Loki the Trickster
THE most unpredictable and certainly the most dangerous god in the Northern pantheon was Loki. His activities ran from the merely mischievous to the blatantly malicious. Supremely clever, Loki ensnared everyone in complicated problems, to which he always supplied a remedy – through his solution often engendered even greater troubles.
Loki is an immensely powerful magician, and shares with Odin the ability to sex- and shape shift at will. His parents were both giants (the perpetual enemies of the gods) and Loki had some unusual children, including the huge wolf Fenrir, borne from Loki’s brief dalliance with a giantess.
Loki was fair of face, and took many lovers, despite his constant criticism of goddesses who did the same. His wife was the faithful and hapless goddess Sigyn, whose fidelity surely he did not deserve. After Loki had been bound in a cave with a venomous snake dripping poison upon him as punishment, Sigyn sat by her husband’s side and held a bowl over him to catch the drops before they hit him. When the bowl filled, she had to rise and empty it, and then the stinging drops fell directly upon Loki. It was said his twisting to escape the pain was the cause of earthquakes.
It is Loki who begins the chain of events that leads to the destruction of the gods. He does this by causing the death of the beautiful Baldr, Frigg’s son, who in his goodness and perfection embodies the attainment of every desirable quality. Baldr’s death plunges all of Asgard into mourning. Yet Loki feels no remorse, and in fact relishes every opportunity to exert his contrary nature. After Frigg had gone to great lengths to bring Baldr back to the land of the living by asking all beings to weep for his return, Loki (in the guise of an old female giant) steadfastly refused to shed a single tear for the slain god. Thus Baldr was consigned to the realms of the dead, under the governance of Lady Hel.
This loss of innocence represented by Baldr’s death is the act that triggers Ragnarok, the end of all things. Ragnarok begins with famine and darkness and bitter cold – a Winter lasting three entire years. It ends with all creation becoming a flaming furnace. In the middle is staged the disastrous final battle in which the gods are arrayed against the powers of evil represented by the giants. Nearly everything and every body, in all realms, is destroyed. Loki fights against the gods, and is killed, as is Odin, Tyr, Freyr, and Thor. Even the elfs, dwarfs, Sun and Moon are destroyed. Out of this a new Earth arises, and a single man and woman, Lifthrasir and Lif, who had hidden themselves in Yggdrasil the World Tree, emerge. Baldr comes forth, and a few sons and daughters of the gods survive, and begin a fresh cycle of life.
This final lesson reminds us that nothing can remain static; even the gods need renewal It is true to his Trickster nature that Loki, in his destructiveness, serves as the impetus for creation in the eventual formation of the new world order.