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Lokasenna

Lokasenna, known also as "Loki's Flyting", is a poem in the Elder Edda. As do most of the more recent poems in the Elder Edda, this poem deals with the subject of the gods of Norse mythology. In this poem the gods (particularly Odin and Loki) trade insults. The poem Lokasenna is inextricably interrelated with the death of Baldur, which was arranged by Loki, and Loki's eventual punishment for this. In the poem, many facets of the divine malice, insight and treachery of Loki are exposed, as are the inevitable shortcomings of the gods with whom Loki is trading insults. Loki, it should be noted, as well as being a god of mischief is also a highly skilled worker with words, full of guile and eloquence.

The poem provides a great deal of incidental and secondary information about the gods, their doings and their propensities: the character of Loki (particularly in this poem) was to the Norsemen what a contemporary gossip columnist is to modern society, both mischievous and muck-raking.

The setting is a feast given by the sea god Aegir. Thor did not attend, however his wife Sif came in his stead as did Bragi and his wife Iduna. Tyr, by this time one-handed as a consequence of his sacrifice of his hand in the shackling of Loki's son, the wolf Fenrir attended, as did Niord and his wife Skadi, Freyr and Freya, as well as Vithar[?], the son of Odin. Many other Vanir and Aesir also were there, and elves.

The servants of Aegir, Fimafeng[?] and Eldir[?] did a thorough job of welcoming the guests; Loki was jealous of the praise being heaped upon them and slew Fimafeng. The gods were angry with Loki and drove him out of the hall, before returning to their carousing. On returning Loki encountered Eldir.

He threatened him and bade him reveal what the gods were talking about in their cups. Eldir's response was that they were discussing their might at arms, and that Loki was persona non grata.

Loki then enters the hall of Aegir after trading insults and threats with Eldir. A hush fell. Loki calls upon the rules of hospitality, demanding a seat and ale. Bragi then responds that he is unwelcome. Loki demands fulfillment of an ancient oath sworn with Odin that they should drink together. Odin asked his son Vithar to make a space for Loki.

Vithar rose and poured a drink for Loki. Before Loki drains his draught, he utters a toast to the god but pointedly excludes Bragi from it. Bragi offers Loki a horse, a ring and a sword to placate him; Loki, however, is spoiling for a fight, and insults Bragi by questioning his courage. Bragi's response is that it would be contrary to the rules of correct behaviour to fight within his hosts hall, but were they back in Asgard then things would be different. Loki goads Bragi again:

In your seat you're brave, but not your deeds,
Bragi, famous adorner of benches!
Come outside and fight me if you're angry,
No hero could resist the offer

Iduna, Bragi's wife, holds him back. Loki then insults Iduna, calling her a slut. Gefyon attempts to calm the escalating situation; Loki turns his spite on her impugning her with child-love. Odin then attempts to take a grip, as do (in turn), Freya, Niord, Tyr, Freyr and Byggvir. The exchanges between Odin and Loki are particularly vitriolic.

Eventually Thor turns up at the party, and he is not to be placated, nor witheld.

Loki is chased by the gods, his son Vali is turned into a wolf who kills his brother Narvi. The entrails are used to bind Loki three times around to a rock above which Skathi places a serpent to drip venom on him. Loki's wife Sigyn remains by his side with a bowl to catch the venom, however whenever she empties the bowl, venom falls on Loki, causing him to writhe in agony; these writhings were said to be the cause of earthquakes.

Interestingly, the Lokasenna does not directly state that Loki's binding is as a consequence of the killing of Baldur, a logical corollary which many have subsequently drawn.

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