The Northern Way

LOKE IN YOUNGER TRADITION

2. Lokke (Lokje) as the home fire (Sweden and Telemarken, Norway).

A quite different perception of Lokke can be found in Sweden and Southern Norway i. e. Telemarken.

From Telemarken we know an expression about strong sparkling in the home fire, which says: “Lokje dengjer bon’e sine” (Lokje beats his children).

In the southern neighbouring landscape, Sætersdalen, on the other hand, people said: “No dengjer vetti bonni si” (Now the (supernatural) creature beats his children, when the firewood in the home fire squeaked, or the fried apples trickled. When the fire sparkled they said: “no syng’e vetti” (now the creature sings). Here in Sætersdalen, “vetti” was the common name for the helping supernatural creature, whether it lived in trees, mounds or the home fire. (16)

When people boiled milk in Telemarken, they threw the skin into the fire as a sacrifice to “Lokje”.

Further south (in Lister and Mandal counties), the same tradition is known, but without mentioning Lokje. (17)

In several regions of Sweden, children who are loosing their teeth, throw their old tooth into the fire, saying:

Locke, ge mig en bentand för en guldtand” (Locke, give me a bone-tooth for a gold-tooth) or the like.

The form of the name is rather inconsistent though:

locke, locke ran” or “locke, locke”, Småland (Cavallius, Wärend I 235).
låkka ram”, Småland (Rietz 418).
låkke, låkke”, Kalmar-region (Sv. landsth. IX, 1 p. 365).
loke” (so!?), Nerike (Hofberg, Nerikes gamla minnen, 215).
lokk, lokk” or “nokk, nokk” Swedish Finland (Nyland IV 65, with the addition: “of whom one asks, is not known”)
Noke, noke”, Scandia, or “Berta, Berta”, Glumslöf in Scandia (Eva Wigström, Folkdigtning II 278; “but she meant the fire when she said Berta”).

It seems to be beyond any doubt, that the original form is “Lokke”, and that it is the fire, which is addressed with this word. When people in Småland add ran or ramm to the name, they probably refer to the adjective “ramur” (strong), which just in Småland is used in this connection: it is the “strong fire” you ask to give growth to the new tooth.

The sacrifice of the tooth is even more widespread then the “Lokke” name, it seems to belong to the entire Gothic tribe. There are two principal forms: the first one is to sacrifice the tooth to the fire, while the other is to sacrifice it to the soil (in a mouse hole, on a graveyard or the like). In Germany, both forms are known, though the one with the fire is the rarer (to throw the tooth over the head, behind the stove).

In the Norse region, the fire sacrifice has probably been absolute; it is widespread in Sweden (including Scandia) and Norway. In Denmark there are only vague traces of the custom: (in Vendsyssel: op in the chimney or on the stove. Skattegrav. IX 49; [At Sorø?]: over the head, Skgr. VIII 49); usually it is just thrown under the bed. The invocation in Denmark (and exceptionally in the other countries) is:

”Mus, mus, gif mig en bentand for en guldtand” (Mouse, mouse, give me a bone tooth for a gold tooth), maybe an influence from the German custom to throw the tooth into a mouse hole. (18)

On the south end of Norway, there is a unique invocation: “Gulmari, Gulmari, gje meg ei bentån, så ska du få ei guldtån” (Guldmari, Guldmari, give me a bone tooth, then you shall have a gold tooth (19). The orange flame is described with this name of honour, as a creature in golden robes.

There is no doubt, that Lokke in Sweden and Lokje in Telemarken, are the names for the home fire - seen as a supernatural creature - which takes care of the well-being of the entire home.

In this case, he is something quite different from Asa-Loke of the Eddic poetry, and the teasing and shimmering air creature from the Danish folklore.

The scholars have had very different theories about the actual origin of the name Loke. Here we shall leave his diverse nature out of consideration, and only concentrate on how Lokke’s name is connected to the home fire.

There must be a connection between this “lokki”, home fire, and the Old Norse word “logi” (flame) - already the meaning indicates this. It is possible, that the word “logi” and the deity “Loki” is the same word, but skilled linguists are strongly hesitant to such a transition. On the other hand – as professor Vilh. Thomsen makes me aware of – “logi” and “lokki” can be quite natural parallel forms, as a word in the primeval language split up in two. “Logi” then arose from the infinitive form (lukë), “lokki” from (luknós). The first one preserved the original meaning: “lue” (flame), while the second got the special meaning: “home fire”.

