Gods of our Time – Rudra, Shiva, Loki
I have noticed a lot of interest of readers in the post Rudra, Shiva, Agni and Loki, so I decided to write a little more about them. As the other post was based on mythological facts, this is more of my personal experience with the energy of these Gods.
In the beginning of my friendship with Loki I was puzzled by His complexity. Outwardly He had a perfectly controlled and calm demeanour, yet within Him smoldered a seething fire, simmering under the surface like a volcano and if I went even deeper I would find a vast, infinite space – peaceful, still and all-pervading. To gain trust in Him and understand Him better, Loki urged me to deepen my knowledge of Lord Shiva, and as I immersed myself in books and scriptures, I found that Loki as I knew Him embodied very similar qualities.
Even though I have experienced them as separate beings, I feel that essentially they are the same – of the same Source.
The energy or consciousness of these Gods is more present in our time, because we are living in time of change and have the opportunity to rise above polarities and experience ourselves as the spiritual beings we really are. The intense, chaotic and potentially destructive energy these deities carry, breaks old patterns and makes room for the new. As I understand it, the dynamic aspect of their nature is Prakriti or Shakti, the feminine energy in creation – but I will speak more on that later in this post. Yet it is noteworthy that we live in a time where there is a shift in consciousness, and the new consciousness that awakens is of feminine nature.
The Horned God
I believe Loki and Rudra (whose name appeared in the oldest of the Vedas, the Rig Veda, before He was known as Shiva) to be a very ancient God, who is closely connected to nature and the worship of the Mother Goddess. A God, whose worship was not accepted in Europe (to control Him He was bound under the earth until the end of the world – Loki), while in India He re-established Himself (even though it took a while to “tame” Him) in the benevolent form of Shiva.
Due to our friendship, Loki allowed me to “experience” Him directly in many different aspects and forms, and much of the information I received about Him – through mediation and inner or outer experiences – was confirmed when I researched on Shiva and Rudra (and also Agni).
One day, during a walk in the forest I perceived Loki as a guardian. A friend and protector of animals and innocent creatures, especially children – Loki has a special fondness for those who suffered from hardship and abuse, or are having a hard time to fit in. He also seemed to have a strong connection and love for plants and trees and nature in general. Later when reading about Shiva/Rudra’s form of Pashupati, the Lord of animals, herder of souls, and when I saw the Pashupati seal it led me to believe that these two Gods really share a deep connection.
Unfortunately, there is little archaeological reference to Loki, but in the small village of Kirkby Stephen, England, there is a tenth-century stone with a carving on it, which is believed to be the bound Loki, depicted as a horned figure.
Not surprisingly, there is also a depiction of a horned deity on a stone in India:
The stone seal was found in the Indus valley, depicting a horned God – who is believed to be the God Shiva. The seal depicts a seated figure with possibly three heads and a horned headdress, who is surrounded by animals. He may represent a horned deity and is thought to be one of the earliest depictions of Lord Shiva or Rudra, who is associated with asceticism, and regarded as lord of the animals (Pashupati) – hence the name of the stone is Pashupati seal.
Storm and Fire
Agni, Rudra, Shiva and Loki are Fire Gods, and while they represent different aspects of this element, they also embrace it in its entirety. They are responsible for illumination of our ignorance and transformation of lower movements that bind us to our earthly existence. They make us aware of our spirituality. Both Rudra and Shiva are known as Storm Gods – and considering that Loki is also known as Sky-traveler and friend of Thor (the God of Thunder), I guess we can place Him in that same family.
All four deities have terrifying apects, as well as auspicious ones and while they have the capacity to wreak havoc and bring chaos and destruction, they can also bring health, wealth, happiness and more – they can offer us liberation – true freedom from the bondage of material existence.
Another thing they share is that all of them are known as tricksters. A trickster is a deity who is cunning, holds a great deal of secret knowledge and uses it to play tricks on others, crosses and often breaks social rules and disobeys conventional behaviour. Tricksters violate principles of social or natural order, often playfully disrupting normal life to re-establish it on a new basis. Their actions can be cause for outrage, yet they are meant to illumine and transform outdated or wrong behaviour. Tricksters are cunning, wise, can cheat and teach by playing tricks on you, they are also known to have a potent sexuality.
While Loki is well known as a trickster, Rudra and Shiva are also tricksters par excellence. The fact that they all are considered Gods of Chaos exposes them as tricksters as well, because the potential for dynamic chaos is the metaphysical heart of the trickster.
