One of the trailers for the upcoming Marvel Loki series features the intriguing phrase, “Loki variant.” Of course, if there’s one variant, there will be others and I’m not just refering to the series. In fact, Loki “variants” already exist in Norse lore. As a shapeshifter, he (she/they/ze…) appears in the stories as a mare (soon to be pregnant), a salmon, a fly, and more.
Dagulf Loptson, author of Playing With Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (Asphodel Press, 2014) and Loki: Trickster and Transformer (Pagan Portals, 2020), writes that Loki is also known by various “indirect bynames” for his various forms and functions (Playing, p.20). Here are just a few of these bynames, known as “heiti” or “kennings”:
• Lóðurr (Lodur, Lodurr): who in the poem, Völuspá, helps to animate two humans who were formerly ash and elm trees. Loptson says you’ll find this story in the 18th stanza of the poem (Playing, pp. 22-26). The association of this byname with Loki is still somewhat controversial.
• Vé: a word which means shrine. This name is often associated with a brother of Óðinn, or with Óðinn himself. We can remember that in Norse Lore, Loki is Óðinn’s blood brother (not his adopted son, as in the Marvel Universe). The association of this byname with Loki is also still somewhat controversial. (Playing, p.26-27).
• Loptr: an accepted byname for Loki which means “airy one or lofty one” (Playing, p. 27-29).
• Gammleið: “Vulture’s Path” which may also be a kenning for air (Playing, pp. 29-31). Loptson associates Loki with cremation fire and sees the vulture as “Loki’s bird” (p. 30). He gives compelling and scholarly reasons for these associations.
• Inn bundni áss: The bound God, which refers to Loki’s punishment for insulting the rest of the gods by telling the truth about them. (Playing, p. 31-32).
Many more names may be found in Playing with Fire (pp. 36-38), throughout Loki: Trickster and Transformer, and The Grumpy Lokean Elder’s blog. Stephan Grundy, Ph.D. also discusses these and other bynames and aspects of Loki in God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki’s Role in the Northern Religions (Troth Publications, 2015).
In a recently published essay I write of my own “UPG” (unverified personal gnosis) that as a shapeshifter, Loki may have mystic lessons to teach us about cellular and genetic “shapeshifting” in our own bodies (longer, more youthful telemeres, please!). (“Loki-I’m Game!”, Blood Unbound-A Loki Devotional, edited by Bat Collazo, Troth Publications, 2021, pp. 141-142).
God Loki Variant and Satanized Loki Variant
Loki as a God
Was Loki worshipped in old Norse and Icelandic cultures? Many academics say no. However Stephan Grundy mentions Loki’s centrality in Eddic dramas and cites Dame Bertha Philpott’s theory that the Eddic dramas were actually scripts for religious rituals and mentions Terry Gunnell’s later investigations and conclusions regarding this theory, which is now generally accepted (God in Flames, pp. 32-34).
There’s a scene in Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok that might be a clever nod to this theory. In this scene Thor returns to Asgard only to find a huge golden statue of (the presumed dead) Loki erected in front of an “Asgardian Theater” and enters just in time for the conclusion of a dramatic re-enactment of Loki’s tragic demise. Loki himself, disguised as Odin, is enjoying the audience’s response. The scene suggests that Loki has lost no time in establishing a vehicle for his own worship.
Though we have very little evidence of Loki worship in older times, aside from the ritual drama theory, Loki worship is increasingly popular among Heathens and other modern neo-pagans.
Loki as the “Norse Satan”
The Icelandic writer, Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), author of the Prose Edda (a collection of traditional Norse poems and stories) and Heimskringla, is frequently cited as the person most to blame for turning Loki into the equivalent of “the Norse Satan” and for otherwise distorting the original Norse and Icelandic material with his Christian perspective. Unfortunately for Loki, Snorri’s slurs stuck fast.
