The Masks of Odin by Elsa-Brita Titchenell
Copyright © 1985 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.

Chapter 22

Lokasenna

(Loki's Flyting (1))

TEXT

TRANSLATOR'S NOTES

The Aesir and Asynjor (deities) were assembled in the inviolable, spacious hall, lighted by bright gold, to feast on the ale brewed in Hymer's caldron by Ager. Thor was absent "in easterly ways" and Loki had not been invited. At this point in evolution, when ale was already brewed, Loki, the human mind, had become proud and selfish, intractable to the promptings of the spiritual soul, and therefore he had no place in the banquet hall of the gods. Elves, however, were present: the finest properties of human souls, which had united their essence, their asmegir (godmaker), with the divine Self, and who therefore could enter the sacred precincts.

Loki slew Fimafeng (the nimblefingered), forced his way into the hall and demanded to share in the revels. He reminded Odin of their kinship, calling himself Lopt (lofty — aspiring human intelligence). At Odin's command Vidar then ceded his place to Loki and served him ale but, before drinking, Loki toasted all the gods, pointedly omitting Brage (intuition, bardic inspiration). He accused that noble virtue (Brage) of cowardice and, when Brage offered him bangles of gold (such as were used for money) and even his horse and sword to keep the peace of the sacred place, Loki still refused to be silenced. Idun rose to defend Brage, whereupon she too became the butt of Loki's ready tongue, and soon each Ase and Asynja, rising to the defense of another (never of himself), received the renegade's insults. At length Frigga intervened. She tried to soothe the angry company, enjoining the gods to forget the follies of their youth and cease upbraiding each other with long forgotten peccadilloes, whereupon Loki turned on her too, accusing the mother of the gods of infidelity. This brought a sharp retort from Freya who reminded Loki that "Frigg knows every being's fate though she herself says naught." Arriving on the scene, Thor too indulged in an altercation with Loki who, when threatened with Mjolnir, the pulverizer, finally ceased and left.

At first reading, the feast of the deities seems a pointless succession of insults but, on closer scrutiny, it illustrates how a materialistic and uninspired intellect looks at nature, and particularly how such a pragmatic mind regards the powers represented as gods in mythic stories. Loki's vituperations read like the language of a Billingsgate fishwife. He sees in the actions of universal powers only the reflection of his own limited and distorted perceptions. Regarded in this way the metaphor becomes quite transparent. In fact, Loki's accusations of infidelity and immorality are exactly duplicated in numerous books of mythology today, where adultery and incest among the deities are taken literally and at face value. But when the gods and goddesses are, more logically, regarded as overlapping, enhancing, or mitigating force fields which interact with one another physically — gravitationally and in other ways throughout the electromagnetic spectrum — their combined effects may well accord with what the mythic tales relate. When, in addition, their various spheres of influence are taken to include spiritual and divine interactions, their meaning enters a realm of sacred science.

The mind is dual. Born of giant forebears, Loki is also one of the Aesir and their constant companion, aide, and interpreter when they travel in the giant worlds. His pranks are, on the surface, a rich source of amusement but, as we seek to understand his place in the evolution of beings, we soon see the pitfalls into which Loki alone, uninspired by Brage, can lead us. Allied with poetic inspiration (Brage), the lower practical mind (Loki) becomes lofty (Lopt), the salvation of humanity, and provides the mead for the inner god. When alone, it alienates itself from the heart of Being; unheeding of intuition, it rails against the gods, against universal law, against justice, love, and compassion. Our own civilization illustrates this for, although most human beings are well disposed and inclined to compassionate action, often cleverness is prized above virtue and physical skills above wisdom. If the gentler qualities were entirely lacking our world would truly be a hell, for technology untempered with ethics leads to disaster (which literally means it divorces us from the stars). Human progress is best promoted not by mind alone but by an alliance of mind and heart.