“The (African) trickster Legba, always risks unleashing a Pandora’s box of powers. But it is only in risking such chaos that novelty is continually reborn, and the community is imagined to interact dynamically, rather than by some rigid structure.” ~Erik Davis, Trickster at the Crossroads
According to Arthur Anthony Macdonel, in the Vedas, Rudra is referred to “lord of wanderers and thieves, the prowling rover, the tricking arch-trickster, the lord of pilferers, robbers, cheat, deceiver”. He is seen as an outlaw, not part of orderly society – and obviously able to stir up trouble when invoked. People invoke Him to praise His strength and His fierceness, asking Him not to “aim His arrows at them”. Rudra is a God of disease as well as “the greatest healer” – and Lord over thousands of healing herbs.
In stories of the Siva Purana, and Tantric texts – some versions of the stories tamer than others – Shiva/Rudra is spoken of as a God with potent sexuality who often acts in typical trickster fashion to test devotees or to illumine falsehood.
In the Tamil Kanda Puranum, Shiva tests the forest sages by appearing with a beautiful courtesan, Mohini, by his side. This courtesan, Daniélou explains, is actually the God Vishnu, whom Shiva has commanded to take this form (Shiva had commanded Vishnu to take on this form on an earlier occasion, in order that Shiva might seduce Vishnu). In this form of the legend, the sages abandon their austerities to follow the disguised Vishnu everywhere, whilst Shiva, as the divine Beggar, seduced the women of the sages. In this version, the sages and their wives are brought together in the forest and realise that they have been tricked by Shiva and Vishnu.
The sages summon a tiger which springs forth to attack Shiva. He kills the tiger and seizes it’s skin to use as a garment. There then came a fire, which the god made into a trident; an antelope, which he took with his left hand, and snakes, which he used to adorn his head-dress. Demons then sprang at Shiva. He calmed them with a hand-gesture, and they agreed to serve him. All the magics of the sages could not prevail against Shiva, and the sages finally agreed to practise the rites of Shiva’s cult.
The forest sages had lost sight of the goal of their austerities and rites -which is release from bondage. They have become bound up by conventions. … They are performing their rites and austerities out of a sense of lust for the power and ‘merit’ they will gain from doing so, not as a means to liberation.
They do not see that Bhairava-Shiva breaks all boundaries and conventions precisely because he is beyond them.
There are many stories about Shiva’s trickery and his sensual side – He is the God who can break laws and does things that are otherwise strictly forbidden – and He also takes responsibity for His actions (similar to Loki, who always pays the price for his actions).
“Bhairava is one of those paradoxical figures of Indian myth – he has broken all fetters. He has severed one of the heads of the Creator, killed the doorkeeper of Vishnu, the preserver; he dances naked, accompanied by women (and in some versions of the myth, Vishnu), and he appears as a figure of horror and ecstasy.”
In other stories, especially with His consort Parvati, Shiva displays the light-hearted and cheeky side of His trickster personality by teasing her lovingly.
Shiva is a God who allows us to think beyond social concepts and structures – not to act out in anarchy, but to find a deeper wisdom that illumines us to see God beyond moral and social boundaries. He also prefers worship with sincere, heartfelt devotion to rigidly following of rituals.
Rudra, like Loki, was not officially worshipped and was “regarded isolated from the other Gods. When the Gods attained heaven, Rudra remained behind.”
Later, in His form of Shiva, He was granted worship, although even here He had to establish Himself by force, and in the turn of events He lost His beloved wife Sati (to me, this literally means that He lost His power, respectively had to give up a dear part of Him – His Goddess – to become part of the Vedic Pantheon). The loss drove Him into leading an ascetic life and let Him withdraw into meditation – until his second wife, Parvati, comes along and awakens His fire again.
I experience Shiva, Rudra and Loki as Gods who do not care so much for idol worship, rituals and strict rules – but for sincere devotion. They prefer the devotee to pour their heart out to them, include them in their life, and share with them everything they hold dear. This can even be through arts, dance, writing, meditation or even appreciating the good in others. Every action can become an act of worship. Loki, Rudra/Shiva are very – you could say – intimate Gods. They like to be close, included and connected. Instead of worshipping them as someone high above and outside of ourselves, they ask us to feel them inside our hearts, and turn every moment of our life into an offering.
What I struggled with in the beginning was Loki’s undeniable sexual attraction, which made me weary of His presence. I had never before connected this energy with Lord Shiva or Rudra – or God in general (maybe because in Western society the shame and guilt it brings, is rooted deeply inside us). I imagined Shiva as extremely pure, above and beyond pleasure or passion (which He actually is). It was much to my bemusement, when I found Lord Shiva to be the God of Tantra and in many ways similar to Loki. What Loki made me aware of is that this energy that I perceived as shameful, is actually our creative force. There is neither reason to fear it, nor to be ashamed of it. It is the power of Shakti, the dynamic force of the Goddess that all three Gods embody, because they are beyond duality – uniting both male and female within themselves.
