Thor. Loki. Odin. Heimdall. Hela. Those names can ring bells to many, to both followers of the Marvel fandom and to those who identify as Norse Heathen/Asatru, and honor the “real” Thor, Loki, and others. Now here’s the question: what can modern fans of the Marvel universe learn from the actual deities? Let’s get into the answers.
I have honored the gods and goddesses of my Celtic, English, and Norse ancestors for several years, but have only recently gained an interest in the Marvel Universe. I’m still not too knowledgeable yet about the latter, so bear with me. However, this is a subject that has become incredibly intriguing to me.
First off, those who honor the ancient deities of Scandinavia, England, and Germany are indeed a varied lot, and in a good way! Some will describe themselves as “Asatru” others “Heathen” and some simply “Pagan.” A new term that’s sprung up in recent years that will be of interest to Loki fans, both the Marvel character and the god (many devotees of the god will already be aware of it) is “Rokkatru.” Those who practice Rokkatru honor not only Loki but the other “darker” aspects of the pantheon, such as Fenrir, Jormungandr, Hel, Angrboda, etc. Marvel fans – do any of those names sound familiar? There are even Rokkatru who put a major first and foremost emphasis on Loki – and they refer to themselves as “Lokeans.”
I myself, have once or twice searched YouTube for keywords such as ‘Heathen Thor’, ‘Loki’, etc., and clicked on videos that I found thinking that they were meditations to the gods, only to find out that they are actually videos of the Marvel characters! With that being said, some of those Marvel videos have been absolutely gorgeous, and I feel that they have pleased the actual gods.
One video that I have to mention is a Thor Affirmations video. Again, I saw it and clicked on it thinking that it would involve meditations and invocations to the pagan god Thor, not thinking that it was a Marvel video. But upon clicking it, I was instantly immersed in it. It was, not the Heathen Thor, but the Marvel Thor, with uplifting, positive affirmations against the background sounds of rain and thunder, repeated for eight hours straight. One affirmation that stood out to me: “…and YOU ARE WORTHY.” This nearly gave me chills.
I had recently begun an elective course through the Ohio State University College of Nursing, titled MINDSTRONG. The class was geared towards nursing students as a means of stress relief and validating feelings. I’m not a nursing major, but I had heard great things about it and decided to sign up for it anyway. The very first class involved the instructor leading us through chantings and affirmations three times. The affirmation was…you guessed it “I AM WORTHY. I AM WORTHY. I AM WORTHY!” During the duration of the class, we repeated the affirmations (along with others that we came up with on our own), and believe me, it was empowering.
The fact that I should stumble upon this Thor affirmations video so soon after starting this class was incredibly strange, in a good way. Playing it, I felt both the longing, courage, and power of Thor and I felt as though it pleased the “real” Thor.
What can be said about Loki? In my opinion, the very misunderstood god Loki is fairly well captured by Marvel. The “true” Loki, in the sagas, (start out with the Lokasenna, part of the Poetic Edda, for the rudimentary introduction to Loki) is the God of Mischief. Some who follow the Heathen practices refuse to have anything to do with him, even refusing to utter his name (or else spitting on the ground if they must). Others, however, find him an inspiring and powerful deity. These people see the misunderstood Loki as a force to be reckoned with, while at the same time, a loyal, loving brotherly figure who will always have their back.
In both the Marvel Universe and the sagas, Loki is often thrown around, mostly by his “brother” Thor. Thor and Loki tend to have a love-hate relationship with each other. Often, Loki gets the blame and Thor is advocated for, being that the latter is one of the Aesir, or “good” gods. (The Aesir are indeed not without their faults, but that’s something for another time.)
But Loki does have redeeming moments. For example, he presented the powerful Vanir god Freyr with his luminous golden boar Gullinbursti, not to mention that Allfather Odin got to keep swift Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse that was the result of Loki transforming himself into a mare and having a fling with a stallion. Loki tends to get the gods into trouble – but he often gets them out of it as well.
For those of us who have been misunderstood and mistreated, Loki, both the character and the deity can hit home. Underneath the mischievous, carefree exterior, there’s a certain sadness about Loki in the Marvel universe. Loki is bad, Loki is good, and Loki is everything in between. He is who he is. He doesn’t pretend to be who and what he’s not, simply for the comfort of others (other than for the purpose of his tricks).
The mentioned sadness about Loki makes sense. In both the Marvel universe and the historic writings, he’s imprisoned for his crimes. Even when he has redeeming moments, they are often overlooked or ignored. In our world, where there is pressure to conform, we could learn quite a bit from Loki – and, the rest of the Rokkr gods and goddesses as well. Honestly, however, the deities of pre-Christian cultures (not just the Norse) tend to be the same way – not good, not bad, they’re just themselves. They’re not perfect. Even Odin, the chief of the Aesir, has done horrible things – murder, assault, theft, the whole nine yards. If you ask me, the “Havamal” is Odin admitting to his wrongdoings and beating himself up.
I wonder if the pop culture characters would lead more individuals to develop an interest in the actual deities. Not necessarily honor them, but want to start studying the Eddas, the sagas, and other sources to start getting a feel for the “true” Thor and Loki. As said before, Loki in particular, as well as his family members Fenrir, Jormungandr, Hel, and Angrboda among others (the Rokkr/jotuns) could send a positive message to modern society– be yourself. It’s not always easy, but it’s fulfilling in the end.