July, Sirius, and Loki

In hopes of curtailing some of the inevitable confusion about Loki and July/Sirius before it gets out of control, I decided to do a brief outline of what we know about it and where it comes from to answer some of the questions that surface every year.

Lokabrenna in Folklore:

In Part I of Loke i Nyere Folkeoverlevering (“De Vestlige Nybygder”), Axel Olrik details some of the folk traditions involving Loki or figures with similar names in the Faroe and Shetland islands, as well as the UK and Iceland.

One of the words he cites in this study is a term reported by Finnur Magnússon from Iceland: Lokabrenna, which translates as Loki’s (Loka) Burning/Bonfire (brenna). Olrik suggests that his best assumption regarding this name is that “it stands in connection with the extreme late summer heat,” which he goes on to relate to the “dog days” of high summer in other European cultures (204).

He connects it to his discussion of another word, lokadaun, which refers to a sulfuric odor, and points out how both of these relate to heat, warmth, and fire. However, he concludes by mistakenly linking Loki’s name to flame, suggesting that the word might simply mean “burning like fire.” Later, in his discussion of continental Scandinavian Loki folklore, he hints that Lokabrenna may simply be read as the summer heat, and thus might be more easily discussed alongside Danish folklore about Lokke and the shimmering summer air.

While this article and the work of folklorists like Finnur Magnússon shed light on how Loki has been perceived in later Scandinavian folk beliefs, they are not an effective way of discussing how historical heathens may have thought of or honored Loki. Unfortunately, however, during the late Romantic era scholars were not so careful to distinguish between historical Heathenry and later folk customs, and thus the word Lokabrenna made it into the Cleasby/Vigfússon dictionary even though it is unattested in Old Norse sources. While it is very likely that the Loka in Lokabrenna does refer to Loki (as the fire etymology is linguistically unsound), this should not be read as an authentic heathen belief because we have no evidence from the period to support it.

July for Loki?

The practice of setting aside the month of July as a time for honoring Loki began (as far as I know) during the summer of 2012 with a blogging project started by Galina Krasskova. It was summer during which the Lokean community saw an influx of new members (yes, because of the Avengers) and the Troth heatedly debated but eventually decided to keep their ban on Loki during the Trothmoot sumbl. During this first July for Loki project there was a push to set an official date for a Loki holiday, which was meant to coincide with the rising of Sirius.

This proved to be a complicated task, however, as Sirius rises at different times in different latitudes.Last year, for example, Sirius rose in the Northern half of the US around August 8th. It looks like this year in my latitude (39.1 N) it will first be visible at dawn around August 10th.

But is it a bad idea to honor Loki in July?

No. Absolutely not. It’s never a bad time to honor a God to whom you feel close or wish to show respect, and I can understand the desire to have a Loki-oriented holiday. Some of the most helpful, most detailed posts about Loki I have found on the internet were written during July as part of this celebration, and I think that is a very positive thing.

However, as with all things, it is important to keep in mind and be honest about the fact that this is not an authentic heathen practice. Pretending it is only serves to spread misinformation, and misinformation is never good, regardless of the results.

We will never know if the Loki folklore discussed by Olrik and others has any basis in how Loki was perceived in the heathen era, and, unfortunately, we cannot assume much about it because of that. That being said, I don’t think late summer is a particularly bad time for honoring Loki. Although I do not buy into the “fire God” discussion, it is undeniable that many natural features of this season play into the way Loki is generally perceived by the Lokean community.

Although we usually try to distance ourselves from modern folklore being used in reconstruction, my kindred holds a blót to Loki in mid-August. We have a high density of Loki worshipers, and doing it to correlate with Sirius’ rising made more sense than some of the other dates people pick for Lokablóts (like April Fools’, ughhh). It has always been a positive experience, and I see nothing wrong with people celebrating in this way as long as it is never passed off as “authentic to the heathen period.”

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2 comments on “July, Sirius, and Loki

  1. psbey says:

    As our own Lokean Lawspeaker, you always come through with the research…thank you, Sir!

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