Loki Laufeyjarson; trickster, shapeshifter, and the cause of—and solution to—Asgard’s greatest troubles. Famously known for his cunning and tricky nature, Loki is a Norse god who enjoys global popularity in not just entertainment media, but also amongst Norse Pagan spiritual circles. That’s right—Loki is still worshipped as a god in many parts of the world, including in the Nordic-Scandinavian countries from which he originates.
While Loki himself is an old god, the term “Lokean Practice” is very new. Originating in North America sometime in the 1990’s, it is used to describe a form of neo-pagan practice that focuses on Loki and sometimes his family. People who follow this practice may call themselves Lokeans.
The specifics of this term, how it came about, and how Lokean practice is done, requires understanding the history of this deity and what he’s all about. So without further ado, it’s time we dive into a very important question…
Who is Loki Laufeyjarson?
Anyone who’s seen any Marvel movies are likely familiar with Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki. He’s a dashing, suave, and villainous figure constantly at odds with his brother Thor and the heroes of the world. If this is the Loki you’re familiar with, you may be surprised to learn this characterization is very different from the deity he’s inspired by.
Long before Christianity was brought to far-flung regions of Northern Europe, a group of societies collectively known as the Norse people venerated gods, ancestors, and spirits of the land and man-made dwellings. One of these figures was Loki, who began as a domestic spirit before developing into a full-fledged deity.
Loki Laufeyjarson is a clever, charismatic god known for his schemes and trickery. He’s a renowned shapeshifter who can turn into any sort of animal or person, and is known for regularly and willfully switching his gender. Like most tricksters, Loki’s actions are often morally ambiguous and highly transgressive, designed to push boundaries and test the status quo. He causes problems for the gods but also leaves them off better than before…after he’s cleaned up his mess, of course.
Stories about Loki can be found in Scandinavian oral tradition as well as many ancient texts found throughout Northern Europe. While Christianity became the dominant religion in Scandinavian countries, the stories of the gods were preserved and passed down from generation to generation. They and the Norse gods have found new life in neo-pagan movements all across the world within the past century.
Loki in the Modern-Day World
Loki is popular pretty much everywhere Norse Heathenry is practiced, including the Americas and different European countries. He’s taken on new roles as well as maintaining his old ones in modern times:
Trickster and Shapeshifter
Loki is still very much regarded as the same sneaky trickster and shapeshifter the old Norse took him for. His nature as a trickster doesn’t make him malicious by default, but some people might find his energy overwhelming. Like house parties, some people may enjoy Loki’s energy while others won’t.
Subversion and deception are also still both part of Loki’s nature. Though he may be a god, Loki is like the rest of the Norse gods in that he isn’t a paragon of morality or virtuous behavior. But like the rest of the Norse gods, he’s known for benefiting those he likes and those who like him in turn.
Due to Loki’s frequent and voluntary gender-switching in Norse mythology, modern-day Heathens and Lokeans consider Loki to be a genderqueer deity. He’s very popular amongst LGBTQ+ Norse pagans around the world for this reason…especially in Iceland, according to the Icelanders I’ve spoken to. Some pagans may refer to Loki with pronouns other than “he” out of respect for his gender-nonconformity, especially if he doesn’t always appear as a male deity to them.
Loki’s genderqueer nature is well-attested in many stories. Historically, this trait was considered “ragr,” which was a derogatory term for a feminine, submissive man. Today, Loki’s gender-nonconformity is something celebrated amongst Heathens.
Mover and Change-Maker
Loki is seen as an instigator of change. Many devotees of his have stories about how Loki got them out of stagnant and unfulfilling situations, simply by changing things up in their lives or by calling things into question. This has given Loki a reputation of being a “chaos” deity, which is neither wholly accurate nor inaccurate. Loki’s methods follow the same “house party” logic as the rest of him does: Whether someone finds him chaotic or exciting depends on the person. One thing’s for sure though—he’s certainly never boring!
So what is a ‘Lokean’?
As mentioned earlier, a Lokean is someone who works with, worships, and/or venerates the Norse god Loki, typically as a main deity. The term “Lokean” has two uses. The first describes patronage to Loki similar to saying “Lokisman” or “Odinswoman”, while the second implies a subcultural identity distinct from Heathenry. For this reason, not everyone who works with Loki may identify with the term Lokean or Lokean Heathen, and may opt to use “Heathen” or “Norse Pagan” instead.
The word “Lokean” originates in North America, growing out of controversy, superstition, and queerphobia sometime in the 1990’s.* Lokispeople were excluded from Heathen spaces and a division in the community occurred as a result. Whether “Lokean” was created by this division, or was simply propagated by it, is hard to say. Either way, it became something of its own identity as the years went by.
Because its identity was separated from Heathenry in such a way, not all Lokeans think of themselves as Heathens; some may be Wiccan Lokeans, agnostic Lokeans, Left-hand Path Lokeans, or may otherwise work with Loki in a non-Heathen context. Lokean practice is unique in that it intersects with Heathenry at varying degrees.
What does Lokean Practice Look Like?
The only needed component of Lokean practice is Loki, so it can be whatever a Lokean would like it to be. Generally it’s marked by very typical staples of neo-Paganism, such as deity-work, offerings, holiday observances, and even creating an altar or sacred space for him. But again, this is all up to the practitioner and there’s no right or wrong way to venerate Loki. The purpose of this spiritual practice is to foster a relationship with Loki that feels fulfilling, so everything about it can and should be tailored to your needs.