In a further distortion, some American white supremacists not only view Loki as Satan, but also as Jewish, since his second name, Laufeyjarson, refers to his mother (Laufey, a goddess) instead of his father (Fárbauti, a jötunn). A patrynomic, like “Fárbautison,” would have been more usual in Norse culture. (So contrary to the Marvel Universe lore, Loki is not and never was an “Óðinnson.” However, he was and is Óðinn’s blood brother, as mentioned earlier.) What does this have to do with the white supremacist claim that Norse Loki is actually Jewish? Well, in the Judaic tradition, Jewish descent is matrilineal. Such claims about Loki probably predate Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas and Nazism, but Wagner and the Nazis certainly promoted this. (If you doubt this, just type “is Loki Jewish” into a search engine and see what nonsense appears.)
Artists also took up this notion. There was a period of time when Loki was depicted as looking middle-Eastern, clothed as middle-Eastern, or with a hooked nose (a stereotyped “Jewish” feature). Here are two examples from Wikimedia commons. At top: “Loki. An illustration from Fredrik Sander’s 1893 Swedish edition of the Poetic Edda.” Below: “An illustration of Loki with a fishnet, from an Icelandic 18th century manuscript.” FYI, I cringe every time big blond Marvel Thor describes his bro, Marvel Loki, as “greasy.” For shame, screenwriters!
Worshipping Loki as a Gender Fluid, Queer Diety
With regard to contemporary worship of Loki as a god, Lokeans and others who hail and appreciate him, often view him as a queer god and a god of outsiders and oppressed people. Collective Lokean gnosis would easily accept Loki as being supportive of anyone who is oppressed due to religion, gender, and/or ethnicity (and so on). Based on community gnosis, Loki is not likely to be sympathetic to any oppressive cause. In fact, even the Marvel Loki “variant” is widely perceived as a deity who celebrates Pride (art by D.Kettchen on Deviant Art).
Dagulf Loptson has created and shared many Loki rituals with the community of those who honor Loki. Here’s one example, a Lokean Washing Charm. Holidays adopted by Lokeans include April 1st, Lokabrenna (the rising of Sirius in late July/August), Loki Spongecake Day on Sept. 4th, and Dec. 13th as his “birthday.”
Once the new Marvel Loki series appears on Disney, I predict that membership in the various Loki-related social media groups will more than double. For example, Loki’s Wyrdlings on Facebook has experienced enormous growth just since 2018.
Loki’s Pop Culture Variants
As I’ve said before, Loki Laufeyjarson is the consummate muse. He has long been a favorite of artists, storytellers, novelists, fan fiction writers, and screenwriters. And there are numerous ways of portraying him. Below is a screenshot summarizing his appearance in Marvel Comics, which of course resulted in his inclusion in Marvel action movies.
However, the Marvel Universe can’t claim the only recent portrayal of Loki. Spoiler alert: The Norwegian series, Ragnarok, cast Jonas Strand Gravli in the character of Laurits Seier, a teenager just learning of his true identity as Loki, a non-human jötunn (below). Jonas Gravli does an amazing job in this series.
(Photo source: https://www.filmstarts.de/nachrichten/18536004.html).
Cosplayers also perform Loki with zest. My favorite is Casey Triere who is also voice actor and a brilliant artist. Here is one of Casey’s “Norse of Course” TikTok videos. Here is one of her portraits of Loki, used with her permission.
As you can see, there are so many “variants” of Loki to enjoy. Here is an introduction to my own variant, Loki as “Lucky LaFey,” a “handsome drifter” who is actually in search of his missing son, Váli, turned into a wolf by Odin. Loki himself is a fervent muse for this character who appears in two of my four Guild of Ornamental Hermits books, soon to be published online by Futures Past Editions.
Many of these variants are “brilliant, bright-eyed, too beautiful to resist” according to the poet, Elizabeth Vongvisith, author of Trickster, My Beloved: Poems for Laufey’s Son.
Once you learn more about the many faces and aspects of Loki Laufeyjarson, you too might also find him irresistable. And that’s not a bad thing.