For a long time, Loki, the Trickster of Norse mythology, has been demonized as a figure of evil. But is he really so? Many mythologies speak about beings that are neither good, nor evil, entities of neutrality or mythological figures meant to maintain the balance of the Universe. This article explains how Loki could be exactly one such entity.
Some legends speak about an entity known as Dormammu which is the personification of the battlefield where good and evil face each other. Should one side gain too much of an advantage over the other, then Dormammu intervenes by re-establishing the balance. In this way, the universal balance is unchanged and the Universe itself continues to exist.
Il Separatio – an entity of neither good nor evil
Old books forbidden by the Church in Medieval times, such as “Compendium Augumentum” or “Codex Lugubrum”, speak about an entity which is neither good, nor evil, an entity which is neither white, nor black. Instead, this entity is the personification of the grey found between white and black, a personification of the neutral space between good and evil. This entity is known as Il Separatio or Anonymus, the Anonymous One, the one who must never be named.
As medieval texts described this entity’s power as being “absolutum” (“absolute”), the Church did not want people to think that this entity might be stronger than God. Therefore, the Church banned and destroyed a great part of all the books mentioning this figure and hunted down and executed all those who dared mention his name. For this reason, Il Separatio came to be known as Anonymus, the Nameless One. Today, in Prague, there is a statue depicting this entity. It is said that this being is so neutral that it actually lacks form, so he is represented as a cloaked figure.
Statue of Il Separatio, Prague (beatbull / flickr)
Loki, the doer of both good and evil
In Norse mythology, Loki does both good, as well as evil. One can go as far as to say that Loki does just as much good as he does evil. Just as Il Separatio, the Norse Trickster is outside the system, beyond it. Loki helps build the great palace of the Gods. He, then, manages to obtain great tools for the Aesir such as Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, the ring Draupnir, Odin’s spear Gungnir, Sif’s new golden hair which proved to be even more beautiful than her original one, the magical weapon Laevateinn, the fabulous ship Skidbladnir or the boar Gullinbursti. Loki even gives Odin Sleipnir, the greatest steed in all of the nine worlds. Also, Loki’s evil is not personal, it does not exist inside him in a latent form. Instead, evil enters Loki and turns him once he consumes the heart of the evil witch of Asgard.
Loki, smiling far left, causes the ultimate death of his fellow deity, Baldr. Public Domain
From that point onward, Loki is corrupted and indeed turns against the Aesir, ultimately bringing about Ragnarok, the end of the gods. Unlike other mythologies, the Norse gods are doomed to fail and they do so at the hand of Loki. In a way, Loki brings about the end of an old and corrupt generation of gods making way for a renewal, for a rebirth which can only exist once the former order is out of the way. In this sense, the world is born anew, in a better and purer form, without the old elements of corruption and it is for this change that Loki himself dies during Ragnarok at the hand of Heimdall.
A depiction (1895) of Loki quarreling with the gods, as in the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna. Public Domain
Despite all of this, Loki remains an intriguing figure that will fascinate many generations of mythology researchers for many years to come. Loki’s children are also no less famous from the eight-legged Sleipnir and up to the Fenrir wolf, the serpent Jormugandr and the goddess Hel.