The story of Sati and Shiva is heart-breaking, because in the light of my own wisdom, it is a story of Shiva loosing not only His dearest, but His power to a male-dominated culture of ritualistic worship, while Sati sacrificed herself for Him to give Him an equal place amongst the Gods. In many stories Sati is said to incinerate herself because Shiva is being insulted, yet it feels more that She (basically the Goddess-worship) was disrespected and driven out by the more controlled and structured culture of the Aryans. There was no place for the worship of the Goddess (Shakti), who was wild, powerful and uncontrollable. They had to tame Her, domesticate Her to be able to control Her.
The loss of Shakti left Shiva distraught, and He became a wanderer, an ascetic, withdrawing His senses from the world. But Shiva is a deity of balance – as long as He is stays in His ascetic aspect, His all-pervading meditation, He is unable to act in the world. It is the feminine principle of Shakti that brings Him to life.
Shakti came back into His life as a “tamed” version of the fierce power She represents. As the Goddess Parvati she went through severe austerities to win Shiva’s heart, and became the perfect wife. And even though in some accounts it seems that Shiva is Her Lord, it is really Shakti who enchants Him and draws Him back into Her play of creation. In duality, Shiva cannot act without Shakti, yet Shakti also needs Shiva to balance her power – on a higher level they are one. Shiva and Parvati are worshipped as the perfect married couple.
Loki has a similar story concerning His wives. His first wife Angrboda (“bringer of grief” – incidentally that is exactly what Sati also brought Shiva – grief), is a fierce and fearless giantess, by some seen as malicious or as a witch. In my own experience, She is a strong, independent, uncontrollable (like Loki), fierce, powerful warrior Goddess with a large motherly heart for everyone who dares to love her sincerely. Angrboda resides in Jotunheim, the realm of the giants. Loki’s wife in Asgard, is Sigyn (very little is known about her from mythological texts), who embodies the perfect wife, with undying devotion, love and surrender to her husband … however, this does not mean that Sigyn is weak. Sigyn is Loki’s balance, just like Parvati is Shiva’s. Like Shiva and Parvati, Loki and Sigyn are often seen as the perfect couple (more often she is regarded as the perfect wife, because Loki’s reputation does not necessarily represent Him as the perfect husband. Curiously, the God who is said to have seduced pretty much every Goddess in Asgard, is married to the Goddess of Fidelity and Victory – and she accepts and loves Him.)
The seething fire that smoulders underneath Shiva/Rudra’s and Loki’s calm outer demeanour is indeed the fire of Shakti, the Goddess. They control it – or maybe not control it – but rather balance it with the vast stillness that lies underneath. Outwardly they seem to have mastered this powerful force, but inwardly, beyond duality they are one with it – embodying both the male and female principle of creation, Purusha and Prakriti. This fierce fire that is inherent to all three Gods, it is part of their nature. Shakti and Shiva/Loki/Rudra are so intimately connected to each other, that you cannot separate them.
To me Shiva, Rudra and Loki are manifestations of the masculine principle that is in perfect harmony with the feminine – they are unified, they are whole. As I understand it, their fierceness, their power and their strength is essentially the dynamic force of Shakti, and all three of them have a deep reverence for Her.
Since Shiva, Rudra and Loki all deal with the energy of the Goddess they also are Gods who would have been revered in ancient times by matriarchal systems, also by female healers, wise women and witches.
I found that being blessed with their divine presence in my life, Shiva, Rudra and Loki have helped me to let go of a lot of fear. Mainly unconscious fear based in my lower chakras – and thus my view of the world changed and granted me access to a deeper wisdom. To be able to look at the Truth, and have access to it, we have to shed our fear.
They taught me to face my fears with courage, and to question fear when it arises instead of being overcome by it.
Emotions, pleasure, passion
“She (Shakti) appears in the form of dark, unpredictable drives, aggressions, and passions that enmesh the frail human soul like a boa constrictor its prey. There is no running or hiding to escape her. For this reason, her devotees try to unite her with Lord Shiva, that she might become peaceful and friendly.”
Shakti is the Kundalini, the Mother power, the creative power, life-energy, sexual energy and Shiva, Rudra and Loki are all wielders of this power – because they respect Her and love Her. Once the serpent energy of Kundalini awakens and travels upwards, it can throw our lives in chaos – especially emotionally, because it brings up all our deep-seated emotions, desires and passions so they can be purified.
“Rudra stands for all the intense feelings associated with the entire spectrum of surging emotions, ranging from piteous wail of the one weeping in excruciating pain to the terrifying thunder-clap emanating from clashing universes. It appears;”
Like most trickster deities, Loki relates to our emotions and feelings, especially on a lower level. He comes “down” and deals with our primeval urges – physical needs of security, sexual energy, desires, pleasures, emotions like anger, hatred, guilt, shame, fear, loss, grief, terror – you name it. He knows about the dangers that dwell in the hidden darkness of our being – so also does Shiva/Rudra as the Lord of Tantra.
