Loki: the Icelandic God of Mischief
By Dr. Helena Bassil-Morozow - Glasgow Caledonian University
Loki is a trickster – i.e., a figure representing chaos and regularly challenging the existing order of things. Mythological and folkloric narratives portray the trickster as a figure challenging the civilizing forces of society and attempting to destabilize or renew the system. The trickster’s task is to shake up the system, to ensure that it does not go stale or complacent. Gods of the Norse mythology pantheon are afraid that Loki will cause Ragnarok – the end of the world, ‘the twilight of the gods’.
The Russian primary chronicles tell of a prophecy about Oleg of Novgorod and his Horse. The chronicle is perhaps the most significant indigenous source for the early history of Russia (Hall, 2007, pp. 96). Oleg, a Viking warrior who was the brother of the legendary Rurik of Novgorod, captured Kiev and made it the Rus capital. He is also portrayed in the popular History Channel show ‘Vikings’.
Did the Vikings really hand out oath rings, as depicted on the hit tv show, Vikings? It was previously believed that oath rings were connected to the Icelandic sagas and were used for paying fealty in court (National Museum of Denmark).
Viking age and Medieval ring pins made from copper alloy have been found all over the world from Novgorod to Newfoundland; over a third of these were found in Ireland (McEneaney & Ryan, 2004, pp. 24). The pins were used as fastenings for cloaks and dresses. Finds of these pins predating the Viking age in Ireland suggest that the pins originated in Ireland and highlight the ties between the ‘Celtic West’ and ‘Sub-Roman Britain’ (Fanning, 1994, pp.1). Vikings first appeared in Ireland in 795 and in the subsequent years settled throughout country establishing its oldest towns and cities (McEneaney et al, 2004, pp. 18).
Our Dunadd Brooch: Where does it come from?
As many of you know all our products are based on or influenced by archaeological finds from across Europe from centuries past. Our latest Asgard reproduction is the Dunadd Brooch. It was originally discovered in Dunadd, Argyll. The finished brooch was not recovered, however the clay moulds (pictured below) were found around the royal hill fort instead. The moulds have two halves and once tightly fitted together, molten metal would have been poured into it to create the rough casting. This would have then been cleaned up, polished and set with precious stones or glass cabochons.
I was lucky enough to grow up with fantastic Grandparents. They’d take me and my cousins out and we’d go and explore the castles, cliffs and coasts of North Lancashire and Cumbria. Of course it was mainly ruse on my Grandad’s behalf to find a country pub he could get a decent pint in.
He had a knack of telling stories, and the knack of sitting in the front of the car ‘reminiscing’ with my Gran such that those 6-7-year olds eavesdropping from the back seat would find it all the more believable. Tales of how he stormed Lancaster Castle with Robin Hood to save Marion. Of how he hid Excalibur from Mordred in a hollowed-out oak in Silverdale, taking care of the sword for Arthur. It was he who burned the cakes, but Alfred took the blame as my Grandad was always getting in trouble for doing something wrong. This was further evidenced by my Gran’s constant berations. He’d even been at Hastings, told William to stop waving sharp sticks about as he’d have somebody's eye out. We saw a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, and there he was, right there, the one with the big nose.
Sleipnir was the eight-legged horse born of Loki, and belonged to Odin. Loki gave birth to Sleipnir after turning himself into a female horse when his father demanded he sabotage the work of a craftsman from being able to complete the fortification of Asgard in one season.
In the early days of Valhalla, a craftsman came to visit. He offered to create a citadel around Asgard which could keep out the giants who may attack from any direction. The man claimed he could complete the fortification of Asgard in three seasons, and for payment demanded that the goddess Freyja be his bride and that he receives the sun and the moon also. The gods however thought his choice of payment was steep and negotiated that he would be paid in full, if he completed the wall in just one season and that he receives no help from any man. The man accepted this with the condition that his stallion, Svadilfari, could help. The gods were unsure, but Loki convinced them that even with the help of his horse, the man would not be able to uphold his end of the bargain, so Freyja, and the sun and moon were not at risk at all.
And so the man set to work on the first day of winter, yet it was his huge stallion that did all the work, effortlessly hauling huge boulders. The progress of the citadel progressed swiftly, and it was so tall and strong that no enemy would be able to take Asgard. Three days before the winter was over the gods sat down for counsel and discussed how they could avoid giving the man payment. Whilst discussing this the gods began to question who had agreed to the man’s terms in the first place. The consensus was that Loki was to blame. The evil Loki was demanded to obstruct the craftsman from completing the last part of the citadel so that they would not need to pay him. Loki would face violence and death if not, so he swore oath that he would stop the man and his horse from completing the citadel.
Twisted & Plaited Rod Arm Rings from the Viking Age