Rudra, Shiva, Agni and Loki – Part 1

These pages and the ones dedicated to the Gods Rudra, Shiva and Agni explore the connection between them and their representation of the transformative force in the universe. The main aspects they share are fire, death, illumination of darkness/ignorance, transcendence of the self, as well as abundant love and compassion. 

My reverence belonged to Rudra, a fierce and beautiful Vedic God who helps us to transform our human limitations, Agni, who illumines and Shiva whose meditation pervades the universe. And then, along came – literally – Loki.

My spiritual belief favours the Indian pantheon of Gods, so understandably it was rather confusing for me that a Norse God made His appearance in my life. If any God, I would have expected a Hindu God – but by playing with my beliefs and expectations of what I “thought” God had to be like, He led me to see beyond my mental constructs and divisiveness. Norse God or Indian God – division exists only in our mind. It is our heart that has the capacity to expand and go beyond it. He could have come to me in the form of Rudra or Shiva – Gods I know and trust – yet He chose to appear as a Norse trickster God and thus outwitted any mental expectations/limitations of what God had to be like. Loki embodies the aspect of God I relate to – the transformative aspect of God.

I did not revere Loki as holy or sacred. As a trickster he is distrusted by many and I could not blindly accept him. Loki stirred up doubts, made me question Him, question myself and I had to take a leap into the unknown and unknowable by trusting Him. In turn He opened my heart to see, and what I see is magnificent, pure and nothing other than the aspect of God I love and trust. And maybe because I had no expectations in Loki and I relate to a personal God better than an abstract One (to me God can hardly get any more personal than Loki), I was able to embrace and accept Him as a friend and thus won His unconditional love, compassion and concern.

He opened my mind to truly see God as the One Absolute who manifests in myriad forms, regardless of the name we give Him. Our mind can never fathom the play of God and that there is One Benevolent Force in this universe who truly is One with us, within us, and longs for us to be One with Him/Her. This One lives right inside our hearts and loves us like a true parent – unconditionally.

For those who are not familiar with Hindu religion – there is a Holy Trinity, the Trimurti, of Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu the (Preserver) and Shiva the (Destroyer) – similar to Odin, Vili, Ve. They exist beyond the realms of the other Gods and are also worshipped by them. Their consorts are Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati. Then there are also the Gods who dwell in the Heavens with Lord Indra as their King (the God of Thunder and Lightening). These Gods are the benefitters of mankind. On the other side are the Asuras or Demons who dwell in the Lower realms and are not on good terms with the Gods (similar to Aesir and Jotuns). The Asura’s are powerful wild forces, yet not necessarily all malicious. Whenever the Gods get into trouble beyond their capacity, they will seek refuge with the Trimurti. The Trimurti are one with creation and not bound by moral concepts.

Lord Shiva, the transforming force, is easily pleased by His devotees and known to grant favours to anyone (even demons and criminals) which frequently gets the Gods (and sometimes even Himself) in trouble. He is the God of Yogi’s, Lord of demons and dark creatures, leads a simple life and takes a liking in roaming cremation grounds. He has a childlike, innocent and pure nature and also quite a fiery temper (which often has fatal consequences for those involved). Although Lord Shiva is easily angered, He is also a God of love and boundless compassion. Lord Shiva is the Magician, Shaman and Master of Tantra – His consort is Shakti Devi, the Kundalini or Mother Power. Shiva is in some accounts also a trickster with a sense of mischief. He may be the most complex of the trio, and His devotees refer to Him as the “Absolute”, the Father, Preserver and Destroyer of Creation.

An ancient form of Lord Shiva is Rudra, whom I revere and love. Rudra is the terrifying One, who destroys falsehood and illumines those who seek the Truth. He has a tender heart and boundless compassion for humanity. What I found in Loki was abundant power and a terrifying force of destruction, paired with a tender heart of boundless love and compassion. Very similar to Rudra and this sparked my interest so I started researching the three Gods.

I do believe that it is impossible to really say this one Norse God is the same as this one Hindu God, yet the similarities between Rudra, Shiva, Loki and Agni noteworthy and very interesting. Loki has in turn also deepened my connection and understanding of Rudra and Shiva. 