As the Aesir at their revels partake of the garnered spiritual gains of the life just past, the elves rest among them. These are souls that have earned their association with the divinities, leaving "outside" that part of mind — Loki — which seeks its own and separate goals. But the sleeping elves are not yet conscious in the sphere of the gods and can take no active part in the festivities; their awareness is not adequate to enjoy those realms. They are the souls' increment of good, dreaming their heavenly dreams in the higher halls of Hel, while awaiting the urge to enter once more into incarnation as men and women.

There is also another explanation for the sleeping elves. In the sacred traditions each of nature's kingdoms in turn has its heyday in any one world; the other streams of life belonging to that world are then relatively inactive. Our earth, as we observe, is presently concentrating its life forces in the human sphere. The mineral and vegetable representatives, though present, are for the most part quiescent. It is said that when the mineral kingdom is active, volcanism is tremendously prevalent and, when the vegetation is most flourishing, plants are not gently rooted but move freely over the earth. When the next succeeding wave of life following the human comes to our planet, ours will "sleep" among the lowest kingdom of the gods who will then be the predominant evolvers of the globe, "quaffing the ale" of life.


Lokasenna

Ager, also named Gymer, had prepared a drinking bout for the Aesir, after receiving the great caldron, as has been told. (2) To this banquet came Odin and Frigg, his wife. Thor did not, as he was in easterly ways but Sif, his wife, was there. Also Brage and his wife Idun. Tyr also; he was one-handed, for the Fenris wolf had torn off his hand while being bound. There was Njord, and his wife Skade, Frey and Freya, and Vidar, Odin's son. Loki was there, as also Frey's servants, Byggver and Beyla. There was a host of Aesir and elves.

Ager had two servants, Fimafeng (3)and Elder. Bright gold supplied the light instead of fire, the ale served itself, and the place was inviolable and spacious.

Those present praised the excellence of Ager's servants; Loki could not bear this, so he slew Fimafeng, whereupon the Aesir shook their shields, shouted at Loki, and drove him into the forest while they went to drink. Loki returned and met Elder outside. He said:

LOKI: Tell me, Elder, before you take another step: At the ale feast, whereof speak the sons of the triumphant gods?

ELDER: They judge of their weapons and their battle honor, the sons of the triumphant gods. Of Aesir and elves in there none has a good word for you.

LOKI: I shall go into Ager's hall and see this drinking feast. I shall bring scorn and anger to the Aesir's sons and so blend evil in the mead.

ELDER: Know that if you go into Ager's hall to see this drinking feast and heap scorn and abuse on the gentle gods, they may wipe it off on you.

LOKI: And you know, Elder, if we two have it out with words together that I am far better armed with speech than you.

Then entered Loki into the hall. At his entrance all fell silent.

LOKI: Thirsty came Lopt into this hall from far away to beg the Aesir, that one of them might give me a sip of fine mead. Why are you silent, gloomy gods? Have you nothing to say? Either show me a seat or forcibly drive me away.

BRAGE: A seat at the festive board shall you never have from the Aesir because they well know what kind of person they choose to carouse with.

LOKI: Remember, Odin, how in the foretime we two mingled blood together; you then said you never would drink ale were it not served us both.

ODIN: Rise, Vidar, and let the wolf's father have a seat in the assembly, that Loki may not charge us with scorn here in Ager's hall.

Vidar rose and poured for Loki. Before he drank, Loki addressed the Aesir:

LOKI: Hail ye, Aesir, hail Asynjor, hall all holy gods, excepting him who sits inmost on the bench — Brage!

BRAGE: My horse and sword I give you freely, also a ring I forfeit to you, that you pay not the Aesir with envy and make the gods angry.

LOKI: May you ever be robbed of horse and bangle, Brage! Of all Aesir and elves here you are the most craven.

BRAGE: Were I outside instead of inside Ager's hall I should bear your head in my hand. It would serve your lie right.

LOKI: You are brave when seated, Brage, bench ornament! Go and fight if you want to. A brave man hesitates not.

IDUN: I beg of you, Brage, by your children and your wished-for sons, tease not Loki reproachfully here in Ager's hall.

