Back with a laugh (well, sort of)

I’ve been away for a very long time, but for a very good reason: during these last few months I’ve been working on the final stage of my PhD and finally had my viva voce on July 30. Before heading to college, I made my offerings to Mercury, Minerva, Ingui, and my ancestors and, having passed with a top grade, I took the first Wednesday of August off and placed a flower wreath at Mercury’s public altar. As a way saying thank you, but also to share my success with a god that has a lot to do with what I did: the interpretation and translation of texts, the ability to communicate my ideas, and the journeys I had to make to complete the project, namely to Galicia, where I stayed four months doing research. In the meantime, I’ve been catching up on what’s been happening at the blogosphere, where I found Galina Krasskova’s project on Loki (final post here), and there are fresh comments on a piece I wrote about Him in the early days of this blog (see here). Which means this is probably a good time to write something about tricksters like Mercury and Loki.

To stop is to die. This is more than just a saying, it’s an actual truth. Life on Earth is possible because the planet spins, which means its core is active and produces a magnetic field without which we’d be pretty much like Mars: barren land exposed to the solar wind. The planet’s dynamic nature is also what allows it to renew itself, be it through the movements of the crust and the spilling of melted rock, the seed-carrying wind, or the cycle of the seasons. Of course, all of that can destroy life as well, but that’s how things work in this world, where the old makes way for the new and one’s end nurtures others’ beginning. Movement, in other words. To stop is to die, so life goes on and on like an ever-turning wheel.

The Gods know this, in as much as some if not most of Them embody this principle in one way or another. Ingui-Frey does it, in that He’s a Power of the sacrifice of life that feeds life, of the grave and ancestors, as well as of the constant and nurturing cycle of the seasons. He’s a god of necessary death and change, though He also has a stable element, not just in the predictable succession of winter and summer, but also in the sense that He’s something of a guardian. The notion of friðgarð or sacred inviolability expresses that, as some things are allowed outside a certain space (literally or figuratively), but not within it. And He’s a keeper of both flock and stock, of house and barn. Ingui knows and appreciates limits, even if sexually He can be more of a free love kind of god.

Tricksters are a different group. They tend to see borders in a much more flexible fashion and will sometimes act as messengers, i.e., those who move back and forth across boundaries. Hermes is a perfect example of that and the Japanese Inari has something of the sort, too. Loki, however, takes it to the extreme! He recognizes virtually no limits, be it physical, mythical, moral, or sexual, and moves at will and usually – dare I say always? – with a laugh. He travels between worlds, takes whatever shape He wishes, can be a male or a birth-giving female, a brother and a trouble-maker, a companion and an adversary. There’s freedom in that – a lot of it! It could even be said it has creative potential. Think outside the box, people usually say when they want to push you to your creative limit. But in order to do that, you have to step outside the box; you have to cross the boundary! Is it surprising that tricksters can also be gods of crafts and arts? Creativity needs fluidity, fluidity is movement, movement is life!

Yet freedom without limits can be a dangerous thing, too. The Earth spins, but does not do so freely and there are forces that keep it in place. The tectonic plaques move, but attrition slows them down and gives life the necessary breathing space. The seasons change, but in an orderly fashion that allows things to grow and blossom; and the looming environmental crisis, with seasonal stability going out the window, will have its tool on food production and migration patterns, thereby depleting life. The world needs its checks and balances and there’s a midpoint to be struck between movement and stability. Ingui-Frey knows that and Hermes too, even if He takes it at the sound of Monty Python’s Always look on the bright side of life. Loki, on the other hand… well, He’s Loki. No rules, great scotch (or god, in this case)! Which doesn’t mean He’s evil: just different. And, in His own way, He plays a vital role in the world, which is that of chaotic, but creative freedom.

Contradictory as it may seen to some, Loki is an important part of the order of things, but His “special” nature means that He has to be approached differently from the more “sociable” Powers. Being a boundless trickster, He’ll take you on a wild ride to grant whatever it is you need or asked of Him and laugh all the way through. Respect Him, even if He’s not “your type”. Different doesn’t mean bad. There are many roads to Rome and His just happens to be a free-styled rollercoaster. Be careful and enjoy it, if you ride it; respect it, if you don’t.

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3 thoughts on “Back with a laugh (well, sort of)

  1. Pingback: What interests Sannion this week? « The House of Vines

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