I have several entries I’d like to do today, so this will be the first of them, because my obligation to the gods and honoring them always takes precedence over voicing my own thoughts, even if those thoughts are about the gods (which, in the case of at least one post to follow, certainly applies!). Thus, I continue with the week I’m devoting to honoring Loki and his kin (the first post of which is here), following on very closely from what I talked about yesterday before proceeding on to the honorand for today, Váli.
[If you haven't already noticed a theme developing in my preferences for Loki representations...well...!]
In my last post on Loki and his family, I mentioned my experiences with Loki (and with/and through Gwydion) at PantheaCon. As it happens, the next thing I’d like to talk about also concerns both Loki and Gwydion, which is the story of All-Soul, All-Body, All-Love, All-Power: A TransMythology, in which both Gwydion and Loki appear briefly: first as being among the seventy-eight parents of the first two members of the Tetrad–Panpsyche and Panhyle–and then at their birth.
In fact, Loki’s being among the Tetrad’s parents and grandparents is one of the primary reasons that I’m doing this series of posts to honor him and his family (and others), because I feel it’s the least I can do for his lending his efforts to that other effort, and increasing his family through having done so. When the open discussion of gender and transgender in modern paganism happened at PantheaCon 2012, which was organized by the Circle of Cerridwen, there was at least one Lokean present in the group. Because I was carrying the Tetrad quite strongly during that discussion, one thing I felt very strongly was a liking and an appreciation for Loki as a parent of the Tetrad, and feeling honored to stand in his presence and the presence of his devotee on that occasion. (You can read more about that event here.) While having two more children and two grandchildren certainly wouldn’t make up for the losses in his own family that have already happened, nonetheless I think it’s a good thing to have occurred in general terms.
(Incidentally, for those who are tsk, tsk-ing and shaking their heads that I’m treating something that, for all intents and purposes I wrote as valid and actual mythology and thus part of the larger “lore” around these various gods–who in the world ever said the “lore” ended at some random point several centuries back when Christian authors in Iceland and other Germanic countries stopped writing about Loki and the other gods? The gods are still alive and acting now, I think most would agree; why would the myths about them stop? Why wouldn’t new myths about them come up? And, especially in Loki’s case, since he is such a good storyteller, would he want people to not tell new stories about him, whether they are “true” or not? If you have valid answers to those questions, then you can tsk all you like; if you do not, and if the god has said nothing to you about these matters in very specific detail, then I don’t really care what it is you might think about this…although you’re certainly free to tell me about it, as long as you’re not rude nor abusive of the hospitality that I allow in this virtual temple vestibule of mine to those who prove themselves as deserving of it.)
I’ll give you the small bits that mention Loki (and Gwydion) from the poem now. The first one comes in the scene when the various gods, heroes, and deified mortals are giving their blessings and thus allowing their essences and their parentage to take root in the new beings that are on their way (although, at this stage of the narrative, they think the god who will emerge from the entire operation will be a singular one and are not aware that Panpsyche and Panhyle would be twins). Right before they go, Cybele, Agdistis, and Attis give their blessings, and right after them, Cú Chulainn!
An odd pair of deities joined the assembly,
bringing their benedictions to blend into the being:
Loki, the mother of monsters, strife-stirrer, said
“May this new god create chaos where it is most needed!”
while Gwydion, good storyteller, sow and surrogate, spoke
“May this new god put its body against others in love and war freely!”
The next time we see them in the text, they have come to be present for the birth of what they think will be the singular new divine being, along with a diverse group of others.
As the night drew near, and the line of visitors
did not diminish from horizon to horizon
the time for Set’s confinement approached.
Into the small house with Set and Vitalis
were admitted a limited number of deities:
the four wives of Set—
Nephthys, Neith, Astarte, and Anat—
and his two sons—Sobek and Anubis;
four midwives from the Greeks and Egypt—
Eilitheia, Artemis, Taweret and Heqet;
and over the house Selket stood guard.
Gwydion and Loki, males who had given birth,
were there to see their new child.
Two more Greeks joined the group:
Hephaistos, to lend his hammer to the effort if needed,
and Zeus, who was there—so he said—
mostly for moral support.
Antinous, the first father,
also came to welcome the new god.
Finally, Horus was admitted to witness the birth.