LOKI: Shut up, Idun. You of all women I think are the most man-crazy since your dazzling arms clasped your brother's bane.

IDUN: I will not tease Loki with accusations here in Ager's hall. I would rather appease Brage who is wrought up; I do not want you two angered to fight.

GEFION (4): Why should you, two Aesir, use sharp words between you? Lopt knows not how he is joking and tempting the gods.

LOKI: Shut up, Gefion, let us not forget how you were seduced by the white youth who gave you the gem and whom you linked in your limbs.

ODIN: You are mad, Loki, out of your mind, angering Gefion, for she knows all the fates of the ages as well as I do.

LOKI: Shut up, Odin; you never did know how to choose justly among warriors; often you gave victory to those you should not, the very worst.

ODIN: And if I gave victory to the worst whom I should not, you spent eight winters in the underworld, a milker of cows, a woman, and there you bore children, offspring of evil. This I call cause to name you wretch.

LOKI: You are said on earth to have used seery, to have cheated in sibyl's wisdom, and walked the world in a sorcerer's guise.

FRIGG: You should not talk of your doings in adolescent years, what you two Aesir practiced in the foretime. Folks forget old grudges.

LOKI: Quiet, Frigg, you are Fjorgyn's maid and have ever sought dalliance, as when you, Vidrer's woman, clasped both Vile and Vi to your bosom.

FRIGG: Had I a son such as Balder here in Ager's hall you would not escape the sons of the Aesir without being badly beaten.

LOKI: Well, Frigg, will you that I tell more of my harmful runes? I shall work it so that you shall not again see Balder riding to the halls.

FREYA: You are mad, Loki, ranting your evil doings; Frigg, I know, knows every being's fate, though she herself says naught.

LOKI: Shut up, Freya, I know you well. You lack not faults: of the Aesir and elves who are here within, you have whored with them all.

FREYA: Your tongue is false and I believe it will babble you evil and ills in the future. You have angered the Aesir and Asynjor. In shame shall you wend your way home.

LOKI: Shut up, Freya, you are a witch full of evil; when the mild gods found you conjuring with your brother, ugly you snorted then.

NJORD: It matters little if the woman embrace a husband or lover, but it is a miracle that the Aesir's hermaphrodite could enter here, as he bore offspring. (5)

LOKI: Shut up, Njord. When eastward hence you were sent as hostage of the gods, Hymer's maids used you for a jar and poured in your mouth.

NJORD: I have the consolation that when I was eastward sent as hostage of the gods, I begot a son whom no one hates, a doughty defender of the Aesir. (6)

LOKI: Stay, Njord, hold your tongue; no longer shall this be hid: with your sister you begot such a son. It was to be expected.

TYR: Frey is the best of all the bold Aesir: no man's wife or maid laments on his account. He loosens all links.

LOKI: Shut up, Tyr, you never made peace between any two; let us speak of your right hand. Fenrer tore it from you.

TYR: I lost my hand, and you your star witness. The harm is ill for us both. The wolf is no better off, biding in fetters till the end of the ages.

LOKI: Shut up, Tyr. With your wife it happened that she bore a son by me; you never received an ell nor a penny for the dishonor, poor fool.

FREY: I see the wolf lying at the river's mouth till the rulers' reign shall be rent. Beside him shall you also be chained if you cease not now, schemer.

LOKI: With gold you bought Gymer's daughter, and so sold your sword; but when Muspell's sons ride over the Mirkwood, how shall you then fight?

BYGGVER: Had I the noble birth of Ingunar-Frey and such a blissful abode, I should grind you finer than marrow, you bird of ill omen, and lame all your limbs.

LOKI: What toddler is this I see sneaking his fare, a sniffer of crumbs? You tattle in Frey's ear and tread the mill.

BYGGVER: Byggver is my name, and I am called smart among gods and men; I am privileged to drink good ale here with all Ropt's sons.

