc act is it? Then he - under the protection of
>hospitality- breaks the peace by repeatedly insulting the entire seated
>company- then when finally threatened- he flees.
An amusing note here, the part where he flees is of course not a part of the original account, but rather is an appended (much later, I understand) section in prose. Inspired to look into this affair, this obvious difference becomes important. Note for yourself, that instead of acting the Nithing, Loki faces down all of the Gods from the High Father to Thor himself, who finally arrives at the end. Hardly the work of the Nidhing. To their face, he delivers the most powerful of insults and indeed offers none of them a physical offence, raising no hand against them though they offer some dire threats to him. The death of "Nimble-fingers" happens also offstage, but does set the scene. At this point, I might wonder why Loki has slain Fimafeng, but little evidence is forthcoming. Without that most important of evidence, it is difficult to be sure. Perhaps "Nimble-Fingers" was a thief and Loki knew it and stopped that from occurring and causing his host embarrasment. Difficult to say why without knowing the connection of the host Aegir to Loki but a possibility it is, especially considering his blood brotherhood with Odin who is known for his especial relation to mead (in the form of Odraerir). Perhaps this would have put the kibbitz on the flow of mead from Aegir and that might have somehow affected Odraerir. With this, I have only assumption and hypothesis, so I will let it go, but I thought it a possibility.
>Now insults under norse law are grounds for retribution (whether
>monetary or physical vengeance)- and an honorable man faces his
>accusers and offers atonenment or accepts challenge of battle- Loki
>acted dishonorably- as is his very nature.
Of course later, after this, they grab the guy and tie him up with the entrails of his own kid and drip poison on his face (assuming the prose afterword is to be believed). This does seem like a vengeance. Of course, there are other times, in other sagas and parts of the Edda where Loki receives insults from the others and pretty much takes it. Perhaps this was a come-uppance. More likely, it was a breaking of the stasis and complacency of the Aesir. If you push people, sometimes they push back. Even if what you do is good for the Aesir in the long-run , in the short run, people might be made angry and forced to confront and to take a lesson.
>There is also the concept of Nidhing to consider:
>various actions were considerd cowardly and dishonorable, and these
>actions were refferred to collectively as 'Nidhing's work'.
>1) not facing your opponent- whether in war or duel was considered
>cowardice and the act of a nidhing.
Obviously this doesn't apply since he faced down the entire assemblage of Gods. Moreover, while he generally gets threatened and slapped about by the Gods and Giants in the sagas and often seems to be physically incapable, he demonstrates the falseness of that point in his defeat of Heimdall.
>2) instigating another to do your dirty work for you was considered
>cowardice and the act of a Nidhing (Loki's manipulation of Hodr is an
>example of this)
Maybe so..or maybe not. Loki certainly had a way of getting the least expected person to take care of the deed. However, he is always the one to set things right as well, save perhaps for Ragnarok. Even when he doesn't cause the mischief, he sets things right (i.e. Trymskvadet). He also makes a meaningful example out of the destruction of peoples complacency as in the use of Hod to throw the dart. The Gods had become complacent and inured to the idea that Baldr could be hurt, much less killed. And Hod, the blind man who can't see the truth for his face is used in this. The fact isthat he is blind and cannot see the danger in being complacent about death. Stand up and meet it as a person with a little backbone.
>3) using magic to injure your opponent rather than relying on one's own
>might or luck was considered cowardly and nidhing's work.
Again maybe and maybe not. Certainly Odin is the God of Magick and he uses spells on others. Few think his war-fetters are cowardly. Certainly that is not a comment made to his face. Others also use various magicks in battle and war ... Egil Skallagrimson comes to mind lest I miss my mark. I think you were cleverly trying to throw us off here bysuggesting that magick is somehow a bad thing which would be the furthest extension of this argument. If working magick to hurt another was a bad thing, then all war magicks would be evil (maybe even those meant to spare you damage as they give you an unfair advantage). Clearly, they are not and thus I would give pause to delivering this as a pronouncement of TRUTH.
>4) engaging in homosexual acts- specifically assuming the passive role
>in the sex act was considered cowardly and nidhing's work (I refer you
>to Loki assuming the guise of a mare and being humped by a stud horse
>thereby engendering Sleipnir- the best of all horses- this is Nidhing's
Certainly a point that is brought up at times about Loki, even mentioned in the Lokasenna. Still, few make the same point of Thor who also dresses as a woman in the aforementioned Trymskvadet. As a person who is studying Loki's character would be quick to point out, while he often does engage in a cross-dressing thing (using Freyja's Hawk cloak for shapechanging) which is a typical shamanic theme and which is often typical of the Trickster God in numerous mythologies, I would simply point out, as I'm sure you would, that these acts all serve to do two things:
1: Benefit the Gods, as with the saving of paying the price in the building of the Walls of Asgard or with the gift of Sleipnir, the best of horses to his blood brother.