Dusk came, and dawn followed—the third day.
The very unusual birth of the first two Tetrad twins then occurs. But, matters are difficult right from the start, and pretty much all the goddesses go off with Panpsyche (and are joined by others), almost all the male gods go off with Panhyle, and Set, Vitalis, and Antinous are left there, while the remaining goddess go off to their own places, and the following occurs:
Loki looked at Gwydion, who looked back,
and said, briefly, “This will make a good story.”
The two departed, amused and uncertain.
So, that’s Loki’s last word in the story, and the last we hear (at least in this version of the Tetrad’s life and myth) of Loki, or of Gwydion. Of course, if you want to know what happened in between the above, and before it, and what else happens in the story, you’ll just have to buy it to find out!
But back to the matter at hand. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, one of the most tragic stories about Loki is that involving his two sons by Sigyn, Narvi and Váli (also known as Ali). Váli was turned into a wolf by the gods, and he kills Narvi in that form, and then is never heard from again–presumably run off into the forest. There are poems for and discussions of both of them in Galina Krasskova’s edited anthology Feeding the Flame, and I found these to be very interesting in a variety of ways…and I’d recommend that book very much indeed for anyone who is interested in honoring Loki, his children, Sigyn, and various others.
What perplexes me, though–which I expressed in my poem yesterday for Narvi, and which I alluded to above in my caveats about new myths–is that given these stories are all that is said about these gods (and, since Narvi and Váli are the children of gods, I think it’s safe to assume they are also gods) in the extant lore, but we know that other gods who are “dead” are not-exactly-dead, and these are Loki’s children we’re dealing with here and some of that wiliness would, I think, run in the family, is what the lore really all there is to say about them? I think we limit ourselves, and the ways we think of the gods, if we conclude this.
In many ways, a lot of people (usually outside of the realm of devotional polytheism, though) seem to want to think of Baldr as the “equivalent” of the dying-and-rising god in Norse mythology. But, there’s a different kind of “dying-and-rising” that occurs in some tales from mythology, which more closely mirrors the death of the “greatest” (though that’s highly debatable!) figure who died and rose–or, at least, probably the most well-known one today–namely,
E.T. Jesus. Jesus’ torture and then further torture in execution by crucifixion echoes the deaths of a variety of heroes and divine figures, including the death of Cú Chulainn in Irish myth–as he was fatally wounded by a spear, he tied his belt around a standing stone so that he would stay on his feet as he met his death. (I may have more to say about that in a few days…) And, who is tied up and tortured in as horrific a manner as possible in Norse myth? Well, that would be Loki…and one day, he’ll be free. And yet, his devotees today are the first ones to point out that Loki doesn’t seem to be limited by this binding, and that sometimes he appears to them without any indication that he’s suffering at all–no doubt due to the fact that the gods exist in a kind of timeless state and can access different parts of their own being at any point and so forth. So, why wouldn’t the same be true of Narvi and Váli?
With that, I will offer you my poem for the day for Váli, the son of Loki who we know the least about in terms of his overall fate. May Loki and Sigyn be praised by my words, and may the memory and the honoring and the active presence of Narvi and Váli come to being in the hearts of many more through them, if it is possible!
Váli the Shapeshifter
You are not forgotten, Váli, you are hailed,
beloved son and departed brother.
The gods made you become a wolf
to slay your brother and bind your father;
your half-brother was a wolf already,
and the gods bound him impossibly.
But the poets speak of you no longer
once the deed of death was performed.
Do you wander in the wastes and wilderness
at the very edges of the Ironwood? No.
For, just as your brother, you love your father,
and would never let the gods keep you apart.
From whence did Skadhi obtain the serpent
that was hung up, dripping, over Laufey’s son?
No offspring of Jormundandr was it,
not a grandson of the Wily One tortured by it…
A closer relation, a familiar family member,
for the gods rarely recognize Loki and his kin.
None but his own could hurt him thus;
none but his own loved him enough to do so.
One day, brothers will be reunited,
father and mother will embrace again,
and in the form of ravens, swift like thought,
four black birds shall fly from the cave.
Wily as his father, wily as his brother,
Váli, son of Sigyn and Loki’s child, hail!
Hail to Váli, brother of Narvi; and hail to Loki and Sigyn, their parents!