Curiously, Loki also holds aspects of Lord Vishnu (the preserving force) especially by getting the Gods out of trouble with His cunning and trickery, which is a Vishnu trait. Lord Vishnu is full of love, humour and ceaseless compassion. He is also a cunning trickster, sees solutions were others get stuck and usually gets the Gods out of trouble. Loki helped me understand that the Preserver and Tranformer are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. Therefore, Vishnu and Shiva share a close connection and in some accounts even melt into one form.  Maybe this is why Loki is blood brother to Odin and apparently every toast given to Odin is also a toast given to Loki, because essentially they are one. I feel that the relationship between Loki and Odin is a very deep and intricate one, and, yes, Odin represents many aspects of Lord Shiva – apart from the most important one – the destruction and dissolution of the universe. This is a role that Loki claims for Himself, and Himself alone. Loki, in all accounts, is the God who brings about the destruction of the worlds at the end of time (Ragnarok) – and so does Shiva. So some connect Odin and Shiva, completely overlooking Loki. 

Shiva – like Loki – is a paradoxical deity with a dark and also very loving, affectionate and compassionate side. He is described as roaming cremation grounds, which leads us to yet another God who is connected to Loki – Agni, the God of Fire. In his book “Playing with Fire” Dagulf Loptson identifies Loki as a God of sacred fire and connects Him to Agni which makes much sense to me and what is intriguing is that Agni is apparently also seen as the form-giver of Rudra. Whilst Shiva is seen as a form/aspect of Rudra. So all three deities are intimately connected to each other, and certainly lead the one who revers them to the same goal. Rudra, Shiva , Agni and Loki all represent the transformative aspect of God that illumines our earthbound consciousness. As I searched for parallels between Loki and these Hindu Gods, I was not surprised to find plenty. 

I believe Loki to be a very ancient God who is closely connected to the Great Mother Goddess – a God who existed before we plunged into a patriarchal consciousness. The connection to the Mother reflects in the androgen appearance of Loki and Shiva (especially in His from of Adharnaishvara) and in their innate tenderness and compassion.

Loki and Rudra share a similar appearance, both described as youthful, handsome and rather fiery, and they also share the same star – Sirius. In Scandinavia Sirius is known as Lokabrenna – or Loki’s Torch, while in Sanskrit it’s name is Mrgavyadha or Lubdhaka – Deer Hunter or Hunter and it represents Rudra (Shiva). Sirius being the brightest star in the sky was used to represent God (as Rudra). Some believe that human life as we know it has originated from the star Sirius, and thus it makes sense that Sirius is connected to an ancient God like Rudra, who is closely connected to mankind. 

There is a famous myth about Rudra, the hunter, in the Vedic scriptures, that is about Vedic astrology and the Mrgavyadha constellation. The story goes that Prajapati (the creator God, the constellation of Orion) is overcome by desire for his own daughter Rohini (Aldebaran), which invokes Rudra’s wrath and he slays Prajapati. Apparently in Vedic astrology this represents the age when the beginning of the year shifted from Orion to Rohini. For this transgression, Rudra (the constellation Mrigavyadha) points the tip of his arrow (Sirius) towards Orion’s head. Interesting here is the fact that Prajapati (a god of Light) is slain by Rudra’s arrow – the same weapon that the God Baldur was killed with (by Loki’s trickery). Since this story relates very closely to star constellations and season’s, the killing of Balder might be a Norse version of the slaying of Prajapati (unfortunately, I have not found any Norse astrologists yet, who can come up with a good theory here).

Rudra’s originally terrifying form was tamed through worshipping His auspicious aspect (siva) as Shiva, and He was pacified by giving Him a perfect wife and two sons. Is it a coincidence that Loki and Sigyn represent the perfect married couple? And also have two sons? In His form of Mahakala, Shiva is the Lord of Time, controlling the illusion of existence, and He is the one who will destroy the universe at the end of time – Loki’s children, Hel, Fenrir and Jormungand all show us the aspect of our finite, linear existence (so in a way Loki fathers time), while He Himself is a master of illusion and the one responsible for the destruction of the cosmos at Ragnarok. There are also many similarities between Loki and Agni, as well as Agni and Shiva. In some accounts even Kartikeya (the God of War) is stated not as Shiva’s but Agni’s son.

