Loki is a mysterious, contradictory spirit, perhaps the ultimate trickster. Loki is usually classified as a Jotun (giant) but was conceived when lightning (his father) struck a leafy oak (his mother) and so may be some kind of primordial fire spirit. His name is related to an Old High German word meaning “shooting star.” Loki was born from the spark of life but his own children include the goddess of death and the wolf of doom.
Loki lives among the Aesir spirits and is Odin’s blood brother. He is Thor’s travelling companion; ostensibly his friend. Yet he conspires against them and is responsible for the death of Baldur. At the same time, he is instrumental in obtaining many of their most precious tools and attributes. Loki is the mother of Odin’s prized eight-legged steed Sleipnir. Loki constantly leads the Aesir into danger and then proceeds to rescue them as with the myth of Idunn’s apples or the theft of Thor’s hammer.
Loki’s motives and loyalties are never clear. Part of this confusion is because Norse mythology was committed to paper by later Christian commentators who identified Baldur with Christ. Extending the metaphor, Loki was identified with Judas or Satan. It is difficult if not impossible to find sympathetic portrayals of Loki. (And yet with Loki, there is always an exception: in a traditional ballad from the Faeroe Islands, after Odin and Hoenir, another Aesir spirit, fail, Loki rescues a young boy from a troll in response to prayers directed to him by the boy’s parents.)
If Odin masquerades in the guise of Santa Claus, as some believe, then Loki may be the original persona behind Santa’s dangerous helpers like Krampus or Black Pete.
Loki is more than a trickster and a plotter; he is a skilled inventor, artisan and craftsman. He is a font of obscure knowledge. He is nosy and extremely observant. He has a malicious streak and a vicious, cutting humor although heis also the only one able to make the goddess Skadi laugh following the death of her father. In the poem, the Lokasenna, the other deities seek to keep Loki from entering Aegir’s hall where they are feasting. He enters anyway and abuses them: publicly exposing their secrets and accusing them of cowardice until Thor returns with his hammer and forces Loki to be quiet.
Loki is the patron of spies; moles; trouble-makers; plotters; secret agents; double agents; double crossers; those operating under cover. (He may or may not be a reliable patron.)
Loki is a master shape-shifter. He can appear in any guise. Loki’s transformations are not merely superficial: when he appears in the form of a gorgeous white mare, the transformation is so complete that s/he gives birth to Sleipnir. Loki who enjoyed sexual relations with many of the Norse goddesses is allegedly very handsome and charming when he wishes to be.
Angerboda is also his sister, possibly his twin, and alter-ego. Both frequently assume other names and disguises. It’s unclear whether some myths reference Angerboda or Loki in disguise as for example the giantess who refuses to weep for Baldur. Loki’s second wife is Sigyn who shares Loki’s exile following Baldur’s death.
Wolves, snakes, possibly spiders
Sirius, known as Lokabrenna (“Loki’s Brand” or “Loki’s Torch”) in traditional Norse astrology
- Anger boda
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.