LOKI: Shut up, Byggver, you never could share fairly the food among men; and you were hidden beneath the bench-hay when men came to blows.

HEIMDAL: You are drunk, Loki, and robbed of your wits; why don't you cease, Loki? Overindulgence causes both young and old to lose control of their tongues.

LOKI: Shut up, Heimdal. In the morning of days you were ill-fated to be ever splashed on the back, watcher for the gods.

SKADE: You are funny, Loki, but not for long may you play with a wagging tail; for, tied with your cold son's guts on a sharp rock shall the angry gods bind you.

LOKI: If on a sharp rock the angry gods bind me with my frostcold son's guts, I was both first and last in the battle when Tjasse (7) lost his life.

SKADE: If first and last you were in the tumult when Tjasse gave his life, then from my sanctuaries, my sacred groves, shall you meager counsel gain.

LOKI: Gentler were your words to the son of Lofo when you bade me to your bed; such things must be told if we are to narrate all our faults.

Beyla/Sif came forth and poured the tankard with mead for Loki:

SIF: Hail thee, Loki, take this cup filled with mellow mead, and may I alone of Aesir's children be held free from faults.

Loki took the horn and drank.

LOKI: Alone indeed were you, if you were so faithful and attentive to your spouse, but I know one who has lain in Lorride's bed, and that is sly Loki.

BEYLA: The mountains quake; I believe Lorride is on his way here from home: he will silence the traducer whether god or man.

LOKI: Shut up, Beyla, you are Byggver's woman, full of evil, a more insolent nuisance came not among the Aesir's children, you dirty dairymaid.

Thor entered and spoke:

THOR: Quiet, miserable wretch, I shall rob you of speech with Mjolnir, my fire-hammer; I shall strike your head from your neck, thus shall you lose your life.

LOKI: Now is come the son of Earth. Why so noisy, Thor? You dare not brag of battling the wolf who swallows Victory-father whole.

THOR: Quiet, miserable wretch, my force-hammer Mjolnir shall rob you of speech. I shall hurl you aloft in the eastern space that none may see you again.

LOKI: Of your eastern journeys you never should speak before men since you crouched in the thumb of the giant's mitt, warrior. (8) You seemed unlike Thor then.

THOR: Quiet, miserable wretch, my force-hammer Mjolnir shall rob you of speech; with this my right hand I shall slay you with Rungner's bane, that all your bones break.

LOKI: I mean to live yet a long, long age, though you threaten me with the hammer; dreadfully tight did Skrymir's knots seem to you; though hale and strong you went hungry.

THOR: Quiet, miserable wretch, my force-hammer Mjolnir shall rob you of speech; Rungner's bane shall bring you to Hel, below the gates of death.

LOKI: I sang for the Aesir and for Aesir's sons whatsoever I chose, but only for you do I leave hence, for I know that Thor will strike at last. Ale you brewed, Ager, but never more shall you make feast again; may all that you here have with you be burned over and fire burn your back.

After this, Loki went in the shape of a salmon into the Frananger stream, where the Aesir caught him. He was bound with the guts of his son Nare. Narfi his [other] son became a wolf. Skade suspended a poisonous viper above Loki. The venom drips from it. Sigyn, Loki's wife, sits holding a bowl under the venom and when she goes to empty the bowl, the venom drips on Loki. He writhes in pain so that the earth shakes. These are called earthquakes.


Chapter 23

Contents


FOOTNOTES:

1. "Dispute in verse form" (Webster's Dictionary). (return to text)

2. The Lay of Hymer. (return to text)

3. The deft. (return to text)

4. Gefion is a lunar aspect of Freya. (return to text)

5. In a past age Loki imbodied as a mare and with the stallion Svadilfare (svadil a slippery place + fara travel, hence disaster) gave birth to Sleipnir (slider), Odin's eight-legged steed. (return to text)

6. Frey. (return to text)

7. Skade's father. (return to text)

8. Cf. Thor and Loki in Jotunheim. (return to text)