These emotions need to be transformed if we wish to be liberated, because they bind us to the material life, to our earthly life and the “illusion” of Maya, another form of Shakti.
Illusion/maya does not mean that this world of ours is not real. Rather it refers to our bondage, our tendency to get caught up in our basic fears and needs to create attachments, thus we bind ourselves through our thoughts and deeds (karma). Sometimes Maya is referred to as a net or a noose, trapping us in it, and it is interesting to note here is that it was apparently Loki who invented the fishing net and also has been described by some as holding a noose. Shiva/Rudra is known to be the Lord of Maya, and therefore can free us from our self-created limitations and bondage. The journey out of “illusion” is one of letting go of old beliefs and rise beyond polarities – and Shiva, Rudra and Loki are experts on that.
The complexity of Life
Shiva, Rudra and Loki embody the complexity of life and creation, its dynamic flow as well as the stillness of Eternity. They awaken within us a love for life, a love for ourselves, acceptance of our own strength and give us the opportunity to gain liberation from bondage.
“WHAT shall we sing to Rudra, strong, most bounteous, excellently wise,
That shall be dearest to his heart?
To Rudra Lord of sacrifice, of hymns and balmy medicines,
We pray for joy and health and strength.
He shines in splendour like the Sun, refulgent as bright gold is he,
The good, the best among the Gods.” (RigVeda, XLIII, Rudra)
“Rudra in the Rig-Veda Samhita is a highly complex divine character with contradictory qualities; and yet harmonizing within himself all contradictions.” https://sreenivasaraos.com/2012/09/29/the-rudras-eleven/#comments
One verse in the Rig Veda even implies that Rudra is the destroyer of evil and usherer of peace.
Rukh draavayathi, iti rudraha
(Rukh means “sorrow/misery”, draavayathi means “drive out/eliminate”, its means “that which, or the one who”)
“If you read through the Shiva Purana, you cannot identify Shiva as a good person or a bad person. He is everything – he is the ugliest, he is the most beautiful; he is the best and he is the worst; he is the most disciplined, he is a drunkard. Gods, demons, and all kind of creatures in the world worship him. The so-called civilisation has conveniently eliminated all those un-digestible stories about Shiva, but that is where the essence of Shiva is. Completely contradictory aspects of life have been built into the personality of Shiva. Sucha complex amalgamation of all the qualities of existence have been put into one person because if you can accept this one being, you have crossed life itself.” ~Sadhguru, Isha Yoga Centre
Rudra, Shiva, Loki – You get whatever you signed up for
As Loki explained to me once, He appears to those who “worship” Him in the form they expect Him to, or the form they are ready to accept. He can appear fierce, cunning, full-of-trickery, brutal, enraging, fearsome, seductive, cheeky, sweet, tender-hearted, compassionate, loving – anything the person dealing with Him expects to get.
“Stella Kramrisch notes that not all who behold Shiva as the Supreme Beggar see him in quite the same way. By turns, Shiva baffles, enrages, seduces, sows confusion, and illuminates. He reveals himself to his devotee, in the shape and extent to which they are ‘ready’ to experience him.”
There is a famous hymn in the Vedas called the Sri Rudra Prashnaha, which addresses Shiva/Rudra in all His Glory – from terrible to beautiful. It is very special and infuses one with instant peace. You can find chants on Youtube, but the most haunting version is one of a female artist called Uma Mohan from her album “Divine Chants of Rudra”.
Find info on the Sri Rudram here:
Qualities I discovered in Loki, which I later found to be attributes of Shiva/Rudra as well:
~ Loki is a very honest God and He teaches me to speak the truth and be non-judgemental
~ He Himself is innocent of nature, not malicious, and He adores childlike innocence and sweetness
~ He encourages me to find beauty in everything, not to judge things by the way they appear to be
~ To see good in other human beings and have respect for all living creatures and Mother nature
~ He encourages me to act with detachment, neither feel good or bad about my actions but surrender them to God
~ He kindles my devotion and fills my heart with love for God
~ He demands faith – not in Him, but in the One Absolute Consciousness that is above all else
~ He breaks my ego, to alert me and open me to new ways of being
~ He helps me to deal with the primeval urges of passion, pleasure, and all intense feelings like grief, anger, lust, etc.
~ He is a Lord of the Kundalini and revers Shakti
~ He definitely has a fiery temper, although I have not experienced it myself – but I can feel it underneath
If you got all the way through this very long post – congratulations! – I do hope you enjoyed it and thank you for reading about these beautiful Gods.