Now it also makes sense, that Lokki in Denmark is the name of the shimmering light creature. In his environment in the nature, and by his mythical nature, he differs from the home fire, but seen from a linguistic point of view, the word is the same. The original form “luk” did not only mean “ flame”, but “light” as such. Our “Lokki” can, from the origin of the word, be translated into “the light man” – “the light man sows”, “the light man herds his goats”, “the light man drinks water” (when the sunbeams reach the earth) “the light man plays on (over) the wall”. It is linguistic formation and myth formation of the same simple sort, which still happens today, every time a mother shows her child all the “light men”, which are lit outside.

Because the word “Lokki” (and Loki?) by itself doesn’t tell us much, the strangest notions might have arisen from it.

3. Lokje as a supernatural, teasing creature of the night (Telemarken, Norway).

The two major versions of the “Lokke”-figure, the Danish light creature and the Swedish/Norwegian home fire creature, are now clear to us.

But within the area of the friendly home fire creature from Telemarken, certain other features are hidden, which show a quite different character (or creature).

The oldest testimony about this is probably from Wille, in his original, complete manuscript to his “Beskrivelse af Sillejord”:

That same evening [Maundy Thursday] three whips had to be twisted, in order to repair the sled of Loke, who at that point would come driving with a load of fleas, and had broken the sled, as the load was very heavy. If this wasn’t performed, there would be an incredible amount of fleas the next year.” (20)

His printed version of the manuscript only says:

Lokje is faintly known, and is called a ghost of the night.

His unpublished list of words from Sillejord and several places in Telemarken, tells us likewise:

Laakje, a ghost of the night, who abducts little children” (21)

On top of that, there is a younger tradition from the same region:

In Telemarken there are stories about an evil creature, Lokje, who sometimes is mistaken for the devil himself. Once upon a time he is said to have seized a child over the hip bone, placed it on the ground and said: “Now you can sit there until you are one year old.” That is why babies have a hole on each side of the hip, and are unable to walk until they are one year old." (22)

But – according to Ross – we shall not confuse “Lokje” from Telemarken with the common Norwegian “Låkjen” (the evil one, the devil (from “låk”: evil, wicked, bad)).

A teasing or tormenting creature of the night, like this one, seems incompatible with the home fire creature, which cares about the well being of the family. The connection should rather be found in Loke from the Eddas, or the teasing nature of the Danish air creature. Still the special connection with the night would be unaccounted for.

But there is no getting away from the fact, that this “Lokje” thrives in the exact same region where the notions about the home fire “Lokje” are kept alive. In addition to that, there is the likeness between them, that also the teasing Loke is connected to the indoor life of the house. There might, after all, be some kind of connection in their origin.

The notions about a small domestic creature, which mostly appears during the night – at the same time watching out for the well being of humans and livestock, but still teasing – are quite common in the Norse area, as well as other places. It is called: “nisse”, “nissepuk”, “puge”, “gårdbo”, “tomte”, “vord” (i. e. “guardian”), etc. It seems fair to assume, that this domestic creature – like the Lithuanian “puke” – originally was the domestic fire, which continuously was sacrificed to, and later became a more poetic-mythical creature, partly teasing and jesting.

As an example, I can mention the West-Norwegian belief, that if people wake up in the morning with light scratches on the face, it is the “vord” that has scratched them. (23)

Just like the “vætte” (supernatural creature) covers the entire development from being the helping power, which resides in the home fire or the mound, the more personal name “Lokje” covers the same area. Even “Lokje” has then gone through the same development as a supernatural creature.

4. Lokke as a Supernatural Creature and Loke among the Aesir

We shall now return to some remnants and minor features, which we couldn’t put in the right place earlier, at least not with certainty.

Iceland had a lot of scattered Loke notions. Some of them belonged in the higher mythology, while others fit better with the “supernatural creature” beliefs, which we now have examined. They had, or have, a “kaupaloki”, a small figure (something similar to the thing we otherwise call a “dragedukke” (24) (mandrake amulet)), which could attract profits in trade to the bearer. Here we meet Loki again as the helping spirit.

Lokadaun” or “lokalykt” was used about the sulphurous odour, “as if a spirit walked through the room.” Indoor movements at night and sulphurous odour are the characteristics of the pixies.

Plant names appear in connection with Loke’s name:

On Iceland “lokasjóðr” (the plant “honesty”, in Danish called “Judas penge” (blood money), with the false imitations of silver coins).

On the Shetland Islands “lokis läins” (Loke’s lines (the unreliable lines)), the seaweed, which so easily breaks. From Shetland we also know the plant name “lokis ull” (cotton grass), the wool that can’t be yarned. All this seems to be ramifications from the motif in the expression “Lokke’s oat”, and the other Jutlandian plant names.

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