2: Demonstrate a breaking of accepted norms. As i'm sure we all know, the person who is willing to challenge societal norms, no matter in how small a way, is often quite the brave individual. Such an act, such a challenge can be a powerful act of bravery, and I think it is in this that we begin to see why it is that Loki is considered one of the Aesir.
>5) gossiping about others in order to sway someone against another
>person was considered cowardly and Nidhing's work- This is also the
>modus operandi of Loki- see the Sorli Thattr where Loki tells Odin
>gossip about Freyja resulting in his theft of the Brisengamen.
An interesting action here, to point this out. Loki does tell his blood brother of the Brisingamen and thus incite its theft at Odin's behest. I think however, the value of this particular action is seen in its final outcome, which is the condition that Odin sets. It is a double edged sword in action. Having the two kings fight is not a difficulty, but having the Christian come along and take them both out is a powerful statement. On the one hand, it would appear overtly to be the proof to the Norsemen that the Christians can be powerful, but hidden within this action would be the defeat of Christianity. The faith of the Christian, nominally states that a person should turn the other cheek and avoid killing others (well, that is what their book says!). By having the Christian slay the kings, that Christian is in their heart denying everything their god has said and is thus destroyed, at least in conscience.
>6) theft is considered cowardly and nidhing's Work (by the way I
>realize that Odin himself is also guilty of some of these things, and
>the Viking Age Northerners also reproved Odin and his followers on
As a general rule, it is, when it is the act of the average man stealing to fatten himself or to avoid work. I certainly find contempt for thieves and yet that is also clearly not how these things apply to Loki. In each case, as i'm sure you noted, his adventures and trials in the recovery of these things is legendary and difficult. Hardly the work of the thief, instead, more the work of someone who is breaking the rules. He is brave in the daring manner in which he does these things and accomplishes his tasks. Tasks, I might add, which are often set for him by the rest of the Aesir.
>7) reneging- or attempting to reneg on a sworn oath or bargain is
>considered cowardly and Nidhing's work. consider that Loki made a bet
>with dwarves and attempted to cause them to lose the bet by cowardly
>acts resulting in the short handle of Thor's Hammer.
I was amused at how you pointed this out. Anyone reading this poem or the poem in which Asgard's Wall-Builder's mare is lured away is struck, as I know I am, by the cleverness of Loki. He never reneges and never lies. He does bargain cleverly as with the Dwarves and his head for the gifts of the Dwarves he gains so slyly. But he still obeys his word as evidenced by the fact that he allows his mouth to be sowed shut. In other words, he makes clever bargains and leaves himself plenty of loopholes that he can take advantage of and which again will benefit not only himself, but his adopted tribe, the Aesir.
>8) using seidr was considered cowardly, unmanly, and Nithing's work-
>This is expalined in Heimskringla where Seidr is defined as assuming
>the form of an animal to do your 'dirty work'- Loki is guilty of this.
>on many occasions he assumes the form of a flea, a fly, a horse, a
>salmon, a bird, etc.,
While I have heard this said and seen it applied in a couple of places, it is notable that Odin himself doesn't seem to have a problem performing and using Seithr. And noone seems to make any kind of comment on that. Perhaps it is because that Seidr itself is not the thing looked down on, but rather that Seidr which is traditionally a female practice associated with the Vanir and therefore an Earthy practice of the common folk is not the "noble" magick of the Aesir, Galdr. Or maybe this is just another example of Loki breaking people out of their preconceived and expected norms.
>9) begging and pleading for mercy rather than 'facing the music' (ie,
>your punishment) is considered cowardly and nidhing's work- Loki si
>guilty of this on many occaisons (when confronted with the theft of
>Thor's Hammer for instance)
I'll have to check on-line for this, in the copy of the Trymskvadet that I have Loki is helping Thor return the hammer and for once, wasn't even involved with the setup. Once again, he is excellent company in facing incalculable danger and on any adventure. Even Thor refers to hims as a good companion for travelling. Hardly the words one uses of a man condemned as a Nithing.
>all these things and more prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that not
>only is Loki a nidhing, but he is the epitome of Nidhings- the ULTIMATE
>Nidhing. That is his purpose and function in the Norse pantheon. That
>is his raison d'etre (reason for, existence).
Where Loki is involved, if there is no doubt, then there is a definite joke and trick at play. Anytime you think you have Loki pegged into a pattern and identified as a particular thing, blam, he escapes the prison of ideas you have set for him, breaks you free of your complacency and causes you to question the ideas that got you going. Your pegging of his behavior and literary technique of reversal are indeed excellent tricks themselves, worthy of Loki. Thank you for inspiring me to really consider Loki and to see the bravery that he has. After reading a few of the edda's stories that involve Loki, I am once again impressed by the bravery of this As, as well as the trickery and cleverness. You have certainly rid me of a complacency and the accepting of complacency about the Gods.
In all of the Nine Worlds, I don't think I could have thought of a more clever way of getting people to think about Loki and understand his character in a more appropriate way. My hats off to you, Mr. Burke.
Yours in Troth,
last modified 07/20/2003