The Northern Way

LOKE IN YOUNGER TRADITION

1. A certain reddish moss, which appears in the early springtime on the sandy soil “hairy moss” (polytrichum commune), is in Vendsyssel known as “Lokkens havre” (The oats of Loke) (6). Another (folkish) name of this plant is: “pukhavre, päukhagre” (i. e. troll oat) on Gulland. (7)

2. “Lokes eller Lokkes havre” (The oats of Lokke or Loke) is mentioned in “Videnskabernes selskabs ordbog” (The Dictionary of the Scientific Society) as the name of the plant “avena fatua”, which in the Norse region is known as flyvehavre (flughavre, vildhavre or the like [In English: Wild oat. a.e.]. Other mythical names for the plant are: “trollhavre” (troll oat) (Eastern Norway), “Liot-agär” (Evil oat or The Evil ones’ oat) (Dalarne/Sweden). (8)

Unlike the cultivated oat, the barren wild oat was assumed to have been sown by teasing supernatural creatures, or rather by the teasing “Lokke”. This includes not only the wild oat, but also the hairy moss:

”The name “pukhavre” (troll oat) expresses the annoyance over the uselessness of the swollen seeds”. (9)

The reason for the name is of course also, that it appears at the same time of the year as “Lokke sows his oat”.

The name “Lokke” seems to be the base and the curious thing about these notions. Only in the remote regions of Sweden and Norway, where the Danish “Lokke” is unknown, he is replaced by more vague expressions like: puke, troll and liot.
Furthermore we can find his name in several other plant-names from Jutland:

3. In Thy, a type of bent grass (agrostis spica venti) is called “Lokes græs” (10) (Loke’s grass), and meadow grass (poa) is called Loke’s or Lokkels grass. Again we have a barren and useless type of grass, which is a result of Lokes sowing.

4. On the west coast of Jutland, in Lem near Ringkøbing, the dandelion is called “Låkkilæjer” (11). “-læjer” and “-leger” is used in the compound of several blooming plants. The dandelion must have been connected with “Låkki” because of its vigorous growth in the early and warm part of the summer, maybe also because of its transient fruit-down and the poisonous sap.

These names illustrate how widespread the notions about “the sowing of Lokke” - or at least his airy activities in the warm days of the spring - have been. A name like “Låkkilæjer” probably does not make sense with the peasants any more – it has to originate from a time span, before –s was used for personal name as genitive – which means several centuries.

From recent times, there is a rhyme from Western Jutland that says: “æ Låkkemand mæ hans skek låkker æ ban ud te æ vek” (The Låkke man with his beard, gets the child away from the wall). The real rhyme goes like this: “Tor med hans lange skæg, lokker barnet ud fra væg” (Thor with his long beard, gets the child away from the wall) (Thor = the month of March) (12). It is an individual’s idea to replace Thor with “Låkkemand”, to mark the spring time.

This is how the common notions about “Lokke” increase, while we still sense the flickering spring light as their origin. All living tradition does have a tendency to change from place to place – to increase or to fade out.

We also find these changes in the many variants of the name. When he sows oat, he is usually called “Lokke” (Låki, Lòk , sometimes “Lokken” or æ Låki) from Vendsyssel south over Himmerland, Salling, the Viborg region, and down to Horsens and Grindsted. Some of the informants try to show their academic skills by calling him “Loke”; but this form is never used by anybody who expressly tries to show how the name is pronounced. Now and then the variants “Lokmand”, “Lokkemand” or “Blokmand” appear in Eastern Vendsyssel, and “Blokken” in Kær-shire and Himmerland – an attempt to make sense from this name, which meaning has been forgotten for a long time.

In the western Limfjord regions (Thy and western Hanherred, Mors and partly Salling), another variant of the name appears. Here most informants just write “Lukas” without further ado – one of them tells that in western Hanherred, the older people said “Sankt Lukas” (St. Luke) – but those who give literal accounts of the pronunciation, only mention “Lukas” once (Salling), Luk (Mors), otherwise Lok s, Lok’ s. In Hjerm shire the name is changed to: “Markus” (St. Mark) herds his goats – St. Mark’s day (April 25th) also fits better than St. Luke, who does not have any connection with the springtime. The name “Lukas” never really made sense; it is an attempt to make the vague old name say something meaningful. The path to the new name was already there, as people said “Lok s haw r, and the s-sound became a part of the name.

In the other group, we only find the more simple form “Lokke” in Peter Syv’s records. In Scandia people say “Lukas vallar sina får”, the same modern change, as the one from the Limfjord regions, has appeared here, even though the regions and nature are quite different.

All over Western Jutland, we do however find: “æ Lokkemand”. In the southern regions (Arnst- and Malt-shires) it has been changed to “Per Lokkemand”, “Lokke-Per”, and in the western part of South Jutland, to “Jakob Løj” Both “Per Lokkemand” and “Jakob Løj” are the regional names for sleep or laziness; and the usage of then reveals them as later creations – “Lokkemand” is probably the stem form.

But the term: “Lokkemand” must be an extension of “Lokke”. Supernatural creatures with names that end with “-mand” are relative modern creations (they do not even appear in our folksongs) – and the plant name “Låkkilæjer” also indicates, that the simple name “Låkki” was used in these regions at an earlier stage.

