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Review: Loki and Sigyn



Title: Loki and Sigyn: Lessons on Chaos, Laughter, and Loyalty From the Norse Gods

Publisher: Llewellyn

Author: Lea Svendsen

Pages: 211pp

Price: $16.99 / $12.99


Who exactly is Loki? Trickster? Oath-bound brother and ally of Odin? Traveling companion of Thor? Husband of Sigyn? Father of Hel? Harbinger of Ragnarok? Devil in disguise? All of the above? Some? None? And why are some people devout Lokeans while others are adamant Nokeans?


There is no figure is Northern polytheism as controversial or as hotly debated as Loki. In him, some Heathens find an ally; a confidante who understands their pain and who pushes them to always be accountable for their actions. To other Heathens, though, he and his followers are to be avoided at all costs, lest they bring chaos and bad luck. Still others recognize his importance in the pantheon, but respectfully keep their distance.


In this heart-felt and deeply personal book, Svendsen delves deep into the historical texts recounting Loki’s adventures and his relationships with the other Northern Deities; her family’s ancestral devotion to him (and the rest of the Norse pantheon); her own personal devotion to Loki and his wife, Sigyn; and the evolving attitude of American Heathens towards the two Deities. The journey is a fascinating one, including discussions of linguistics, textual analysis, the political-religious landscape of northern Europe, the evolution of folklore, and the development of contemporary Heathenry in Europe and the United States.


Svendsen’s discussion includes some fascinating insights into the natures of both Loki and Sigyn, and how they have evolved over time (or perhaps how our understanding of them has evolved?). For example, Svendsen posits that the “image of a woman holding the bowl of offerings over the sacred flame” was misunderstood/reworked/reinterpreted into the myth we now know: of Sigyn catching the venom that drops onto a bound Loki from the snake overhead. She suggests that, originally, Loki was the fire in which sacrifices were made and Sigyn was the bowl from which they were poured. Sigyn may even have been the “Incantatio-Fetter,” the Goddess who sang the runic blessings over the flames. When devotion to the Norse Deities was pushed into the shadows, and the sacrifices grew nil, “Loki venture[d] out, searching for ‘food,’ because he was the one who always relayed it to others. He was the portal, the Bringer of Gifts, and it’s his duty to secure those gifts. So he goes into the world, looking for sustenance, tapping and poking and prodding those who will listen.”


I should probably pause here with a caveat. While Svenden’s love of Loki and Sigyn is obvious, and she deals with heavier subjects in an appropriately serious tone, the language of the book is often irreverent. She addresses Loki with an affectionate exasperation, calling him out on his bad behavior, and more than once addressing him as a “twerp.” Given the nature of their relationship, that works in this context. I was not at all offended, but other readers may well feel insulted (either on their own or the God’s behalf).  


Overall, I recommend Loki and Sigyn. It is an excellent introduction to two maligned, misunderstood, or ignored Deities. Those who are new to Heathenry and who are trying to figure out where they fit, where their devotions fit, and who they should honor and how, will likely get the most out of the text. But established Heathens who are curious and just want to know why others would choose to honor Loki and his brood should also take a look; if nothing else, you’ll come away with a better understanding of the Lokean point of view.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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