Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Loki loves you

Had a friend call me “Loki” the other night. The context isn’t really important (a late-night conversation, some advice). Now, too many comic books when I was a kid messed up my head a little about Loki – Captain America fought him, if I recall, and he was the impetus behind the formation of The Avengers (Marvel Comic’s Avengers, not the hip British TV show with Emma Peel). I always saw Loki as the vindictive side of chaos. Even his portrayal in Norse mythology tends to paint him as the fly in the ointment, the uninvited guest, the guy who lays the turd in the punchbowl. But I did a little more research, and found some interesting things...

Here’s what I wrote my friend:

Did a little research on Loki, just to see if there was a match - turns out that there is some indication that Loki is what is called a hypostasis of Odin, i.e. they're the same in the way that the parts of the Trinity are the same. Loki is just Odin in his more... chaotic aspect. This makes some sense, since they are blood brothers, and the connection between them is strong enough to cause all kinds of problems.

The other interesting point is that Odin is the only "top dog" god in any pantheon associated with Mercury. There's some indication that Mercury was top god in the Mediterranean for a while. His symbol was the lignum/phallic standing stone, which you can still find scattered along roads in Greece... but then the aryan/semitic influence came down the pike and everybody wanted big daddy thunder gods. No accounting for taste, I guess.

Mercury/Odin/Hermes all being associated with language gives more evidence as to the Loki/Odin connection. In Odin we have the "positive" (i.e. socially acceptable and cohesive) aspect of language, while in Loki we see the shadow side - tricks, scams, seductions, stories. We also see, in Loki, the ambivalent relationship between the dark, reticent Norse and language. Reasoning, poetry, wisdom, the ability to speak well, these are all prized in their culture, but at the same time they recognize and are afraid of and disturbed by language's power to wreak havoc. Once again the uncomfortable aspects of a given power are shunted off into the "other" and then kept in check (cf. Prometheus. Notice the similarities between Prom. and Loki in their ends, both bound to rocks in never ending torments).

And to bring it back around to me (don't I always?) my friend Chad always used to call me "Spider". In reading the book "Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman, I found out that Spider is the trickster god in the African/Jamaican tradition. I have been consciously taking on the more trickster-y aspects of that moniker over the past year or so: charm, stories, constructive chaos. Spider is the well-spring of civilization. He is the inventive part that looks at the work and tries to think of a way to get it done faster so he can sleep with the pretty girls. He is imagination and surprise and the twist ending that leaves you laughing in spite of yourself. So when the runes told you Loki would give you advice, they were talking about it in the only language they had.... pretty cool, huh?

Not that I am entirely Spider/Loki (apparently I also have aspects of Pan, according to this friend – high praise, indeed! I mean, if that’s your thing). I’m just trying to learn to access that part of myself. I’ve met some people who embody chaos much more strongly than I ever could hope to (DH, I’m looking at you). There’s a downside to everything though, isn’t there? Embody chaos, you may find your life becoming unmanageable. Balance is the key. Wisdom and chaos in equal measure, with the occasional wild list to one side, just to keep things interesting.

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