This is not the first article I wanted to write for this blog, nor an article I ever thought I’d be writing, and yet, here it is. Life is unpredictable living with Loki.
Tonight I had a chance to read Karl Seigfried’s
click-bait article comparing Loki to Trump. Most of this article meandered, loosely comparing some of the more deplorable behavior of Donald Trump to examples of Loki in the lore, thus making an argument (I think?) of why Loki is a figure that represents our worst aspects, and shouldn’t be revered or worshipped. He calls Loki an objectifier of women (as if Óðinn NEVER does that *makes long, soulful eye-contact with Rindr), a betrayer of community (see Helgakviða Hundingsbana II if you want to hear about how Óðinn stirs up strife among kinsmen), Opposes Law (Again… Óðinn, I’m sorry, but you know it’s true), and the bringer of chaos (Ok, maybe that one. But he’s not the only one!).
After reading this rather psycho-spiritual explanation, I was stirred up into a perfect rage at first. Here we go again: Loki is evil, and anyone who worships him is uneducated. Like I’ve never heard that old tune before. But when I finally calmed down a little, I started to think about things a little differently.
Fine. I’ll take it. Let’s say Loki hypothetically is behind Trump. But not for the reasons Seigfried thinks. He should re-read Lokasenna.
For those readers who don’t already know, Lokasenna is an Eddic Poem, in which Loki kills a servant at Ægir’s feast, is driven out of the hall, and then returns in order to throw insults at all of the gods present. In fact, he continues his rap battle until Þórr finally appears and forces him into silence. In this myth, Loki is bound under the ground in revenge for airing all the god’s dirty laundry, not killing Baldr. The interesting thing about Lokasenna, is that none of the gods refute any of the shameful stories that Loki is telling about them. In fact, many of these tales match details from other poems, and are indeed true. As Andy Orchard writes:
“Obviously, the force of the invective increases exponentially with the accuracy and disgracefulness of the charge, and etymologically senna seems to be related to the Old English sōð (‘true’, ‘truth’) and the Old Norse saðr, sannr (‘true’); such a contest would have no point if it were simply lies.” (Orchard, 296)
This fact makes the tone of Lokasenna a bit perplexing for the student of Old Norse Religion, especially when trying to understand the purpose of the poem. It’s usually dated around 1200 CE, long after the conversion of Iceland. So does that mean it was written by an author attempting to disparage the pagan gods through Loki’s mouth? Was it meant to be a comedy? Was it meant to be a play that was acted out for some kind of ritualistic purpose? We really have no context as to the poem’s original meaning.
However, what Lokasenna does reveal about the nature of Loki (at least an aspect of Loki that has been encountered by many Lokeans) is the inconvenient truth. And what has been happening ever since Trump took office? All of America’s ugly skeletons are straight up falling out of every closet we have. Sexism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, pretty much all the “isms”. For so long our country was moving along complacently. Things may have still been messed up beneath the surface, but the status quo was being upheld, and so things were more or less pretty stagnant.
Then Trump came along. All of the cockroaches crawled out of hiding and suddenly we had to look in this big, ugly, orange, racist mirror and take a good long look at ourselves as a country. It has been hard to look at, it has been painful, but all of the comfortable illusions we held about who were are have been challenged. We didn’t really defeat racism with the civil rights movement. LGBT people still aren’t quite as protected as we thought they were. India Jones didn’t really beat up all the Nazis. We patted ourselves on the back for being the leaders of the free world, and those illusions keep on crumbling every day. Even Bill freakin’ Cosby turned out to be a sexual deviant and a rapist for Angrboða’s sake!!!
But what has come out of this ugliness? People are organizing like I personally have never seen in my lifetime. The #Metoo movement is done with the misogynistic bullshit. We saw the largest protest march EVER the day after Trump’s inauguration. High schoolers are taking on the NRA. This has been an enormous wakeup call to us as a country. Through Trump’s airhorn mouth and daily buffoonery Loki mocks America: the haughty gods sitting at the table who thought our dirty deeds would never catch up with us. It’s ugly, it’s painful, people are being hurt in the process (and that’s not something to celebrate) but people are finally drawing a line in the sand. Who are you? What do you support? What will you put up with? What will be allow? These are are questions that anyone who walks with Loki has been forced to answer at some point in their lives.
I have heard many people say that Loki is the god who breaks the dam when the water is rotten. He isn’t a god of peace, and harmony, and all of those lovey dovey feelings. But he’s the god of realness. He doesn’t “drain the swamp”, he pushes you in and makes you sink or swim. He’s the god who forces you to own up to your shit and do something about it. He’s the god of change, and REAL change is never comfortable or easy. We often pray for change before we know the cost, and America has been praying for change for a long time. The change is here, and as usual, Loki’s job is necessary and thankless.
So fine, I’ll play this weird ” what if” game: maybe Trump is a vehicle of Loki. But Loki and Trump are both here to wake people the fuck up.
19. ‘Why must the two of you Æsir in here
wrangle with wounding words?
Is it not known of Lopt that he likes to give lip
and that all gods properly appreciate him?’
-Lokasenna, tr. Andy Orchard
Orchard, Andy. The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore. Penguin Books Ltd, 2013.
Links to other rebuttals:
Dude! I Call Unverified Political Gnosis!