In the myths Loki and Shiva were both Gods who dwell on the fringes of society, outsider, and not worshipped like other Gods, and both were denied to attend an assembly of the Gods (Shiva was denied to visit Prajapati’s Yajna, Loki was not welcome at the gathering of Gods in Aegir’s hall). In both stories the scenario ended with a lot of suffering for the Gods involved, and also for Shiva and Loki. To keep it short – in Shiva’s case, the Gods had become haughty, He was insulted, lost his beloved wife and almost wiped out the Gods in turn, had Vishnu not interfered. Mad with grief He wandered about the worlds, carrying the dead body of his wife Sati in his arms, until Vishnu cut Sati’s body in 52 pieces that fell to earth and became sacred places (Shakti peetas). After her body was gone, Shiva retreated into a cave in the Himalayas and sank into deep meditation, retreating from the world. In the Lokasenna it is Loki who gets upset with the arrogant behaviour of the Gods, starts pointing out their flaws and causes havoc until Thor intervenes. Loki flees, but the Gods catch Him and He also ends up in a cave, bound and tortured until Ragnarok with only his wife staying by his side. I feel these two stories have much more in common than meets the eye. Shiva and Loki both govern sacrifice or sacrificial fire, offering. So, if their presence is missing at a gathering of Gods it can only lead to problems. In both stories some of the Gods had become arrogant, and their flaws were being pointed out to them. Even the similarities of Shiva and Loki’s wives struck me –  both are so strong willed, yet gentle and completely devoted to their husbands to the point of enduring austerities out of love (Sigyn staying in the cave with Loki, Parvati/Sati refused food and a regular life to win Shiva’s love).

Sometimes it gets forgotten that Loki is a God of “word or speech” (I find Him very helpful in improving my writing and public speaking skills), as He likes the use of eloquent speech and expression, and is conscious of the power of words. Agni is said to be the father of speech, which reflects in His name starting with the letter “A”, said to be the first sound in creation and curiously is the first letter Indoeuropean alphabets. Agni, like Loki, has a swift mind and even though He is mostly seen as a God of Light, He actually has a dark side – He is one of the Rakshasas or Giants, the adversaries of the Gods, yet He lives with the Gods and even takes their side in battle (just like Loki who is a Jotnar, a giant, who lives amongst the Aesir).

There are stories about Agni hiding from the other Gods that sparked my interest. One time Agni hid in the water to escape the Gods (and he was betrayed by the fish, who gave away his hiding place), another time he hid under the earth. Interesting is the fact that in the Lokasenna Loki also hides in the water and afterwards is bound under the earth. Another story relates how Agni got in trouble for speaking the truth, (because He cannot help himself, He has to speak the truth) – and I found Loki to be a very honest God, who (more than once) got Himself in deep trouble because of speaking the truth. Loki often dons a falcon cloak to travel between the worlds, and Agni is in older tales compared to a bird or a birdlike being.

“In Vedic mythologies, Agni is also presented as one who is mysterious with a tendency to play hide and seek, not just with humans but with the gods. He hides in strange places such as waters where in one myth he imbues life force into living beings that dwell therein, and in another where the fishes report his presence to the gods.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agni

“The origin myth found in many Indo-European cultures is one of a bird, or bird like being, that carries or brings fire from the gods to mankind. Alternatively, this messenger brings an elixir of immortality (the knowledge of truth?) from heaven to earth. In either case, the bird returns everyday with sacrificial offerings for the gods, but sometimes the bird hides or disappears without trace. Agni is molded in similar mythical themes, in some hymns with the phrase the “heavenly bird that flies”.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agni

Agni is the essence of the knowledge of Existence. The Kanvasatpathabrahmanam (SB.IV.i.iv.11) calls Agni “wisdom”. Agni is symbolism for “the mind swiftest among (all) those that fly.” It also symbolises the soul; it is the power of change that cannot be limited or overcome. Light, heat, colour and energy are merely its outer attributes; inwardly, agni impels consciousness, perception and discernment.

The connections I have discovered so far are based on mythological facts and of course it is up to the reader to draw conclusions. I wish to thank Loki that He inspired me to look more closely into these wonderful Gods (that includes Him), because it allowed me to marvel at their complexity, brought me closer to them and also confirmed some of the experiences I have been blessed with. Loki encourages me to see them as one, as there ultimately is only one Absolute Force in this universe that manifests in myriad forms.

Find more on Rudra and Shiva and Agni here.

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