”Lokkemand” is also the transitional form for the rather indefinite names, which are preferred in the heath regions: “æ bjærremand” (the hill-man), and sometimes “æ mand” (the man), “æ gammel mand” (the old man) and “æ hawmand” (merman), which refer to the westerly wind. (13)

On Bornholm, we also found a similar indefinite name: “kullebondens svin” (the hill-peasant’s pigs). The notions about a supernatural creature, which drives his cattle in the shimmering air, has apparently been adopted in the common believes about the hill-living people, who move about in the vicinity of the humans.

All in all, the name “Lokke” is so widespread in the different regions of the ancient Danish areas, that there hardly can be any doubt, that it from the beginning has been the appellation for the hot waving air.

We can confirm this from another angle. Other appellations for the shimmering phenomenon are restricted to a few certain areas, and there are no indications that they are especially old. In the western shires of Vendsyssel, we find the expression: “det iler”, “der er stærk iling” (the weather is sultry). In Hammerum shire we find: “”æ warm drywer” (the weather is warm and sultry), on Zealand: “våren trækker” (the spring is draughty) (Skælskør region), “det er våren” (it is the spring) (Sejrø), “vårvinden trækker” (the spring wind is draughing), “vårvinden blafrer” (the spring wind flutters) (Hornsherred). There is something new about all these expressions (“ile” means by the way: sultry heat or windy), - and in a way they confirm that “Lokke” was the only original name.

In addition to this comes, that “Lokke” also has indicated related expressions like the sunbeams that “drink water”, and the gleaming water which reflections glimmer on the wall (Lokke Lejemand).

We do also have an external source, which proves that this “Lokke Lejemand” is rooted centuries back. In the folksong about “Tor af Havsgård”, the messenger Lokke appears, who in one of the Danish manuscripts from the 16th century is called “liden Locke” (the tiny Locke), and in another “Lochy leymandt” (corresponding to “Lokie Lagenson”, “Locke Loye” in the Norwegian and Swedish versions of the ballad) (14). The name in the song is apparently adapted to the domestic (Zealandish) notions about the playing creature of the light.

So: Lokke is – all over Denmark – the old name for the supernatural light glimmering creature.

Then what the connection between this creature from the Danish folklore and the Loke who appears in the ancient mythological poetry?

Earlier it was always assumed from cases like this, that such a small supernatural creature was an ancient deity, which after the introduction of Christianity was reduced into such a small scale. But gradually people became aware, that this was a relatively difficult way to explain the existence of the being.

This is also the case with our “Lokke”. The only thing he has in common with Asa Loki, is the teasing nature, but not the malice and schemes, nor any kind of relationship to the Norse pantheon. He is neither related to the Aesir or the Giants (jatnir), but seems to be a creature like the hill-people or elves. When he hides the cattle in the heat vapour, it corresponds exactly to what an old cattleman I once knew, believed about the “elle-girls” (Danish version of the elves), that they stole his besoms and hid them from him.

So, Lokke is a creature with the nature of the elves or hill-people, and his entire existence is based on one single factor: the flickering air.

We do however still have a couple of factors, which can’t be explained by the flickering air. Peter Syv mentions the expression: “Lokke faaer noget at bøde sine bukser med” (Here is something for Lokke to repair his trousers with) – when the yarn becomes so entangled, that it is useless – and quite similar expressions are still known from Lolland. (15)

The funny thing is that we probably can figure the origin of this expression out. On Iceland, when the yarn becomes entangled, people say that there is a “loki” (a knot, loop, rumple) on the thread (opt er loki á nálþræðinu), but in modern Icelandic there is a tendency to believe, that Loki goes into the thread and entangles it. In Danish there have been a similar expression for the entangled thread, and this “loki” can still be traced in the Jutlandian expression: “dæ lyk’er å æ trå’s” (there is a loop on this thread). But from there, there is only a small jump to the notion, that it is the thievish Loke or Lokke, who has caused the disorder, in order to make it useless for the humans, and receive it for himself.

It is doubtful though, if it is the “Lokke” of the shimmering air, who tangles up the threads, or a real “Loke”. We have to leave that question, until we have examined the material a little better.

Peder Syv also knows the proverbs: “at føre Lokkes breve” (to carry Lokke’s letters) and: “at høre paa Lockens eventyr” (to listen to Locken’s fairy tales), which probably mean: “to tell a lie”, and “to listen to a lie” (Ordsprog II 72). The expression reminds of the Icelandic: “Lokalýgi” (a great lie), and presupposes a personal and speaking “Lokke”, quite different to the inconstant air creature. There must once have been a more definite shaped notion about Lokke on the Danish isles.

Finally, Molbechs Dialektleksikon has preserved the expression: “at gå i Lokkis arri” (to walk in Lokki’s footsteps [?]), from Sønderjyng shire in Randers county, about the moulting birds. Maybe people have imagined “Lokki” as a teasing supernatural creature, who (with his harrow?) tears the feathers of the birds in the moulting season – a notion that anyhow might have sprouted from the teasing and thievish “Lokke” with the cattle.

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