Welcome to part 2 of many!
Originally, I had a disclaimer about how my criticism and commentary are meant when directed at the works of others. I also explained how I intend to deal with any nonconstructive mud slinging that may end up pointed towards my stuff. This post is a long enough, however, so I split off those things to a post of their own.
In either case, on with the show.
If we use a reconstructionist approach to rebuilding Asatru/Heathenry, we find that Loki is a minor god at best. He had no cult of his own, and the tales that established his role amongst the Aesir are infrequent enough to be ignored.
There is the temptation to ask “If Loki’s role should be so small, then why do you have such a big opinion about him?”, but that would be juvenile of me. Further, there are some much bigger and more interesting questions to ask.
When I left off, I pointed out the difficulties of deciding what is and is not proper Heathenry. We can easily determine if something is native to Heathen practices. It’s a pass or fail test, and it takes little more then a second’s consideration. What can be very difficult, however, is establishing the proper place or role something may have. To help with this process of identifying the different parts of our faith, some turn to the tools afforded to us by recorded history. Such people use the sagas, lore, etymology, and first hand accounts to identify what our faith is and is not. I have no problem with the practice in moderation, but I consider reconstructionist methods to be a dangerous crutch when they are the only methods used.
For one thing, a book is not wisdom. A holy text is not god. A love letter is not passion. Certainly, reading such works may lead a person to those wonderful places. Books have catalyzed wisdom greater then the contents of their ink. The writings of prophets have brought people to a state of enlightenment that language cannot properly describe. Words wrought with emotion have incited passions beyond description in those that have read them. For an excellent example of all three we need only consider the poet, Rumi.
It is not solely the context of those writing that gave Rumi his wisdom, however. Nor was it what Rumi considered god to be that gave him his piety. The words he chose did not single handedly bring the reader to understand his love of the divine. It was all of these things, combined with his own personal being that gave these matters a vibrant life all their own. It was his gnosis, his spirituality, his dimensions as a person, and the essence of his own culture that gave his words such brilliance.
Imagine that we examined Rumi’s native culture, politics, and the attendant mythology of his day; would we be able to get to those same stunning vistas he reached? Is a connection to the divine like a computer program, where all we would need to do is plug in the same variables to acquire the same result?
I do not think so. I feel that in order for the reconstruction of a religion to have any meaning, we must touch it ourselves. Place our hands into the wet cement from which the foundation is formed, and leave a permanent impression for all the world to see. It needs to be infused with our collective spirit as it exists in this very moment ; our own zeitgeist.
Some may question why their exists a need to change our religion at all, as it did not need to change in the times of our ancestors. If someone would make such a statement, I would say that they need to reconsider a few things; our religion has never been stagnant. Odin was not always the highest of all the gods; we have proof that Tyr held that position before he did. We know that Frey, Freya, and Njord were once enemies of Asgard…just as we know that is no longer the case. Our religion has already experienced major changes, so pointing out that there was no cult to Loki over a thousand years ago hardly seem to have any weight to me. Things have changed before, just as they will change again.
Let us not forget how much our world itself has changed either; in the days of our ancestors, a snow storm could portend years of hardship at best, dozens of deaths at worst. In times such as ours, it means we might have a few days where we can’t order delivery pizza. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and worse still exist of course. Our architecture and science, however, protect us from and warn us of their dangers in ways that were not previously possible.
These are the dangerous forces the Jotuns are said to represent, but they aren’t the same danger to us that they were to our ancestors. I am not implying that they have been conquered; I am simply pointing out that they are not the great reapers of mankind that they once were. To be honest, I feel that humanity has become a far greater danger to the well-belling of humans that any army of giants could hope to be.
Wal-Mart. Masanto. Governments. Resteraunts. Poverty. Gun laws. Political Action Committees. World Hunger. Drinkable Water. Religious Zealotry. All of these are things I hear my fellow Heathens talk about in voices filled with concern. All of these things cause humanity endless problems. Which Jotun, I ask you, represents these forces? These forces which, more often then not, inflict greater casualties then earthquakes and tornadoes.
If you still doubt my point, allow me to ask you a question; if a Masanto farm or a Wal-Mart warehouse were suddenly destroyed via an act of nature, would you be gnashing your teeth at the forces of Jotunheim weaving destruction upon the hard won works of men and women? I think not.
I’m not proclaiming natural disasters to be some great, religious equalizer; it was wrong when Pat Robertson did it and it would be wrong for me to do the same now. Nor am I not saying that all the Jotuns in the lore are misunderstood; quite a number of them are not. However, to call them the unequaled bane of civilized life in this day and age makes no sense.
That bane has long been us.
Is it, therefore, wrong to suggest that just maybe the Jotuns have a place in our world? A place that may have been there all along, or that has only come into being now that the equilibrium between nature and civilization has shifted beyond recognition. This question becomes especially poignant when we bring up Ragnarok; we still are not certain whether it was a creation of transcribing monks or if it truly predated the rise of Catholicism.
I do not question the validity of examining our spiritual past; it has many answers for us. There are also solutions in the present, however, and I feel it would be a mistake to forget that.
Loki is a god of Chaos. His actions only yield positive results when he needs forgiveness for his wanton destruction. Our ancestors were not ones to favor such chancy and uncertain gains, so his worship would make no sense.
I really dislike calling Loki a God of Chaos; it shows a lack of understanding for what chaos actually is.
Humor me for a moment, and look at the definition of chaos. Now, does that definition sound like it matches Loki’s actions? Do His actions portray a “total lack of organization”? Of course they don’t; they are meticulous and crafted, and made with an end result in mind. Are they “confused” and “disorderly”? No; each choice is made with awareness of the situation at hand, and is mindful of the goal Loki wishes to achieve.
Could those actions cause chaos in the observer? Of course…but there is a long space between a God of Chaos and a God whose action sometimes create chaos in the minds of others. If you think that sounds like a weak distinction, then I must ask you if you consider Odin the God of having issues with depth perception or Freya the Goddess of farting in the middle of sex. Of course not; to do so would be to purposefully misunderstand those deities and their role in the lore.
Then there is the problem with his positive actions being consider nothing more then apologies and bribes; this is hardly accurate. It is true that such is often the case, but Loki’s actions are also just as often for the good of all without such a debt being established. The walls of Asgard and Slepnir are two good examples. Loki’s appeasement of Skadi via his own public shaming is another. Loki also journeyed with Thor to Utgard-Loki’s hall, and stood with him before a host of frost giants.
So we can see that Loki is not Chaos incarnate as he is so often thought of. Further, his benevolence isn’t always repayment for his treachery as some would claim. Yet, there is another question we must ask if we want to get to the bottom of Loki’s actions; how does he compare to his peers? If Loki is so vile, shouldn’t the rest of the gods be perfectly respectable? Wouldn’t they need to be above reproach by the standards and morals of modern Heathenry? Next time, we’ll look at that loaded question in detail, and we’ll also look at why the damnation of the Rokkatru may not be as one sided as some would like to believe.